Monday, November 24, 2008

Prayers of Intercession

The following are prayers by LSTC student Birgitte Jeppesen from LSTC's chapel service last Thursday...

God your kingdom is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, come to us now and open in us the gates to your kingdom.

God stay with us in the dawning of a new day

A fresh start

To live in your loving hands

Stay with us in relationships

Nurture us

Stay with us

In the political times of uncertainty

Where duties wait and opportunities are born.

Help and guide us to turn the challenges, hopes and opportunities, privately and politically, into action that transforms, build up and reconcile what is broken.

Guide leaders to use their power wisely for the fellow good of everyone, also the people whose voice is not heard.

Help us to live our new day in trust, not fear.

So we this very day, may show forth your light

God stay with us.

Where the day becomes night.

Where lives are destroyed and creativity killed

Where laughter, singing and story sharing is mute

Where compassion and trust do not exist

Where fear is the master

And injustice rule

Stay with us where night rules

In structures and institution in our societies designed to destroy and dehumanize human beings.

The School of the Americas, prison cells, chambers of torture, cold corners of the city.

God we pray, conquest the night.

Conquest anything that prevent your creation to unfold and flourish.

May your resurrected light reach out to the corners of darkness.

God awaken us.

That we may see clearly the beauty - in your creation, in each other and in ourselves

Help us to make the world more beautiful, just, funny, and peaceful, in each of our unique and creative ways.

And remind us that even when we are tired, insecure, sad, or stressed you receive us and bring forth the best in us.

We leave our lives, our dear ones and all the people we meet during this day in your loving hands.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! I enjoy it because there are no presents to buy, no lights or decorations to put up or parties to attend. Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy all those things but sometimes they get in the way of celebrating the real reason for the holiday. Thanksgiving in its basic form is just that…”thanks giving.” At this time of year the students, faculty and staff of LSTC get a much needed rest from the end-of-the-term papers, finals, interviews and meetings as we stop and give thanks. Of course those papers and finals will still need attention over the next several days in order to finish out the term the first week of December, but as the holiday suggests, we might want to consider what we are thankful for.

In my home parish, our pastor has the children who are taking their First Communion prepare a list of fifty things they are thankful for. I haven’t seen any of the lists but I can imagine a seven or eight year olds list might contain things like: mom, dad, siblings, pets, friends, toys etc. As an adult, what would my list look like? What are the things I’m thankful for?

As a musician at heart, I turn to one of my favorite songs (please pardon the non-inclusive language):

Give Thanks
Lyrics by Don Moen, Music by Henry Smith

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given
Jesus Christ, His Son

And now, let the weak say “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich”
Because of what the Lord has done for us!

© 1978 Hosanna’s Integrity Music

No matter what you find yourself doing this week, take some time out…maybe make a list…and give thanks to God for what God has done!



Sunday, November 16, 2008

Global perspectives on the U.S. Election

Every Monday students, faculty and staff gather at the LRWC (Language Resource and Writing Center) of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and McCormick Theological Seminary for Global Conversations, which are lunch conversations where students share various international perspectives. Last Monday about a dozen students from all over the world shared their perspectives on the recent election in the United States. Here is a summary of the discussion:

A student from Sudan shared the hope from his country and an e-mail from a Kenyan friend of his, who shared about the pride felt in Kenya because of Obama's Kenyan roots.

A student from Indonesia shared about the pride Indonesians felt, since Obama lived in Indonesia for part of his youth.

A student from El Salvador shared his hope for U.S. relations with El Salvador, and in the struggle to close the School Of the Americas.

A student from Colombia was hopeful that there would be a concern for human rights reflected in the U.S. Policy with Colombia, particularly in the free trade agreement.

A student from Palestine addressed the concern of the Palestinians that the new U.S. President would reflect the same position about Palestine. She shared that many in Israel preferred McCain, and that they are wary of Obama's approach to diplomacy.

We heard from two Indian students that in India there are many who are happy and celebrated Obama's victory, particularly because of the opportunity for someone from an oppressed group to lead the country. We also heard that there are some in India that would like some of the current policies with India to remain the same.

In Nigeria there were great celebrations and gatherings all over the country, a Nigerian student noted, particularly because Obama shares their African heritage. He also noted that Nigeria, with their tribal prejudices, has something to learn from the election of an African American candidate in the U.S.

Then we heard from a student from Russia, who said that Russians were suspicious of the hard-line rhetoric they were hearing from McCain, and saw him as representing an older generation, that of the Cold War. To many Russians, she said, Obama represents the same generation as Putin, a new generation. In general, Russians are naturally pessimistic, she said, but there is hope as well.

We heard from a student from South Korea, who sees a sense of hope in her country. She expressed hope for North Korean relations. She also is hopeful that the U.S. Empire could be more of a human empire. Perhaps there can be a change with those (in Korea) who see the U.S. With an image of a white face.

A student from Turkey says that generally she doesn't feel that the U.S. Cares about what happens in Turkey. She sees hope in Turkey to renegotiate, that Obama won't have cold blood in his relationship.

Overall, the conversation was very informative and insightful. It was a reminder of how the election in the U.S. has an impact in the entire world. There were at times feelings of skepticism, particularly due to the U.S. government's past actions that have scarred international relations and have violated human rights. However, from all of the students there, I heard the word “hope.” The sense of hope was resounding in Obama's message of a new direction, his heritage and understanding of the world, and his diplomatic approach. As we face many serious challenges in the world at this time in history, it was refreshing to hear so much hope.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Note of Correction

Greetings All,

So, apparently my previous notation about "completely accurate" was slightly ambitious. My memory, as it turns out, is not that of a pachyderm. So, here is a slight retraction:

We did not win our final game with a score of 20-14. We won it with a score of 32-26 (with Jon Bergstrom completing a whopping 4 touchdowns and Mr. Brahm Smith completing 1).

Thanks to Brahm for the correction. As he stated to me in a strongly worded email that "As an offensive player, we want all of our scores!"

So, that is the complete and absolute truth, cross my heart.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Final Games: A Wrap Up

Greetings Football Lovers,

LSTC has finished their two other games and, although there were five minutes between them, I was unable to blog. Here is the late, but totally complete and accurate, account of both games.

Game 2: LSTC vs. Virginia Theological Seminary (Episcopal)

This game started out with bang! With the defense on the field first, we held the line strong but for a long Hail Mary that somehow connected with a receiver. VTS took the lead 6-0, but were unable to complete their point conversion.

Our offense retaliated, but were unable to score on this initial push. Defense was back in play. With amazing speed and agility, Rory was able to intercept a pass and run it all the way from the offensive 40 into the endzone. Touchdown LSTC! Being rightly pumped up from this victory, our defense once again took the field. VTS made another push and were successful, bringing the score to 14-6.

Half time came just as we were hitting our stride.

After the break, our offense came out strong but were unable to connect some key passes. We did not score on our initial outing of the second half. Feeling unwilling to let this go by, our defense takes the field intent on another interception...and just in time. With five minutes left on the clock, we had to make something happen.

VTS snaps the ball, but it's a sloppy snap. Taking advantage of the situation, Dave dives into the line, snatches the ball from the VTS quarterback, and runs it down to the 3 yard line before being tug. Another interception!!

Score is looking like it will soon be 14-12, advantage VTS. But there's still the requisite extra points which will send us into overtime as the clock is running out.

LSTC snaps the ball cleanly, Josh H.K looks left, looks right, no one is open! VTS' coverage is great. So, Josh takes matters into his own hands and dives the ball into the endzone. Touchdown!! 14-12, VTS, but we still have just enough time for an extra point.

But someone's down. A VTS defender named Matt was unintentionally caressed by Josh's shoulder as he dove in. And by "caressed" I mean that his knee was hit. Hard.

LSTC takes a knee as an ambulance is called. VTS's teammate is taken to the hospital. We hope he is fine.

Needless to say, our momentum (and some of our spirit) is lost. We still attempt the extra point, but our hearts were not in it and VTS wins.

Score so far: LSTC 0

Game 3: LSTC vs. LTSP (Philly)

Game begins with LSTC receiving. We march the ball down, freshly reinvigorated by our cheerleaders (thanks Manda, Justin, Caroline, and Laura!), and score on our first drive. Glorious glorious points! We, yet again, were unable to make the extra points-which we have now decided are the bane of our existence.

Defense takes the field. We hold Philly strong, not letting them move for any significant yardage, and once again the offense takes the field. This time, however, we play the short options and the long options with the QB sneak. All work beautifully. Advantage: LSTC as we gain another 6. Score is 12-0 LSTC.

Philly takes the field. They have an amazingly agile QB who tosses the snap off to another player, only to have that player throw the ball back to him down the field! Good use of gifts. Philly scores with the extra point. 12-8 LSTC.


We kick off, and our defense holds Philly back. Offense takes the field and scores on yet another drive! And this time...drum roll....we get the extra point! (Insert band music here)

Score: 20-8 LSTC.

Philly regains momentum for another touchdown, but the game is called in the last few seconds as even their extra point can't put them ahead. Final score: 20-14 LSTC!

All in all, we've had a great time here. Trinity Episcopal fought against Gettysburg in the championship, beating them by just a few points. So, in an ironic twist, Trinity Episcopal will be taking home the Book of Concord and the Luther bobble-head. We hope they read the BOC.

Bye for now, sportsfans. I'll try to update on last time before we're on the road.

But that, as they say, is that.


Game One: LSTC vs. Gettysburg

Greetings Sports Fans,

Well, LSTC met the mighty team from Gettysburg on field one today. Weather was nice; ground was wet. With new rules in place for movement on the line, both teams sought to adjust their strategies accordingly.

LSTC kicked off first with the defense holding strong. Gettysburg drew first blood: 6 plus 2 extra points. LSTC returned the 6 in kind, but was unsuccessful in scoring the additional points needed for a tie. This repeated again for a half-time score of 16 to 12, Gettysburg advantage.

Star players for first half were Jamie for an interception, Brahm for successful passage, with Jon B. and Josh H.K. scoring the two touchdowns.

Second half started with LSTC's march to victory! Touchdown by Jon B. got us to 18. We were yet again unsuccessful on the extra points. Gettysburg scored yet again, bringing their score to 24. Defense takes the field. Defense holds them to 3 downs and Gettysburg kicks, getting a sizeable field advantage with 1min 15sec on the clock.

LSTC bites their nails.

Offense strives mightily, even drawing a foul for roughing the passer, but they were unable to score.

Time was called.

Final score: 24-18 Gettysburg.

But, we are not down and out. Having to play the homefield team on the first game of the day is rough, and we are more determined than ever to bring back the book!

Off for some nourishment and lunges. Our legs are tight, but our wills are strong.



P.S. Justin Eller is our mascot and he looks awesome in his aviator goggles, unitard, and orange cape. Pictures to come soon...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Arrival for Domination

Greetings All,

We left the seminary this morning at 6:22am. After giving the goat one last goodbye kiss, we were off East for the historic battlefields of Gettysburg. It seems that these battlefields will once again get some historic action this weekend as we fight tooth and nail for the coveted Book of Concord trophy and Luther bobble-head. They are more precious than they sound on paper. Trust me.

The car ride was thankfully uneventful. My car listened to the greatest hits of the 80's allowing Aretha Franklin to move our souls toward domination. I think it worked. George Michael also helped. I heard another car blasting the soundtrack from "Wicked." That music is less useful for preparing one's innerself for conquest I believe, but only time will tell.

As we pulled onto the grounds we felt two things: hunger pains and the impending heartache that comes from beating a team on their home turph. Unfortunately that second pain cannot be helped; it is only a matter of time. The first, however, was easily resolved through dinner at the Appalachian Brewing Company. They have been serving Gettysburg and Eastern Pennsylvania for over 30 years. Come to them for all your hunger-pain related needs!

Now I will give a shout-out to the seminary reading the blog at this moment: Hi Southern!

We are settling in and going over last minute plans. As it turns out, we've had to order new shirts. Our biceps were too huge for the one's we preordered, as we didn't plan on the exponential growth we've seen through the dedicated and time-honored practice of semi-towing. But our new Orange jerseys fit well, and we're looking forward to them getting nice and dirty tomorrow.

Jon Vehar has just gone to get us some apples, Snickers bars (they really satisfy you!), and eggs for breakfast. In the meanwhile we're all talking about sleep, football, and domination. We hope you'll check back with us. I intend, with appropriate access, to update after each game. Please stay tuned.


Off We Go, Into the Wild Grey Yonder...

Greetings All,

It's 5:00 in the a.m. The sun has yet to rise, and yet here I am folding laundry, packing my bags, and doing some final bicep-curls. Yes, today is the day we head to Gettysburg.

I've been up playing and replaying our whole strategy book in my head. I only got through half of the book. Yep, thats a great indication of how thick our strategy book is (Hi Philly...nice of you to read our blog), but its of no consequence. Despite my inability to run through all the plays mentally, we are totally ready.

We're caravaning. We thought a luxury bus would be too much intimidation for this, our second year of attending. But, we're keeping options open for next year. The trick to caravaning is staying together, which will be of little problem for us because we have bright orange "Go LSTC!" and "Orange Whips are Winners!" on the car windows. We also have cell phones.

Finally, we'd like to give a shout out to Amanda Frier's mother and father (Hi Amanda's parents)! Not only are they loaning us their van (we'll fill her back up, promise), but they also filled it with vitamin water, protein bars, and gummi bears. You guys are the best!

Ok, have to finish packing. I'm not sure how this victory flag is going to fit into my suitcase, but I'll force it. Please check back often to get updates!

Tim Brown
Orange Whip Official Blogger

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Living and the Dead

(Writer’s note: This post comes out of my experiences in the Mexico Semester Program, a study abroad opportunity open to students from all ELCA seminaries, including students, like me, from LSTC.)

…And on the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.


It was November 1st, el Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Chris met me in Cuernavaca, where the Lutheran Center was putting us up for the night in a tranquil Catholic retreat center. When we arrived in the evening the workers in the retreat center – the cooks, gardeners, gringa volunteers, and one Dominican sister – had lit the candles for their ofrenda.

The ofrenda, the traditional way to welcome the coming dead, looked like this: Two tables of different heights, like a little staircase, stood at one wall, covered with white tablecloth and colorful papel picado and laden with bright orange marigolds (here called cempasúchitl or simply flores del muerto – flowers of the dead), sugar skulls, sugar crosses, bread (pan de muerto), fruit, peanuts, and even a bowl of molé. At the back of the ofrenda table, leaned against the wall, was a frame with seven or eight photos in it. In the photos were loved ones who had died – a grandmother, a husband, a co-worker, even a family pet.

It was only a little larger than the one I had seen earlier in the home of my host family. When I arrived on Friday evening, there it was, next to the kitchen table, white tablecloth, papel picado, two big pots of marigolds, some bread and fruit, a dish with rice and a chicken leg covered in molé, and a shot of tequila. It was for a grandpa, an aunt, and an uncle; a photo of each of them lay propped up on the ofrenda. A candle was lit, too, and stayed burning all night long.

It is a privilege, a blessing to be witness to something so intimate. Yet every year the people of Ocotepec, a little village just outside of Cuernavaca, invite the world to be a part of their Dia de los Muertos. The Dominican sister gave us a brief explanation of how it would go down. Thousands of people walk the streets, lining up outside the homes of those who had died in the last year, waiting to be invited in, to see the ofrenda and pay their respects and maybe hear a story about the person who had died, to offer a candle to the family, to drink a little ponche and eat some tamale, and then: on to the next house.

We began at Ocotepec’s church, the Iglesia del Divino Salvador. In the daylight it might have looked like any other gorgeous hundreds-of-years-old church – they are in every village in Mexico, a holy wonder of the world spread out over an entire country. But as we walked under the arched entrance we could see that the place had been transformed for this night. A path of shredded orange marigolds, lit by candles in paper bags, lined the path to the church. Off to the left, in the courtyard, a ring of candles market the spot where indigenous dances were being carried out, a blur of masks and feathers and drumbeats. We walked on into the church, where a massive ofrenda lay between the pews and the altar. Had a priest died in the last year? No: This ofrenda, complete with a photo of the deceased, was for the parish sacristan, who had died only months ago after serving as sacristan for fifty-five years.

We left the church and walked to the first house, stopping to buy some candles along the way. An archway of orange marigolds marked the entrance, and a sign over the door read Bienvenido Papa: Esta es tu casa – Welcome Dad: This is your house. On the Dia de los Muertos, the dead are said to make an annual return to visit their homes, so this homemade sign welcomed back a father who had died within the last twelve months. But the words “this is your house” also welcomed the long line of people filing in underneath the flowery archway in the darkness.

Again the path to the ofrenda was lined with shredded orange marigolds and lit by candles in brown paper bags. Inside the ofrenda looked like this: A bed, with clothes of the deceased, including shoes, laid out on the bed to look as if the person was lying in it. Where the head would be there was a life-size sugar skull, complete with decorative eyes and teeth. Candles surrounded the bed. At the foot of the bed was food, and lots of it. A whole chicken in a pot of mole, bowls and baskets overflowing with fruits and vegetables, side dishes galore, a case of Victoria (a dark beer made in Mexico), a case of Coca-Cola, and a whole bottle of tequila. It was as if the dead man were not just returning alone but bringing all of his friends from Mictlan, the land of the dead, for a party, the living and the dead together for one night a year. We accepted our own party favors – a cup of ponche (a punch usually made of pear, apple, guayaba, and sometimes spiked with liquor) and a hot chicken tamale and sat down with other visitors in white plastic chairs.

Over several hours we made our way through seven or eight homes, standing in long lines at each one. One man’s sugar skull wore a gray White Sox hat; another man’s photo featured him with a guitar he must have loved in life – and then there was the guitar itself, set out next to the bed, as if the dead man, upon returning, might pick it up and begin to play for all of his guests. Favorite clothes, favorite musical instruments, favorite foods – all were laid out with care, ready for the homecoming.

Despite the colorful fiesta atmosphere, a few nearly choked us up. At one there was an archway made entirely of flowers that spelled out “Bienvenida Mama! – Welcome Mom!” On the way in there were draped purple-and-white decorations lovingly made entirely by hand out of straws and construction paper. The mother’s clothes, laid out on her bed in a lifelike pose with a giant sugar skull at the head, included a traditional-looking apron, with little white shoes at her feet. Chris said it was like you could almost see a person’s life, right there in their clothes: This woman spent her life in the kitchen – or maybe on the street, where we have seen so many women in these indigenous-style aprons, selling little candies and knick-knacks. She was the kind of woman you normally wouldn’t notice, unless you were waving off her attempts to sell you a necklace or a pack of Chiclets. But here she lay, beloved, surrounded by colorful flowers and bright candles, with food at her feet, a thousand strange people walking by the ofrenda her family had created to welcome her home.

And the smells, the smells were overwhelming. There were the flowers, fresh flowers everywhere, always brightly colored, usually orange. And the food, some of it still cooking. We imagined these families, gathering together in the days leading up to this weekend, working together to make hundreds of tamales by hand, for visitors they didn’t even know, including some like us, from other countries, who must have looked like garish tourists.

But on this night, here in little Ocotepec and all over Mexico, we all were welcomed warmly, offered a hot drink and a little something to eat. No distinction was made between the friend and the foreigner, the rich and the poor, the spirit and the flesh, the living and the dead. Gracias a Dios.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Equipping the Saints for Domination (Again)

Greetings Fellow Blog-readers,

As you may know, LSTC has a long-standing tradition (read: one year strong) of playing like-minded seminaries in the glorious game of American Football. In but a few short days, the LSTC Orange Whips (or Orange Crush...depending on who you ask and what you prefer) will be taking the long trek to the frigid fields of Gettysburg to continue our tradition of domination.

Now, I know what you are thinking: Why? Good question.

Answer: We feel our quest for domination is rooted in the fact that the rigors of seminary life must be expelled every-so-often through a physical outlet, lest we end up like our brother Soren Kierkegaard: tortured and alone. We also like football and running.

I know some of our competitors check this blog frequently (Hi Trinity). Thus, I can't betray any of our secret plays or whatnot (like the "Same Thing Sweep" or the "Palin"). But I do want to let you all know that we have been in training for the past two months, working and reworking our straining muscles to the point of ultimate fatigue. The one exercise that I like the best is the "Chain-pull," where we strap iron safes to iron chains and pull them through the field dogsled style. Some call it pain; we call it dedication.

To end in the words of Saint Paul in his first (and disputably only authored) letter to the Christians at Thessalonica: "Brothers and Sisters, let us strive with one mind to the historic fields of Gettysburg" (edits by Tim Brown). We play on Saturday, November 8th and we hope that you might be able to join us. Bring the kids, bring some food, bring your LSTC gear and cheer!

Well, off to practice again for the third time today.


Timothy Brown...
Orange Whip Official Blogger

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Anxious Excitement!

I am heading to South Africa TOMORROW, November 5, for two weeks. This is well-timed, as I will either be extremely joyous and wanting to celebrate, or I will be depressed and needing to take my mind off the election (but I, of course, will not turn this blog post into a partisan plea! I only ask that each of you go out there and VOTE!)

This trip is a global seminar for young women in the US and various countries in Africa. Please follow our blog at It already has a couple posts on it. I'll also try to download pics while we are there.

I'm soooo excited for this trip!!! But unfortunately, I have so much schoolwork to do today, plus I am so anxious about the election, that it almost doesn't seem real that I am leaving tomorrow. I'm sure that will change at some point on my 16 hour flight from DC to Johannesburg tomorrow... haha...but until then, I think I just have to accept that my stomach will be in knots for the rest of the day so I just need to deal with it!

Please keep our group in your prayers - and check out our blog every so often for fun posts and pictures.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Election 2008

There has been great interest in the election this year at LSTC. We have had large gatherings of students to watch the convention speeches and all four debates together this year. We discussed the debates and the issues they raised afterwards.

Last Wednesday we talked about the ELCA Advocacy document, "Called to be a Public Church: 2008 ELCA Voting and Civic Participation Guide" ( Dan Schwick from Lutheran Social Services of Illinois came to discuss the document with students. The document offers helpful tips on how churches can get involved with elections with voter registration drives, get out the vote efforts, etc. It also offers Issue Briefs on issues like Domestic Hunger, Housing, Health Care, etc.

Through these activities together we have explored issues of faith and civic participation. I think this year especially people realize the importance of the election and what is at stake. Dr. Richard Perry has been with us to help facilitate discussion, and he said that this was the first time he's ever seen students at LSTC organize debate watching and be so engaged in the process. Students will be gathering tomorrow to watch the results as well...