End of the Year Express Train

The express train is chugging its way through Ada lately, and I’m not referring to the increased traffic on the railroad crossings at the north end of town!  It’s that time of year, when things start to pick up on campus, and everything seems to go into hyper-drive (or “ludicrous speed,” to quote Spaceballs.)  Papers, exams, Capstone projects–you name it, and it’s probably coming due for our students.

It’s not just the students, either.  We are hard at work getting ready for baccalaureate and commencement, and in the meantime we in student affairs are working on applying for the President’s Service Honor Roll, a distinction we managed to achieve last year and are hoping to repeat this year as well.  It’s a lot of hard work, but well worth it in the end, as we see how all that we do contributes to making ONU an even better place to work and study.

I often tell my staff during this season to remember that their first job on campus is to be a student.  They don’t always listen to me, but I feel that I need to remind them of this often, because self-care is most important during our busiest seasons.  If we neglect our bodies, minds and spirits when we’re busy, how can we ever hope to take care of ourselves when things are calm?  So if you’re a student, faculty member, staff member, administrator, or parent, take some time during these next few weeks to look around you.  Things will never be the same again.  We will never again have a campus community made up of this exact student body, because our graduates will be leaving us, and when they do, and new students come to take their places, the campus will inevitably change.  When change happens, we need to embrace it, lest we find ourselves run over by the runaway express train that is life.

As Pete Seeger used to say to his audiences, “Take it easy, but take it.”

–David

An Order for Prayer During Finals Week (Re-Post from December 2012)

I first put this up on the blog during finals week of my first semester at ONU, December 2012.  It still rings pretty true today.  If you like this sort of thing, feel free to use and distribute widely!

Blessings,

David

An Order of Prayer During Final Exams

O Lord, open our minds.
And our pens shall show forth knowledge and praise.

The Collect (In unison)
Almighty God, giver of all Knowledge and Wisdom,
we have come to a place where our knowledge must be tested
to prove that we have learned all we can.
Grant us the strength to endure long essay questions,
the clear thinking to tackle tough problems and formulae,
and the wisdom to rest between periods of intense activity.
As you led the people of Israel through the desert, show us a way
through this time of academic intensity,
that we may emerge on the other side, singing and dancing
your praises, all the days of our lives.
Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Psalm 34
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
   let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
   and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
   and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
   happy are those who take refuge in him.
O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
The young lions suffer want and hunger,
   but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Which of you desires life,
   and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
   seek peace, and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
   to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the broken-hearted,
   and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord rescues them from them all.
He keeps all their bones;
   not one of them will be broken.
Evil brings death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
   none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

The Song of Zechariah
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Gospel Reading:  Luke 4:1-13 (Jesus is Tested by Satan)

The Word of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.

Prayers

Together, let us pray:
For those who have exams in subjects they love, related to their major…
For those who have exams in subjects they loathe, unrelated to their interests..
For unfinished or poorly finished work…
For the grace to accept when we have completed our tasks…
For the strength to carry on and do what needs to be done…
For professors and instructors, who must grade our exams and papers…
For our families and friends, and stresses they may be going through…
For those who are not privileged enough to have the opportunity to attend college or university…
For the Church and the World…

Lord’s Prayer

Closing
Go now in peace, and as you learn more and more, may you be blessed to know that you understand less and less, and be comfortable knowing that God is in it all.  And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you now and always.  Amen.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Yes, I Spoke at Open Doors…and Here’s Why

Dear Friends of All Shall Be Well, my Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

Last night, I was asked to speak at a meeting of Open Doors, ONU’s LGBT+ student organization.  I was asked to give my perspective on the relationship of the LGBT+ community to the Church, to which I replied that I could only speak to my own experience of this, as it would be inappropriate for me to speak for all Christians.  So, I did what I usually do in such circumstances–I told my story.  My story is confessional in nature, largely because I come from a religious tradition that literally invented the phrase, “Confession is good for the soul.”

My story is one where I began with a very negative view of people who are different from me, particularly those who are part of the LGBT+ community.  It wasn’t until I encountered people whom I knew and loved (including a good friend who chose to come out to me when we were in high school), that I began to see sexual orientation not as an “issue,” but as the people around me.  Through a series of experiences early in my ministry, I came to the conclusion that God was calling me to be an ally for people who felt marginalized by the Church.  As part of my chaplaincy at ONU, I have tried to create a safe space for all students to explore their inner selves, and to discover how God is working in their lives.  This includes people of all sexual orientations.

After my initial comments, the floor was opened for questions.  Students who attended the meeting were very respectful of one another, and of my comments, as we grappled with how to live together in community while we have different opinions about sexual orientation.  As usual, I was impressed by the ability of ONU students to think in deep and creative ways.  I also found myself being challenged by those who disagree with me, particularly in my view of how to interpret Scripture.  But you know what?  I think that’s a good thing.  Disagreement doesn’t have to lead to disaster, and we don’t have to stop being in relationship with people just because we don’t think the same way.  Overall, I found the evening to be encouraging, enlightening, and the start of a good conversation–one that I think this campus needs to continue having.

I chose to accept the invitation to speak at Open Doors for several reasons, but chief among those is the need to convey to this group that I am their chaplain, too.  I’m not just the chaplain to the white, middle class, heterosexual Christian students who are just like me.  I am the chaplain to the entire university.  That makes me different from the pastor of a local church.  I am called to provide spiritual care for people of all faith backgrounds and experiences, not just those of my own tradition.  I provide for the spiritual care for students from a wide variety of traditions, and I try my best to connect the students at ONU to local worshiping communities with which they feel affinity.  In the same way, I feel called to give spiritual care, and provide for the spiritual care for LGBT+ students, faculty and staff.  I come from a perspective that God is a God of love and grace, and that it is not my place to judge whether a person is or is not a sinner before helping them to connect with God.  That’s God’s job.  Thank God!  I wouldn’t want it!

There may be some people on campus or in the community who don’t think I should have spoken at the Open Doors meeting.  To those persons, I say that I’m sorry you feel that way, and I encourage you to reach out to me in person to express your feelings.  After all, I’m your chaplain, too.  All are welcome in the Chaplain’s office, and always will be!  I look forward to being in service with everyone in our campus community, and to many more years to come of fruitful campus chaplaincy.  I hope that my role as chaplain will help others to explore their faith, and the faith of others, in a safe and welcoming environment, so that together, all of us can seek the answers to life’s deepest questions, and seek after the Divine in our lives.

In a spirit of peace,

David