My calendar tells me there are 38 days until I start my sabbatical. I am both excited and terrified. Excited because this is such an incredible gift to be given and the Lilly Grant makes it feel like a once in a lifetime experience. Terrified because there is still much to do before those 38 days are up and because I have never really done anything like this before. Here’s what I hold on to: I am still Karyn and still a child of God so I know there will be joy and grace all along the way sprinkled generously with wonder and gratitude as I explore our world.
I have a friend who, when she knows I be over, leaves her front door wide open for me. I knock on the screen door and walk in calling her name and she welcomes me into her home with a welcoming hug. My friend promotes hospitality as she welcomes me into her home. She is a wonderful hostess to all who visit her.
I remember learning in high school about John D. Rockefeller and how he created a monopoly in the oil business through “vertical integration.” Vertical integration is one of those phrases you have to learn for a vocabulary test and then never have to know again, but I think it’s worth knowing about as we think about where our church has been and where we’re trying to go.
I have a wonderful friend who loves connecting people to one another. Whenever she gathers people, she will introduce everyone to everyone. I come into her house and she asks me right away “do you know everyone?” I usually say yes, because I usually do, but she still goes around introducing me to her family and friends. She wants us to feel connected with one another. It would be wonderful if we had people like my friend, here at church who wanted everyone to feel connected.
We’re moving! While the current location has served us well, the steering committee has felt for some time now that it doesn’t serve our guests as well as we wish it would. Our location in Onalaska is convenient for us, but not as convenient for the majority of the region’s teens in need, many of whom live on the north side of La Crosse with limited access to transportation, making it difficult to get to downtown Onalaska on weekends and evenings. While we have had success with our shuttle from the Children’s Clothes Closet at Trinity Lutheran Church, we believe there are many more teens we should be serving, so we are taking that collaboration to the next level.
The First Teen Clothes Closet is relocating to space available at Trinity Lutheran, so we can provide families with a single stop for clothing for both children and teens in a location that they can more easily access. We hope to be in place before the Aug. 13 shoe distribution and block party at Trinity.
Here’s how you can help:
- Pray for a smooth transition to our new location over the summer.
- Help with the transition itself—we will need volunteers to assist with taking clothes off the racks & shelves at the current location; disassembling & reassembling racks & shelves in our new location; and moving clothes to the new location to get everything set up.
All of these tasks will be done from mid-July through early August.
We’ll need willing hands and legs to relocate clothes from the second floor of the house to the downstairs so that the shelves can be taken down—this could be a great volunteer opportunity for teens!
We need a few mechanically-minded individuals to disassemble, move and reassemble all of the shelving and racks.
And then we’ll need more “movers” to get the clothes to Trinity and onto racks and shelves in our new location.
Specific dates and times are still being nailed down, so watch for information on the church and Clothes Closet Facebook pages or in the bulletin and additional emails. If you can help with one of these tasks, please contact a committee member or the church office so we can notify you directly when we have more specifics.
We will continue to use space at the house for sorting donations and having teens approve the clothes before offering them to our guests.
We hope the congregation will join us in our excitement about the potential we have to serve more teens in need by taking the clothes to where they live, rather than expecting them all to come to us.
First Teen Clothes Closet team: Lori Lunney, Shari Hegland, Bridget Crave, Patty Shepard
On Friday, March 23, our Young Youth group: Kindergartners—2nd grade from 5–7pm and our 3rd-5th graders from 6:30–8pm—will eat together and “take a walk through Holy Week”. I love how this event will help these kids and their families anticipate the amazing story of Jesus being celebrated on Palm Sunday all the way to dying on Good Friday and rising on Easter Sunday. I hope our Young Youth Director, Beth Miller, is overwhelmed with the great number of families who choose to make this evening a part of their Holy Week celebration. (You could ease her overwhelming feelings by ‘signing up’ ahead of time, but that isn’t necessary, either.)
It was the morning after Christmas before the sun rose, and, as is my habit, I had been reading. Nothing of note as I was giving my brain a rest after a full week. As the sun rose over the bluffs, I found myself in a pondering mood. It isn’t unusual for me after Christmas to turn my thoughts toward reflection and planning. This particular morning I was thankful for this early-morning routine that opened a door to watching the sun rise because it gave pause to consider where light and life is in my world and maybe where I wanted to see more. I found my mind turning toward companionship and love.
The winter cold did not keep the OWLs at home in February. A lively group of 21 ventured to the Outback for a delicious dinner followed by grooving at a Simon and Garfunkel tribute band concert at the Heider Center. A good time was had by all!
Lent begins Ash Wednesday, February 14. That’s the perfect amount of time to come up with an idea for what you may fast from / or what you may add to your life as a spiritual discipline. First Lutheran enjoys a membership with many Christian backgrounds who participated in a variety of spiritual practices. Some of our brothers and sisters who grew up Roman Catholic have asked me over the years whether Lutherans eat fish on Fridays during Lent. My answer is something like, “it depends whether the chef of the house feels like cooking, or going out for fish that Friday, I guess.” Although some churches enter into a communal fast—like fasting from all meat but fish on Fridays—other churches leave it to the individuals. I was serving a congregation in Columbia, SC during seminary that had the whole church fast from ‘sweets’ during Lent (that one was tough!)
December is a busy month for us all! Why choose to be a part of all of the events here?... Build more friendships and connection through our community. Along with having memories that last a lifetime! The biggest game-changer for me is that when I see children interact here, they have sought out those relationships in other areas (school, dance, sporting event, etc.). Looking forward to growing together, serving others and knowing God!
- January: Sledding!
- February: Movie Night!
Since October 15, First Lutheran has been in an ‘every-member-visit’ mode. Thirty visitors have made their way to almost 150 families thus far. The conversations our visitors are having are priceless.
Last week I talked with a longtime member who is far less engaged with First than he used to be, “for no good reason”, he said. Through the course of our 45-minute conversation, I heard about the challenges his family has faced over the last year including a retirement, two elder deaths and three imminent graduations. What is so incredible to me is that most of my visits are like this. So much is happening in the lives of each and every family at First as parents age, kids grow, jobs change and life goes from one stage to another. Every time I leave one of these visits, I feel so much better about the health of our church as I know a little bit more about what my prayers should include and I understand how interconnected we already are. The ways I preach and the programs we offer take shape from these conversations. The vitality of our fellowship comes from knowing each other.
Connection. This is the theme I hear all around me. How am I connected, or not, in meaningful ways to those around me? How do I get connected? What does it mean to connect with someone: Are we best friends forever or do we just nod to one another from across the way?
Most of us are very familiar with the Christmas story and Jesus being born in a stable because there was no room for them. It’s one of the worst feelings to go into a place and find out there is no room for you. Whether that is a hotel after traveling for hours and hours, a restaurant that has a long wait list, or a church that is filled only on the aisle side leaving the middle open. Having to crawl over people can be uncomfortable and a bit awkward or having to go all the way to the front to find a seat can feel intimidating, especially if you are a visitor.
November was a fun month for the OWLs. Our outing was Tuesday Night at the Movies. A fun-loving group of 18 headed to the local cinema for viewing the animated comedy “The Star.” We followed this with a wonderful dinner. A great time was had by all. Based on feedback from the group, we will probably make this an annual event.
The OWLs will kick off December and the Christmas season with an awesome Christmas concert. We will travel as a group to Christ Episcopal Church, in La Crosse to hear the UWL combined choirs and orchestra “Festival of Carols.” This is an uplifting concert that will get us in the spirit of the season as we prepare for the birth of Christ. The concert is free and will take place on Saturday, December 9. We will leave from the church at 4:00 PM to travel to a local restaurant to enjoy some good food and fellowship before the concert. Dinner is on your own. Following dinner, we will make our way to the church. So we know how much transportation to arrange, please contact Brian Narveson at email@example.com or 608-526-9700 by Friday, December 8, if you plan to attend. This is a great way to kick off the Christmas season.
First Lutheran’s capital campaign, Our Church ☩ Our Time, launched October 15th with a kickoff event that included great food, time to talk with friends and time to listen to our keynote speaker, John McHugh. John shared four stories about what it means to love, what it means to live with gratitude and what it means to be hospitable. We say we want to become more grateful, loving, hospitable people so John’s stories were very welcome. While he spoke, our kids played in the Pertzsch gymnasium, which I heard (from my kids anyway) was great fun! “We should do that more often” was what my 10-year-old son told me. Maybe he’s right.
When my daughter Sarah returned from a semester in school in Scotland. I was overjoyed and so very thankful. As I patiently tried to wait for her to come through the gate, I was a bundle of nervous excited energy. I could hardly wait to hug my youngest daughter once again. She is the best hugger there is! When she finally emerged, we all gathered around her and gave her the warmest welcome with hugs and kisses and even some tears of happiness. We were all abounding in thankfulness that Sarah returned to us safe, having a wonderful semester in Scotland.
The OWLs took great advantage of the nice weather in September. We attended the La Crosse storytelling festival on a wonderful afternoon, heard some great stories and music. We finished the month with a beautiful afternoon on the Narvesons’ deck with good food and wonderful poetry.
What if First Lutheran no longer had a mortgage payment? What if we had a Foundation (endowment) that is able to generate $50,000 per year rather than $12,000 to $15,000? What if we gathered enough financial resources to address all the deferred maintenance issues that have accumulated in the last ten years?
What does it mean to live “By Heart”? This has been the question that has been rolling around my head, framing my experiences for the last few months as we prepare for this 500th anniversary of the reformation. If we are always being re-formed, as is the characteristic of the Lutheran church, how are we doing that? Re-formation requires the heart to be involved, along with the mind and the soul. Jesus tells us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Mark Allen Powell would say if we want to change our heart, change where your treasure is—teach your heart something different. So what does it mean to live “By Heart”? Does it mean that I am a “bleeding heart” or that I have a “hard heart”? Does it mean I give all my money and worldly goods away? Does it mean I am fickle or stubborn? As I ponder these questions that stem from my original question of what this means, I realize that none of these are going to get me to the, pardon the pun, heart of the matter. Instead, I turn to Jesus once again as I consider what it means to live “By Heart”: love. More specifically, love God and love neighbor and love neighbor as you do yourself (which was recently pointed out to me that we leave that part out too often). I know this would shock you that I end up here, not at all. Loving God and loving my neighbor as I do myself have become for me the most challenging and life giving way to consider the commandments. To live “By Heart” is to live a life of love—to follow Jesus in such a way that my life is characterized by the love I show to all people.