The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Thirty years and 250 teens

We sat together in the quiet, pared-down living room. A table lamp cast soft light on the picture of his beloved wife, my mother, now two years deceased. We talked casually while reading and doing the crossword. As often occurs in these moments, the conversation turned toward fond remembrances.

This particular evening featured a retelling of Mom offering to teach Dad's confirmation group one night. It wasn't uncommon for Dad to have the class "no one could handle." Apparently Mom reported significant shenanigans on the part of the students. The following week Dad informed the accused that anyone who upsets his wife would have to answer to him. Translated, this meant performing 10 pushups on the spot. A former Army man, my dad's characteristic "in-the-trenches" compassion spoke volumes as he joined his young rascals on the floor.

For 30 years my father mentored 250 adolescents with this spontaneous and passionate commitment fueled by the simple desire to assure these young Lutherans of their inherent value. Dad delighted in sharing the hallmarks of spiritual formation: God's love, mercy, forgiveness and grace. Like numerous ELCA volunteers, he sees nothing noteworthy in long-term involvement. It's simply faith-in-action. But faith-in-action can create a blessing of connection that lasts years beyond the actual experience.

This is noteworthy for two reasons. We live increasingly high-tech lives of e-mail, instant messaging, texting and Twittering — efficient connections but lacking face-to-face and voice contact. We also live in a time of dwindling volunteerism and community involvement.

As a former parish nurse, I observed the extent to which their service rendered meaning and purpose for the volunteers in the health-ministry program, as they discovered energy and renewal in their faith walk through the delivery of care. Their face-to-face interactions became a blessing of connection revisited in prayer and conversation. The value of this kind of involvement is priceless and underscores our calling in baptism to become living members of God's holy church.

Finding meaning and purpose is a lifelong journey. Amid varying life circumstances, the ability to identify that which brings meaning is an indicator of wellness, which is partially a function of the ability to connect and find meaning in interactions with one other and with God.

Dad turned 90 in March. His eyes light up all these years later with reminiscences of his confirmands. Without a doubt, this widower's sense of wellness is clearly intact.

Connection considerations:

Consider your calling to service based on your passions and talents. The faith community is collectively vibrant because of our unique and individual talents.

Offer to serve in ways that fit with your priorities and commitments. Resist allowing guilty thoughts about "not doing more" to cloud your self-perception. God isn't keeping score and loves a cheerful giver above all.

Notice short-term opportunities for service. Recognize your personal limits. If you work full-time or have significant caregiving responsibilities, it may not be realistic to make a long-term, time-intensive volunteer commitment.

Notice how you feel about your involvement. Part of wellness is self-care. If you feel worn out it may be time to take a break. Great refueling strategies are rest, exercise, humor, playful recreation, a healthy diet and daily prayer.

Empower others to share their passions and talents in volunteer work and thereby continue the connection blessing.

Cherish daily the connections you have with others and with your Creator.

Trust always that God is using you to communicate the gospel through these connections.


Check out this week's articles:

cover4Sweet change: (right) Congregation grows by drawing Sunday evening toe-tappers.

Under the canopy of grace: We call to God when we pray with the psalms.

Mission in the heavens: Rocket scientist finds grounding in church.

Food for life: Jesus calls us to give this, for love.

Also: Read with Luther, literally.

Also: Rooney wins.

Also: Reaching out to Uganda.

Read these articles at our front page ...

This week on our blog:sonia

Sonia Solomonson (right) blogs about reaching out.

Amber Leberman blogs about the ELCA video contest.


From our parenting blog: Dworin

Parenting blogger Diana Dworin (right) writes about sitting in the back pew.


Check out her blog ...


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March issue

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