Explore my Journey with me!

I’m currently in the process of packing up all my stuff. And by packing, I mean throwing everything out into the open and organizing it into bins.

It’s amazing to see how much stuff I’ve accumulated over the last two years, and now I’m scratching my head over how I’m going to get it all into the aforementioned boxes. After several days of it looking progressively worse in the midst of organizing, I’m finally starting to see progress. I’ve fully packed five tubs and two cardboard boxes with books, toiletries and cleaning supplies, electronics, decorations, yarn, more yarn, and still more books!

I’m hoping to pack at least two more boxes tonight before bed and then get the room semi-cleaned until next weekend when I’ll clean even more! Little by little, I’m chipping away at the process. I’m hoping that by the time my moving weekend arrives I’ll be able to get in the car, drive home and load up the truck in De Pere, drive back to Dubuque and get everything organized so that Sunday morning we can load up, drive to Cedar Rapids, enjoy the church service, and then unload all the boxes and furniture in one fell swoop!

Until then I keep switching back and forth between packing things up and remembering all the stories behind each item.

The spider plant my Aunt gave me which became my first official houseplant.

The mug that, after serving one of my teachers for many years, was given back to me so that I could remember her. I still use it every morning with my coffee or water.

The microwave, refrigerator and towels my grandmother made sure I had so I’d be “all set” for school.

The cross painted and stamped by a dear classmate that didn’t continue with the program, but continues to be a close friend.

The poem given to me from someone who only writes when inspired and has managed to inspire me each day.

The Bible, Book of Concord, Memory book and several other mementos from my Sisters and Brothers in Christ back at St. John’s.

The drawing Jim made and framed for me, the beautiful cross my dad made, the journal from my mother filled with notes from her and spilling with love…

The memories go on and on, making each item a precious memento and a wonderful reminder of all who walk with me through this journey. When the people of St. Stephen’s church in Cedar Rapids help me unpack, they won’t just be looking at my personal effects… They’ll be looking at the loving support I have received and continue to receive from those whom I am proud to call my friends and family. Everything I own here, down to my underwear (Thanks Aunt Lynn and Uncle Larry!) have been from generous gifts of love from others.

And those items just scratch the surface of all the wonderful memories made on this epic and beautiful journey. Thanks be to God!

 

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Goodnight, Jesus

With one of my responsibilities on campus currently being to lock up the Castle (Wartburg) each night, I’ve added in a little perk. Each night as I’m turning off lights and locking doors, I say goodnight to Jesus.

Let me explain…

It started several months ago (maybe even a year ago) when a good friend of mine, Sara, saw me in the chapel helping move some furniture and said hello as she walked past. She was showing someone around the campus (her mom, perhaps?) and this woman looked in with a puzzled expression until spotting us, and then said “oh, you were talking to them!”

Apparently, she thought Sara was waving and saying “Hey!” to Jesus.

Sara said that was crazy. I thought it was hilarious. And so when I would walk past the chapel, I’d wave and say “hey” to Jesus. Then when I started locking up at night I noticed they would leave the altar lights on during the day (which to me seemed like a nightlight for Jesus) so when I climb up the steps and turn of the light, I always turn to the crucifix and say “Goodnight, Jesus” before turning off the lights.

It may seem a bit weird, but I’ve come to enjoy these quick comments to Jesus each night. And while I was originally irked that the sacristan was leaving the altar lights on each night (one more light switch to flip) tonight I was saddened that they were already turned off and I didn’t have to say “Goodnight, Jesus.” But fear not, because even though I didn’t have to, I still did it.

Who knows, maybe at my internship site this upcoming year I’ll be turning out the lights and be able to say “Goodnight, Jesus” in a whole new setting. If not, I guess I’ll just have to say goodnight each day at home.

I realized, quite ashamedly in fact, that I haven’t really shared some great news with my friends and family near and far. So for all who haven’t heard, I’m sorry.

Proclaim Retreat, 2013

With that, I am happy to report that, beginning this Thursday at 1pm, I will begin my adventure to California to attend the Proclaim Retreat again this year. I am excited to see some familiar faces and get to know a ton of knew people as well during this trip. I only hope that I’ll have enough to do between flights on Thursday afternoon/evening and Friday morning as well as Monday afternoon/evening and Tuesday morning. Despite my best efforts, I’ll be spending nearly a day in airplanes or airports before and after the retreat.

If you’d like more information on the retreat, you can click here and it will bring you to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ website on the retreat. Please pray for me on Thursday and Tuesday that my flights go well and send warm thoughts my way over the weekend. I’ll definitely be doing the same and will even try to send a bit of warm weather and sunshine along with it. It’s looking like mid to high seventies all weekend long. Ahh, I can almost feel it!

I’ve been published!!!

Hey everyone! I just wanted you all to know that I have recently been published in one of our school’s newsletter. The article (about a page long) is in response to my feelings about the Boy Scouts of America and their decision regarding homosexuality. If you have a few minutes, I would be tickled pink if you’d read my article and the posts by others as well. There are some truly amazing people who have helped out with this newsletter through the years. I am incredibly honored to be published with them.

You can find the newsletter here, and my article, titled “To Protest by Persisting in Remaining” here. <–Click on the word(s) to follow the link!

Thank you and God Bless!

 

Prayer and Authenticity

Hello Dear Friends!

So I’m in the midst of reading “Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible” by Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson, and it has encouraged me to write a post in response.

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with my identity in many and various ways in the past, so I feel it should come as little or no surprise that I wonder about my boundaries and identity as a future minister (God willing) in the ELCA and, even sooner, an intern. I wonder about facebook, e-mail, cell-phone numbers, etc. in regards to how much to divulge and where to draw the line. Moreso, I wonder what my “identity” should be in these regards. In reading Drescher and Anderson’s second chapter which addresses this issue (thank goodness I’m not the only one conflicted!) they suggest an intentional presence and, above all, an authentic one. In speaking with my advisor, professor, former boss, facebook friend and an all-around awesome person, Susan had also told me to do the same. Be intentional about what you post and be authentic.

This got me thinking about what that looks like even more, and with the help of Elizabeth, Keith and Susan, I’ve realized that I’m already doing it. Who I am on Facebook and on here is authentic to who I am, and I’m (usually) intentional in what I post. Sure, I like to have fun and talk about gardening, cleaning, reading, weight loss, frogs and unicorns in addition to talking about God, but that’s because it’s part of who I am. I hope that others feel comfortable with that and feel free to respond authentically as well.  I also hope that my friends will challenge me when they disagree with me!

That being said, I hope that you (whoever you are) will feel free to share a bit about who you are with me. You can post a comment on here, e-mail me at pjohnson@wartburgseminary.edu , post on my facebook page, message me, send me a letter, or any other way you can think of to contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

I also want to let everyone know that I’d love the opportunity to pray for/with you. If you have a prayer request and you’d like me to pray as well, please let me know (again, by any of the aforementioned means) and I would be honored to pray. Please know that, unless directly specified by the person being prayed for, I will not post prayers or those I am praying for. I would like to respect everyone’s privacy, so unless you would like it specifically shared with others, it will be between you and me.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless! I hope to hear from you to chat about life, for prayer requests, or for any other reason. Have a good one!

Bookmarks

Being someone who LOVES to read, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to hear that I have bookmarks. A LOT of bookmarks. Some are incredibly decorative, or have inspirations quotes or Bible passages on them. Some are simplistic, such as a neatly laminated bookmark that has BOOKMARK printed along the length of it in bold, large sized font. Some have tassels, some have ribbons, some have clips, some are magnetic. But the strangest thing about these bookmarks is that none of them are currently marking spots in my books!

Instead of bookmarks, I have cards, flyers, notes, fortunes, pictures, receipts, bumper stickers, leaves and church bulletins in between the pages of my books. I’ve tried using bookmarks in the past, but it never seems to work. I’ll be reading a book, take out the bookmark while reading and slide it in the back by the cover. Then when I’m done reading for a bit, I pick up one of the aforementioned items and place it neatly within to hold my place. Try as I might, my bookmarks collect dust on my bookshelf while these other items sneak between the pages of these books.

I guess I just can’t use something as a bookmark whose only purpose is to be a bookmark. I have a card from my grandmother currently marking my progression in a book for Theology of the Congregation. A fortune cookie paper holds the spot in another book, and even though I don’t need something to keep place in my kindle, there’s a Human Rights Campaign bumper sticker nestled between the protector and the screen. At times, these other items seem to hold bigger stories and wilder tales than the ones for which they are keeping place. Each item acts as a memento, a reminder of activities gone by or yet to come. These are not merely scraps or a means by which I can remember where I had left off in my reading, but something much more.

Even more, while pondering this fact, I noticed that the items in my books often corresponded to what I was reading in some way. The HRC bumper sticker in my kindle reminds me of the stories I have been reading about fights for freedom and equality. The fortune cookie in my Bible is a memento from an amazing birthday party with great friends from school. And that card from my grandmother, with her nearly illegible handwriting and comforting words? It’s held firmly in a book which is difficult to read because of its raw and gruesome truth. When the reading is too much, I can be comforted by the care and kindness my grandmother showed me in that card.

These items, which may serve temporarily serve as bookmarks, are much more than that, because they are touch stones to remember some of the important things in my life. Oftentimes after returning to Dubuque from DePere, I’ll find myself remembering the people of St. John Lutheran by using a church bulletin. In fact, if I were to write a diary or keep a journal of my life, it would undoubtedly be overflowing with these reminders of what has affected me and shaped me. Until then, my diary is split up, a memory here, a friendship there. A family member holding a place in my heart will also likely hold a place in my books as well.

Just as John’s Gospel comments that the world could not hold books listing all of which Jesus had done, nor can all my books ever hope to contain all the amazing memories I have had within my lifetime. Undoubtedly Christ’s actions are far more important, but they were done for God’s people, like me, and that makes my stories all the more amazing because of Jesus’ story.

Still finding “me”

It seems crazy, but I’m still trying to find who I am in the grand scheme of things. In regards to this blog, I often hesitate to share some insight because, what if I omit another detail that people are inquiring about? Or how will people react if I say something too rashly and then regret it? Sure, I can delete the post, but by then people have seen it. And what if no one bothers to read it? What if they go “oh that same old tune? Bah!”

One major thing that has been stopping me from posting is that I don’t have official clearance to post about my internship assignment site. I worry that if I don’t post, people will assume something is wrong, or that my supervisors are forbidding it. If I do post, I’m violating that trust. In my case, let all who are worrying be assured that I am very content with my site and that I look forward to this upcoming year and with working with my supervisors. So no, I’m not saying where, but not because I’m upset or forbidden, we just haven’t gotten to that point yet. When I ask and receive confirmation, you’ll know.

In reading a few chapters from Sherry Turkle’s book “Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other,” I found it quite ironic that my rebuttal to some of her claims exposed my own fears. I thought some of her comments seemed quite negative concerning the information she got from the youth she interviewed. My internal response was “well yeah, they’re dealing with identity issues in a digital age, but they’d have the same issues in a non-digital world, it would just look different.” Worrying about what friends thought about my ‘favorite music’ on facebook would be replaced with the fear of negative comments when I start singing along to a song I like on the radio and everyone else can’t stand. It’s all about concerns we have about how others will perceive us.

And then it hit me that I was neglecting this blog for the same reason. I didn’t want people to hate me for what I said, what I thought, how long or short of a post, etc. But all those fears manifest in different ways in the non-digital realms of life as well. I’m aware of my miniscule interaction with movies compared to most of my friends. The clothing I buy and wear is based not only on whether I like it, but also on whether it will be accepted by those with whom I interact (will classmates at school think it looks cool without causing my professors to blush because of some inappropriate writing/image/concept/etc. on it?) and if it will fit with who I try to present myself to be (No bright, flashy colors, no risque images, family-friendly funny is a plus) the list goes on…

Realizing the fact that what these youth are dealing with in regards to technology permeates all of life, and that all are susceptible to it’s effects (even fabulous me) made me realize that it’s okay to make some risks, because that’s where we put our foot down and take a stand. It may cause some murmurs of concern (or approval) but it’s a good first step for figuring out what our “self” looks like–with the knowledge that it can and will undoubtedly change over time. In fact, it ties in perfectly with the readings for the Gadamer course I’m taking this semester as well. Gadamer (for those not acquainted with him, he’s a smart German theologian [who I believe is now dead] who wrote on the meaning of truth and method) claims that we can’t really know who we are because who we are is still in the process of becoming. In fact, even after we die, the memory and understanding of who we are will continue to change.

So in the grand scheme of things, I guess it’s okay that I don’t have it all figured out. I may not always know if something is appropriate to say or not say (on the internet or in person) but I can’t learn if I don’t try it out. And as long as I realize that I am a child of God, saved by grace through faith from the Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus, I’d say I’m off to a pretty good start. In the process, I hope to find out some great new things about myself and others. I also hope that every comment I receive, whether positive or negative, will be a chance to learn and grow.

Until next time,

God Bless!

(And if it seems like it has been too long, don’t be afraid to let me know!)