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Posts tagged ‘Wartburg’

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.

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Seeking Perfection

While reading some very creative and insightful articles for preaching, I had a thought that I wanted to share with you all. You may relate to the thought, or it may seem completely opposite to your nature. Either way, I hope it helps you to better understand me and something I still struggle with- perfectionism.

When I had my endorsement interview, I remember thinking that things were going really well. I enjoyed talking about my faith story, the ups and downs of seminary life, and was surprised to realize how far I had come in a year and a half. In the midst of talking about classes and which professors I liked (I said all, and I truly meant it) Pastor Scott hit me with a question that caught me completely off-guard. He asked me if being a perfectionist got in the way of my studies. WHAT?!? Me, a perfectionist? I remember sitting in a chair outside while they discussed their decision and writing on the pad of paper that I had brought with me “Am I a perfectionist?”

Pastor Scott’s question hit me like a slap in the face, and the next day when I spoke with Susan (my adviser) and asked her if she thought I was a perfectionist, she responded with a blatant “YEAH!” Since then, I have been slowly realizing that what was so obvious to them (and likely to many others as well) was completely hidden from me. Recognizing it and finally admitting to it has been a struggle. I encountered it again when discussing internship sites with Dr. Sayler. She told me that I’m too hard on myself and second-guess myself too much. After I stopped putting myself down for putting myself down, I realized it was because of that perfectionism again.

Being more aware of it, I’ve noticed that it has affected my life so much and kept holding me back. In dieting, I tried to be perfect in counting every calorie and watching every little thing that I ate. When I goofed and ate too much or scarfed down something unhealthy, all was lost in my mind. I screwed it up, so I might as well give up. Writing assignments, especially major papers, have been so hard because I worry so much about doing it right that I’m too scared to even start. Even in cleaning my room, I will put it off because I don’t have enough time to clean it to perfection. And it’s all so silly! I’m so caught up in doing it wrong that I can’t even do it at all!

I’m reminded of a trip last summer that I took to the cabin up north. I wanted to whittle something, so I got a pocket knife and found a large branch and started whittling away. The branch was a bit dry, so at times pieces would break off, and there was some discoloration in places. As I tried to fix all the mistakes and cut out the discoloration, it kept breaking and new spots kept showing up. Eventually all I had left was a tiny little piece of wood, about as long as my fingernail. The tip broke off, so I threw even that away. Looking back, I realize that my perfectionism is the knife and I’m the piece of wood. Whenever I tried to do something, that need for perfection would cut away at me until there wasn’t anything left.

So what does this have to do with the preaching articles? In reading them, they repeatedly remind the reader to keep the Word in mind. All too often sermon writers try to form some perfect masterpiece, or tell this perfect story, but at the expense of the Word. When they don’t keep Scripture at the center, it becomes all too easy to keep hacking away at it until there’s nothing left. The same goes for ourselves. If we forget who we are, as children of God, and forget that our goal is to share the Good News, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, help the poor, and love our neighbor, it’s easy to get caught up in life until there’s no real meaning left. We find ourselves constantly busy trying to find fulfillment in empty things. And what does that mean for us? Well, for me it means I have more schoolwork to finish. For you? Well, you’ll have to figure that one out yourself. If you figure it out, let me know. I’d love to hear what God’s calling you to do.

Quick Thoughts

Hey everyone!

So for anyone reading this that doesn’t attend St. John Lutheran Church, or does but wasn’t at the annual meeting, I gave a quick speech thanking everyone for their support, and explaining this wonderfully and scary journey called Seminary. I can remember that Christmas Eve service, back in ’09 when I sat down with the family and had my life changed for the better. We had been a bit late, so rather than sit on the left side of the church in “our” pew, we were a bit further towards the front and on the right side. Today I decided to sit over on the right side again. Partly because I was thinking about that service, but mostly because I wanted to catch up with Carlyn and Marlene. A tiny fragment of the decision may or may not have been to mess with dad’s head, but I’ll let the reader decide on that one.

In any case, being on that right side again made me realize all that has happened to me in that church since I got that calling again and finally stopped saying “no.” I helped out with communion for the first time and had my zipper down through the whole thing. Thanks again, Jim L for catching that one. I filled in for services when the pastors needed someone to cover, and undoubtedly goofed up something or another each time. I told the pastors I was terrified of the thought of working with youth, so they told me to become a confirmation guide…

The list goes on and on of the amazing opportunities that I’ve had, and the little slip-ups that have occurred along the way. At any one of those times, the congregation could have said “you know, maybe we’ll take you off the list for communion assistant” or “I think next time we’ll just hire a pulpit supply person” or “you’re afraid of kids? Oh, well then never mind.” But instead of those responses I got positive reinforcements, helpful tips (like making sure your zipper’s up before communion distribution) and encouraging nudges to explore my growing edges. I have been nurtured by the church. I have been graced with a loving, forgiving, and understanding family that stands by me and encourages me every step of the way.

My excuse all along to God was that I couldn’t do it. What I didn’t realize was that I was really thinking I couldn’t do it alone. Luckily for me, God has made sure that I didn’t have to. I have been surrounded by love, raised up in a strong faith, and encouraged to fulfill my potential. Along the way I have met truly amazing people, realized the gems in my life with my friends, family, former co-workers, random acquaintances… I can’t do it alone, and that’s okay, because I don’t have to. I only hope I can help others realize that themselves by being a part of their support network. Because the truth of the matter is that God doesn’t abandon us in our hour of need.

Blessings to you all!

-Paul

 

Happiness and Hmm…

Hey everyone!

Well this year has definitely started off on a good note! I finished the last year and began this one at home in De Pere, then returned back to Dubuque in the evening of the first to get back into my normal routine before classes begin.  I love my family dearly and truly enjoyed the ten or so days I was able to share with them. It was great having a chance to see everyone in person, to hear their voices, shake their hands, and hug them tight. That being said, it has been great being back in Dubuque as well. I’m always happy to come home, so with two homes, it makes for a lot of happiness. I’m hoping the happiness can and will continue.

Amid the joy and happiness welcoming in yet another year has brought, I’m still left with several questions. Nothing too serious or urgent, mind you, but questions nonetheless. I’d say the biggest remains how God will continue to shape my life. I recently wrote about how amazing these past three years have been since I stopped running from God’s calling, but it doesn’t mean I know what the future will hold for me. It’s both incredibly frightening and comforting all at once. While it would be great to just say “Okay, God. I trust you completely, so I’m not going to fret,” I wouldn’t want to lie so boldly to God. Because the fact of the matter is, I’m still left with doubts and concerns. I can and always try to rejoice in the moments where my worry proves unwarranted, but hindsight is 20/20.

Another major question, or pondering, that I’m still chewing over is whether or not to become vegetarian. While I know a lot of people make this choice for ethical reasons, such as in protest of the cruelty to animals or because they feel the slaughtering of innocence in all creatures to be horrendous, my pondering is for another reason. I don’t really crave meat, hate the thought of going anywhere near raw meat, and wouldn’t want to slaughter an animal or even just butcher one to get said raw and icky meat. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing meat-eaters, either. I’m just wondering if it’s fair for me to eat something I’d never actually want to prepare myself. In my meals here in Dubuque, I rarely use meat, and even then only if it’s pre-cooked, like in soups or lunchmeats. 90% of the meals I prepare for myself are already vegetarian, so why not simplify things and make it 100%?

In any case, I want to make sure this year continues to go well. I thought about what I could do to make my life better and came up with ten goals for myself. It started off with the idea of writing down a goal or two, but ten is what I ended up with. So without any further ado, here they are:

1. Weigh 266lbs or less

2. Pay down loans to less than $23,000 (currently at $24,364.34 and increasing about a dollar per day. Still, with a stipend while on Internship, I’m hoping this can be a reality.)

3. Be more assertive.

4. Eat/Live/Feel healthier.

5. Be closer to God.

6. Be less reactive with others.

7. Stick with spiritual practices.

8. De-clutter your life.

9. Do something wild and crazy. (For me, of course. Being the fairly conservative person that I am, it wouldn’t have to be anything too out there.)

10. Be happier with who you are.

I think #5 and #10 are the most important of them all. If I manage these two, the other eight will undoubtedly happen as well. I’m hoping that at the end of the year I’ll be able to come back to these goals and tell you that I’ve managed to fulfill all of them. If not, oh well. I just hope the journey is a good one.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with an idea that’s currently going around on the internet. It suggests making a jar for the 2013 year, and sticking positive thoughts and notes from each day into the jar. Then, on New Years Eve, you can open up the jar and read all the wonderful blessings you’ve had over the year. I’ve started mine, and I have to say it feels really good to think of the positives each day and focus on them. The other day, after shoveling out a friend’s driveway with other great friends, I was invited to share in a truly delicious meal. Between the bites of delicious breads and warm, tasty soup, we shared stories and enjoyed one another’s company. Afterwards, it felt so great knowing that the memory of that day would be kept safe in my jar.

So what about you? Do you have any New Years Resolutions or goals you’d like to share? Are you thinking maybe the jar idea is pretty cool? I’ve already seen another one with the beginning of what is sure to be a treasure trove of positives. The family is working on one together, and even decorated the jar. Definitely a good idea for families of any age, or for individuals as well. Let me know if it works out for you.

Until next time!

Paul Johnson

Let me tell you a (Picture) Story!

Well hey there!
It has been great going home each month and worshipping with the people of St. John, having the privelege of sharing the Good News, and I’ve loved being able to write each month in the Newsletter to let everyone know what I’m up to. But in the midst of the fun, I’ve let something go for far too long. You see, I was asked to get some pictures of me. Pictures where I don’t look like a sourpuss. You see they wanted pictures that the church could use and hold on to so they remember me and can be reminded of what I look like while I’m away. It totally makes sense, but alas, I kept forgetting and when I did ask my friends for help (my camera broke) either they forgot or I did. But that time is now over, because I have sent some pictures to the church for their enjoyment.

Then I got to thinking… Why should they be the only ones who can look at my gorgeous face? Or what if one of the people from church needs a Paul fix but, woe are they, it’s ten thirty at night and the church is closed? So I decided it only fair to write a blog and tell a picture story at the same time with the pictures we took. A little fun now that the semester is over. I hope you enjoy!

So here I am, standing next to my good friend Martin Luther. We at Wartburg Seminary, being good buds with the man, like to call him “Marty” for short.

Me and my buddy Marty!

Here I am, chilling with Marty!

So what do I do during the week at the Seminary? That’s a great question. I start each day getting ready for class…

Getting Ready for Class

Getting Ready for Ethics

And we always have great discussions…

Talking with Classmate

Talking with Doug Dill. No doubt about the third use of the Law, Phenomenology, Christus Victor or some other scholarly subject.

And sometimes we work together in small groups, especially for projects or for brainstorming on paper ideas…

Peer Editing

Some Good Ol’ Fashioned Peer Editing

And of course, being future leaders in the church, we gather every day at 9:30 for Chapel.

Word of God, Word of Life

Today’s Reading… Word of God, Word of Life.

And sometimes I help out with the services…

All robed up!

Look at me, all robed up!

And we gather together in prayer…

Please Rise

“Please Rise for the Intercessory Prayers”

And silently reflect on our words and actions…

Silent Reflection

silently reflecting on the day…

Then after chapel and more classes it’s time to gather together again for a community and do what we do best. Talk and EAT!

Mmm...Lunch!

Mmm…they always have delicious food for lunch!

Then it’s back to the classes and of course, some studying!

Looking Things Over

Group Study is quite popular here. Yay, bonding!

And we make sure to have some fun and goof off at times to keep things light.

Getting Interrupted

I am not amused at your jokes… nah, I’m just kidding, that was hilarious!

But sometimes you have to find I quiet place to study and read…

Gotta Study!

Gotta study, study, study!

But it’s okay, because it’s pretty cool stuff we’re learning here…

This is Good Stuff!

This is Good Stuff!!! Look at all that highlighting!

And after the studying is done, it’s nice to be able to sit back and relax. I enjoy crocheting dragons and taking care of my plants.

Dragons and Plants

Isn’t he cute?!?! And look at that plant behind me!

Well, that’s all from me!

Merry Christmas!

From all the people at Wartburg, Have a Merry Christmas!