Women of the ELCA

Commentary and reflections on issues, events and trends in our church, society and world, as seen through the lens of our mission and purpose and our ministries.

Where is home?

Posted on June 11, 2012 by LPB

There are many things I love about my home state of Pennsylvania: Goldberger Peanut Chews, Unique pretzels and Lebanon bologna in the food category; 250-hundred-year-old stone farmhouses with tiger lilies blooming all around; drivers who actually understand what it means to yield when entering a limited-access highway. There’s one thing, however, that always produces an involuntary smile as soon as I arrive in Pennsylvania: the mountains.

I lived in Pennsylvania for my first 38 years, and I was always surrounded by mountains. I didn’t realize how much they were part of who I was until I moved to Minnesota 15 years ago. The flatness there, and now in Illinois where I’ve lived for the last 10 years, can sometimes be almost suffocating. And it’s not just the flatness. The variety of trees growing on Pennsylvania’s mountains ensures a most beautiful array of fall colors with the changing leaves.

Minnesota writer Paul Gruchow has said that “a home is the place in the present where one’s past and one’s future come together, the crossroads between history and heaven.” (Grassroots: The Universe of Home, Milkweed Editions 1995.) Gruchow writes about nostalgia, pointing out that in its Greek roots nostalgia literally means the return to home. It’s the clinical term for homesickness, he writes, “for the desire to be rooted in a place—to know clearly, that is, what time it is.” And here is the key for me: nostalgia recognizes the truth “that we cannot know where we are now unless we can remember where we have come from.”

Home for me now is here in Illinois, but I know that because I know where I have come from, and that is the Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania and all that they symbolize for me. And yes, there are times when I’m quite nostalgic about those mountains.

Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director.

Summer fever

Posted on June 4, 2012 by women

I now hear birds chirping and see flowers bloom. This is a sign that spring has sprung and summer will be close behind. I love the outdoor activities of summer: visiting the zoo, taking long walks in the park, riding bikes, walking around the lake front.

My all-time favorite is the smell of food cooking on the outdoor grill. There is nothing like it. I love cooking meat and vegetables outside. It reminds me of my mother being in the kitchen with one of those large soup pots, making her delicious homemade BBQ sauce. She made it by the gallon so it would last the entire year. She spread it over the ribs as they cooked and the juices were absorbed into the meat. Now that’s the true definition of finger-licking good.

The season of summer brings back old memories and creates new ones for my daughter and two young grandchildren. What are some of your favorite summertime traditions? Are you creating memories for your children and grandchildren or nieces and nephews?

The sky is so blue,
not a cloud to be seen.
The Earth is a painting
with every shade of green.
The chirping of birds,
as they gracefully fly by,
amidst the golden hue
of the lustrous sky.
The flowers are so fragrant,
the trees are their shield,
for under the scorching heat
a breeze they should feel.
The voices of children,
as they play in the park.
It is a definite sign,
summer has made its mark.

This poem by: Anabela Loureiro

Vanessa Davis serves the churchwide women’s organization as administrative assistant.

Honoring veterans

Posted on May 31, 2012 by women

Memorial Day has taken on an even greater meaning for me as a time to honor those who have made our freedom possible. In 2009 I was able to visit Washington D.C. during the Memorial Day weekend. I’ll never forget it. When I came out of the train elevator, the doors opened to the Rolling Thunder Rally, thousands of motorcycles with veteran riders roaring through the streets in parade formation. These veterans and their bikes, decorated with flags and patriotic apparel, were holding out their hands so bystanders could reach out and touch them.

When I slapped my first biker’s hand and made contact, I thanked him for his service. In that split second of contact, I saw tears covering his face and while I had tears pouring down my face, I understood how important it is to honor vets. There were thousands of bikers having this same experience with thousands of pedestrians! As the bikers continued to roar by, the crowds clapped and cheered and slapped and thanked! It went on for hours.

I was totally overwhelmed with my emotions. That was only the beginning of my day.  I also visited the different war memorials and talked to veterans who were milling around the mall. My day ended with the National Memorial Day Concert on the Capital lawn where hundreds of thousands of people gathered to hear stories of veterans and listen to glorious patriotic music.

I know that what I experienced that day was as close to a secular “religious experience” as I’ll ever get. I treasure my memories but mostly, I’ll continue to thank the vets!

Diane Frederick, of Oak Park Heights, Minn., is serving a second term on the churchwide executive board of Women of the ELCA.

Practicing gratitude

Posted on May 28, 2012 by Elizabeth McBride

Women of the ELCA’s Pinterest board, “Advice from mom,” features the best advice from moms across the ELCA in celebration of Mother’s Day. Even though a few weeks have passed since Mother’s Day, it’s always  a good time to give thanks for the women in our lives.

When thinking about the advice my mom gave me, two pieces come to mind. “Always write a thank-you note” and “always have a bottle of champagne in your fridge.” The latter is because one never knows when an occasion to celebrate will arise. (For some reason the champagne advice just stuck.)

Although as a child I dreaded writing thank-you notes after every birthday, Christmas, confirmation, party etc., as an adult I understand the importance of this task. It’s about expressing gratitude to the people who care enough to spend time with and resources on you.

While on the topic of expressing gratitude, I’m looking forward to the July issue of Café.  This issue will focus on ways to practice gratitude. Plus Café will be revealing its new design –and I am very grateful for that!

Of course, women across the ELCA express their gratitude with monetary donations called  Thankofferings. These offerings are a tangible way to offer thanks for the blessings in our lives and to help to further the mission of Women of the ELCA and support the women and girls who are served by this amazing organization.

So, how do you remember to give thanks? Do you devote time in your daily life to expressing to others how you are thankful for them? Do you participate in collecting and sending Thankofferings? Is there a person in your life right now who deserves to receive a thank-you note?

Elizabeth McBride, the director for intergenerational programs and editor of Café is trying to focus on expressing more gratitude than attitude.

An ode to personal millinery

Posted on May 24, 2012 by LPB

Attendees at last summer's triennial gathering donned some jaunty hats in the photo booth!

And on the lighter side, let’s talk about hats. Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee is nearly upon us, and in honor of that milestone, the BBC has assembled a retrospective of many of her distinctive hats over her tenure as Britain’s monarch. For any lover-of-hats, it’s not to be missed!

Back in 2005, when Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles, some fabulous hats attended the wedding ceremony. Anna Pickard of the London newspaper, The Guardian, wrote a contemporaneous Internet blog that was quoted in the New York Times. Pickard described the hat of Trudie Styler, the wife of Sting, as looking “like the sort of thing you could train hamsters to jump through.” Sophie, Countess of Wessex, was reported to be “wearing what from this angle looks like an upturned galvanized bucket.”

Of course, the show-stopper was the hat worn by the new Duchess of Cornwall – a gold-ostrich feather hat tipped with Swarovski diamond crystal tips. In what might only happen in hat-happy England, the Times of London reported that the bride had six fittings for her outfit and 10 for her hat!

I have a few hats in my closet – but certainly nothing to rival the Queen, Camilla, Sophie or Trudie. But all the talk of hats got me thinking about the many hats we wear as women. We have skimmers and bonnets that we wear for no other reason than their sheer beauty. We don mortarboards as signs of our learning. We put on a nurse’s cap and bring about healing and wholeness. A baseball cap is good when gardening or on a long walk or run. Hard hats and helmets are needed when everything is falling in around us. Sometimes we even hide under hoods and veils, masking reality and preventing us from confronting injustice.

Even when we wear many hats, may God keep us from wigging out!

Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director.

Everyday Thankofferings

Posted on May 21, 2012 by women

I’m thinking today that God is having a “teachable moment” with me. Not something general or abstract. No, a very concrete message telling me that I need to be thankful even when faced with a bit of a bother.

Yesterday I had to fast in the morning before getting some bloodwork done. It was about an hour or so until I was able to gratefully gobble down a chicken biscuit. But in that hour when I could hear my tummy growling, there was a whisper in my ear, “Jennifer… what about those children who go to bed with this feeling and wake up only to find there is still no food to assuage their hunger?”

Then today, for some reason we had a plumbing problem at my office and all the toilets stopped working. We actually had to leave the building and go to a local restaurant to use the bathroom for the afternoon. And yet, it is a trivial inconvenience when you compare it to the mass of humanity who have no access to clean water.

We are all so lucky to live in such prosperity and surfeit. But sometimes, our surplus can make us ambivalent about the struggle of those who are not so fortunate. So, today I will not let this reminder pass. Here is my Thankoffering prayer:

“God, I am thankful for this small bother… I am thankful for these minor nuisances that remind me I have a responsibility to support those who are in need. Amen.”

If you agree, won’t you join me in making a Thankoffering today? We give when we are thankful… and today, I am grateful for God’s continuing reminders… even if I do have to cross the street to get to the bathroom. Don’t worry, though… the plumber is on his way!

Jennifer Michael lives in Pensacola, Fla., and serves as the president of Women of the ELCA for the 2011-2014 triennium.

Empty nester

Posted on May 17, 2012 by deborahpowell

Wow! My son has graduated from high school. It seems like only yesterday he was toddling along behind his older sisters. Where has the time gone? Before you know it he will be off to college and I will be an empty nester. This is a day that I never truly imagined. It feels like I’ve been a mother all of my life. I’ve had children in and out of my house for 28 years, and now there will be no one at home for me to mother.

The Bible says to train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Knowing this gives me comfort because I know that I have raised my son according to the Word of God. I’ve taught my son to treat others with respect, just as he would want to be treated. Although I won’t be there, I trust him to make wise choices.

A new chapter in my life will unfold. What does this mean for me? What am I going to do?

Well, if things get too quiet at home, I can always invite the grandchildren for a sleepover.

Deborah Powell is the associate executive director of Women of the ELCA.

How are we talking about criminal justice in America?

Posted on May 14, 2012 by emmacrossen

A few weeks ago, the ELCA released the Draft Social Statement on Criminal Justice, a document intended to spark conversations throughout the church.

Its timing was significant for me. A month or so earlier, I heard an interview with author Michelle Alexander about her book called The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Then, I read it. In the book, Alexander observes that the criminal justice system is devastating black communities in America through the war on drugs. This policy, she says, was established in the 1970s and ’80s to control black men by locking them away in prison and labeling them criminals when they are released. You may not agree with her broad conclusion. Regardless, the stories and facts she tells about the criminal justice system are important and compelling.

The war on drugs is especially dangerous, she notes, because it is hidden from the majority. Unlike Jim Crow, which happened out in the open, the war on drugs is happening primarily in poor black neighborhoods, police cars, courthouses and prisons. The book has spent weeks on the best-seller list and is galvanizing readers (including at least one Lutheran pastor).

This blog post is one of my first steps to respond to the book and to contribute to the church’s conversations about criminal justice. I hope Women of the ELCA starts more conversations and shows up where conversations are already happening in our congregations.

We are a community of women that aspires to work against racism.  I hope we bring questions about race to these conversations. Alexander says that Americans are less likely to talk about race today because we’re supposed to be better than that in an age of supposed colorblindness. (As in, “How bad can racism be? We elected a black man president.”) For Women of the ELCA to be “anti-racist” in the age of colorblindness, we have to acknowledge racism where it happens. As Christians, in any age, we are called to shine light on what is hidden. How will you participate?

Emma Crossen is director for stewardship and development.

Mama said

Posted on May 10, 2012 by women

Most of us who become parents have that defining moment. You know the one. You are lecturing speaking to your child and an out-of-body experience occurs. You hear yourself saying words that are not your own. From your mouth are coming forth the words of your mother. Words that when you had heard them for the umpteenth time as a child or, more likely, a teenager, you swore you’d never ever utter. But yet, utter you have!

Truth is, moms (and dads and aunties and all those who love us) have some great words of wisdom. We don’t always have to admit it, but it’s true. And it may just be that for most of us, as we age we find out more and more just how much our moms really know (or knew).

In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked our Facebook community to share the best piece of advice received from mom (or a motherly figure). Here are a few nuggets of advice. To read them all, go to our “Advice from Mom” board on Pinterest. To add your own, post a comment below.

Anne’s mom: Pick your battles.

Sharon’s mom: Always remember God loves you!

Judy’s mother: This too shall pass.

Sue’s mom: People are more important than things.

Debbie’s mama: Do something nice for someone everyday and listen more than you speak.

Karen’s mother: Celebrate birthdays — they remind us of the gift of life!

Jeanne’s mom: Enjoy the moment. Time goes by so fast.

Sometimes you need a do-over

Posted on May 7, 2012 by women

Have you ever had one of those moments when you did something that a few minutes after you thought, “What just happened to me?”  That happened to me today. Just like many of you, I didn’t start out my day cranky, but found myself going through a series of minor hassles and stresses stacked up one after the other until the next person I saw really did not receive me at my best. Turns out it was a young airline agent who was trying to help me get my bags checked in. Unfortunately for her, she had to instruct me to go to another line (after I had already been jostled and transferred and was beginning to think that I would swear off air travel). I confess that while I did not give her a scathing dose of verbal vitriol, my exasperated look and abrupt departure left her in no doubt that I was NOT a happy camper and that somehow I thought it was her fault. She had no idea that she was just bearing the brunt of what really amounted to several small inconveniences I had experienced prior to arriving in her presence.

So, with a grumble and a petulant gait, I ambled over to the next line expecting even more problems.  (Isn’t it funny how sometimes just the atmosphere in an airport can breed discontent?) But, as I stood there I heard the voice of my mother in my head whispering a well-worn verse I remember from my childhood…

“All of us in this life are brothers, none goes this way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.”

Perhaps I’m paraphrasing that line a bit, but it was in that moment I thought, “What did I just send into the life of that young woman?” Negativity, censure, disappointment… and she had done nothing. My solution? I changed my demeanor right then. I smiled at the next agent and completed my baggage process. But more importantly, I walked back to that young woman at the ticket counter and I apologized. She was gracious, but I insisted that I was not at my best and I was wrong to take it out on her… (and then I did give her a piece of chocolate in case my personal confession wasn’t sufficient!)

This can be a reminder to all of us that there is no substitute for civility and kindness in our society today. In a hurting world there is always a need for grace and mercy no matter what hardships we have experienced in our lives. And I think we best model Christ’s image when we are ever mindful of what we send into the lives of those we encounter on our life’s journey each and every day. I am grateful God gave me a “do-over” with that young woman today. And I pray that in the future I will work harder to get it right the first time!

Jenny Michael, of Pensacola, Florida, is the churchwide president of Women of the ELCA.