During the July 17th worship service, Pastor Schnekloth preached on the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 13:24-30, 36-43. The text is a familiar parable about a sower of seed.  Pastor analogized those of us in the pews to the sower, and called on us to be assertive and to figure out our gifts and offer them in service.  He quoted a song by Mumford & Sons, entitled Awake My Soul, and “Where you invest your love, there you invest your life.” He asked us to make a personal assessment, and to think about the people and things we love.  How you spend your time shows what you value/love. We were asked to open our hearts and listen (for direction on how to spend our lives in service).  I tell you all this because sometimes when you least expect it, you get a message meant for you and you know it. 

That was the case for me that Sunday, and I didn’t have to “listen” very long.  In fact, the Thursday before, one of my friends who is also a Lutheran and lawyer, Peter Kumpe, called asking me to serve on a Synod taskforce, with the Bishop and others.  I should explain here that the Synod is a governance body of the ELCA church.  Our Synod is the Arkansas/Oklahoma Synod. When Peter called, I gave him several (I thought) good reasons why I couldn’t serve on this taskforce.  But on Sunday, Pastor’s sermon hit me right between the eyes.  My only consolation was that I hadn’t turned Peter down flat out, but had agreed to attend the meeting and see what’s what (and in my mind–then excuse myself).

And so it came to pass that Monday morning, I attended a meeting at the Synod headquarters and by the end of the meeting; I was indeed a member of our Synod’s strategic planning task force.  I met our new bishop Girlinghouse, who’s  spirit-lead, smart, warm, thoughtful, funny and a great listener.  Besides all that he rides too, a Suzuki. The meeting was a good, one, the work of the task force important and interesting.

While I was out, I received a call from Elaine Richter Bryant, a member and former chair of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service  (LIRS)Board.  I served on the board for four years, but in the second year of my deanship, it became apparent to me that I wasn’t fulfilling my obligations to the organization because of the unavoidable scheduling conflicts. As a result, I resigned from the board.  That was a tough one because I believe in the work of LIRS and I was learning so much about the immigration law & policy, as well as how faith-based organizations welcome and help resettle immigrants.

 I’d never thought about the difference between a refugee and asylum seeker, but through my service on the board, I learned the distinction and the difference it made in their status as far as the law is concerned.  More than that, I heard the stories of the lives of people LIRS touched.  We visited detention centers where the legal aid services provided were sponsored by LIRS, and advocated for alternatives to prison-like detention of families.  I met unaccompanied immigrant minors separated from their parents who were cared for my agencies funded by LIRS, and I met families who fled abysmal conditions to find peace and establish stable lives with the assistance of LIRS’ refugee resettlement services.  I say all this to say that when Elaine asked whether I was interested in being considered for board service again, it was not easy to turn her down.  But, I felt as though I should be still, and wait a bit to see what else I might be called to do.  She and I talked about that, and we left to door open for a return to the board in the future.

The next thing that happened was that I noticed a call in the bulletin for volunteers to be trained to take communion to our shut-ins, and others in the community in institutional settings who may not regularly receive it, but desire to do so.  So again, with the tug of the Spirit, I found myself at Good Shepherd Tuesday evening for the training.  “Where you invest your love…”

Wednesday’s events were not as profound, but I felt a tug of the Spirit with a bit of a pun intended.  Mariachi San Pablo was coming to town and the draw of attending a Lutheran mariachi band concert was unavoidable.  Who knew?  A Lutheran Mariachi band?  The group has been together for more than 10 years and plays all around the country.  I’ll tell you what; they gave life to the expression, “make a joyful noise.”  It was a great time.  There was a good crowd there with lots of children and the band put on a spirited (pun intended) concert despite the heat.  Though I wouldn’t ever have dreamed it up, it was truly a wonderful way to close out a summer evening. I guess the message to me, now becoming loud and clear, is for me in this year of transition, to get out of the way, open my heart and listen…