Monday, April 14, 2008


My grandfather lent me a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer quite some time ago. I still had it on my shelf, unread, when he died in January of 2007. I'm not sure what possessed me to pick it up and read it this past week, but on the heels of the Children's Summit, it was a potent reaffirmation of the need to DO something in this life.

Bonhoeffer was given a teaching position in New York during WWII, but after only a month in the United States, he felt he had to return to Germany because he deeply believed you could not be a person of faith and stand idly (and safely) by while others suffered gross violations of human rights. He later wrote, "...our being Christians today must consist of two things: in praying and in doing what is right among men."( 1 ) He also wrote in verse:
Daring to do what is right, not what fancy may tell you,
valiantly grasping occasions, not cravenly doubting--
freedom comes only through deeds, not through thoughts taking wing.
( 2 )
Is it enough to be a writer? I wonder.

As I struggled with the implications of Bonhoeffer's ideas and my own feelings of being called to service, I had an assignment in my 12-step program to discuss the following quote from the book Alcoholics Anonymous: "We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous and free. We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears, thought it once was just that for many of us." ( 3 )

This quote refers, of course, to the self-manufacture of misery in which I, as an addict, used to wallow. But I grappled mightily with the juxtaposition of this idea that God wants us (not just ME, but everyone!) to be "happy, joyous and free," the horrifying realities of the Holocaust, and the current epidemic of poverty, oppression, war and genocide.

Do I give up family, safety and comfort and wade into the fray at the cost of my own life, as Bonhoeffer did?

At the moment, I will return to Bonhoeffer's words: "...our being Christians today must consist of two things: in praying and in doing what is right among men." I will pray and in so doing, I will ask that I might be shown how to do what is right and for the courage to do it.



( 1 ) Wind, Renate, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke In The Wheel, Eerdmans, p. 168

( 2 ) ibid, p. 169

(3) Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 133

Monday, April 7, 2008


I want to go to Seminary. No, wait. I want to go to the U of M and study human development and spirituality. Scratch that. I want to create, write and edit an ecumenical magazine for grade-school kids. Actually, I want to start an ecumenical online community called "FaithBook" that will focus on acceptance, justice and mission and stay away from the hate- and fear-mongering of so many so-called "faith-based" media resources. Whoa--too much? I know: I want to start a kids drama group at church that acts out Gospel lessons during worship. Or an intergenerational worship-experience program. Or a kids' mission partnership with an inner city church Sunday School. Or...

I left the April 4th and 5th Children's Summit at Luther Seminary absolutely overwhelmed with joy, hope, ideas, excitement, purpose and motivation. I actually had to leave Saturday's keynote address ten minutes early lest my heart and head explode: I simply could not take in any more.

Now it's Monday. My kids are back in school after an eventful Spring Break. The house is quiet. I have time to think.

I am still overwhelmed.

During the "Public Summit on the state of children and how Christian communities can respond," I jotted this in my journal: There is so much hope in this room it is overwhelming. I am filled and moved almost to tears. How do I maintain that hope when faced with the day-to-day realities we are all confronted with?

Before I could even end my last sentence with a dangling preposition, one of the Summit speakers, Dr. Lisa Kimball, of the University of Minnesota, opened her mouth and spoke my heart, rhetorically asking the entire assembly this same question, albeit with more eloquence. Even though I know God works that way, it still brought me up short to have my unspoken question voiced by another.

I thought I was a novelist.

Yet all I can hear are the words to a piece I once sang in choir:
Listen, God is calling;
Through the Word inviting;
Offering forgiveness, comfort and joy!
All I can see are images of the children at Kinyago Dandora school in Kenya whose needs were supported by our Vacation Bible School mission project a couple years ago.

All I can feel is this crushing urgency in my gut at direct odds with a sense of directionless paralysis.

I am a mom. A writer. A Lutheran. A singer and actor, a public speaker, a teacher, a church member, a volunteer, a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, a planner and organizer... What is it that God wants me to do? Because in the end, a much as I'd like to, I cannot possibly do it all. I can't single-handedly change the state of children in the world. All I can do is serve where I can.

And where, O God, might that be?