One of my all-time favorite movies is Sabrina, with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. To this day, I can’t watch that movie without dreaming of a pretty dress, a handsome man, and a trip to Paris that inspires it all. And while a girl can dream, the chances of me marrying a billionaire business-mogul who hosts Saturday night soirees just so we can sip champagne and dance underneath the stars isn’t super likely (however if you know a single gentleman who fits that description, I’m free this weekend). I totally understand that Sabrina is just a movie – a directed, dialogued, rehearsed movie – but I still find myself getting caught up in the fantasy that that’s what love should look like. But it’s not, is it?
In reality, love is messy. It’s fighting about finances because you both just want to give the kids the best life they can. It’s attending your sibling’s graduation ceremony even though you’re pretty sure the main speaker has never publicly spoken in their life. It’s helping a friend move to a new house. It’s doing loads upon loads of laundry and sink upon sink of dishes. 98% of the time love is the most unglamorous, anti-Hollywood actions. Love isn’t perfect monologues and European vacations; it’s moments no one ever spends time daydreaming about. Love is messy, tedious, and surprisingly ordinary. And it’s also your God-given calling.
Jesus understood what love is perfectly. He didn’t form relationships with people just to ask, “But what am I getting out of this?”. He gave everything He could to people who couldn’t give a thing back. He jumped head first into unspectacular tasks without every expecting a pat on the back. He washed feet, fished for food, and hung around people deemed “unclean” by the world around them. And He did all this purely out of love. Not a pretty, edited version of love. A real roll-up-your-sleeves, this-could-get-messy type of love. The type of love that can leave you exhausted physically and emotionally. And He calls us to do the same.
Living as a Christian means loving like Jesus. It means taking the high road when no one else will. It means doing the tasks no one else wants to do. It means humbling yourself so that service becomes a lifestyle, not a special event. And it means doing all of this with a joyful heart. It’s not easy or pretty and no one’s every going to make a movie about it. But if we really believe that we have a God who loves us so much that He sacrificed His son for us, shouldn’t that inspire us to make some sacrifices too? I suggest we start with our pride, vanity, and Hollywood version of love. I think we may just find that God’s version – as messy as it is – is a whole lot better.
Last Saturday not one handsome billionaire asked me to come dance with him. No one delivered a perfect monologue about how stunning I looked underneath the moonlight. No one poured me a glass of champagne while we watched fireworks in the distance. But my roommate vacuumed my bedroom because she knew I was busy. It’s not Hollywood love, but it’s Jesus love and I wouldn’t trade it for the world (or even for Humphrey Bogart).
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”. Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church
This past spring, I graduated from Concordia University Chicago (let’s go Cougars!) with my bachelor’s degree in Christian Education.
The truth is, I definitely didn’t want to walk at my graduation ceremony. They’re long and boring and all-around not my favorite event. But mom and dad seemed to think it was important (and they helped fund the whole educational endeavor) so on May 6th I donned the traditional (and altogether hideous) cap and gown and found my place in line amid my graduating peers (I know you’re all picturing me as the quiet and devoted daughter, but I assure you I voiced my fair share of complaints about the whole situation).
This ceremony was not my parents’ first graduation rodeo. In fact, I suspect that all together the ever-patient Steve and Linda Hayden have attended upwards of 20 graduation ceremonies in their lives. That’s a lot of uncomfortable bleachers and “motivational” speeches. Bless their supportive souls.
But as much as I kicked against the nostalgia and cliched sense of empowerment that graduation is meant to inspire, as I sat down in my designated seat that Saturday morning, I couldn’t help but spend some time reflecting on the transitional state my life is in. And as happy as I am to be working my dream job in a wonderful town, I still felt a little scared.
Change is hard. It’s not a new lesson or a unique thought. As an educator, I see it in the little kiddos as they beg their parents not to make them meet a new Sunday School teacher and I see it in high school seniors when the question, “So what are you doing next year?” strikes fear into their eyes. It’s not just the younger believers who struggle with this fear either. As an adult, your family is constantly changing before your eyes. People grow and they make mistakes. The people who 10 years ago you swore would always be a part of your life may not be anymore. The person you are today could be drastically different tomorrow. And that uncertainty is a scary thing no matter how old you are.
Our whole life is transitional. Every day is new and has new challenges and joys in it. We celebrate the happy transitions (graduations, weddings, baptisms, retirements, etc.) and we mourn that hard transitions (job loss, funerals, divorces, etc.). And through all the change that life brings we may find ourselves asking the age-old question, “Where’s God when I’m scared?” (cue Jr. Asparagus singing ‘God is Bigger Than the Boogeyman’).
But friend, let me assure you that you are not the first person to ask this question. Remember Jesus’ disciples? You know, the people who actually saw Him do all the amazing things we read about? They doubted too. Even as Jesus was ascending to heaven the Bible says, “when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted” (Matt 28:17). They doubted that the church could go on without
Him. They doubted Jesus would still be with them, even when He left this earth. They doubted they could survive this drastic of a change.
So what does Jesus do? He looked down at these disciples and He saw me, sitting nervously in a silly cap and gown. And He saw the family that’s changing because of a heart-breaking divorce. And He saw the high school senior who dreads the question, “What are you doing next year?”. And the little kid who hates meeting new people. And the new parents holding their new little baby. And He saw you, and whatever change, good or bad, you’re scared of. He saw all of us, unsure of the future in this ever-changing world and He said, “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”.
Yeah change is, and always will be, hard. And changes never end, which means life is always going to be a little scary. But we have a God who is more amazing, more unchanging, more loving than we can even comprehend. And He’s with us today, tomorrow, and for the rest of time. So take heart church, the changes you’re facing right now may seem big but your God will always be bigger. And He’s with you now and forever, even to the end of the age.
All My Love,
Former Scaredy-Cat (okay, still kind of a scaredy-cat)
Current Director of Christian Education
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church
One year ago, the extent of my baseball knowledge was as follows:
There are four bases and the movie “The Final Season” is an underrated cinematic masterpiece (seriously, go watch it). But as I drove into a brand-new town where I knew absolutely no one, I saw Fox Cities Stadium out my car window and decided to become a fan of the class A Timber Rattlers.
Why? Well, truth be told, it seemed like something to do. At the time, I was not positive I was going to make any friends (apparently, we don’t grow out of that worry, it just no longer revolves around a cafeteria) and I figured going to a baseball game alone was a little better than sitting in my apartment alone.
Luckily, God had me covered on the friend front and soon enough the ever-patient Shannon Meeks and Erin Klein would be answering my baseball questions at many a game (many other baseball fans and friends deserve some recognition for answering my questions but Shan and Erin definitely got the brunt of them).
Now, as the above story testifies, I am the opposite of a baseball expert. But I do know a little bit about Jesus and His church, and I couldn’t stop seeing the comparisons. So here it goes. Hannah’s list of what baseball taught me about living a Christian life.
1. There’s always something you don’t know.
I’ve asked a lot of baseball questions. A lot. And most of them are pretty simple (listen, I’m a novice, cut me a break). But occasionally, I’ve had the pleasure of asking a question that stumps my baseball-savvy friends. In those moments, I had to keep asking (sometimes Google, mostly my dad) until I found the answer. The same thing happens in our faith. If you think you have every inch of God’s plan figured out, you’re not thinking hard enough. Questions aren’t a sign of stupidity, they’re a sign of someone who’s thinking. So, ask the faith questions. Even the simple ones. They’re important and they’re a sign that you’re using the brain God gave you.
2. Every batter strikes out. Even the best batters in baseball history have struck out before. One day a batter is at the top of his game, and the next game he can’t seem to get on plate. When this happens, devoted players don’t suddenly decide they hate baseball and give up. They talk to coaches and managers and figure out what they need to adjust. The same thing can happen in our faith life. One year, or month, or day you can feel totally firm in your faith walk and the next day you suddenly feel lost or unconnected. When this happens (and it will) don’t give up on God. Talk with a Pastor, DCE, or Christian friend. It may not be as simple as adjusting your swing, but God has placed those people in your life to help you through the tough times. Even if you’re not so sure why the times are tough to begin with.
3. It’s easy to be a fan when everyone is rooting for the same team.It’s not hard to be a Brewers fan when you live in Wisconsin. Every weekend in church there is someone sporting Brewers merchandise and all you have to do is mention the Brewers to start a conversation during baseball season.
Sure, they don’t always have a stellar season, but you’re definitely not alone in your enthusiasm or, in the tougher times, your despair. It’s a lot harder to be a fan of a team that everyone around you hates.
The same is true in our Christian life. We are absolutely blessed to live in a nation where Christians enjoy enormous privileges and freedoms, but there are still times when living a Christian life can make you feel very alone. That’s why God emphasizes the importance of community in Scripture. Church isn’t just another thing to do on Sundays, it’s a safe-haven when everyone else seems against you.
4. You can have all the baseball knowledge in the world and it won’t make you Babe Ruth. Now I am not saying knowledge is a bad thing (see point number 1). But one of the main differences between being a sports fan and being a Christian is that in sports it’s okay to just be a spectator.
There are tons of fans who could talk to you for hours about the mechanics of batting but, when it comes down to it, how many of them could hit a Nolan Ryan fastball? Not many. And that’s okay in baseball. But in our faith God calls us not just to have the knowledge, but to do something with it. We have to apply Biblical teachings in our life every day. Don’t know how? That’s where our Christian communities (read church) come into play once again. Talk to a leader, we’ll help you figure it out!
5. “The old-timers say that baseball is the only game where the objective is to get home, kid” – Coach Jim Van Scoyoc, The Final Season.
At the end of the day, every team is just trying to get players home. Isn’t that the truth behind our faith journey too?
Living a Christian life all stems from the knowledge that no matter how tough life is, at the end of it all we’re going home to be with God. I can’t think of a more beautiful way to end the game. Sure, you might make some errors along the way, but unlike baseball God isn’t marking them down. We have a God who has already won the game. And if heaven seems a long way off to you, have no fear, we have a temporary home here on Earth. Can you see where I ‘m going with this? That’s right --- your church family!
This isn’t a plea to fill our seats on Sunday mornings; it’s a reminder that you have a team that knows what it’s like to make a few mistakes. We’re still cheering you on and we’ll be your home until you reach your eternal reward.
So get home kid, Jesus is waiting for you.
Director of Christian Education
Avid, Yet Often Confused, Baseball Fan
A millennial perspective on who millennials are and how our church is pushing them away.
As a 22-year-old church worker I’m used to talking with people about “millennials”. It’s the current buzzword in our church body and it seems like everyone wants a piece of the conversation. The term “millennial” or the “millennial generation” describes people born in the 1981-1997(ish) time frame, although most conversations I’ve heard use it incorrectly as a general description of anyone below the age of 35(ish). This generation is a generation that seems to be largely missing from our church body (if you don’t believe me, look around our church next Sunday and send me your tally of how many 20-somethings you see). But why are they gone? It’s not a simple question and I can’t give a simple answer, but I do believe there are simple steps we can all take to make our church a more inviting place for this generation.
If I’m being completely honest, I’ve never been a part of a positive conversation about millennials. Most conversations are usually about how they are needy/whiny/spoiled/cynical (and the list goes on and on). The closest thing I’ve ever heard to a positive remark is something along the lines of, “they sure know how to work technology and social media” although it’s usually followed up by, “but they spend all of their time on it!”. But here’s the thing, I’m a millennial! And I do take offence to what you’re saying. Because even if you are thinking of me as an “exception”, you’re still using broad, negative terms to describe my siblings, friends, and peers.
And from my perspective, there’s a lot of good that has already come from my generation. If you want examples, let me tell you about my older sister, who works tirelessly to produce an honest, unbiased news cycle as a journalist. Or let me tell you about my brother and both of my college roommates, who have devoted their lives to being a positive force in a broken education system. Can you hear me getting defensive? And this is coming from a girl who feels very comfortable in your church. Now how do you think these stereotypes would make me feel if I was already uncomfortable in a religious setting?
You see, I think most of these stereotypes stem from a perspective issue. Maybe you just don’t get where people my age are coming from. So let’s do some perspective comparison! Bear in mind that these are based off my experiences and my conversations, other people may have a different viewpoint.
Am I saying that my generation is without fault? Of course not! The world is made up of sinners, and I am chief of them. What I’m saying is when Jesus looks at me, he doesn’t see my sins or the sins of my generation. He sees the empty cross and the empty grave. As a church, we should strive everyday to do the same. The next time you hear yourself or your peers begin to stereotype any group, ask yourself how you would feel if you heard members of your church talking about you that way. Would you feel welcomed? Would you feel loved?
When I was talking with family and friends about how the word “millennial” annoys me because of the connotations it carries, they began to jokingly refer to it as the “m” word, just like young children refer to other swear words. Let’s not let our own perspective turn a people group into a negative thing. Let’s see others as Christ sees us and let our language, especially in church, reflect that. See me for me, church. Not for my generation.
Director of Christian Education and Proud Millennial
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church
Saturday 5:00 p.m. Blended Contemporary
Sunday 8:00 a.m. Traditional
Sunday 9:30 (Contemporary)
Monday 7pm (Blended)
N1615 Meadowview Dr, Greenville, WI 54942
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(closed on holidays)
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