Soul Care

Words of Encouragement in Trying Times

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Dear LTS Family and Friends,

Your thoughtful reactions to our Soul Care posts are much appreciated, such as this recent greeting from Ed Parrish III, M.Div. ’74, D.Min. ’96.

Hello, Tanya and the LTS Cloud of Witnesses! Just now I was wading through my email pile and came across the LTS newsletter. Do you know how it may not be explicit – may not be called this – but one of the things that “the pastor’s seminary” (that’s LTS) teaches is “resilience-in-ministry.” Well, it works!

But, just as the best old blue jeans get a little thin – so you feel a little more of the Autumn breeze – it feels good to put on another layer.

That’s the LTS newsletter for me just now.

I’m saying:

“Yes, let’s make America more welcoming again.”

“Yes, let’s take this opportunity to bring our original sin of racism to a final come-to-Jesus.”

“Yes, let’s rediscover the love of God and start sharing it again!”

And it is so nice to receive the LTS newsletter from that great cloud of witnesses to bolster my thin faith and witness and soul!

Thank you, Cloud!

Ed also shared this photo of Timberlake Christian Church, Lynchburg, VA, “seeking to do ‘best practices’ in worship and mission … until we can return to ‘better.'” Jamie Brame is the interim pastor there.

Blessings,

Rev. Tanya J. Tyler

LTS Interim Director of Communications

Take an October Day

[Jesus] would withdraw to deserted places and pray. – Luke 5:16

At my undergraduate school, Rockford College (now Rockford University) in Rockford, IL, there was a tradition called October Day, borrowed from Mount Holyoke College. October Day was a surprise day of freedom from classes. The Dean signaled the advent of October Day by going through the dorms ringing the Anna P. Sill Bell and proclaiming, “October Day!” All throughout October we students were kept in sweet suspense, wondering when the Dean would designate October Day. How many times we decided not to study for a test or finish a paper because we were sure the next day would be October Day – only to find it wasn’t!

We were encouraged to spend October Day outside, doing fun and relaxing things, because the long, cold winter was soon to set in. (Rockford winters are brutal – trust me!) So we abandoned the classrooms and the library and the laboratories and went on picnics and enjoyed the scenery around our beautiful campus. October Day always came at just the right time – when heads were spinning from too much studying and anxiety about midterms was about to kick in. To have that one day where books and papers and other assignments could bet set aside was a definite blessing.

We didn’t call it self-care, but that’s certainly what it was. Sometimes those of us in ministry and those of us studying for ministry actually have to be told to take a break and give ourselves a mental health day. Jesus did this without being told. We often read about him taking time to go off by himself to pray and revive and refresh. Jesus knew when he needed a time out from his work. Jesus knew sometimes you had to get away and go and pray and spend time with God, one-on-one, no distractions, no disruptions. Like Jesus, you will return to your workaday world revived and refreshed and ready for the next challenge.

So go ahead and take an October Day sometime this month. There’s still time. And you have God’s permission.


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Dear LTS Family and Friends,

The summer is coming to an end, and now we look ahead to autumn. It’s usually a time to slow down, mellow out, close in. Yet this year we have learned to approach turning corners with some trepidation, unsure of what lies ahead, simultaneously anticipating and dreading. Let us remember, as the seasons change, that God is still with us. Let us remember that God takes us through the valley of the shadow to bring us out on the other side into God’s light, whole and healed and strong. One of God’s surest promises is that God will never leave or forsake us. Let us sing together, loudly, with joy and conviction and belief:

We have come this far by faith,

And we’re leaning, leaning on the Lord,

And we’re trusting, trusting in God’s Holy Word.

Oh, I know my Jesus has never, He’s never failed me yet.

Oh, can’t turn around, we’ve come this far by faith.

Blessings,

Rev. Tanya J. Tyler LTS Interim Director of Communications

Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:20-21 

We all could use a little lightheartedness during this ongoing onslaught of uncertainty. Looking for a sign to help you cope? Here it is!

Photo by Perry Bentley

Would you like to share a prayer, a poem, a mediation or a photo? Please send it to ttyler@lextheo.edu.


Friday, August 21, 2020

Dear LTS Family and Friends,

As this odd summer winds down, we all hope to get back into a semblance of a normal routine soon. Our word to you during this trying time is to make sure you find something that brings you joy and solace and hope. Maybe you have been sprucing up your garden or reading a good book on a sunny back porch. Perhaps you have been spending more time in private prayer. Or you may find a sacred moment in the simple act of dining out and hearing a familiar, beloved song, as Rev. Dalene Vasbinder describes below. We’d love to hear how you are coping. Send me an email and share the God moments that keep you moving forward in faith!

Blessings,

Rev. Tanya J. Tyler

LTS Interim Director of Communications

And I Think to Myself …

by Rev. Dalene Vasbinder




Photo by Rev. Dr. Loida I. Martell

For the last couple of months, my husband, Ken, and I have saved Wednesday evenings as “date night.” We’ve either eaten outside on a restaurant’s patio or, more frequently, we’ve gotten take out and dined on our own deck at home. But last Wednesday night we upped our game a bit, dining out on a local restaurant’s lovely covered deck with a live saxophone player providing background music. We were celebrating the end of Ken’s summer CPE Unit at Baptist Health Louisville. As we prepared to leave, the saxophonist began playing “What a Wonderful World.”

The last few days have been full of hard but meaningful work for me as a hospital chaplain. Standing with patients and families in various stages of crises often is. As I walked away from dinner with the sax melody in my head, I thought, yes, it is indeed a wonderful world. An often cruel, painful, heartless, sad and lonely world.  But just as much, it’s a place of beauty, warmth, care, love, compassion. The following quote by L.R. Knost came to my mind:

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing. Hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

“And I think to myself, ‘What a wonderful world …’ “

Rev. Dalene Vasbinder is a staff chaplain at Baptist Health Lexington.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Dear LTS Family and Friends,

This is usually the time of year when we begin to think about all the fun and challenges of heading back to school. But with the uncertainty of the pandemic still impacting everyone’s lives, we are all facing new ways of doing everything – even school.

Here at Lexington Theological Seminary, we have been at the forefront of online education for well over a decade, and we are here to tell you it can work and it can be as exciting and meaningful as in-person instruction. When we first started doing classes online, a major concern was how the students would create a community if they only saw one another on a computer screen. That concern was quickly set to rest at the first series of Intensives. Because they had interacted with one another online – sharing ideas and insights, frustrations and breakthroughs – our students had already created a caring community. Seeing one another in person was just the icing on the cake. They felt they already knew each other and they quickly acclimated to the change. Since then, LTS has been a leading contender and innovator in the world of online instruction.

One of our online programs is a very timely option in the face of the pandemic. Everyone is stressed and anxious, watching the number of cases increase, trying to discern what is next on the horizon, wondering how they will handle another crisis. Our Master of Pastoral Studies in Spiritual Formation degree is perfect for such a moment as this. Perhaps you are seeking ways to reach out to people around you to offer hope and support – souls in need of love and care. Perhaps you want to be a beacon of light and comfort for people in your church or community. Please read more about our MPS in Spiritual Formation below … and answer the call on your heart.

Blessings,

Rev. Tanya J. Tyler LTS Interim Director of Communications

Never has the time been more ripe for our MASTER IN PASTORAL STUDIES IN SPIRITUAL FORMATION degree. As the onslaught of COVID-19 continues to take a spiritual as well as physical toll on many people, the call rises for those who wish to offer solace and hope to weary, worried people not only in churches but in hospitals, prisons, and other places harboring suffering souls who need your care. 

This particular track prepares students to engage the theological, biblical, and spiritual basis of formation and care, as well as becoming acquainted with the psychological theories that undergird formation and care. The 40-credit program will culminate with a practicum in a chosen ministerial field and an integrative paper that demonstrates competency in both the theory and practice of spiritual formation and care. Courses include Loss and Grief, Trauma and Recovery, Theology and Theological Languages, Care of Persons, Care of Worlds, and more.

The MPS degree is particularly designed for lay persons seeking theological and biblical training to support the work of the Church at a congregational, diocesan or parish level. You will gain a basic knowledge of scripture, contemporary biblical scholarship, the Christian tradition, theology, and, for the Roman Catholic Studies track, sacramental and liturgical traditions. You will develop skills for executing educational programs, administering parish life, and providing pastoral care and nurture for Christian communities – everything you need to build and sustain an effective ministry in a non-ordained position.

Learn more here or contact Carol Devine, Director of Admissions, at cdevine@lextheo.edu


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Dear LTS Family and Friends,
We are continuing to offer our SOUL CARE reflections on a regular basis. Our hope is to give you comfort during these trying times. As the pandemic captures our thoughts and incurs worry and uncertainty, we know we can count on God to be with us every day and everywhere through everything. As we rely on God for hope and healing, our spirits are empowered and we find ourselves once again flourishing under the light of God’s love. Stay strong. Be well. We are all in this together, and we will get through this – together.

Blessings,

Rev. Tanya J. Tyler

LTS Interim Director of Communications

Photo: Perk Canyon Trail by Rev. Tanya J. Tyler

The Path Ahead

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

This has been a very challenging year for everyone. We have been traveling a rocky road full of certainty and unease. No one could have predicted a pandemic would throw all our lives off course so drastically, ruthlessly and thoroughly. Our optimism waned with each passing month, when our hopes to see coronavirus cases dwindling were dashed, and instead we saw the numbers spiral upward. We anticipated the arrival of summer, envisioning improvement and a gradual easing of our collective anxiety. But this was not to be. This is not the summer we expected. We thought we could safely return to our regular activities and go on our usual summer excursions to the beach, to the mountains, to family reunions, to Fourth of July Parades. Instead, we continue to quarantine, we make sure we’re masked and “normal” seems to be nonexistent.

We do not know when the virus will vanish or, at the very least, dissipate. The path ahead looks rocky and daunting. But if we keep our focus on the promises of redemption and renewal that await us, if we keep climbing with faith in God’s power to heal our wounds and soothe our hearts, we will make it to the summit of this mountain. This is a time to call on the strength that comes from God. This is a time to remember Jesus’ charge to us to love one another even as He has loved us, and to recall Paul’s counsel that we “encourage one another and build up each other.” This is the only way we will get through this, so may we covenant to do so with the guidance and persistence of the Holy Spirit.


All Together in One Place

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages,as the Spirit gave them ability. – Acts 2:1-4

Greetings, LTS Family and Friends,

Yesterday we celebrated Pentecost, which commemorates the coming of the gift of the Holy Spirit. That first Pentecost occasion was a memorable day because the disciples were all together in one place, anticipating the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise never to leave them without comfort. It is what we are longing for and looking forward to – the day when we can be all together in one place, in our churches as well as here on campus. We will miss the energy and excitement of June Intensives, which have been moved entirely online, but we know that with patience and faith, we will meet and hug and sing with each other again. Soon we will be all together in one place, giving glory to God for being with us throughout all our times of trouble and bringing to us new days of rejoicing.

Blessings,

Rev. Tanya J. Tyler LTS Interim Director of Communications

Photo: Sierra Blanca Sunset by Rev. Tanya J. Tyler

The Invisible Pandemic

As much as we long to be “all together in one place,” often in times of stress and uncertainty this can be a less-than-ideal proposition.

By Emily Askew, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

Today we offer special prayers for those who are living through the “invisible pandemic” of domestic violence. As people shelter at home, face increased financial stress due to lost employment, turn more frequently to drugs or alcohol or stockpile weapons in fear, more women and men are experiencing physical, emotional or mental assault.

Women fear leaving for shelters because of the threat of COVID 19. Undocumented people do not seek assistance for fear of deportation. 

LGBTQ youth fear being kicked out onto the streets. Much of this is not new, but the volume of calls to helplines and hotlines has risen exponentially since the shutdown began. If you or someone in your family or congregation is living in domestic violence, there is a resource for helping stay safer at home. It helps those in dangerous situations begin to make a safety plan in the midst of COVID 19 for how to get help if things escalate. We pray for safety for all God’s children and an end to the plague of domestic violence. Special thanks to the Office of Family Safety in Nashville, TN for this resource.

https://ofs.nashville.gov/wp-content/uploads/Safety-Plan-COVID-19-insert-white-1.pdf

PENTECOST 2020

by Ken Brooker Langston
(Based on Acts 2: 1 – 40 and current events)

Fire and smoke.

And desperation.

Hope and fear

and expectation.

A mighty wind from heaven.

Like the deepest sighs of God.

A different language spoken.

An older world-view broken.

Crowds.

Bewilderment.

Amazement.

Astounded and perplexed.

Mocking.

Confusion

The meaning unclear.

What will happen next?

But then – they stood up.

They stood up and addressed the crowds.

Listen to the message!

Women.

Men.

Daughters and sons.

Visions.

Dreams.

And prophesy.

Listen to the message!

Blood and fire and billows of smoke.

What, then, shall we do? they cry.

What, then, shall we do? 

The speaker calls out in reply,

Repent! Turn around!

O Change your wicked ways!

Judgment and fire are speaking truth.

Turn around now and be saved.

Listen to the message!

My body will dwell in hope.

Because my soul is not abandoned.

I will sit at the right hand of the Lord,

with the enemies of life underfoot.

Listen to the message!

Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

And set all people free!


God Our Help and Our Hope

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Before the hills in order stood or earth received its frame,

From everlasting, Thou art God, from age to age the same.

Greetings, LTS Family and Friends,

In this time of pandemic and patience-trying, we all need to find something to cling to. It can be frustrating, if not frightening, to sift through all the updates and information being tossed at us every day. We hear one thing touted, then another. It can be dizzying and daunting. But we know there is One on whom we can count to be our beacon of light, calm and assurance in the midst of all the noise and confusion. God has been our help in ages past and is our hope for years to come. May we continue to rely on God to lead us and guide us through this shadowy valley, and may we continue to trust God to ease and erase all our doubts and fears and uncertainties. God will be with us now and always no matter what. We send our prayers to each one of you for God’s peace to settle in your hearts.

Blessings,

Dr. Charisse L. Gillett, President

Photo by Dr. Loida I. Martell

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. – Colossians 3:16

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne still may we dwell secure,

Sufficient is Thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.

A thousand ages in Thy sight are like an evening gone,

Short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,

Be thou our guide while life shall last and our eternal home.

– Isaac Watts

Would you like to share a prayer, a poem, a mediation or a photo? Please send it to ttyler@lextheo.edu.


We Are Easter People

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Greetings, LTS Family and Friends,

All of us here at Lexington Theological Seminary continue to hold you in our prayers as we make our way through the uncharted territory in which we have found ourselves. But we say it again, firm in our conviction and secure in the knowledge that God is faithful and God has promised to be with us in all our trials and troubles. We stay optimistic that our world will soon regenerate and revive. And we have this hope because, as Rev. Nathan Day Wilson reminds us in his meditation (below), we are Easter people. We know all about darkness – and we know all about light. We know all about entrapping tombs – and we know all about Resurrection power. May we never lose sight of the fact that we serve and worship the God of all life and all love. And yes, may we emerge whole and healed by God’s strength, resolved to live in hope with an attitude of gratitude, decency and mercy.

Blessings,

Dr. Charisse L. Gillett, President

Photo by Dr. Loida I. Martell

Easter Reminders in a Time of Pandemic

By Rev. Nathan Day Wilson

Micah 6:6-8

With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before God with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?

In a poignant scene in Albert Camus’ The Plague – which reads like it was published weeks ago, instead of in 1947 – the doctor works tirelessly to lessen the suffering of those around him. But he is no hero.

“This whole thing is not about heroism,” he says. “It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency.”

As we travel through this Easter Season, I find myself wondering more than most years what new life might emerge from the tomb of much death. Whatever it is, I hope it is characterized by more decency. I hope it embraces our interdependence over our independence. I hope it embodies the late Bill Withers’ gospel: “Lean on me when you’re not strong” because we all know “it won’t be long till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”

I hope it is life with leaders, embodying equal parts compassion and courage, who realize the whole world must be managed, not its parts. No longer is the survival unit a single nation or a single anything. It is now the unity of the whole world – humans, other animals and the environment – that is an urgent, pragmatic necessity. That unity is not ours to create but rather to claim.

Nathan Wilson graduated from LTS in 1997 with an M.Div. Read his blog at www.nathandaywilson.com


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Greetings LTS Family,

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:34-35  (NRSV)

Many of you have heard me say two things can be true the same time. This is especially true as we all try to live and work with integrity and faith in light of COVID-19. We have been urging everyone to take extra special care of themselves during this time of isolation and uncertainty. But we also need to extend our love and care to others. While it is a blessing to be with our families, we need to be aware there are people around us who are all alone, without the benefit of human interaction or touch. What can you do to alleviate their loneliness? Give them a call to check on them and see how they’re doing. Send them a handwritten letter or a cheerful card. Put fresh flowers or a gift of cookies on their front step with a note letting them know you are thinking of them. And always, be praying, not only for the people who are sheltering in place by themselves, but for all those people who are feeling the impact of this pandemic. Our prayers bring us closer together and help us draw on the power of God to see us through.

Blessings,

Dr. Charisse L. Gillett, President

Photo by Dahron Johnson, MDiv student, Nashville, TN

God’s New Thing

By Rev. Tanya J. Tyler

I always look forward to the first day of spring because spring is a season of hope. You can always count on spring coming, just as God ordained at creation: God says in Genesis 8:22, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” The world will keep turning and the seasons will change as they must. Spring will always come again. I take great solace in this promise from God.

I checked an online concordance to see how many verses in the Bible mention the word “spring.” Many of them are talking about springs of water. But I did find:

Psalm 85:11

Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.

And then I found two other verses that definitely speak to the moment in which we are now living.

Isaiah 43:19

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 58:8

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

There will be healing. And there is always hope.

What new thing is God going to do for us and with as we face the challenge of coronavirus and the way it has upended our world?

Let us prepare for this new beginning by offering a prayer today. God of all our seasons — our winters of discontent, our springs of challenge, our summers of enlightenment, our autumns of discernment — be with us this day and always. Guide us and guard us as we walk these uncharted paths. May we keep our focus and our faith on you, God of our hope — and our healing. Amen.

Photo by Dahron Johnson, MDiv student, Nashville, TN

Would you like to share a prayer, a poem, a mediation or a photo? Please send it to ttyler@lextheo.edu.


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Greetings LTS Family,

I hope this email finds you healthy and safe at home, with peace in your heart. The lectionary psalm for this Sunday is the 23rd Psalm which reminds us that God is always with us, leading us, and providing all our needs. The image of being in green pastures and beside quiet waters is calming indeed. It is my prayer that even in the midst of the pandemic stress, that you have a peace that passes all understanding. 

We continue in prayer for all who are affected by Covid-19, for caregivers, pastors, LTS students, and all who work in the service industry. 

Charisse L. Gillett, President

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff-
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long. 

Photo by Dahron Johnson, MDiv student, Nashville, TN

A Candle in the Window 

By Peter Millar

Member, Iona Community in Scotland    

In many countries and cultures, local communities place a lighted candle in the windows of their homes in times of trouble, fear or sorrow. Each one of us (many in self isolation around the world) can offer a candle of hope in our own way as we face up to viruses and other massive global problems. I am self-isolated here in Edinburgh, yet we are all strongly connected in our hearts: in our faith and doubts: in our fears and hopes: in our concerns about others. During this time of isolation, here are a few words of encouragement. Even if far apart, we walk together on the good earth in rain or shine.

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.
by Kitty O’Meara

God help us to change: to change ourselves and to change our world. To know the need for it. To deal with the pain of it. To feel the joy of it. To undertake the journey without understanding the destination, the art of gentle revolution.  

by Michael Leunig

I am thankful today for the privilege of being a small, frail, faulted, but integral part of the magic of life on earth.

by Author not known

PRAYER:

God of ancient calm, let your peace still us

And your light illumine us.

God of the flowing rivers, may we discover anew your flowing spirit.

God of the lonely plains, touch these empty places within us

Where we are vulnerable enough to meet you

And where we discover a new understanding of ourselves and the world.  

Photo by Dahron Johnson, MDiv student, Nashville, TN

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Greetings LTS Family,

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. LTS is honored to be the first Green Chalice Seminary which is a result of the great work of the LTS Green Task Force. We have offered courses in ecotheology and creation care since the mid-2000’s and we have continuing education through our new Creation Care Certificate. Today, in honor of Earth Day, Rev. Carol Devine, Dr. Emily Askew, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade, and Rev. Dr. Wilson Dickinson are offering a free Webinar. LTS is committed to the stewardship of God’s good earth. 

I hope that you are caring for your soul by getting outside on nice days. Go for a walk, plant some seeds, breathe in the spring air. We all continue  to pray for all who are affected by Covid-19: healthcare workers, caregivers, pastors, LTS students, and all who work in the service industry. We pray that you and your family are safe and healthy. If you have a poem or reflection to share, reply to this message.  

Happy Earth Day!

Charisse L. Gillett, President

Photo by Dr. Loida I. Martell

Earth’s Jubilee

Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade

Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship

The coronavirus has been like a tiny stone thrown into the gears that churn the mechanism our modern life. While it has caused immense suffering, anguish, anxiety, and uncertainty, the forced slow-down has also provided the Earth a break from relentless human activity. We have the opportunity to ponder how we can undertake a just transition to a cleaner, healthier way of life that protects the poor and those most vulnerable, while also minimizing the suffering of future pandemics.

There’s a biblical concept for this kind of system-wide societal justice. It’s called the Jubilee Year. Leviticus 25 and 26 describes a time when all property would be returned, debts forgiven, and the land given rest. It was to happen after the 49th year – the sabbath of sabbaths (7 x 7 = 49). In the 50th year they were commanded to take care of each other. The working poor are to be released from their debts. Everyone is set free, including the very Earth itself.

It is uncanny that on this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Earth is finally getting its Jubilee Year. As Earth is getting the sabbath it needs, we can use this time to rethink our relationship with the planet going forward. We can make different choices that protect both Earth and our neighbors. Hopefully this pandemic will show us that not only are we capable of making different choices, but that we must.

Rejoice? 

By Rev. Carol Devine 

LTS Director of Communications

Green Chalice Minister

Christ is risen and we are called to rejoice. 

But, we are in a Pandemic. Almost 175,000 people worldwide and 45,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. The economy has collapsed. We are worried for the health of our family members and friends. We are stressed about our finances and about our isolation. Rejoice?

January 2020 was the hottest January on record. The last decade included an unprecedented number of deadly hurricanes, floods, superstorms, and fires. Pandemic-anxiety and eco-anxiety are impacting the lives and hearts of everyone, but especially the most vulnerable. Rejoice?

And yet, we serve a God who is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. With every crisis and challenge, God provides a path forward with abundant resources. 

LTS students, alumni, partner congregations and friends are standing on the front lines caring for people who are most vulnerable, providing food for the hungry, safe places for people without homes, picking up medications and groceries, making calls, sending notes, and praying without ceasing. Our Disciples leaders have provided direction and resources. And over 180 congregations and ministries (and growing) are part of the Green Chalice family. Disciples’ congregations, ministries and a seminary are taking ambitious actions to lower their carbon and to care for the earth which is the Lord’s. 

Rejoice? Indeed, we are rejoicing because there is no one better to lead in a pandemic or in a climate crisis than Disciples. We understand that Jesus calls us to uncomfortable and challenging work. We seek justice and peace. We have a long history of ecumenical and interfaith partnerships. 

Rejoice? Indeed, for Christ is risen and in him all things were created, and in him all things hold together. Indeed we will rejoice! 


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Greetings LTS Family,

Christ is Risen Indeed! The Apostle Paul assured us that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8.38-39).  The pandemic cannot separate us from God’s love and cannot keep Easter from coming. 

We continue  in prayer for all who are affected by Covid-19: healthcare workers, caregivers, pastors, LTS students, and all who work in the service industry. We pray that you and your family are safe and healthy. We hope that these weekly reflections are good for your spirit. 

Send us your contributions by replying to this email. 

Happy Easter!

Charisse L. Gillett, President

Photo by Dr. Loida I. Martell

Singing a Song of Hope

Student. Pastor. Chaplain. Professor. Administrator. Mom. Dad. Wife. Husband. Son. Daughter. Friend. Neighbor. Faculty. Colleague.

by Rev. Melissa Frantz ’19

As members of the LTS Family, we are used to wearing many “hats.” Collectively, we refer to ourselves as “people of faith.” But, I would suggest that we could also be called “people of busyness.” I bet if we were to share our calendars they would have been jam-packed with appointments, meetings, school events, family gatherings, and meet-ups with our friends, until the impact of COV-19 was felt within our own communities. Now our calendars are less full, as most of us spend our days at home, expect for those Zoom URL’s, FaceTime appointments, and other methods of video conferencing.

Without the rush of normal daily life, I have found myself sitting outside on my back patio more and more. I try to start my day there – taking a few moments to pray, to reflect, to read scripture…. But, one day I decided to NOT start my day with an agenda. I decided to “Be Still” and to listen to the world. The overwhelming sound that I heard was that of a couple mockingbirds up in the trees. They sang as if there was no tomorrow. Their little beaks belted out a conversation that spoke volumes to me. After listening to them for a good while, my thoughts drifted to scripture and it has been a passage that has continued to give me hope and peace during this time. I pray that it will do the same for you:

Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. 

Matt 6:25-34 (CEB)

Strangely enough songbirds are bringing me hope. I am paying more attention to them when I am outdoors. They’re still singing, they’re still preparing for their babies to come, they’re still gathering and feeding. They’re still living. I encourage you to “Be Still” and listen to the world in your backyard, too.

God’s Presence

By Daphne C. Reiley

LTS Student

Silence enfolds me as I call out to You, O Lord!

Warmth settles in me as when a babe

is in the arms of Mother.

Strength supports me as when I stumbled and

Father caught me.

Love as no other offers, O God,

fills me in all my empty places.

Faith surfaces when I’m afraid.

When everyone around me is afraid.

Hope grows when we call out to You,

Seeking protection,

            Seeking direction,

            Seeking You.

You appear, you abide.

I Am is with us.

Christ is with us.

Spirit is with us. Love is with us. 


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Palm Sunday 2020 Moon
Photo by Dr. Loida I. Martell

Greetings LTS Family,   
It is Holy Week and things are very different. We will not gather with our church families to remember our Lord’s Last Supper or remember how he washed the Disciples’ feet. We will not gather on Good Friday to meditate on the last words of Christ. We will not attend a silent retreat or be part of a prayer vigil on Holy Saturday. And we will not gather with friends and family to celebrate resurrection, or for Easter dinner or to hide Easter eggs.   
My friends, this year, let us reconsider Easter. Let’s reconsider family traditions, church traditions, and community traditions that have somehow become Easter. These past few weeks I have enjoyed the opportunity to listen more carefully to God’s spirit in song, scripture and sermon as my Church has held virtual worship. I have appreciated time to reconsider ways of thinking about a resurrected Christ that does not affirm tradition, but affirms the words of the first to witness the empty tomb “He is not here, He is risen.” This Easter will be more similar to that first Easter when disciples were gathered together behind locked doors in fear not knowing when or how it would end.   
We continue  in prayer for all who are affected by Covid-19. We join the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Regions in praying this Holy Week for health care workers. Sign-Up Here And we continue to pray for caregivers, pastors, LTS students, and all who work in the service industry.   
May your holy week be blessed and may your faith deepen and grow as you celebrate resurrection in a very different way this year. Happy Easter!  
Charisse L. Gillett, President

Tree Blossoms
Photo by Dr. Loida I. Martell

Feeling Alone

By Dr. Francesca Nuzzolese,
LTS Contingent faculty in Pastoral Care and Spiritual Formation
Advisor to the MPS program in Spiritual Formation and Care. 

Dr. Nuzzolese lives in Italy near her family, but went to Amsterdam to work with trafficked women earlier this year. Due to the pandemic, she is currently stranded in Amsterdam, worried about her mother who resides in North Italy.

To protect from the spread of the virus, we have been encouraged – and also ordered – to remain at home, to avoid assembling, and to minimize social contact. Many of us are living through this mandate with anxiety, sadness and deep concern for our families, for our friends, for our jobs and for our mental and spiritual sanity.

It is normal, in situations like these, to feel restless, lonely, helpless, and maybe even hopeless, wondering how we might come out on the other side of this human crisis. However, it is also very important to not experience these feelings alone and to reach out to those who can offer care and compassion, and perhaps offer you creative suggestions on how to use this time for your personal, spiritual and professional growth.

I am, like many of you, stranded in a foreign land, separated from my family and most of my friends, and I understand and have experienced some of these feelings myself. I trust that together we can make it through this crisis and come out wiser, stronger, and hopefully more grateful for the gift of each other.

Dogwood
Photo by Dr. Loida I. Martell

John 20.1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Tree Blossom
Photo by Dr. Loida I. Martell

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Greetings LTS Family,
We continue be in prayer for all who are affected by Covid-19: for health care workers, caregivers, pastors, LTS students, and all who work in the service industry. These are difficult times for everyone. We hope these weekly messages of encouragement from the faculty, staff, students, and others will bring you hope and comfort. Please share your words of hope by replying to this email or emailing Carol Devine.
Charisse L. Gillett, President

Conflicting Voices in Troubling Times

Rev. Doug Lofton, MDIV-1981
Chair of the Board of Trustees

To say the least, these are trying and troubling times.  We are, by nature, social people who find comfort in daily routines in community. We regularly hug, laugh, and gather in fellowship and around a shared meal. We are at our best when our relationships determine distance, without the fear of crossing 6-foot boundaries first and foremost in our minds or having to reach into our pocket for antiseptic relief in fear of what undefined creature may be attached to us.

And what happens when we turn on the television? The daily press briefings, with conflicting voices and messages, leave us wondering what really is going on and how we will survive as a people if this virus is left to its own devices. 

Troubling times, indeed.

But troubling times are usually followed by a new appreciation for what we do have.  And what we have, in each other, in our communities, in our families, and in our places of faith, is certainly enough to see us through.  While we will not have full churches worshiping on Easter Sunday, we will celebrate a risen Christ and the hope of tomorrow online with our electronically gathered communities.  We have learned to trust and to walk in faith in the midst of conflicting voices and troubling times because God always brings the people through.  And God is doing so again.

Like many of you, while separated from normal day-to-day physical contact with the world outside my self-imposed fortress, I find the need to pray for those on the front lines. I pray a prayer of gratitude and protection for circles of friends and family who are caring for people struggling with illness, for the caregivers who staff the hospitals, emergency rooms, clinics, and doctor’s offices, for the first responders, the grocery store workers, and the essential people who allow us to operate our lives in this new reality. For those who we may never know but whose lives have been changed forever by the loss of loved ones, I offer a prayer.  For those who struggle from paycheck to paycheck and now find themselves without a job in a real crisis for survival, I offer prayer.

I also want you to know that I am praying for you. 

Whether as the current Chair of the Trustees, or as a recently retired clergy, or as former student or as a person who shares this journey with you while sheltering in place in Indiana, I offer prayers of thanks for you.  I pray for you to find some peace in the midst of conflicting voices and troubling times.  I pray that you know the importance of the work you are doing to support those who bring a word of hope when it is needed the most.  I pray that you feel the entire community of LTS:  officers, staff, faculty and board, standing together, leaning on one another, celebrating the work we have the joy of doing during normal times and troubled times. 

While there are challenges ahead, there is also a sense that with God’s help we will come out of this stronger, better equipped, more focused and deeply thankful for what we have together.  I pray for God’s blessing on all who make LTS a place of learning, and a bastion of hope for the days to come. 

God Bless You and Amen.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Greetings LTS Family,
We continue to join you in prayer for all who are affected by Covid-19. We continue to hold all health care workers, caregivers, pastors, and all who work in the service industry in our prayers. LTS faculty and staff are holding our students and the entire LTS community in our prayers during these difficult times. For the foreseeable future, we will be sending out messages of encouragement from the faculty and staff and others. We invite you to share words of hope as well by replying to this email or emailing Carol Devine. We hope these words bring you hope, comfort, peace and strength.   

Charisse L. Gillett, President    

A Reflection by Dr. Jerry Sumney
As our churches have been unable to meet in person, I know that some of us are feeling as though the presence of God is somehow missing. Some of us are feeling lonely because of physical distancing and other worries about contact with people and things that might make us and those we love sick. That led me to think about the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel was among the first of the people of Judah to be taken into exile in Babylon. He was there with others who had been forced to serve as hostages before the final acts that led the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and its temple.  
At the beginning of the book of Ezekiel, it says he was among the exiles by a river in Babylon when something nearly unbelievable happened. Ezekiel was both a priest and a prophet. He was used to knowing God’s presence in the temple and in the land God had given the Israelites. Most people, including most of the people of Israel and Judah, saw God as the god of the region of Palestine. That was where people could know and feel the presence of God. That was the place God was to be worshiped.  
But now, Ezekiel and his fellow exiles are hundreds of miles from Jerusalem and the temple, the place the people gathered to worship God and be in the company of fellow worshippers. Ezekiel and his fellow exiles felt isolated from their homes and isolated from God. They thought that God had abandoned them. The exiles, the people of God, have been removed from the places where they knew the presence of God would be. They were lonely and sad.   
You can read of the depth of their pain in Ps. 137: By the rivers of Babylon- there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps. For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? (NRSV)  They felt isolated and alone. Away from their friends and families, away from God and the place to worship God.   But then Ezekiel has an astonishing vision. The first chapters of Ezekiel have all kinds of strange imagery. He sees human-like giant beings with wings and calves’ feet. They have different kinds of faces: human, lion, ox, and eagle (yes those are the images the church would later apply to the Gospel writers). They are zooming around on wheels, carrying something. The imagery is so weird that a few decades ago there was a fairly popular book that claimed Ezekiel had seen a spaceship. This imagery had to be strange and shocking, even bizarre, because the message Ezekiel got was unbelievable. It is a message that no one, including Ezekiel expected.  
What these enormous and strange, even scary, creatures are carrying is the chariot throne of God; the very presence of God in all of God’s glory is on this throne (1:26-28). There in Babylon, in exile, God had come to be with God’s people. Distance could not keep God away from God’s people. Isolation could not keep God away from God’s people. Lack of being able to get to worship together could not keep God’s presence away. God goes to wherever God’s people are. In their loneliness, God announces in amazing splendor that God is there to be with and comfort God’s people.  
And that wasn’t the end. Over the next several chapters God talks to Ezekiel, telling him what he is to say to the people. One of the things God says repeatedly is that God and God’s word are going to be with the people. Even when they refuse to hear it, God is going to be there. In just chapters 2 and 3 says that God will be there whether the people listen or not four times (2:4-5, 7; 3:11, 27). God is determined to be with God’s people whether they know it or not, whether they listen or not. God is determined to be with them even when they turn from God. This was astonishing, nearly unbelievable news. It is the announcement that in the worst of conditions, God is there.  
That wasn’t the end of the amazing good news for God’s people that Ezekiel was given. Ezekiel sees a lot about why the exile happened, about how unfaithful God’s people had been. But that didn’t make God abandon them. Instead, as we have seen, God is determined to be with them, to care for them. God tells Ezekiel that God will gather the people like a loving shepherd (ch. 34). But more, Ezekiel is the prophet who has the vision of the valley of dry bones. Not only is God with God’s people in their isolation and separation from worshiping together, God promises to raise them up and give them new life (37:1-14).  
What God promised to Ezekiel and the people in exile, God promises to us. No distance from our places of worship and no distance from one another can keep God from being with us. God’s love means that God is determined to be among us no matter what the circumstances are. Ezekiel saw what Paul would later know, that nothing in all creation can separate God’s people from God’s love (Rom 8:35-39). The “nothing in all creation” includes viruses, social distancing, worshipping at home by ourselves, being laid off, working where disease is threatening, fearing the future, you name it. If you need to be convinced, look again at Ezekiel’s vision of how determined God was to be with God’s people even when they were far from their loved ones and their place of worship. God is that determined to be with us. Nothing in all the cosmos can separate us from God’s love and God’s presence.  

Amen and Amen