What’s in a Name?

When you log into Facebook, and it reminds you that today is your Baptismal birthday, I have to admit, that’s kind of cool. It’s little strange, given that Facebook wasn’t around then, but still, it’s kind of cool. 

This has me thinking today about the importance of names and the idea of being claimed. Those of you who know me well, know that I prefer going by my full first name, Timothy. Today, in celebration of my baptismal birthday, I would like to share a few reasons why this matters for me.

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Baptized by my grandpa on Easter Sunday, and in this picture, with two young and amazing parents.

My baptized and given name
On this day a few decades ago, I was baptized on Easter Sunday and officially marked and claimed as a Child of God. I was sealed with the cross of Christ forever. I was named Timothy when I was born, and a couple months later, I was baptized as Timothy.

I was named after the companion, disciple, assistant, and perhaps correspondent to the Apostle Paul. I also like the supposed meaning for the name of Timothy, which is “honoring God.”

I wanted to be different
This name also matters to me because growing up, there were a number of Tim’s in my classes. Most of them were my friends.

The show “Home Improvement,” with Tim Allen playing “Tim the Tool Man Taylor,” was on TV every week when I was in elementary school, and the idea of being called “Tim,” like the sometimes odd and goofball “Tim the Tool Man,” was not quite what I wanted to be known for. And, to be perfectly honest, if you remember Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, you might also remember “Tiny Tim.” Being that I was always one of the shortest kids in my class, I didn’t want to be known as “Tiny Tim.” I wanted to be different.

I wanted to be different, so I did the best I could to claim that, by going by Timothy.

The realities of other names
It really wasn’t until the fourth grade when this effort of mine was challenged, and one of my favorite teachers started always calling me “Tim.” Perhaps I was just too quiet to fight it publicly or correct it? But my silent form of protest was to always write my name on my homework as “Timothy,” and to always sign my name as “Timothy.”

People near and far have called me one thing or another, too many names to willingly list. When called these different names I may or may not verbally respond, but when asked about my name preference, I always say my name is Timothy (but I am used to being called other things).

There may be other titles I am called, such as “friend,” “deacon,” “Child of God,” “brother,” “son,” “husband,” etc., and these are all well and good. But when you get past the title, my name will always be Timothy.

Names and identities matter
So why am I writing about this today on my baptismal birthday? I am not writing to make anyone feel bad who has called me something else. I get it, I have called plenty of people names they probably don’t want to be called too.

I am writing about this today because I believe names and identities matter. Timothy was the name I was given, and frankly, I am pretty fond of it. And it is for this reason, that I try whenever possible to ask someone what they prefer to be called. I have been on the other side, and have been called all sorts of odd names- some logical and some not.

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What is your name? And why does it matter to you?

If you have ever wondered, that’s what’s in a name for me.

What’s in your name that matters to you? Why is it important to you? How is it part of your identity and story?

Image Credit: Hello My Name is

He is Risen… Now What?

The tomb has been opened. “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” has been sung. The lilies have bloomed, the Easter jokes have been told… all of this is good news. Now what?

Easter is a 50-day season of joy, but I am not talking about the liturgical “now what” question. I am wondering on a deeper level, God in Christ has done the work for us, for once and for all. But now what? How do we respond? What do we do? What are we going to do? 

This has been the focus of my stewardship preaching lately throughout Lent, raising the question of response. What is our joyful response to the good news of God? What is our joyful response to the pure gifts of God, for us?

God has changed everything with Easter. But are we, ourselves changed? Are we so caught up in joy and gratitude for what God has done and continues to do, that we are changed and so moved by God, that we are unable to sit still and keep the story of God to ourselves? Are we so moved to share God’s love through words and actions- the very ways that we live our lives?

Before I get on my soap box again, here are at least three thoughts:

  • The ELCA has a rostered minister shortage- both pastors and deacons. This shortage is projected to continue to grow. We could let this be bad news, or we could view this joyfully as an opportunity to be more intentional about telling this story as part of our joyful response. We could use this an opportunity to do things differently, to innovate and experiment; because to do otherwise isn’t really an option anymore. We could use this an opportunity to wonder actively, what might God be up to here?
  • Despite what might be happening societally or politically, our call as baptized Christians remains the same. How do we affirm this, and lift up these stories of faith in action in our midst? [You will notice more of these types of stories in upcoming reports, articles, magazines, newsletters, and social media posts from me and the Nebraska Synod.]
  • We live in a beautiful yet broken world. We are all gifted and called with various vocations, roles, passions, stories, questions, ideas, and relationships. How can we more intentionally than ever lift up everyone’s unique stories as sacred and holy calls from God to various stations, vocations, and roles? When we can help people see that their daily lives are in fact very much where God shows up in and through them, there is a depth and intentionality that forms a deeper sense of faith, stewardship, and discipleship. I want to be a part of this work, don’t you?

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

This is most certainly true. Now the fun starts!

What are we going to do about it? 

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The cross, covered with flowers as a joyful response by Sunday School children at Salem Lutheran in Fontanelle, Nebraska.

International Women’s Day #Instruct

As part of my Lenten journey this year, I will be blogging daily using the themes or words created by the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin in partnership with other ELCA synods for “Lent Photo a Day.” The word for today, March 8th, is “Instruct.”

I am doing something different today. Instead of a theological or biblical devotion, I am simply going to stand in solidarity with all of the women in my life, and remind or instruct myself about all of these important women.

On this International Women’s Day, or Day Without Women, I am wearing red. I am also going to use the following post to share just a sampling of a list of some of the women who have had and/or continue to have an impact on me by their leadership, friendship, mentorship, collegiality, and willingness to listen and be in conversation with me and others. It is long past due that all women receive full equal rights, equal pay, equal respect, and equal authority.

If the world did not have the following women, I would not be who I am today, and for all of you, and the many more not listed here, thank you, and know that I am with you as an ally, friend, and colleague.

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Some of the strong women in my family.

Rev. Allison Siburg
Tricia Siburg
Tamara Siburg
Jakki Parks
Maria Harwell
Melba Tengesdal
Joan Siburg
Dr. Margo Holm
Dr. Lynn Chandler
Dr. Joan Rogers
Natalie Holm
Joanne Parks
Dr. Barb Tengesdal
Britta Tengesdal
Lisa Tengesdal
Pat Jackson
Kristin Jackson
Suzy Siburg
Holly Jenkins
Amanda Siburg

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More of the amazing women in my family

Elizabeth Bateman
Kristin Bateman
Kath Bateman
Erin Parks
Carla Parks
Becca Padrick
Anna Padrick
Tracy Padrick
Dorothea Tenney
Elaine Vangerud
Rev. Nancy Victorin-Vangerud
Mary Vangerud
Heather Vangerud
Sharon Tenney
Diane Schori
Karla Tengesdal
Sophie Ommedahl
Myra Johnson
Myrna Stanton
Nancy Land
Rev. Alison Shane
Dr. Terri Elton
Rev. Dr. Mary Sue Dreier
Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis

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Allison and I with Dr. Marit Trelstad, one of our favorite professors from PLU, whom taught one of the more influential classes for me, “Feminist, Womanist, & Mujerista Theology”

Dr. Marit Trelstad
Dr. Lynn Hunnicutt
Dr. Karen Travis
Dr. Brenda Ihssen
Dr. Priscilla St. Clair
Dr. Patricia O’Connell Killen
Dr. Jean Lipman-Blumen
Dr. Amy Marga
Dr. Lois Malcolm
Dr. Deanna Thompson
Rev. Karen Stevenson
Rev. Juliet Hampton
Rev. Megan Morrow
Stephanie Lusienski
Diane Harpster
Lisa Kramme
Michele Herrick
Sandy Terry
Rev. Rebecca Sheridan
Rev. Rebecca Sullivan
Rev. Amanda Ullrich
Rev. Kaitlyn Forster
Carrie Gubsch
Andi Mandrick
Rev. Emmy Kegler
Rev. Jill Rode
Deacon Connie Stover
Deacon Peggy Hahn
Deacon Beth Hartfiel
Chris Hicks
Vonda Drees
Lynn Willis
Joanne Erickson
Elise Erickson
Svea Erickson
Sylvia Cauter
Emily Cauter
Susie Soine
Karen Byrd
Kerrie Byrd
Carol Zach
Carol Peterson
Ursula Alexander
Carin Nelson
Lynn Rupp
Debbie Collier
Christie Lofall
Mrs. Tobin
Mrs. Bryant
Mrs. Hamlin
Mrs. McLaughlin
Mrs. Harmon
Mrs. Smith
Mrs. Youngquist
Sharon Ferguson
Mrs. Davies
Mrs. Webster
Mrs. Piper
Mrs. Olson
Mrs. Bale
Mrs. Overby

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Some of our many friends who gathered with us on our wedding day from PLU. Look at all of those great leaders, people, and especially the sheer number of amazing women.

MaryAnn Anderson
Kristen Lee
Rachel Danforth
Jamie Lindberg
Louise Rose
Andrea Goddard
Kim Skelly
Katie Oost
Mallory Ferland
Kristen Sprague
Ella Sanman
Kellie Kuntz
Ariana Stinson
Nicole Perigard
Stacy Davis
Allison Ryan
Dr. Jenny Darroch
Dr. Sarah Smith-Orr
Dr. Katharina Pick
Dr. Lois Farag
Dr. Susan Heinrich
Dr. Mary Hess
Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda
Marcia Shetler
Senator Patty Murray
Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn
Dr. Elizabeth Goldsmith
Kim Parker
Hannah Heinzekehr
Deacon Julia Nelson
Margaret Ellsworth
Cori Jo Duncan
Holly Wright
Jacklyn Henly
Kristin Tranby
Jody Thone
Kim Pleticha
Rev. Siri Erickson
Mary Struwve
Nancy Giddings
Deb Meyer
LuAnn Olson
Kelly Simon
Jessica Potts
Joy Studer
Connie Howard
Deacon Julie Bracken
Janet Borst
Rev. Kathy Braafladt
Rev. Melanie Wallschlaeger
Allison Ramsey
Karen Pickering
Presiding Bishop, Rev. Elizabeth Eaton

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Some of my closest friends from seminary- confidants, co-conspirators, cheerleaders, dreamers, and doers.

Rev. Emily Wiles
Rev. Katie Emery
Rev. Beth Wartick
Grace Duddy Pomroy
Jody Meyer
Angie Moeller
Heather Ruwe
Shirley Kocher
Katherine Ostlie
Jennifer Olson-Kringle
Sara Garbers
Rev. Michelle DeBeauchamp Olafsen
Alice Olson
Annie Romstad
Judy Hedman
Myrlette Giddings
Sheryl Jacobsen
Tisa Zachau
Kari Osmek
Kris Bjorke
Rev. Diane Roth
Rev. Sarah Cordray
Rev. Sarah Ruch
Rev. Sheryl Kester-Beyer
Rev. Sylvia Karlsson
Heather Hanson
Mary Ann Peterson
Joanne Hinckle

Obviously, I could keep going, and this is only a few people, but it’s a sampling of some of the countless women who have had and/or continue to have an impact on me. If it weren’t for these people, and many others not named here, I would not be who I am.

Who would you be without the women in your life? 

As we continue together our journey through Lent to the cross, join me in pondering these questions, and join the #LentPhotoaDay adventure through images and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media channels. 

Gift

As part of my Lenten journey this year, I will be blogging daily using the themes or words created by the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin in partnership with other ELCA synods for “Lent Photo a Day.” The word for today, March 3rd, is “Gift.”

I recently had a birthday, and I heard from many friends and family through cards, letters, phone calls, text messages, emails, and of course on Facebook. I also received a few gifts. One gift that stands out, were these three crystal water goblets.

Allison and I are perhaps a bit unusual among our generation. Many of our friends who have gotten married in the past 5-10 years did not register for china, crystal, and silver as might have been the customs of past generations. We however, did. We love to share hospitality and have fun meals and parties. Though while we lived in Minnesota, all of these nice things stayed safely away in storage. But now they are with us, in our home, and with help from my family, especially my parents lately, we are working to complete our crystal sets.

gift
Three goblets for three decades, a gift from my parents.

Hence, for my thirtieth birthday, I received three goblets, one for each decade. Three glasses which will most often be used to share some water with loved ones, family, friends, and guests. These are a gift to me, but they are also, I hope a vehicle of a gift to others. They are a symbol of community, and a means by which a central need in all of our lives, water, can be shared.

Perhaps they might even be a symbol of something more?

The words of the hymn, “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart,” ring in my ears, because of how it talks about the gifts of God, some of which we remember and celebrate through the meal and sacrament of communion. The refrain and some of the verses read or sing like this:

“You satisfy the hungry heart with gift of finest wheat. Come give to us, O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat.

With joyful lips we sing to you our praise and gratitude that you should count us worthy, Lord, to share this heavenly food.

Is not the cup we bless and share the blood of Christ outpoured? Do not one cup, one loaf, declare our oneness in the Lord?

You give yourself to us, O Lord; then selfless let us be, to serve each other in your name in truth and charity.

You satisfy the hungry heart with gift of finest wheat. Come give to us, O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat.”

What are some gifts that you have received? What are some gifts that you have given? What have their impact been? What has their impact been upon you? 

To close today, let us pray a Lenten offertory prayer,

God our provider, you have not fed us with bread alone, but with words of grace and life. Bless us and these your gifts, which we receive from your bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Credits:

Omer Westendorf & Robert E. Kreutz, “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart,” (1977, Archdiocese of Philadelphia), found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 484.

Prayer of the Day from “Offering Prayer,” in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 64.

As we continue together our journey through Lent to the cross, join me in pondering these questions, and join the #LentPhotoaDay adventure through images and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media channels. 

How are you #Called?

As part of my Lenten journey this year, I will be blogging daily using the themes or words created by the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin in partnership with other ELCA synods for “Lent Photo a Day.” The word for today, March 2nd, is “Called.”

On this second day of Lent, now that the ashes have been washed from our foreheads, I am thinking about what it means to be called. How are you called through your baptism? How are you, or might you be called by the God who creates, sustains, knows, and loves you?

For example, Paul was called, and he begins his letter to the Romans talking about this calling as well as all of our callings. He writes,

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we receive grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, to all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 1:1-7, NRSV.

Lent is a good time to reflect on this idea of being called. Sometimes we are called to things we know. Other times we are called to ventures unknown.

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“The Letter of Call” that sits on my desk and greets me each day I come into my office.

Every day that I work from my office at the Nebraska Synod office in Omaha, I come in and see this affirming yet also awesome responsibility in the form of my “Letter of Call,” which sits on my desk.

I have it there prominently on my desk, not to show other people, but to remind myself and to ground myself about why I am here, and why I do what I do. In those moments I might forget or turn inward, having that there is a convicting and inspiring reminder that my calling is not about me alone, but all those around me, the people of God, and of course my relationship with them and with God.

How do you feel this sense of being called in life? Or do you?

If not, how can we think, discern, listen, and imagine together about where you might be being called? Or perhaps more likely, where you have already been called and are following that call, but perhaps you have never thought of it as a call into your vocations?

As we ponder our sense of call, let’s close using the slightly adapted words of one of my favorite prayers. It’s sometimes called “The Journey Prayer,” and it is offered as part of both morning and evening orders of service.

Let us pray. O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils and joys unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Source: Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), pages 304 & 317.

As we continue together our journey through Lent to the cross, join me in pondering these questions, and join the #LentPhotoaDay adventure through images and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media channels. 

Ash Wednesday and being a #Servant

As part of my Lenten journey this year, I will be blogging daily using the themes or words created by the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin in partnership with other ELCA synods for “Lent Photo a Day.” The word for Ash Wednesday, March 1st, is “Servant.”

And so we are here again, Lent. To be perfectly honest with you, it has felt like Lent to me off and on for a couple months now. Maybe because of the unseasonably warm temperatures we have been having. Maybe because of the sense of worry, and anxiety I see and hear from so many. Maybe because I too feel some worry and anxiety around certain things in our world. Nevertheless, and ready or not, Lent is here again.

On Ash Wednesday we face our mortality, and “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Each year accompanying worship with the imposition of ashes comes the same gospel text from the revised common lectionary, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21. This passage is an important one, but it’s also an important one for stewardship.

Here’s just a couple quick examples:

“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others…”
– Matthew 6:2, NRSV.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal, for wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21, NRSV.

Why do we do what we do? What is behind our actions and choices? How do we show our faith and tell about it? How do we live our life? All of these questions and many more can be raised from these few verses alone.

Perhaps they point to a steward’s heart. But when you take the whole passage by itself, I think they point to a servant’s heart.

So what does a servant look like to you? How might you be a servant? Who might be a servant to you? 

tom-ash-wed-servant
Tom, a great example of a servant in our midst, community, and congregation, helping us unload our moving truck last fall.

I know way too many servants to just pick one, and have heard far too many stories of servants across the church and communities.

But for just one example, here’s a picture of a faithful Child of God and servant named Tom who helped us unload our moving truck back in November. He’s a long-time member of Salem Lutheran in Fontanelle, and he gives and serves in ways I am sure I still do not know. He’s also a person who does it just because he can or feels called to do it, and he’s about as kind and soft-spoken a person as you will ever meet.

For Tom, and all the servants I know and have met, I give thanks. For all of the servants out there, known and unknown, I too give thanks.

Let us pray. Gracious God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust the breath of life, creating us to serve you and our neighbors. Call forth our prayers and acts of kindness, and strengthen us to face our mortality with confidence in the mercy of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

As we begin together our journey through Lent to the cross, join me in pondering these questions, and join the #LentPhotoaDay adventure through images and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media channels. 

Source: The prayer of the day comes from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), page 26.

Honest Reflections of the Heart

It’s already late February. My birthday has come and gone, a big one actually this year in terms of milestones. (Yay for a new decade… I think.) Where has the year gone? I haven’t blogged as often as I like. I have been still figuring out what life is like in a new place, Nebraska, and in a new capacity, as the Nebraska Synod Director for Stewardship.

My heart is full of joy, love, and purpose. 

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The staff of the Nebraska Synod gathered together before Christmas in December 2016.

This I do know- I love my job, ministry, and call. I love my team of colleagues, friends, and peers, who serve alongside me and whom partner together to serve in their various vocations and callings- for the sake of their neighbor, God’s work and mission in the world, and the spreading of the Good News of the promises of God. I love the community and congregation my wife and I are a part of. And I am excited for the year ahead.

At the same time, my heart hurts. 

I hurt as I see the continued rise in hatred and bigotry. I hurt as I see ill-conceived policies and decisions being enacted without apparent concern for compassion and humanity.

I could respond to a long list of decisions through news stories and commentaries, but I trust you see enough of those where you get your news and in your social media feeds. I could get on my soapbox and explain why theologically I feel so unnerved by many of these decisions. But today, I want to stick to a societal argument, if possible.

Policies and decisions enacted by leaders are not just for themselves. In a business world, there is truth that those decisions are for shareholders and customers. But in a civil society, those decisions are for the elusive and hard to define, “common good.”

for-the-common-good
How do you define the “common good?”

Everyone defines the concept differently, but it’s one that we must hold at the center of our decision making to be able to collaborate and live together in community. If we do not, then we really do not have much holding us together at all, except for some malleable laws and rights, which hopefully have universal meaning.

It’s my opinion (and my opinion alone), that many of the decisions and policies currently being enacted do not have the common good in mind. And I wonder, if the reason for this is because there is a misunderstanding of the role of government and civil society? I was taught and modeled in school and previous career opportunities, that leadership in such environments is a privilege and a gift. But most importantly, leadership in such capacity is service!

Leadership is service. Government is service. 

It’s not about popularity. It’s not about power. It’s not about partisanship on any side. It’s about service, and particularly serving for the common good of our shared ideals- those grounded in the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. And also adapting as those ideals must evolve as our understanding of science, people, technology, and the world change over time. But through such change, we must hold on to the importance of service for the sake of the common good.

Why does my heart hurt?

  • Because those currently enacting policies and decisions don’t seem to understand this- the very notion of service and common good.
  • Because instead of moving to unite across party politics, campaign rallies are still being held by those elected.
  • Because the fourth estate, the press, is being singled out as the enemy, and those who offer differing opinions and protest or resist are being dismissed as the enemy or a few “paid” people.

Until these concerns are addressed, my heart will likely continue to hurt. And at the same time, protests and resistance will grow stronger and louder.

here-i-am
Here I am, grateful. Happy and willing to talk with you, because we are in relationship with each other.

So here I am. A person who is grateful for the role I am in, my vocation, and calling. At the same time, a person who is convicted by my understandings of leadership and theology by what I am seeing in my country that I love, and in God’s beautiful yet hurting and broken world that is thirsting and in need for reconciliation.

Wherever you are, know that I am here. A fellow Child of God, happy and willing to talk with you, because whether we agree or not, we are in relationship with each other as citizens of society, and people created in the Image of God. As you wrestle with your daily life, call, questions, ideas, dreams, worries, and wonderings, know that I too do so. We’re in this together. And God is here with us too.

On one other note, it is my plan to return to daily blogging on Ash Wednesday, blogging a short reflection each day during Lent. I hope to be able to follow through on that plan. We’ll see starting next week. Until then, blessings and peace friends, and thank you for reading, serving in your vocations, and being part of the conversation and work together.  -Timothy

Image Credit: For the Common Good