As we embark on a New Year, 2021 … I am reminding myself to not just LEAP into the New Year with abandon, though many moments I do want to do that. 2020 has challenged each and every one of us, but my personal goal in all of this is to not say good-bye to a year of a global health pandemic, social unrest, political divide and a historical national election without noting the lessons learned. The pandemic has forced introspection and my prayer is this leads us both individually and collectively to transformation.
Maybe, just maybe we have learned something from these moments.
Recently a person I have never met passed away, Jerry Manlove, Pastor Meggan Manlove’s (Trinity, Nampa) father. He was a man who greatly influenced Lutheran outdoor ministries across this country and because of that, my life and many others as well. Last fall on a trip to Boston with Lutherdale camp in WI learning about a travel ministry program, I read his book “A Common Book of Camping.” Each page was like reading a piece of me and the call to this type of ministry and some pages brought me great joy as I learned about Pastor Meggan growing up as a child! There have been many tributes to Jerry over the past weeks, but among my favorites is the title I chose for today, “Questions I Have Asked Along the Way.” Now, a part of my heart was instantly grabbed by children singing the song, but this dedication to Jerry pondered where God’s face was, how to all belong, and how each of us can find a common understanding. I think the title reminded me that God is all around us and it is important to ask good questions to learn from as we go forth and in that lies important concepts as we put 2020 behind us.
Yes, 2020 has taken its toll on our souls, but it has also helped us to think in new ways, connect with others by creative means, and analyze much of our daily routines taken for granted. The questions I have asked this year have hopefully helped lead me to new discoveries that will continue to expand my personal and professional life. Though I greatly missed connecting with college girlfriends on our annual get-together weekend, I am treasuring monthly Zoom calls to support each other and the question I am asking is why it took us so long to think of that idea. I am thankful for how our neighborhood has grown closer whether it be dance parties from our driveways, longer conversations outside, or a simple card shared; these small gestures have had a huge impact on all our well-being. I have been amazed to see the ministry of Luther Heights engaged with people in new ways, many ways we would have never thought of in February of 2020, but ways we may continue to feel called to in the future. I am thankful for lunch dates with my kids even though an hour earlier I was pulling my hair out with band class and gym class going on at the same time I was trying to listen to a webinar. But the questions we have had to ask each other to ensure we could all do our jobs/schooling lead us to new understanding and that is what I want to remember as I close the book on 2020.
The questions asked this year have transformed me. I look forward to 2021, to a time when I can see my family in the mid-west, can worship in the same place as my church community, can witness the joy in my kids’ eyes as they go to a school building to learn, and the welcome I can extend to people who come to camp and… as I do all of those things (I hope and pray), I will gladly share and listen to the lessons that have come from the experiences of 2020.
To the God who we celebrate in human form this Christmas season, we give thanks for the hope which is grounded because of our faith. We acknowledge in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that there is a season and a time for everything and that each brings its own lessons. We pray for guidance as you lead us in this new year to new seasons in this pandemic and that you will help us be transformed as your children to share love and light in the world.