Guest Author: 
John Backman

Everyone loved the head of our synod. Don had a rare combination of strengths—common sense, administrative ability, thoughtful reflection—all wrapped in the gentlest of spirits. He was also in perfect health. Or so we thought, until he went out for a run and had a fatal heart attack.

What I remember most about his funeral was the terror that ran through me as I thought about God in this context. Who is this deity who kills off the best people, or at least allows them to die? What else might this deity do?

Yes, such questions may be futile or, horrors, bad theology. It hardly mattered on that day. What mattered was that I felt a real fear of God—fear with an echo of awe.

Guest Author: 
Christina Walker

When I started writing this article, I misspelled the word “grateful” as “greatful”—something I actually do quite often when typing. It made me pause and wonder why two words which sound so similar—great and grateful—have the same letters in a different order. I mentioned this to my cousin, Al, who suggested that perhaps the linguistic roots are different.

Merriam-Webster traces the word great from the Old High German grōz (large). Grateful, comes from the Latin gratia (favor, charm, thanks) and from gratus (pleasing, gracious); it is the same root behind the word, grace. Sanskrit has a similar word, gṛṇāti (he praises).

Guest Author: 
Tessi Rickabaugh

"The path isn't a straight line; it's a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths."
                                                               —Barry H. Gilllespie

Guest Author: 
Jane E. Vennard

A number of years ago I asked a class of seminarians to think of a time in their lives when they felt whole. As we began to share, one student said that he recognized a number of periods of wholeness, but each experience was very different. “My memory of wholeness as a child was very different from what made me feel whole in my teen years,” he said. “And a more recent experience feels totally new. Do you think we could be whole, and then more whole, and then more whole? Or is wholeness a final state of being?”

Guest Author: 
Jean Wise

My grandkids call me “Ammie.” This nickname they created for me sprang from the name I intentionally chose to be called instead of grandmother. I selected “Amma,” and the grands added a twist of their own.

An “Amma” is the name for a spiritual mother from early Christianity tradition of the Desert Mother and Fathers. I decided on this name because my last name is “Wise,” and Amma reflected my desire to be an inspirational source of guidance and wisdom.

I want to leave a legacy for my grandchildren that is both meaningful and memorable. A legacy is a special personalized gift from one generation to the next.

Guest Author: 
Linda Labelle

“Our prayers should be for blessings in general, for God knows best what is good for us.”

The word blessing is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “a beneficial thing for which one is grateful; something that brings well-being.” In other words, one who is blessed knows they have received something special—they know they are loved. Blessings are important and happen in a myriad of ways.

“I will bless you; I will make your name great.”
                   —Genesis 12:1–2

Guest Author: 
Lauren K. Carlson

In the midst of a contentious American election season, a hurricane ravaged Haiti, an unprecedented civil war in Syria, and a global refugee crisis, what is the role of spiritual direction? How can a ministry and service devoted to contemplation relieve the suffering of so many all over the world?        

Guest Author: 
Lauren Burdette

Guest Author: 
Tessi Rickabaugh

Stuck in a waiting room recently, flipping through an outdated magazine, I landed on a follow up interview with the adult daughters of a popular reality TV family. These women's lives exploded in a very public way last year when their oldest brother's past sexual abuse of them and several other young girls hit the news. I grew up on the outskirts of the family's extremely conservative community, where large families and submissive women are lauded as key to God's plan for his children's lives. Such a public failure in a family who has been the face of a movement for years has sent shock waves through the community. Facades have crumbled as many begin to tell their own stories of abuse at the hands of conservative church or family members, and the systemic failure to address these abuses has become clear.


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