Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The other day a picture flashed up on my computer that showed me and 29 of some of the greatest people on God’s green earth kneeling and smiling in front of a beautiful Ecuadorian river. When I saw the picture, I just froze and stared at it, struck by all the drastic and tragic changes that have happened to those 29 people, their families and friends, and me since that beautiful Ecuadorian afternoon.
I clearly remember the day the picture was taken. The picture captured my last mission trip to Ecuador with First Covenant Church. Going into the trip I was excited to end my twelve years of ministry with a mission trip, but I knew it wasn’t the smartest idea. You see it was already going to be hard enough to leave all these people that I had loved and had grown so close to. I knew that having the shared experience of a trip to Ecuador so close to when my family was moving to Chicago was only going to exacerbate the problem. However, this trip had been planned long before I got the hair-brained idea to move to Chicago so I had decided to maximize my enjoyment of this last experience. The day we took that picture was definitely a bittersweet day as I knew that in two weeks my moving van would be loaded and we would be moving from the only town my family had known. I wasn’t looking forward to that.
What I thankfully did not know was that grieving the nine-hour separation between Willmar and Chicago would only be the beginning of our grief. It was a normal November morning when I received a terrible phone call that informed me that Morgan Cline, (the red-haired young lady in the picture kneeling in front of me in a black sweat shirt) who was a loved & cherished young woman in our youth group for the last six years, had been tragically killed in a car accident. I was shocked and stunned and I immediately made plans to fly back to Minnesota. A day or so later I landed in Minneapolis for Morgan’s funeral and as soon as I landed, I got a call from two of my best friends in the world Matt and Janell Williams. I was expecting to visit them that day to see their one-week-old baby Ethan. I was hoping to celebrate with them as they waited for Ethan to undergo surgery before they could take him home for good. Instead the day turned into a day from hell. On the phone Matt managed to tell me that during the night Ethan had experienced massive bleeding on his brain and was in serious trouble. I immediately went to the hospital. That horrible Saturday ended with Ethan leaving this world to be with Jesus. The people of First Covenant Church then experienced four days straight attending either a wake or a funeral as we mourned together. After the four emotionally draining days we reluctantly went back to Chicago.
Unbelievably the phone rang again, a short nine months later, on a random August afternoon. Again it was terrible news, Jenna (the tall blonde girl in the yellow sweatshirt) another beloved youth group member had died in another car accident. I literally fell to my knees and wept. I view the students in my youth group as if they are members of my own family. I have always felt so blessed to have such a large family, and I couldn’t believe that Jenna and Morgan had died. In twelve years I had now buried four of my students, four members of our family. Unbelievably two of those 29 people were gone in less than a year. In August 2009, we again gathered with our First Covenant family and mourned together before returning home to Chicago.
I recently heard a pastor say in a sermon that loss is a part of life but that we were never meant to experience loss alone. I think that there is a lot of wisdom in those words. I am very thankful to say that we have not had to grieve alone in our new home. We have been supported by many of our new Chicago friends who are literally from all around the world. Grief as it turns out is a world-wide phenomenon. We have also been supported by our amazing family, some of which now live very close to us and others who have visited us and spent a lot of time with us during this year. Finally, we have been supported by what I am certain is a seminary record number of visitors. From the day we moved into the Seminary last August until now we have had (not counting our families), visitors in our apartment for at least 72 days! That is 2 and ½ months worth of visitors! On average that is almost one day a week for the entire time we have been in Chicago! What a humbling, life-giving, and needed support this has been to my family. I believe that the people you need in your life the most during a time of grief are those people who are grieving with you. We are so thankful for all of you who have taken the time, money, and energy to come and spend some great days with this crazy family in Chicago. Your pictures flash up on our computer often and for you we give thanks.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The best/worst thing about teaching is that it is difficult to tell someone else to do something that you aren’t doing. The best/worst thing about teaching the Bible is that it isn’t just cute information to tuck away in the recesses of your mind but instead it messes with your life!
So last week I’m teaching a class on the Ten Commandments, we were on the Sabbath command, and before I knew it I say something like, “We are missing the boat if we discuss the commands but don’t make any changes to our everyday life.” AHHHHH now I had to do something.
Frankly, I haven’t been a very good Sabbath keeper lately. Ohh I know there is worse but I didn’t have much time in my life for rest. I would go to Church (a GREAT Sabbath practice by the way), watch some football (a marginally good Sabbath practice), take a nap (a good Sabbath practice) and then do a lot of homework (a terrible Sabbath practice).
So in a grateful response to a God who created us, sustains us, came to earth to live for us, died for us, conquered sin, death, and the devil for us, and gave us all the many good things in our lives I decided that we going to keep a Sabbath. After all if the Almighty God has done all these things for us then I think it is safe to assume that God has our best interest in mind.
A Jewish Rabbi once told me that Jews believe that they have spent 1/7 of their lives in heaven because every Sabbath they have spent worshipping God and spending time with friends and family. I also find it interesting that they start their day with rest as each day starts at sundown. Hey it’s Wednesday time to go to bed. It’s a different way to live. It seems that rest is viewed as a gift, something to look forward to, and cherish. It was instituted at creation (God rested the 7th day) and given to the people in the commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Interestingly it is the longest commandment as it is very concerned that the powerful allow the less powerful a chance to rest as well. For those of us, like myself, who are powerful in our culture it is our own dumb fault if we don’t take time to rest so last Saturday we, The Ostercamp’s, began to celebrate the Sabbath!
We decided to follow fairly closely to a Jewish model as they have been doing this for a long time. So last Saturday we went out and bought two very large candles. You see our goal is to prepare for the Sabbath as if it is a guest that is soon arriving to our house. We will strive to clean the house, prepare the food, and finish our homework as the time arrives for the guest to come. At sundown on Saturday the oldest woman in our house (on Saturday it was my wonderful Mom who happened to be in town for our first ‘official’ Sabbath celebration) lights the two candles.
Why two candles? In Exodus the commandment starts with remember. In Deuteronomy the commandment starts with observe. The remember candle points to the Exodus to remember the wonderful and amazing things God has done in our life, remember God’s grace! The right response to an amazing gift is to observe what the gift giver tells us. So each Sabbath we remember who God is and we remember why and for what reason we observe!
After the candles are lit the eldest woman says a prayer for the family and we read a blessing that says, “Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, who sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to be a light to the nations and who gave to us Jesus our Messiah the light of the world.” We then read the Scripture passages that will be read in the Church the next morning as we begin to prepare for worship.
Until the sun goes down on Sunday night our goal is to do very little work. Cleaning, cooking, homework, work pertaining to our jobs, doing bills, etc are to be avoided. Part of the point is trust. Do I believe that if I take a day off my world is not going to fall apart? Do I believe that I am not that important to the office, my studies, the family routine, etc. Instead we worship God and do activities that improve the lives of others and bring life to us. On the Sabbath we go to Church, spend time with friends, play as a family, watch football, nap, play a sport, garden, volunteer, and try in vain to beat Anita in Settlers.
The big question is of course how committed to this are we? That’s a question I am asking myself even today. It’s cute and fun for one week but could we actually live our lives this way month after month and week after week? Only with great intentionality, and only if we begin to really value the Sabbath. This will continue only if we work so that we can rest instead of resting so that we can work. I realize that we made a pretty significant change in our routine which makes it much more difficult to continue over the long haul. We will see where our Sabbath practice takes us, where is your Sabbath practice taking you?
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Can you see us? Anita, Luke, Alise, Natalie (Emily was taking the picture)