Missing Those Saints

This column ran in the Courier Sentinel this week but the last few paragraphs were left off. This is the entire column.

I have written the column Something About Nothing since 2005. It appears every Monday in the
Albert Lea Tribune and every other week in the Courier Sentinel. Usually it is the same column
in both papers.  

I have decided I want to branch out with another column called Sprinkled Notes. It matches my
blog of the same name. On my blog the blurb says it is about a little bit of “this n’ that.” It makes  sense to link the two together. So please bear with me. My new column is going to make its  debut in this paper and will be a different topic than published on Something About Nothing.  

Sprinkled Notes

Missing Those Saints

We have a term in our church called Senior Saints. I suppose I could call myself a member of
the Senior Saints now that I have reached that age. By that age I mean the age at which one  considers someone a Senior Citizen which seems to vary from person to person and store to store. However, I am far from being a Saint.  

The reason the Senior Saints are on my mind is a member of our church died this weekend. Her
name was Grace, and in my mind she was a Saint long before she became a Senior.

Others from our congregation have gone before her and some of their names will live in my heart and mind forever too. Names such as Gerald, Lorraine, Emily, Wilbert and Donny, to name a few. These people made a difference in my life. None of them would have called  themselves saints. They went through their life touching people. None of them achieved what  the world would call greatness. They weren’t lauded across the nation or broadcast on Social  Media, but they made a steady difference in the life of the people they met every day, and the  life of their church and especially their families. The one thing they had in common was their love of God and they showed it in the way they lived. It wasn’t loud but quiet and gentle. Well,  occasionally it was loud when a couple of them were telling one of their famous jokes.  

I remember when I was new to the Lutheran Congregation and I attended Bible Studies led by
Lorraine, Emily and Grace. I learned more about God and the Bible, but most of all I learned  about kindness and love for others. I saw their dedication to their church in all they did quietly  such as Altar Guild, Women’s groups, Choir, Ushering, Church Council and of course teaching  others about the word.  

I met Gerald when I became the head of our Sunday School and he was one of our teachers.
He taught I think for over twenty years or more. He, with his wit and humor made a difference in the lives of young members in his teaching, and in his leadership of youth groups, taking them  out into nature in the Boundary Waters to teach them about the beauty of creation.  

I met Wilburt when he ushered every Sunday without fail. It wasn’t unusual for him to grab one of
my kids and hold them on his lap while we went up for communion in the days before kids could
go along to be blessed. And he always had a twinkle in his eye and made us feel welcome.  

Donny was a family member. He married my cousin and then after she died, a best friend. I got
to know him in another way. He too was always in church, ushered every Sunday and charmed  people with his wit knowing when you saw him to expect a friendly razzing. 

Each one of these Senior Saints also had jobs outside of their church life and they lived their
faith in the way they treated people in their workplace and on the street. They weren’t different
people when they walked out of that church. You could count on the fact they were who theyrepresented themselves in and out of church.

And each of these people at one time or another served on the church council.

One of the things I liked best was that even if they didn’t always agree with what you did, or how
you viewed something, they would state their point without belittling and making you feel less
than.

These people, who are no longer with us, made a difference quietly in my life as a young adult
and as I aged. As I look around today I don’t know if my generation can live up to those Senior
Saints of the past. We tend to think of making a difference as making a big splash, but not as
one quietly living our lives, making a difference by just being themselves in someones life and
quietly spreading their faith.  

I look at our choir and see the spots some of those Saints used to occupy. I still see them
singing with joy along with the rest of the choir. They occupied those spots with other Senior Saints still alive. The choir is peppered here and there with younger ones, but not many. And I
wonder…in our churches… if anyone will be remembered as these that have gone before us are
remembered, for their kindness, their knowledge, and their dedication to their faith.  

I know I am failing. Am I the only one? Thank you special ones, who shared your lives and your
faith. You are indeed Saints. Grace you will be missed. Thank you for influencing my faith. 

Here Comes The Judge

From the column Something About Nothing in The Albert Lea Tribune and Courier Sentinel the week of March 20, 2017

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. 

There have been occurrences in the past few years in my life that have absolutely taken me down to my knees in prayer. If you do not believe in prayer or God, then please don’t read this column today. I seldom write about my beliefs, but this week with Lent and Easter approaching, I want to share some of my feelings.

After going through all the experiences and thought processes the past few years, I came to the conclusion it would possibly be easier to not care about anyone. In that conclusion, I knew if I chose the route of not letting myself feel emotion for others, I would have missed out on blessings in my life.

I have been affected by illnesses, divorces, accidents, addiction, to name a few. It has touched and hurt those I care about and love. People have let me down by their actions. I have been angry. I have been sad and I have also not been able to put a name to some of my feelings.

Over the years I spent time trying to figure it all out and cope with all the human emotions. Here is what I know in my life. We are all flawed individuals. We all hold secrets about ourselves no one else knows. We all disappoint others, and we all make mistakes that affect others’ lives, including me.

Holding on to anger only makes me an angry person. Only forgiveness frees me from my anger. I can’t judge another because I don’t have that right. It would be like the pot calling the kettle black. I sin, and I can’t say my sin is less than my neighbors.

I love my children, and I have always told them I will love them no matter what. I may not always like or agree with what they do or enable them if I see they are doing something that is causing them or someone else harm, but I will always love them. I hate the sin but love the sinner. That is the way I would like to be treated. And I extend that to my friends.

Perhaps that is why I feel uncomfortable with judgmental behaviors hiding under the guise of Christianity. I know even though I was brought up to know right from wrong, I am not perfect and I don’t feel comfortable when Christians judge one another and do not show another person caring, but judgment in a church society. I feel my judgement does and should come from God because He and only Him knows the entire picture of who I am. God gave us the Ten Commandments to live our lives and he will decide if we live our lives accordingly.

In a society we have laws and rules we also have to live by, and if we break those rules we are held accountable. But in that system something more needs to happen. Our prisons are full of offenders of what may be unforgivable crimes. These offenders may be a threat to our society. Yet, we have mothers who have forgiven their son’s killers. We have store owners who have forgiven their perpetrator’s crimes. They know the power of forgiveness over anger. And their forgiveness changed the lives of those who committed the crimes.

I have talked to friends who visit prisons and hold Bible studies or teach language and writing skills to prisoners who have felt worthless all of their life and were taught nothing but brutality and crime growing up. These volunteers are changing the lives of those who have not had anyone care about them before. It is not judgment but forgiveness that changes lives.

Those who are in prison are training service dogs, and these dogs are teaching the hardhearted to love. The dogs don’t judge, but they teach love.

This Lenten season in our churches we are learning the sacrifice Jesus made for us, all of us who are flawed.

It is hard not to judge. I have been a very judgmental person until I was taken down to my knees with experiences that taught me my judgment makes an enormous statement about who I am. It means if I judge, I don’t see my own sin. And I personally need that Christian place where I can visit, know I am a sinner, know I will be judged by my higher power and not others sitting in the pews with me. We are all in this world together. Let us pray.

Church? Sports? Priorities Have Changed.

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune week of September 28, 2015

Times have changed since I was young. Religion has taken a backseat to other worldly things in our priorities.IMG_3385

After attending church one Wednesday evening I pondered all the changes that have taken place in the way people worship since I grew up.

In the “olden days” it wasn’t an option to not go to church on Sundays. As kids we didn’t miss anything because the community I grew up in did not schedule sports or other activities during church time. It didn’t matter what religion you were, respect was shown to the religious community.

During my high school days we had what was called “release time,” which was time during the week we were allowed out of school for an hour  to go to our respective churches to learn more about God and our religion. We also had the option of staying in school and having a study hall. Most opted for the religion and I admit sometimes it was just to get out of school, and occasionally we headed for a different church than ours because they were doing something more interesting such as addressing the “sex” topic which wasn’t discussed much in those days — and our parents expected us to attend release time. In fact, I think you had to have a signed note to stay in school and in study hall, but I’m not sure about that because occasionally the memory is weak.

Wednesday evenings were set aside for churches, and there were no activities scheduled in school during these evenings so as to not interfere with the churches. This was called respect.

While raising my kids, church came first and activities came second on the days we had church plans. At that time the conflict was setting in with other activities, but most parents made the choice for their kids that church attendance came first.

I realized when reading a blog by a friend how easy we had it as parents in my day when deciding what was happening for our children on Sunday mornings. Did they always want to attend church or church activities, absolutely not, but they went because as parents that was our priority. Now there is so much pressure put on parents on what to prioritize in their life.

I share with permission this blog post by Kristin Lotthammer, CFM coordinator at Zion Lutheran Church in Buffalo, Minnesota. She shares her personal story of the pull of other activities on her church and family life.

 

I would like to share my personal story with you.

Last fall, I had registered my son to play fall lacrosse. When I received the game schedule, I was crushed. Almost all the game times fell right during Sunday morning worship times. At that moment, I had to step back and think … priorities. What really matters to my family, my child? He loves playing lacrosse. How could I tell him he couldn’t play on the team because I was going to prioritize church first? Values, morals, values, morals … kept running through my mind and heart. So, I had a talk with my husband and son. We were all in agreement, God comes first!

I emailed the coach and the lacrosse organization and told them I needed to pull my son from the team. I gave the simple reason that church is still No. 1 in our home, and game times on Sunday mornings were not going to work for us. Guess what, I wasn’t the only parent out there with the concern that sports are creeping into our Sunday mornings way too often! Not long after my email was sent, there was a change. A lot of the game times had been changed to Sunday afternoons. Wow, I thought! What a great organization! They listened and cared!

All we have to do is kindly speak up and sometimes that will help.

I challenge you and your family this year to think about priorities and what really matters in your home. Our children are watching and learning from what we do.

 

Kirsten’s column moved me by her courage to stand up for what she believed in. I am not sure I would have been able to do that in today’s world. If kids miss a game or practice for church they are penalized, so of course parents don’t want their kids to feel the pressure of their choices.

We live in a diverse world, and I feel we should respect each other’s values and religious beliefs. I would imagine all religions have this problem when it comes to choices for their children.

Churches have changed the way they are teaching the younger generation because the priorities of parents have changed. Many churches now offer alternative times for worship to accommodate sports and school activities. I still wonder why it still shouldn’t be the other way around. And let’s be honest, extracurricular sports and activities are important, but how many kids actually will be the next famous athlete or star?

I don’t know the right answer. All I know is that things have changed and I am thankful I didn’t have to make the choices parents have to make today. I do know I am grateful my parents made the choices they did when it came to my faith, because when I struggle or am joyful it is where I turn through thick or thin. I don’t know where I would be if that would not have been my parents priority.