Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Let me introduce you to Saint Karen--Wesley Foundation Weekly E-letter (Methodist Campus Ministry)

Dear Friends,


Hey there!  How about this weather?  Isn’t it great?  This morning I got to watch Noah and Isaiah in their costume parade at school.  It was so cool!  Yeah!  So anyone got any cool costumes this year?  I would like to send out a big Wah Hoo! to Dave Vickery and Kelly Ogles for winning our costume contest last week at Wesley.  Gary Ransdell and Mr. Bucket never looked so good!


TOMORROW get your FREE CANDY!  We will be handing out candy on South Lawn from 11am till 3pm.  It should be awesome fun.  Come and hang out with me; I’m decorating the mommy van for a little bit of trunk or treat on campus!


This Thursday we will have a special All Saints Day service.  We will eat at 6:30pm and at 7:30pm we will have our service in the chapel.  So many times we lose people we love and after the funeral, there is never a time when we get to talk about them.  Well Thursday night we will have some time to celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us, tell their stories, and remember what gifts their living has given to us.  So please join me for this special time.  Come and light a candle for your special loved one.


Now For Sami’s Ramblings About Jesus:


This Thursday, November 1st , is All Saints Day in the Christian calendar.  The New Handbook of the Christian Year describes it this way:


In contemporary understanding, it commemorates all Christian people of every time and place.  “The saints” in New Testament usage refers to Christians collectively, and it is with this biblical understanding that celebration of this day has been rapidly spreading among Protestants in recent years.


For some reason this special day has lodged itself in my heart.  In other words, it’s taken up residence.  I just can’t help thinking about those “saints” in my life who have loved and inspired me, and who are now cheering me on from the arena of heaven.  I have such a special place in my heart for them; in fact, they live there.  It is as if their earthly life continues in the influence and inspiration that shapes my day to day choices and experiences.  All Saints Day is a time to remember and celebrate God’s goodness to us through those who are now with Him.


So I would like to introduce you to “Saint Karen.”  Karen Pelz was a professor in the English department at WKU in the early 90’s.  In 1992, as a sophomore in college I answered an ad she placed in the Herald offering a student room and board in her home for $500 a semester.  Mrs. Diddle had just died (yes, the Mrs. Diddle as in Diddle Arena, but that’s another story), and I needed a new home.  So I called the number and went over to meet Karen and her family.  Now Karen’s family included her elderly mother and five cats.  After that initial meeting, Karen thought I would be an okay boarder, so I moved in.


Life had never been so good.  Karen could cook.  And she made my lunch everyday and sent it to school with me in a brown bag with fun pictures drawn on it.  She even did my laundry.  All this for only $500 a semester.  Talk about God’s grace.  But I really had no understanding of how God’s grace would work through Karen to shape me as a human being, and especially as a pastor.


When I moved in, Karen had been in remission from cancer of the esophagus for two years.  Shortly after I arrived however, Karen began having bad pain in her back.  The doctors kept telling her that there was nothing there, but Karen knew something was wrong.  Eventually, cancer was discovered in her body.  Over the next three years I watched as the cancer re-emerged into Karen’s life, bringing with it the tyrannical treatment of radiation and chemo, and a slow descent into a morphine induced drowsiness that never seemed to let up.  The pain was just that bad.  In the evenings I would get home from the Wesley Foundation and spend some time watching “Northern Exposure” or “David Letterman” with Karen as I rubbed her swollen feet and her back and prayed.  I just kept praying that God would bring her healing.


I always felt that God had brought me to Karen so that I could bring cheerfulness and joy to her home.  Some days were easier than others.  Toward the end of my three years there, there was a particularly difficult day to be cheerful.  Karen’s brother and his family had come in from somewhere up North to spend time with her.  On that particular afternoon when I came in, they had just left.  I remember that moment when I gathered up my courage to put on a happy face to go in to where Karen was resting.  So I headed into her room with my upbeat self and said hello. 


Now I must pause in the midst of the story to tell you something about Karen.  She never minced words.  And she just spoke her mind.  In fact, one of her favorite t-shirts read “FUBAR University.”  I’ll leave your imagination to figure out what it meant.  Let’s just say it’s not the kind of thing one would wear in church.  So you have to understand that her next words to me were spoken in love, but were direct none-the-less.


So I headed into Karen’s room with my upbeat self to say hello.  And Karen looked up at me and said, “Sami, I don’t mean to be rude, but it is so hard to say goodbye to my family for the last time when you are so damn cheerful!” 


I have never forgotten her words to me.  Every time I walk into a hospital room, a place of deep grief, a situation that is full of anguish, I remember her words.  They have taught me well.  Better than any seminary course on pastoral care or CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) experience.  With her courage to speak the truth in love, Karen taught me to walk softly on the holy ground of people’s souls.  Sometimes it is the only holy ground they have.  I remember it every time I pray with someone, every time I encourage someone, every time I listen to someone pour out their story in my hearing. 


Shortly after I finished my college work and moved to seminary, Karen died.  Her long battle with cancer was finally over.  Her healing had finally been won. So as I think about All Saints Day, I think about Karen, one of the best teachers I ever had.  I cherish her memory, and often, as I teach now, I will feel her presence over my shoulder, looking on, encouraging, simply being the reminder that I’m not here alone.


Friends, I don’t know what your saints stories are, but I encourage you to remember and celebrate them.  And if you have a story you want to share, come and join us on Thursday night for our All Saints Day service.  It will be a blessing to us all.








Sami Wilson

Campus Minister/Director

WKU Wesley Foundation

United Methodist Campus Ministry




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