Another LYO, another Senior Blessing, the long goodbye.

March 1, 2015

Well, let’s just say I’m not known for making it through the blessing of our high school seniors at LYO. I’ve done it maybe twice without tears. The problem with being a crier is that once the tears start, it’s almost impossible to hold them back again. Each year at LYO Assembly we have seniors stand, give them a blessing stone and have them bless their adult advisors and then the advisors bless them while we pray for their journey. Liz Fisher and I usually took turns doing this each year. (OK, full confession, I usually convinced her I’d done it the year before. She knew and yet she did it anyway. Thanks Liz.) Then we became brilliant women who let our dear Bishop Bolick do it. My job was to have them stand and pass out stones to the adults. Today, I took the microphone, looked out into the congregation and just said nope and passed it off to LIz as Leonard took the stage. Couldn’t even do that much. My son, Robert, is one of those seniors and no one expected me to make it anyway so I’m not even sure there were bets on it this year but the tears had already started long before we approached that blessing.

Leonard stood to give the sermon and it washed over me that this was his last LYO as bishop. This year we’ve done event after event where at some point it has hit me that this was yet another goodbye. I’ve been calling it the long goodbye. Leonard’s retirement as bishop after 18 years is hard. I’m so excited for him – being bishop has to be exhausting. However, I’m just gonna miss him. He first walked into my life when he assumed his role as Assistant to the Bishop in 1986. I was serving as LYNC President. (Lutheran Youth in North Carolina) During my college years at Lenoir-Rhyne I would see him on campus periodically and he even asked me to serve on the Region Nine Youth Gathering Planning team while I was there. On my wedding day he called and talked to my mother asking her to share his congratulations. (It took awhile to figure out who called. My mother said some nice pastor called and said congratulations. I knew a few pastors back then and by the process of elimination and her finally remembering he was from Salisbury, I knew)

For the past twenty years we’ve worked together. Our office has never been one of light shining on the office of bishop. Leonard has the unique ability to shine that light on others. Leonard, you’ve been Christ to me and so many others.

My life has been richer, my faith journey deeper, the laugher sweeter because of you, Leonard Homer Bolick. I give God thanks for your being a part of my story. You are loved!

Detroit 2015

September 3, 2014

2015 ELCA Youth Gathering
Tammy Jones West

It’s that time again. Every three years in the fall prior to the actual gathering we gear up, make our decisions, gather information and begin the registration process for the ELCA Youth Gathering. This year is no different. Approximately 1,000 youth and adult advisors from across our synod will hit the submit button on October 15th – saying, “Yes, we’re going to Detroit.” Will you be with them? I will. I have agreed to serve on the Proclaim Story Day Team. This is the day we gather as a synod to worship, share, learn and laugh. This is the day we will also celebrate together the ministry of our dear Bishop Bolick. One of his final days serving as our bishop and it just so happens that 1,000 NC Synod Lutherans can be together in Michigan to say thank you and Godspeed. ☺

So, why Detroit? What about safety? What about…..? I’ve heard your questions, fears, and concerns. Some of them were my own. There are other places I’d rather have gone simply because of logistics. I prefer a place where walking everywhere is an option. I prefer a place where synods can be housed together. I prefer a place where it’s not so expensive to fly there. The problem with all those phrases is “I.” This is not about me. Yes, there are concerns and when I’m concerned I’m not the best at trusting the Holy Spirit. I want to make things right myself. Not the greatest example on the planet – true confession time. However, our team has spent a considerable amount of time working through the Gospel of Mark. Mark 1:1 keeps reminding me that this is “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” We are part of that story. Detroit is part of that story. How we proclaim Christ – how we proclaim our story within God’s story is important.

I think we gather in Detroit, not to bring Jesus to Detroit. We are called there to witness how the kingdom is being proclaimed; how the story of that city does in ways translate into our story; how our stories at home are part of a much bigger story and how our call to discipleship means we go not where I prefer but where we are called.

It’s Snowing Mamaw

February 12, 2014

The snow started here a little after noon today. It’s still going strong and of course, we are closed up and going no where. It’s just how we roll in the south. The bread aisle is empty and the milk is gone. I’m guessing we make milk sandwiches during possible power outages. So far so good as far as the power goes.

Snow like this seldom happens but when it does, without a doubt I reach for the phone to call Mamaw and tell her it’s snowing. She loved the snow and I would always call her and tell her it was snowing just in case she missed it. (easy thing in the south) Today, 19+ years after her death I still reached for the phone and if I hadn’t stopped myself and wiped the tears from my eyes, could have dialed that number from memory even when I honestly couldn’t tell you my husband’s cell phone number without my phone to remember it for me.

There are some things that are just imprinted on our lives. Larger than life grandparents who were incredible people of faith. Ritual and traditions that define what it means to be a Jones family member.

Today as the world stands still, I am thankful for the saints who have gone before us, taught us about Jesus and lived a life of faith that imprinted on our lives and for those moments when I reached for the phone to say, “It’s snowing Mamaw,” and the voice on the other end reminded me that I was loved.

Churchwide Assembly from our young adult Julie Tonnesen

August 15, 2013

“Yesterday, the ELCA elected our first female presiding bishop. As a young adult female, it is so powerful to see a woman in this esteemed and traditionally male position. As soon as the election results were posted, I texted my grandmother to let her know the good news, and her response blew me away. She told me that 43 years ago, she was a voting member at the 1970 Churchwide Assembly in San Antonio, Texas. At this assembly, members voted to ordain women to be pastors and other church leaders, a huge step forward for women and the Lutheran church, alike. I am so thankful for the faithful voting members, my grandmother included, who made it possible for me to be a part of electing Elizabeth Eaton to the Office of Presiding Bishop. Thanks be to God for all of the people who have dedicated their time to Churchwide Assemblies and continue to move the church forward. I am so proud to be a part of this community.”

Thank you, Julie for sharing. Thanks be to God for young adults willing to serve as voting members for this church.

“After Mission Trip…”

July 17, 2013

I’ve come to a point in my ministry where “to do” lists start to fall into two categories – before and after a big event. SO, there was before assembly, after assembly, before LYO Retreat, after and so on. This week I’m basking in the after mission trip list. Luckily, it’s not too long and I’ve learned to not take vacation just after a huge event so I have this week to get ready for some staycation next week. I’m staying home to work on a house that is forever on the after list but never really gets done before another list comes up with the words “before” in front. It’s really a wreck so I’ll be painting, cleaning carpets, getting new floors, etc.
I fill you in on this because I’m guilty of moving on too quickly from one event to another. The time to “be still and know that I am God” is so often left behind. Reflecting on the mission trip there are moments in time I want to remember. Some funny, some not so funny and some God moments that were too incredible to miss.

  • Welcoming the last group to Pittsburgh on day 1 at 11:52pm after a very long day of travel – the Sunday after the 4th – bad planning on my part.
  • The evil joy of turning on those gym lights when no one really wanted them on but hey, I’ve been up for awhile, already showered and I’m ready to go so it’s your turn. Evil, I know.
  • Those tired faces with paint splattered about their clothing telling of painting for Joe and hearing his stories of WWII and Korea.
  • A gym seriously smelling like a gym. Pastor Bill of our host congregation said his dream had come true – their gym smelled like one. Well, I may have issues with his dream but the smell of real people, real sweat and real service might not be so bad after all. Plus, I brought Lysol.
  • Worship each day around the theme of who is my neighbor?
  • A serious talker getting to be a serious listener for Katie who just wanted to tell her story.
  • The group coming together over “would you rather” cards, basketball and ultimate frisbee.
  • Two days of prep time with my son in a car driving through W. Virginia where cell service and texting were non-existent.
  • Hearing stories of the brokenness in our world and the hope these young people gave to those they served alongside.
  • The realization that my son wasn’t even aware that I’d learned enough sign language in college to be able to sign “My Only Prayer” during worship. His saying it was beautiful still makes me cry.

Well, it’s after the mission trip but of all the things we do with young people – watching them be called into service because of the grace of God extended to them and going beyond what they thought was possible is an incredible gift. I am blessed to share in some small part of that.

Celebrating LYO

June 18, 2013

Next week we gather our 2013 LYO Board at Lake Lure, NC. (Yes, the place where they filmed parts of Dirty Dancing. – dating myself here) These young people have given a week of their summer to come together for planning, sharing, dreaming and fun. They are some of the most talented young people around and I’m gifted to be able to work with them.
Why LYO? Lutheran Youth Organization – well, organization might be pushing it but the name has traction and even though there is no longer an LYO at the churchwide level, we’ve kept the name even when the structure and substance of our time together has changed dramatically.

My personal history with LYO goes back to high school. In 1985 we held the constitution convention of LYNC – Lutheran Youth in North Carolina. Held on the campus of Lenoir-Rhyne College we gathered and learned a lot about parliamentary procedure. Robert’s Rules and I are old friends. I ran that year for the office of treasurer and didn’t get it so I did not serve on the board that year. The next year I was elected president and in addition to the service on that board, I attended the 1986 Churchwide Assembly as a youth convo participant – representing our synod.

I arrived at Lenoir-Rhyne with LYO friends as my fellow students. It was a wonderful way to begin a new journey – with faithful peers. So, next week we begin a new journey with a new board. As they faithfully gather and spend time in scripture, prayer, worship and fellowship – please hold them in prayer. They are already leaders of our church. It’s fun to watch them grow and wonderful to sit at their feet and learn. Thanks be to God for their many gifts.

Synod Assembly 2013

June 2, 2013

2013 Synod Assembly Presentation

It is a joy to be with you and to share a few thoughts about Youth & Family ministry here in the NC Synod.

Please pray with me…

God of all stories, you draw us into your story and we yearn to know more. Guide us, lead us and teach us to share your story with others. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Joyfully Sharing God’s Story – it’s bold, it’s audacious and while I probably shouldn’t say this but you know my filter isn’t as good as some or most of you but we SUCK at sharing God’s story because we don’t know it.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

We’re not very equipped…

George Barna research stats are not encouraging.
The days of simple play and Bible stories shared around a table are, in most places, a thing of the past.

Today we’re bombarded with information.
How are we, the church, connecting with this reality?

Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels.
 Many professing Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples.
 60 percent of Americans cannot name even five of the Ten Commandments.
A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that Billy Graham preached the Sermon on the Mount.
12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.

82 percent of Americans believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse.
88% of Americans own a Bible – what are they doing with it?

We’ve failed more than one generation. The ability to articulate our faith is sometimes non-existent.

BUT, there are people out there and people in here yearning to connect to something beyond the darkness of Good Friday. They are yearning to hear a word of grace, a touch of forgiveness or a reason to be about this task of living in a world filled with some serious darkness.

I think we Joyfully Share God’s story when we connect the stories of our book of faith with our own lives and bring the stories of the biblical characters to life. Today we’ll share 5 out of the 52 you’ll be hearing about for the next year.

1. Teach me the story of Nathan and David so that I can speak truth to power in the midst of injustice.
2. Teach me the story of Chenaniah so that as a parent of a musically gifted son, I can make sure that he knows that his understanding of music and willingness to share it is a gift from God.
3. Teach me the story of Ruth and Naomi so that I know how to welcome the stranger in my midst and journey with them.
4. Let me share with you the story of Micah and what I’ve learned about justice, kindness and walking humbly down the halls of my university.
5. Teach me the story of Sarah so that I can laugh in the midst of the seemingly impossible.

I invite you on a journey with me – a journey where we look at a story of the Bible each week. I’ll tweet these out and include the text. How will you be Joyfully Sharing God’s Story this next year?

Our young people need us to know these stories so they flow from our conversations as easily as the latest reference to some Duck Dynasty or Honey Boo Hoo or whatever star. Biblical illiteracy can be a thing of the past. It’s ok to not know the stories. It’s not okay to stay that way. 

I’m asked many times during my ministry among you what we can do for our young people. I’m convinced the very best thing we can give our children, and youth would be to surround them with adults who know the stories and can share them joyfully.

Let’s get to work. If we are going to go forward together, in Christ, in community, it is imperative that we weave God’s story into our story. Thanks be to God for the gift of story in our lives.


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