by Tara Lamont Eastman
Dan's Note: Tara and I share a common place with each other—over fifteen years ago, I was at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa finishing my studies to be a pastor in a parish. She just recently finished her studies there.
Since then, my path has changed. Like Tara, I've discovered life isn't about perfection, but practice. In my recovery, I've had to learn a new life and practice it daily. And she's right—it's about relationships! That's how she and I "met" on social media. Today, we share another passion with writing. Tara and I both are writers for Sparkhouse, creatively exploring how to share the faith with today's youth. Life comes full circle.
Place: Western New York, in a small post-industrial city continuing to effort of reinventing itself. There are many small towns and cities like this along the northeast.
But this is my town.
My family and I have lived and worked in this community for over 20 years now. Personally, I've served in three different church denominations during that time here. I don't think it's even possible to count the number of people I've had the honor to get to know over that time, but as my children will tell you it's impossible for me to get groceries without seeing at least five people that I know.
But this is not really my story. This is God's story.
Over the last twenty years, there are two practices that I feel have been God's gift to me: creativity and relationships.
As suggested before, relationships happen when you are in one place long enough. However authentic relationships require compassion, listening, persistence and grace. For relationships to move beyond surface water cooler talk, there needs to be something/someone deeply running a current of care and love that remains unseen but is always felt.
Martin Buber, a well-known philosopher said,
“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”
This is the feeling and space of knowing the other person as well as being known is what I refer to when I speak about building authentic relationships. This is a gift from God that is part of the story of this place I call home.
My second choice of gift from God for this place is creativity. As you can imagine, the theological shift of serving three different denominations over the last twenty years has been challenging. That is correct, but it is important to remember that while my position or perspective on God and the calling of where I serve may have shifted - God remains God. What is twenty years from God's perspective? A blink—a breath?
Time is our reality. Days, week, month, years and down to the second - we are structured in time. But time is not what we really struggle with. Our real struggle is treating each day as a new beginning and seeing each moment for what is possible instead of as we always have seen it.
Each day is new—if we are open and creative enough to see it.
Over the last two years these gifts of creativity and relationship have been at work in my own faith community. We are becoming intentional in trying to re-vision this familiar place into seeing it as it really is - new every morning.
Our creativity has led us to paint community murals, re-open an old parsonage for coffee and conversation every Friday, and now are holding a once a month community open mic and food night. These efforts are small, but if I think back just one year none of these relational and creative gifts were a reality—yet.
This makes me ponder, if these are the changes we've seen in a few years of thinking and living from this relational and creative position…what is possible today? What is possible tomorrow?
We are thankful for these gifts from God and are excited to see what will be on our next horizon. We are a community of Lutheran Christians that lean into the grace and forgiveness of God so that we are freed to serve our neighbor. Our practice is relational and creative, but we are not perfect.
But then again faithful practice is not perfect—it's practice.
About the Author
Tara Lamont Eastman
Tara lives in Western New York and serves as Pastoral Assistant at First Lutheran Church and is a student in the Theological Education for Emerging Ministry program at Wartburg Seminary. She enjoys art, music, and all things Mary Poppins. You can visit her church outreach page here at First House—True Mission.