Gabriel Wounded Head

March 29, 2022

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                                                Matthew 25:34-40 

“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Throughout the gospels, Jesus and his followers are described as ‘walking’ on a long journey through the desert. This obviously has a literal context, but the metaphorical context is where the power of this story shines through. In my mind, anyone can see themselves as a follower of Christ, on this long walk, searching for some sort of sanctuary. But the real strength of this parable comes from the grace shown by king. In fact, he acts as if he is repaying the favor. This kingdom was prepared for the followers of Christ, but they didn’t have to earn it, they inherited it. I find this particularly beautiful because it shows us that our rewards for following Christ, what we struggle and strife for, are already in our hands.

However, there is still a stipulation for inheriting the kingdom according to this parable.  We must take care of the “least of these” who are members of God’s family.  This means feeding the hungry, giving clothes to those who need them, and visiting the sick.

Something I always found so fascinating about this verse is that it also includes visiting those in prison. In a traditional kind of upbringing, we’re taught that once caught, or convicted, of a crime, you throw away your chance at participating in a traditional American life. So, when I was younger, and I first heard this verse, I remember the cogs spinning in my head as a child when I first heard this verse, almost as if to say, “Wait, we should be nice to them?” This means something vastly different to me now. The line of “I was in prison, and you visited me” seems to me to be a representation of the true power of God’s grace and love extending to all people.  It also shows that by spreading God’s word and living it out in acts of compassion we can create the kingdom of God and experience it in this world.

Gabriel Wounded HeadMy name is Gabriel Wounded Head, and I am a Junior at California Lutheran University. I am studying TV/Film Production, with a minor in Religion. I come from Brookings, South Dakota (Go Jacks!) and am a proud member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe. My Father is a pastor in the ELCA. I play Rugby with the campus club and love spending my time watching movies, and various sports. If it’s competitive I’m down to watch it.

- Gabriel Wounded Head
Cal Lutheran Class of 2023

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Cristallea Kang Buchanan

March 23, 2022

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                     Luke 15:11-31 tells the story of the prodigal son.

I have heard many sermons on this parable and all of them focused on the prodigal son. The lesson taught was if sinners like the prodigal son repent and return to God, he will run and welcome us back with a feast to celebrate. I always felt a little sorry for the older son until I read Timothy Keller’s different take in his book, The Prodigal Son.

When the father asks the older son why he was not happy for the return of his younger brother, the pride and malignity of his nature is revealed.  He dwells upon his obedient life and service to his father, and believes he deserves to be shown more favor than his younger brother who has just returned. The true reason for not following in the younger’s path is because he believed a bigger profit or blessing was to be accrued from a circumspect life. He plainly shows had he been in his father’s shoes he would not have received the prodigal.

Yet the father deals tenderly with him.

The elder son represents the self-righteous believers who look upon others with contempt and judgement. They are not working in love but in hope of a reward.

In the parable the father’s word to the elder son was heaven’s tender appeal to the Pharisees. “All that I have is thine” – not as wages, but as a gift.  We cannot earn God’s love.

For the prodigal, it is clear that God’s love and grace is a gift which he did not deserve. However, for longtime Christians like me, the more subtle lesson lies within the older son’s response to his younger brother returning home. God knows even our good deeds are self-centered. The older son was no more deserving than the younger brother of the father’s love and gift. The parable teaches us we can only receive God’s love and grace as the unmerited bestowal of the father’s love.

“We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” – Timothy Keller

Cristallea BuchananCristallea K. Buchanan is the vice president for Talent, Culture and Diversity for California Lutheran University. Cristallea serves as the university’s chief diversity officer and oversees a newly configured division that includes Human Resources, Mission and Identity, and Hispanic-Serving Institution initiatives. She guides, accelerates, and integrates established and new diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts across the university as part of a coherent, mission-driven strategy. Prior to becoming Honda’s head of inclusion and diversity in 2019, Buchanan was the head of organization development, learning and DEI for American Honda Finance Co. for five years. She has two decades of experience in leading diversity initiatives in the corporate, nonprofit and education sectors. Cristallea has extensive experience in strategic planning and human resources. She led employee learning and development programs for Southern California Edison and Five Acres, an agency serving abused and neglected children and their families. She spent 16 years managing workforce development programs for the Los Angeles County Office of Education and El Camino College. She comes from a family that greatly values education. Cristallea ‘s mother brought her family to the United States from South Korea because she wanted all of her children, especially her daughters, to have the opportunity to get an education. Cristallea earned bachelor’s degrees in mass communications and psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master of Science in global leadership from the University of San Diego School of Business Administration.

- Cristallea Kang Buchanan
Vice President of Talent, Culture and Diversity

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Lorri Santamaría

March 15, 2022

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Ask, Search, Knock 

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

                                                (Matthew 7:7-8 NRSV)

In this stanza of the Bible, Jesus reminds readers and believers alike, (1) how we should pray and (2) the attitude we should have while our petitions are being considered.

Here, we are reminded of the essence of a prayer. We are instructed that when we reach out and connect with God for Divine intervention, we are in fact making requests or appeals for something that is not. By praying to God, we are actively hoping, wishing, yearning, and longing for some ‘thing,’ condition, or reality that is not available in the present or ‘now’ of the appeal.

During Lent, Christians tend to delve inward, giving up indulgences, and becoming more reflective as the time draws near to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a Spirit-filled Catholic with family in Louisiana, we observe Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and the next 46 days and nights prayerfully anticipating Easter Sunday.  During this time, I tend to revitalize my prayer life with Matthew 7:7-8 as my continual guide.

I say continual because Matthew 7:7-8 has been instrumental all my life, ever since I was able to read the Bible tracks my grandmother pressed into my hands every summer. I have even had the verse inscribed on the back of electronic devices to remind me that I not only need to connect to God on a regular basis, but that only by inviting God into my life, only by actively pursuing Him, and only by putting forth effort to signal to God that I am committed to my petition; will my request be fully considered.

The second part of the verse goes on to say that for those who ask, seek, and knock, each one will receive, find, and have doors opened. What the second verse doesn’t make clear, however, are the conditions for manifestation of the prayer.

In my experience, it has not been about ‘what’ we ask for rather the “how” and “why” of the ask, whether what we are in search of is in alignment to our highest greatest good according to the will of God, and the condition of our hearts when we approach Divine grace.

In my spare time, I teach and practice yoga, meditation, and reiki for which I have each been trained and certificated. These complimentary alternative modalities have been a part of my life since 2016, a year after being diagnosed with stage IV cancer. The #selfcare tools, coupled with an active prayer life, have been instrumental in my restorative healing journey, which I now have the benefit to share with others. All glory and praise for my atypical healing journey be to God!

Normally, before a yoga, meditation, or reiki session students are asked to identify a Sankalpa or an intention, something that they would like to see manifesting or unfolding in their lives as result of their practice. As you can well imagine by now, I have seamlessly woven the language of Matthew 7:7 into every single class that I teach.

First, toward inclusivity, and interfaith leanings, I invite them to connect to God, Source, Spirit, the Highest Power or Vibration, or Energy as Light in whatever way makes sense to them personally.

Second, I ask that they breathe this connection in through the crown of their heads and as they exhale to let everything else go down through their feet, taking a few breaths until they feel centered and grounded.

Third, after I see they are connected, I invite students to identify their intention or Sankalpa in the Sanskrit language for class. I say, “identify what it is you would like to get out of this class. What is it that you would like to achieve or attain as result of your practice?” As a part of the invitation, I then say very clearly, “Ask, seek, knock as each one of you are connected to Source right now in real time. Your practice is an active prayer mode. Now is a good time for you to co-create with Source, co-manifest what it is you would like to work towards as an outcome of your practice today.”

Fourth, as the class or session draws to close, I have students return to their Sankalpa or intention— and to check-in with Source in gratitude for whatever God has unfolded or is unfolding for them in their lives.

Intentionally connecting to God prior to the “ask” is essential. Seeking or searching sometimes requires time. This might be few breaths or a few days—whatever it takes to activate faith and belief that God is there and listening. Finally, action or movement toward the “ask” as if the prayer has come to pass is the knocking or the signal to God that we are serious about our prayer, intention, or Sankalpa; even to the point of ending our petition in thanks. It’s like saying,” Thank you God for taking the time to consider my request.”

In my personal, professional, and spiritual practice, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ as reflected in Matthew 7:7-8 continue to provide guidance, peace, and direction for my prayer, personal, and professional life. I find more satisfaction in the unfolding of every aspect of my being and have found these verses to be both Universal and practical.

In closing, I hope you can find ways to harness their sweet, powerful, and instructive energy in your life as well!

And finally I invite you to take a moment identify your Sankalpa or intention for the rest of the Lenten season, week, or day?

Lorri PicDr. Lorri Santamaría holds a PhD in Bilingual Multicultural Special Education from the University of Arizona. Her professional career has taken her from Cal State San Marcos as a full professor in the College of Education, to the University of Auckland New Zealand as the Head of School for the School of Teacher Preparation, and most recently here to Ventura County since 2017 as the Director and principal investigator for the Healing the Soul project at the Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project, which many of us will know by its acronym MICOP. Dr. Santamaría has numerous publications within the scope of this position, including, among others, the books Applied critical leadership: Choosing change and Culturally responsive leadership in higher education: Praxis promoting access, equity and improvement.

Dr. Lorri Santamaría
Director of Faculty Development and Inclusive Excellence

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Desta Goehner

March 10, 2022

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After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately,          “Why couldn’t we drive out the evil spirit?” Jesus replied,            “This kind can come out only by prayer”

                                                 (Mark 9:28-29)

desta lentenIn this passage from the book of Mark the disciples are frustrated because they could not cast out an evil spirit from a boy they were trying to heal.  The response from Jesus seems to indicate that not everyone can be healed in the same way.  Healing is not a one size fits all situation. Jesus is telling his disciples that different people might need different approaches.

The last couple of years, I learned something about the truth Jesus is talking about through my work with plants.  My backyard is my sacred space. It became more so during the pandemic. Nature is healing and I spend a lot of time outside with my plants and flowers. I grew to love succulents because they are so easy to care for and require very little from me. These past couple of months, I have started to branch back out to planting flowers.

Flowers are harder to take care of. Those little plastic sticks with instructions that come with the flowers are crucial:  “Grows best in full sun. Waters 2-3 times per week” or “prefers slightly dry soils and shaded areas.”

Through a couple of fails, I have been reminded that you need to plant flowers together in the pot that require similar care. The flowers that need lots of sunshine and little water need to be together to thrive. Putting flowers together with different water needs, different sun/shade needs will only lead to some of their demise. I can’t mix up their needs and expect them all to thrive.

In the past couple of years (and still ongoing), each of us and our world has seen a significant loss of life, different layers of grief with so many pivots and adaptations.  Each personal and collective loss hits us differently and at different times.

As we keep emerging from this pandemic, we all need something different and at different times.  Some need more sunshine and a dry climate. Some of us need shade and a lot of water. Some need remote work and some need to be with colleagues. Some of us need laughter and some need space for tears. Many of us carry a lot of unshared grief. Some of us may long to talk about what’s going on. Some of us need to hold *all the things* longer before letting them go out into the world.

We all have different needs. That’s okay. God can handle all of that. ???? God loves each one of us as a beloved child. God sees our beauty. Our potential. Our sadness. Our brokenness. Our grief. And celebrates with us in our joy. God is with us in all of that. And the transitions between the spaces.

Jesus saw the pain people carried. Jesus went to be with people in that pain (in whatever way they needed).  Jesus sat with people. Jesus is offering to be there for you too. Even now. Take a few deep breaths. Roll your shoulders. Hold gratitude for something big or small. Figure out what you need. Tell somebody else. Ask for support. And move about your day in the way that makes sense for you.

Take a few deep breaths. Roll your shoulders. Hold gratitude for something big or small. Figure out what you need. Tell somebody else. Ask for support. And move about your day in the way that makes sense for you.

What if we all had our own personal plastic plant info stick to help us be clear about what we need? We all have different needs. Don’t feel bad for yours. It’s how God created us. We need each other.

What does your personal plastic plant info stick read?

What do you need these days?

What kind of healing could you ask God for?

What helps you thrive?

Who will help you be accountable to whatever your needs are?

Holy and Sacred One, 

Thank you for loving us each individually and collectively. 

Thank you for tending to each of our needs. 

We give you our grief, our worries and our fears. 

Thank you for never leaving us alone and carrying these with us. 

Thank you for the gift of joy, laughter and delight. 

Be with us in whatever our needs are, as they arise.

Help us THRIVE! 

Surround us with people to build a Beloved Community with. 


desta bio picDesta (she/her) is a name that comes from Ethiopia, it means “deep joy”. I have lived all of my life in Southern California and graduated from Cal Lutheran in 1996. I have served for over 25 years in Lutheran outdoor ministry, congregational youth ministry, served on the Southwest California Synod staff and am currently the Director of Congregational Relations at Cal Lutheran. My work is to connect the university with the Church and interfaith communities. I am married to an ELCA Pastor and we have 3 kids. I am a Spiritual Director, a movement Chaplain, an activist, and organizer. I work everyday to recognize how the myth of white supremacy lives in my body and try to disrupt those patterns. I am passionate about spiritual transformation, trauma healing, anti-racism, nonviolent communication, the Enneagram, laughing and provoking change.

 - Desta Goehner 
Spiritual Director

Director of Congregational Relations 

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Charbel Zgheib

March 4, 2022

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“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.”

                                                    – Psalm 116:1-2

Listening is a great function of the human mind, linked to its other functions such as thinking, speech, will and imagination. It means listening silently, attentively, consciously, accurately, patiently, and respectfully, to what others say, to create the possibility of receiving and accepting their thoughts clearly, understanding the way and meaning of their thinking and feeling, and knowing how to respond to it, discuss it, accept it, compromise it, agree with it on common understandings or sometimes totally disagree. All of that in order to avoid any misunderstanding and alienation and violence, in any conversation or dialogue regarding any subject.

This leads me to the following question:

To what extent do people – politicians, religious leaders, community leaders, co-workers, etc.- truly listen to each other in their conversations and dialogues?

The act of Hearing consists of the superficial meaning of deep listening, and of course, is a prerequisite for listening. We all hear spontaneously, naturally, without having the need to “think” as when listening. Listening is much more difficult than speaking, and it requires a greater mental effort than speaking, combining the activity of the will, the mind and the heart, in order to patiently endure silence, so that we can receive the others’ message, and create the possibility of communicating with them, seriously, transparently, effectively and positively.

In Lebanon, my home country, because of sadness, worries, anxiety, frustration, problems, chaos, and unknown future, every person has something to say, and urgently requires others to listen to it. Most people, even in intimate and private settings (Family, Church, work, etc.), speak at once and at the same time, and no one listens.

In all public places, at home, at work, etc. people just want to talk, and no one wants to listen. Even the salutation or asking the simple question: “How are you today?” has become mechanical, and no one will wait for an answer or is willing to listen to the real and true answer.

Even in spiritual matters, we say prayers constantly and in abundance to God, and do not remain silent for a moment in order to listen, we don’t put ourselves in an atmosphere of contemplation, acceptance and humility, to the hidden voice of God, the voice of the living conscience in the heart of every human being.

Who can listen with simple humility, purity of heart and intention, keen attention, sincerity, patience, and love?

Who can surpass himself and move from individualism to plunge into the adventure of the communal dimension?

Charbel Zgheib

Born in Lebanon, I was raised in a Catholic family that values bonds and worships God in a humble way. In 2016, I took the decision to pursue the seminary life and follow my spiritual call. I joined the Maronite Seminary with the plan of becoming a priest. In 2018, through an encounter with an Episcopal pastor friend who is serving the Church in the United States, I had started to learn about the Lutheran teachings and familiarize with its core values revolving around forgiveness and reconciliation, dignity, compassion and justice, inclusion and diversity, courage and openness to change and faithful stewardship of God’s creation and gifts. I am currently a student at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) and contributing in the formation of a new Synodically Authorized Worshiping Community, an Afghani, Arab and Middle Eastern Ministry in Sacramento CA, within the Sierra Pacific Synod.

- Charbel Zgheib
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) Student

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