Augsburg Fortress
One Mission Blog - reflections on the ministry of publishing

Ah, I should have had a V-8!

July 23rd, 2006 by Beth A. Lewis

To many people, I know that it looks like I have this “church” thing down to an art. Why wouldn’t you think that? After all, I have the privilege of leading a part of the ELCA’s churchwide ministry, Augsburg Fortress, the ministry of publishing. I have the honor and joy of being married to a caring pastor who leads an active congregation in Phoenix, AZ. And, it started early when my parents made sure that I was baptized, brought to Sunday School, & confirmation as a child. I have been an active member of ELCA congregations around the country as I relocated time and time again for my career.

I have the opportunity to share my “call story” with others. I love to tell the story of how I was blithely minding my own business when I heard God’s call to sell my home & my business and move 2000 miles to lead Augsburg Fortress, as both ministry and business. I love to share with others that lay people like me can be called into God’s service every bit as much as someone called into the role of pastor.

If you ask me about it, I’ll be happy to tell you about the Guatemalen refugees with whom I walked when I lived in south Florida. And, I am very proud of the work done by my Minneapolis congregation, Calvary Lutheran Church, in outreach to the working poor of south Minneapolis. And, I’m equally proud of the many outreach programs in my Phoenix congregation where my husband serves as Sr. Pastor, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.

Ah, yes……it looks like I have this “church stuff” down pat.

And, then, God does it again! God reminds me that sometimes when I am talking to others, I should be listening myself!

A few years ago, there was a series of television commercials for the vegetable juice, V-8. They featured a person who had ordered some other (presumably inferior) drink and, upon realizing the mistake, slapped him/herself on the forehead with the exclamation….”I should have had a V-8!” (For all I know, these commercials may still be running, but I live on airplanes and don’t see a lot of television these days)

That is what this “ah,ha” moment was for me. A small “slap myself on the forehead Ah, I should have had a V-8 moment!”

For the past 3 years, we at Augsburg Fortress have been assisting pastors with their goal to have members of their congregations read Lutheran books. Our publishing program has included our popular “Lutheran Voices” series, our bestseller, THE LUTHERAN HANDBOOK, and important books such as McGovern, Dole & Messer’s: ENDING HUNGER NOW. In speeches and letters, I frequently remind pastors and other rostered leaders that we offer a bulk purchase discount for those who want to encourage groups of people to read in order to grow in their faith. Many congregations purchase these books in quantity on a sliding scale discount for use in small groups, at adult or youth forums and in congregational bookclubs.

I’ve also frequently recommended that pastors use this bulk discount program to purchase quantities of books to have “on hand” as needed. This seemed to me to be a good way for us to support these rostered leaders in their ministries. By offering a sliding scale bulk purchase discount, pastors could afford to keep a multiple copies of particularly useful resources available to hand out to people in need in a timely manner.

Uh, huh. This is where the “gotcha, Beth….slap on the head V-8 moment” comes in.

This seems to be a sorrow-filled week. Last Saturday, my Uncle Roy Baker, a man very dear to me, died after a long illness. As I’m writing this blog, I’m on my way to Columbus, Ohio for his funeral tomorrow. Then, the next day, the son of parishioners at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, died tragically. Yesterday, I heard my husband preach his funeral sermon. A few days later, I learned that a young friend’s fiance’ had shocked him by abruptly breaking off their engagement. Early this morning, I received an e-mail from a friend and colleague telling me that her dear grandmother had passed away. Sorrow and grief seems to be everywhere I look this week.

As I headed to the airport last Friday night on my way to attend two funerals, one in Phoenix and one in Columbus, I grabbed a copy of our all-time best-selling book, Granger Westberg’s GOOD GRIEF. I had also mailed a copy of Corinne Chilstrom’s book, ANDREW, YOU DIED TOO SOON: A FAMILY EXPERIENCE OF GRIEVING AND LIVING AGAIN to my husband earlier in the week so that he could give it to his parishioners mourning the loss of their son. Today, as I have been flying from Phoenix to Columbus, I have been reading GOOD GRIEF before I hand it off to my mom tonight. As I read it, I wished that I had multiple copies in my briefcase to hand out to my cousins, Sandy & Liz and to their young adult children, as they wrestle with their father’s and grandfather’s death. I wished that I had made sure that I had an extra copy for Dave & Carol in Phoenix who just lost their son and to my young friend as he tries to make sense of his lost dream of a lifetime of happy marriage. If only I had a couple dozen copies of this superb book on hand!

Head slap….”Ah, I should have had a V-8!”

I suggest to pastor after pastor after chaplain after pastor that they should purchase these helpful, comforting books and keep a quantity on hand for these inevitable moments of grief that come to all of us. But, until today, it hadn’t ever occurred to me that I don’t have to wait for the pastor to do that. As a layperson, I could do it, too! Why don’t I purchase and keep on hand multiple copies of important books that I might want to give to others when the need is most acute? GOOD GRIEF is, of course, one of those timeless books that help people through times of trauma. My husband’s book, FIRE OF GRACE: THE HEALING POWER OF FORGIVENESS offers a roadmap for people who hunger for ways to move beyond a feeling of being betrayed by loved ones or strangers; a story with practical helps for forgiving others as we have been so graciously forgiven by God. And, our “Hope and Healing” series offers books to help provide comfort for people in a wide range of trying circumstances.

And, so, instead of merely suggesting to pastors and others that they keep our excellent resources on hand in quantity for parishioners, when I arrive back in Minneapolis on Tuesday, my plan is to order a stock of these and other key resources to keep on hand as timely gifts to people in need. A small way that we can be mutually supporting church together.

Ah, God, I finally see another small way that I can be called to serve you by serving others. Thanks for showing me how to “have a V-8!”

Blessings,
Beth

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Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

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