Celeste Kennel-Shank Archive

Staying awake in Gethsemane

April 7, 2017 Celeste Kennel-Shank

The cemeteries where members of my extended families are buried are truly places of repose, surrounded by the fertile fields of Lancaster County, Pa. When I visit their graves, I sense that they are at rest, being at home with God and having returned to the earth that nurtured them. If any of us have gotten caught up in the scapegoating and fearmongering that are so prevalent in our culture and society today, it’s not too late to live in a new way. Grace and transformation are available to all of us. With my strong sense of connection to those […]

Places of sanctuary

January 20, 2017 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Sharing my faith story with the church small group I’m part of, I described myself as a broken-hearted person. One person responded that she’d usually heard people describe themselves as tender-hearted instead. But the first description suits me better, because from a young age there has been much in the world that breaks my heart. Like the stories from neighbors in my hometown who sought refuge in the U.S. after surviving wars in the 1980s in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Like the stories I am hearing today from Mennonites in my city whose children are afraid that their parents […]

Limits that free us for delight

October 28, 2016 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Each week we receive an incredible gift, and yet so many of us leave it there, still in its wrapping paper and bow. Or we open it a little bit but then put it back in the box and set it in a corner to collect dust. The Sabbath is for us, that we might be restored by delight in the goodness in the world. What keeps so many of us from fully receiving the gift of a full day of rest each week? Perhaps it’s a demanding job that requires working not only Sundays but at least part of […]

Do-gooder’s dilemma

July 22, 2016 Celeste Kennel-Shank

He usually stands at the bottom of the stairs that reach the street from the elevated train. Sometimes he sings; sometimes his spirits are low. “If do-gooders are always thinking of how the world is unjust and needs to be changed—if they want to replace our world with another, better one—then do they love the world that we know, which is the world as it is?” He’s cheerful if he had a chance to sleep in a bed the night before; a room is $20. And if I stop to buy him a cup of coffee (extra cream, extra sugar) and a […]

Home is belonging, not owning

June 3, 2016 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Ninety-nine Homes has a rare mix in a film: It’s suspenseful, yet deals with complex ethical issues. The drama centers on the lives of people in central Florida a few years after the 2008-09 financial crisis. Rick Carver, a real estate broker, partners with banks to evict people and sell their foreclosed homes at a profit. Our true homes do not belong to us. They are where each of us truly belongs, at any time and in any place. Without spoiling the plot of the 2014 movie—which contains some violence but mainly the threat of it—it’s sufficient to say that […]

Not by bread alone

February 26, 2016 Celeste Kennel-Shank

People do not live by bread alone, Jesus tells Satan when he is tempted in the wilderness. Though Jesus “was famished”—or perhaps because of that—he knows in his body that food is not all that we need for sustenance. Jesus’ words have kept returning to me in the past weeks. Our relationship with food can become distorted. We mix food and fellowship, which isn’t necessarily bad until the occasion becomes more about eating than connecting with each other. At a local winter farmer’s market, along with crops that can be stored in the cold months, vendors sell prepared food. One […]

New life from loss

January 29, 2016 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Blackened trusses stand against the sky above the walls of an old church that burned. I often pass the corner where the church has sat since long before I knew the neighborhood’s name, long before I was born. Though our time calls upon us to make difficult choices about the work we do in our churches, our broader communities and in the world, we can trust that God’s power is not limited by times of change and uncertainty. The first time I saw the destroyed building, I was on my way to another church next door. It has a dwindling […]

Caring for self is a must

November 13, 2015 Celeste Kennel-Shank

  In some circles, the term “self-care” is so overused as to elicit groans. In other places, the most likely response is, “What’s that?” In the hospital where I work as a chaplain, we talk with nurses, doctors and other staff about caring for yourself while caring for others. We’ve used the book Trauma Stewardship as a resource; its title describes the particular challenge of careers that bring one in close contact with suffering. With so many goals for living well, we may find ourselves always one step behind where we want to be. While self-care sounds warm and fuzzy, […]

Differences We Tolerate

October 2, 2015 Celeste Kennel-Shank

Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and State Street attract people from around the world for pleasure shopping. Stores selling designer shoes, trendy clothes, high-end accessories and more line both sides of each street. . . . opposing consumerism is far from prominent in the minds of many U.S. Christians when they talk about standing against the whims of culture. I work a few blocks from these shopping corridors. I won’t say I’m never tempted to stop in a store and buy an item or two, and I don’t begrudge visitors their enjoyment. But if I’m passing through with extra time on my hands […]

Finding God’s presence within the decay

August 28, 2015 Celeste Kennel-Shank

More than a few people are surprised that I genuinely love working with compost. Sure, it smells bad sometimes and is occasionally slimy when it gets out of balance. But I enjoy being part of creating fresh, rich earth from unneeded scraps of vegetables that would otherwise go to landfills. It’s fun to think about the carbon-to-nitrogen (brown-to-green) ratio, to take the temperature of the pile and to turn it. The beautiful dark soil a good compost pile generates is a satisfying reward. The materials we work with mirror our own mortality. Not just the ultimate end of our earthly […]