We’ve Changed Our Name!

The Easter Prays/Praise blog has changed its name.

Welcome to God is Calling.

We have changed the name to match Easter’s vision.  The vision is one of boundless energy.  It is this blog’s inspiration and guide.  It is below.

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Want to learn more about Easter’s vision?  Click here.

The vision of the blog has changed as well.  It is designed to be a vibrant site that tells our stories and connects us more closely to each other, our community and our world.  The blog will intersect with happenings within our church and our community.

This blog will be our written version of the church narthex before or after service.  The written version of people saying hello, sharing hugs, getting caught up on each other’s lives, laughing out loud, shedding a tear.  The written version of children running around, Heart of handstheir joy being our joy, their innocence, our teacher.  It will be a blog of multi-generational voices, of multi-cultural voices, of multi-spiritual voices. It is to be a blog of joy, of hope, of brokenness, of sorrow, a rich cacophony of all the sounds of God.

Do you love to write?  Great!  We want you!   Do you have something to share but don’t think you’re a good enough writer?  Great!  We want you!  Do you think you’re too young to write for the blog but have something to say?  Great!  We want you!  Are you a confirmand or student who needs service hours?  Great!  We want you!  Do you have no idea what to write about but you think this sounds like fun?  Great!  We want you!  You’re not an Easter member, but you want in on this too?  Great!  We want you!  Do you talk better in pictures?  Great!  We want you!writing-is-the-painting-of-the-voice

Watch for more information.  We will be doing workshops on blog writing.  We will have questions that we will be putting out for short responses.  We will be asking for your photos.  We will be connecting with each other in profound ways and fun ways.  We will be connecting generations, cultures and religions.

God is calling.  And we’re going to answer!!

The Grace of an Empty Bowl

The Grace of an Empty Bowl

Dear God,

Our empty bowls will soon be filled with plenty.

May our hearts pause for a moment, this hungry moment, and beat with a reminder that so many lay themselves to rest with a gnawing pillow of hunger.

Our thankfulnessempty-bowl abounds that our table is filled with platters and plates, clatter and cups.

We give thanks for those who brought us this food from the farmer to the baker.

As we gather around a table of abundance with treasured family and friends whose love flavors our lives and this moment, let us boldly share our gratitude for it all.

May we honor this meal of communion that reminds us to nourish others, to feed the world in remembrance of you.

Before we raise a spoon, let us raise a promise to those who live with scarcity.  Each day we will hunger with a compassion that transforms into actions so that no child of the earth must replace appetite with biting hunger.

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While our bowl is still empty, let our spirit overflow, blessed by the light of love and blaze of compassion that we can feed this world.

With plenty and enough,

Amen.

Author’s Note:  I found this grace ages ago and didn’t make note of its origins.  I can’t find a remnant of it in any internet search.  I made some small changes, but its essentially as it was.  

Kissing the Leper

Kissing the Leper

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I read  a book review this morning of “The Shattered Lantern” by Ronald Rolheiser on Spirituality & Practice, a website I use daily. In part it quotes a story in the book about St. Francis of Assisi.    Click here to read the review.

“One night prior to his conversion, Francis, then a rich and pampered young man, donned his flashiest clothes, mounted his horse, and set off for a night of drinking and carousing. God, social justice, and the poor were not on his mind. Riding down a narrow road, he found his path blocked by a leper. He was particularly repulsed by lepers, by their deformities and smell, and so he tried to steer his horse around the leper, but the path was too narrow. Frustrated, angry, but with his path clearly blocked before him, Francis eventually had no other choice but to get down off his horse and try to move the leper out of his path. When he put out his hand to take the leper’s arm, as he touched the leper, something inside him snapped. Suddenly irrational, unashamed, and undeterred by the smell of rotting flesh, he kissed that leper. His life was never the same again. In that kiss, Francis found the reality of God and of love in a way that would change his life for ever.”

Later it said, ” Concrete contact with the poor is Christian contemplation. It knocks the scales off one’s eyes.  ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me,’ Christ assures us. In the poor, God is ever-present in our world, waiting to be met. In the powerless, one can find the power of God; in the voiceless, one can hear the voice of God; in the economically poor, one can find God’s treasures; in the weak, one can find God’s strength; and in the unattractive, one can find God’s beauty.”

“Perhaps the only way we have of not letting ourselves be swallowed whole by our culture is to kiss the leper, to place our lot with those who have no place within the culture, namely, the poor with their many faces: the aged, the sick, the dying, the unborn, the handicapped, the unattractive, the displaced, and all those others that are not valued by the culture. To touch those who have no place within our culture is to give ourselves a perspective beyond culture.”

It struck a chord in me.  I t reminded me of an article I read a couple of years ago that I have since lost track of.  It talked about  getting close to the poor in the broader sense of the word, increasing our ability to better understand the issues they face daily and the ostracization they experience daily,.   The article, written by a Catholic bishop, urged us to change our language.  Instead of speaking of people as “the” poor,  he urged people to use the words, “our poor”.

We are all one in God, we are his people, his sheep, and we are all each other’s neighbor.  Therefore, those who have health, financial and societal struggles, are our poor.  Hear the difference between “the poor” and “our poor”.  Hear the distance “the” allows and the intimacy of “our”.  One way allows us to create a good, comfortable gap, like not sitting too close to a stranger in the pew.  The other demands we pull people close to us, make their worries our worries, their cares our cares, their success our success.

Consider that those who are depressed or grieving are often given wide berth.  We say the right words, give the hugs, send the cards.  But mostly, we don’t step into their pile of sadness.  Those who look or live differently than we do are accorded the smile, the acknowledgement, the peace be with you even, but we never invite them into our home for a meal.  Yet, God calls us to feed his sheep, not in an impersonal, stand outside the fence way, but in an up close, look into their eyes and hear their heart way.feed-my-sheep

I experienced this recently at a memorial service.  My husband and I had sat down when I noticed a woman sitting alone in a pew opposite ours.  I looked at her for a while.  Then I felt a nudge.  It wasn’t my husband.  “Let’s move over by that woman sitting alone.”  We did.  We introduced ourselves and our connection to the friend we had lost.  She shared her name and explained quietly, with tears, that she was a former in law who still thought fondly about the man who had passed away.  “I knew him for so long.  Maybe longer than anyone else here.”  I hugged her and before the ceremony began, she shared some memories.  During the service, I noticed her crying and put my arm around her.  She took my hand.  After the service we walked out together and hugged.  I don’t remember her name but I will never forget her heart.

This, the week of Thanksgiving, we celebrate a first meal in America, likely fictionalized, to represent a coming together of peoples, vastly different but similar in their kindness.  As the story goes, it was not a meal of silence, of distance but one of open thanksgiving and caring.

This Thanksgiving, many of us are headed to tables laden with food but empty of understanding,  a wide chasm between us and our meal partners.  Perhaps instead of looking at each other as a political party supporter, we get closer and look into each other’s eyes and hear their heart.  Perhaps, we find a similarity of kindness.  Perhaps we see each other as belonging to each other.  One of my favorite Mother Teresa quotes says, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”

I wish you a Thanksgiving of plenty and enough.

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What, Me Worry? – Vision Board Devotion by Wade Anderson

I remember it well. Thorson Hall 118, my sophomore dorm room. It was a Friday night in December, right before finals. I sat in my desk chair while the song “Something’s Always Wrong” by Toad The Wet Sprocket came on the radio, and I started to cry. There was no single horrible thing happening at that time in my life; instead, a handful of smaller things were all going badly, scaring me, making me sad, and making me feel like there was no hope for things to get better. After a bit, my roommate walked in. While not generally the type to embrace other men, he gave me a long hug before walking back out, and I have no doubt that he personified God’s grace at that moment.

Clearly, I made it through that. Twenty-one (yeesh) years later, I’ve got an amazing life: a wonderful wife, three spectacular kids, an engaging and well-paying job, a nice house in a beautiful neighborhood… and yet, sometimes I still get overwhelmed like I did back in my dorm room. There’s so much to be sad about, to be scared of, that I can become immobilized just thinking about it all.

Then, more often than not, I’m reminded about God’s grace in my life. I’m comforted that, while times may be hard now, I’ve got Jesus on my side. We all do. And while we struggle here on Earth—let’s face it, something will always be wrong—we can seek solace in knowing that Jesus faced our same trials, and is working to help us feel better.

What do you do when you find yourself in times of trouble? How do you see God working through you at these times?

The story of Jesus’ capture and crucifixion has always amazed me, and for reasons beyond the obvious.

It amazes me that, even though he knows what’s going to happen, Jesus doesn’t panic. He doesn’t try to escape. On the contrary, he willingly shows his face to the soldiers and Pharisees who come to arrest him. He also doesn’t take Pilate up on his offer to talk Himself out of being crucified. I, for one, would not have had that strength. What Would Wade Do? I would have darted out of there as quickly as possible, a la the troubled investment banker in Sunday’s sermon.

Jesus knew His role, the part that He needed to play, and He accepted it. Because of this, none of us need to fear death as He feared. Because of God’s sacrifice of His son, the troubles of our earthly life are merely a temporary distraction. Our real reward is waiting for us in heaven.

Sacrificing myself for others has always been difficult for me to conceptualize. Now, after having children, the notion of sacrificing one of them is beyond my ability to comprehend. Realizing God did that—for me—speaks to me in a way that I cannot describe, and it keeps me both grateful and humble.

Dear God: help us and comfort us when we are overwhelmed and scared. Remind us that Jesus and the Holy Spirit surround us, embrace us, and can ease our concern. We thank you for sacrificing your Son so that we no longer need to be afraid. We thank you for all of the wonderful things in our lives. Amen.

God’s love in the eyes of a child

My (almost) three-year-old daughter, Clara, recently asked my husband if she could go up to her room so that she could pray.  He then tried to explain to her how God’s is everywhere, and so she can actually pray anywhere she wants to.  My heart melted when I heard this story.  As we are learning in the summer series at church reading through Corinthians – love is intricately complicated; yet common and simple – as shown through the eyes of my daughter.  It made me realize how many other opportunities there are to teach our kids about God’s love and prayer.

The next day, I tried to think of a tactical way to help Clara understand the capacity of God.  I grabbed a glass of water, showed her salt, and mixed them together.  By the next morning, she told me she couldn’t see the salt anymore.  I then asked her if she could taste it, and with a sour face she took a sip and said that she could.  I then tried to explain to her how just like the salt, God can’t be seen…but He is everywhere!  It was like a lightbulb moment as her face lit up with a big smile!

Before bed that evening, I asked Clara what she wanted to pray about, and she said with much enthusiasm, “CANDY!”  In fact, she wanted to pray for candy the next several nights.  Although prayer is all about being authentic, I recently stumbled across this awesome 5 finger prayer to help give her some guidance.  To help her understand who God is, and how she can talk to Him through prayer.  I thought it was a pretty neat idea to share with the other parents out there!

Thumb- Praise God

Index- Confess your sins

Middle- Thank God

Ring- Pray for others

Pinky-Pray for yourself

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How have you taught your children about prayer and God’s love?  Let’s share and encourage each other with inspiring ideas!

When have you had that lightbulb moment about God’s love?

 

Katie Larson is a member of Easter Lutheran Church.  She lives in Eagan with her husband Andrew, and their two young daughters, Clara and Audrey.  In her free time outside of working as a marketing recruiter, Katie enjoys writing on the topic of faith and parenting.

 

Restoration

Some thoughts chase me. Healing, restoration…these have been trailing me lately. Pastor Kris’s recent sermon “Peter Heals” was the catalyst this time. It was beautiful.

During her message she shared how her brother was injured in an auto accident when he was 22 years old. A senior at West Point Academy, Bobby no doubt was a young man with nothing but promise ahead of him. A single moment of time changed the direction of his life, forever. He flew through the windshield of a car. He was left a quadriplegic with significant brain damage. He needed a-round-the clock care for the remaining 26 years of his life.

Kris shared that after his death his caregiver of many years, a deeply spiritual women, called her to tell her that she had a dream the night before. In her dream Bobby was in heaven, and that he had been restored, completely, restored. But the thing that struck her is that he remained in his wheelchair.

Remained in his chair, yet completely, perhaps most importantly, spiritually restored…

Kris shared how she never thought about healing quite the same way again. Maybe I won’t either.

I settled into a yoga class that following Tuesday morning. At the start of class my instructor sat upon her mat, faced her students and asked for Grace. With a heavy sigh she explained that one of her children, a Son who has struggled with drug addiction since his teens, had called her over the weekend asking for help. He was high and combative, and was likely to lose his place to live. In the process of trying to help him, he physically assaulted her.

She was brokenhearted. She shared a bit about her family’s seven year struggle. She asked for prayer.

Upon my mat, staring up at the ceiling I prayed for her family. I prayed for healing, for restoration. I thought about her Son, wondering if he’ll break free from his addiction. I prayed for healing for her brokenness, and for his. I thought about Pastor Kris’s brother Bobby.

Restored in his chair…maybe life altering adversity doesn’t have to cripple our spiritual wholeness.

Pastor Kris suggested that perhaps we assign worldly expectation to what we feel healing should look like, and in doing so maybe we limit God.

And so I’m left with this swirling about…

file000539488754Perhaps healing, the miraculous, crazy crisp, soul cleansing, blanketing kind, the kind that only He can offer, maybe that is best obtained by letting go of our own expectations, remove that which may hinder our renewal, and instead allow Him in. We might never be the same. Maybe we still carry with us the scars of this world. But, He shines them up, restoring us to more than we once were.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 New Living Translation (NLT) 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.


Mindy Lynn Hilo and her family have been members at Easter for eleven years. She is a conformation mentor and a regular contributor to Easter Praise. You can follow Mindy on her personal blog, embracingcharlie.com. Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.

Gratitude and Generosity – Vision Board Devotion by Brad Van Horn

“Gratitude and Generosity,” words that are inextricably intertwined when talking about faith.  Words that are technically prose but are nearly poetry because they have the potential to ignite the imagination and carry with them the power to bring great change when used together.  For a moment, in your mind, consider converting the phrase, “Gratitude and Generosity” to an image of a very long timeline but imagine there is only one point, the now, delineating the segments making up the past and the future.

The gratitude side of the line causes us to reflect on the past, about things that have happened to us or for us.  Some things we recall easily because they’re very tangible and we may experience them every day like being thankful for loving family and friends so we are reminded and re-reminded frequently.  Other things are a little more distant and we have to be vigilant to not let our memories fade, like our gratitude for service men and women who have fought for our freedom.  And then, of course, in this most holy season, as Christians, we must take time to contemplate and have gratitude for the eternal salvation granted to us with the ultimate sacrifice of our savior, Jesus Christ.

Now, remember the image and look at the generosity side of the line, the future, and think of it as a verb.  While it is important to send God our “thank you notes” in the form of prayers, he expects much more from us.  We are also called to action.  Another closely associated phrase, “time, talent, and treasure” have wonderful alliteration and symbolism but it seems like they are used so frequently that their meaning has become diluted. Do we sometimes interpret these words as “Time or Talent or Treasure”?

Because my term on the Vision Board is ending in April, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you for allowing me to learn and grow in the most wondrous of ways.  It has truly been an honor to serve God by serving Easter Lutheran Church.  Easter Lutheran Church is healthy in every sense; spiritually, culturally, and fiscally.  We have the greatest volunteers who are abundantly generous with their time and talent.  We have tremendous plans to do even more incredible work in God’s kingdom and now, more than ever, it is important that we make sure we are properly supporting our ministries and staff by reflecting on all the things for which we are grateful and seizing the opportunity to align our generosity with our gratitude.   Please prayerfully consider the call to action that lies within “Gratitude and Generosity.”

Today Lord, guide my generosity by doing your will with all that I have.  Amen.