BIG Promise Board

BIG Promise Board

Family Corner Idea for Advent Week One – A Promise Big Enough to Save

Create a BIG Promise Board. It can be a white board, chalkboard, bulletin board, made of poster board, construction paper taped together to make a large sheet or it can be a door or window where notes can be taped.Featured image

Have each member of the family make one BIG promise they are willing to try to keep for the first week of Advent. A BIG promise can be many things. Some suggestions are:

  • Be nice to my sisters and brothers.
  • Listen to my parents.
  • Listen to my children.
  • Turn off the TV for the week.
  • Be kind to everyone I meet, even the grumpy and rude.

Have each person write down their promise on a piece of paper and put their name on it. Put each person’s BIG promise on the Promise Board. Talk about what will get in the way of keeping the promise and how that can be handled. Write those ideas on a piece of paper for each promise and put those on the board as well. If a child can’t read or write yet, have them draw a picture of their BIG promise.

Each evening, have members of the family share how they kept their promise today. Write them down and put them on the Promise Board. Talk about how hard or easy it was to keep the promise and how obstacles were handled. Write those down and put them on the promise board too.

On Saturday evening, look at the BIG Promise Board and talk about what was learned about promise keeping. Ask if everyone wants to try and keep their promise for another. Celebrate with a favorite dessert or treat.

Promises Made. Promises Kept.

Each year I write the Advent Devotional for Easter.  I started writing the devotional because my work travel schedule was too constant to commit to volunteer opportunities.  I can write anywhere I am and in between.  I have loved Advent devotionals since the first one I got in Sunday School when I was 5.  Writing the devotional has been a humbling and soul awakening journey.  It is part Bible study, part memoir, part history lesson, part music appreciation, part literature class, part eye opener.  Most of all it has been an amazing ride of love.

This year we will be posting bits of the devotional each day.  The entire devotional can be found as a downloadable PDF at http://easter.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/2014-Advent-Devotional.pdf

Each day contains a scripture, song, reflection, action and prayer.  There is an weekly activity idea that corresponds to that week’s theme.  It is designed for families but can easily be something used by prayer groups, bible study groups or just groups of friends.

A Bit of Advent  Promise Made

The theme for Advent this year is Promise. The weekly themes are:

  • A Promise Big Enough to Save
  • A Promise So Ordinary It’s Easy to Miss
  • A Promise Each of Us Is Invited Into
  • A Promise That Changes the World

We all know what a promise is. An online dictionary defines a promise as “a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen”. Webster’s says a promise is “a reason to expect that something will happen in the future “.

We make promises in baptism, we make them at confirmation, in wedding vows and professional decrees. We make them as children, as parents, as friends, as employees, as borrowers. A promise is reliant on the ability of the one who makes it to carry through. It also requires a willingness to keep the promise. Some take them lightly, others take them very seriously. Some promises are kept, others are broken.

“God never made a promise that was too good to be true.” ― D.L. Moody

What can we expect of God’s promises? One has to look at God’s promises made and kept to get a sense of how he values his promises.

In Genesis 12, God spoke to Abraham of his promise. “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Again in Genesis 22, the promise is repeated.  “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. “

Paul told the Galatians that God’s promise to Abraham was kept through Jesus.  Galatians 3:16 says, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.”

And Paul states in Acts 13, “And we declare unto you glad tidings how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again.”

Big promise made.  Big promise kept.  Promises are a big deal to God.

“At any moment we can demonstrate our faith by taking action that shows our belief in God’s promises!” ― Alisa Hope Wagner

This Advent we will reflect on God’s promises, given and kept. As we ready ourselves and our hearts for Jesus, we will consider Jesus as the proof of a God’s promise kept. We will look for those promises in our daily lives, in our prayers, in our own keeping of promises. We will look under the promise that saved us, its everydayness that makes us miss it, the easy hospitality it gives us and how it has changed the world unlike nothing else. We will also practice celebrating the glorious promise brought to us by natal star.

Song:  Promises https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pB_jxGYXRw

Dear God, Ready us, as we journey again through the Advent season, preparing our hearts to welcome Jesus as a promise kept. Still us, so that we can absorb the bigness of your promise in such a little babe. Thank you for keeping your promise and giving us the richness of love that we know from the story of Jesus’ birth and life. Give us hearts to keep our own promises, big and small. Hear our thanks in our songs and our prayers for showing us the path for keeping promises and keeping us close. In Glory, Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving?

Editor’s note: Thanks to Chris Cairo for this Thanksgiving reflection. 

Recently I was traveling with customers who were from London England, and in discussing schedules the fact that Thanksgiving was coming up prompted the question from one of my English friends:

“Exactly what is Thanksgiving, and what are you giving thanks for?”

I started with a poor summary of the history of the pilgrims, but ended with the simple thought ‘we give thanks to God for all He has given us’.

I know my friend who asked the question is not a church-goer, as we have discussed religion before, and the English are not very religious. The conversation moved on, but I was glad to have had the opportunity to bring God into the conversation, even if just for a moment.

Hill cross --Advent program--from Julie McCarty--smaller with sigWhat about on Thanksgiving Day? Do we bring God into our conversation? …maybe just for a moment??

Psalm 95:1-2; “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”

It sure sounds like Thanksgiving should be joyful…and last longer than a moment.

Thursday, how will you give thanks to God? Will it be for a moment while someone says Grace before you eat? Or will it be all day? Everyday?

If you take the time to think about all you have been given, you will find you have much to be thankful for. Thanking God, is the least we can do.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chris

Chris Cairo is a member of Easter Lutheran’s Vision Board. 

Oh-Yes…my Ugly Step Children

I love Thanksgiving. It’s the one time of the year when I peel potatoes, whip-um up with heavy cream, butter, and cream cheese (I mean that’s a call for celebration alone). Pair my mashed potatoes with all the other turkey day deliciousness, a glass of wine and most importantly great company and there you have it-a lovely holiday. Normally my house is filled with loved ones on Thanksgiving. The bird gets cooked in my oven. Last year was an exception.

I was driving to work on a Tuesday morning-a Tuesday like every other.  It was the week prior to Thanksgiving. I was chatting with my hubby through Bluetooth-our quick “hey I’m off to work, have a great day” conversation. I was turning from one county road onto another-following a green traffic arrow through an intersection. When, much to my husband’s horror, he heard the sound of screeching tires against pavement, crushing metal, and finally…my screams. The driver of the other vehicle had barreled through his red light. He struck the drivers side of my vehicle propelling and spinning it through the intersection.
A moment later there was a man at my broken drivers side window, a window I was certain I had broken with the force of my head. I looked in his direction but couldn’t make out the features of his face. He told me that an ambulance was on its way and that he would stay with me. That was my last memory of the accident scene-as if someone switched a light off. The police officer told my husband that I wasn’t lucid and could only follow simple instruction.

The rest of that day, and even the hours leading up to the accident is a discombobulated string of memories with whole chunks of time unaccounted for. I remember lying on my back, seemingly tied down wondering where I was, when I saw my husband’s face over me. His face I could see clearly. He explained where I was, what day it was and more importantly where my kids were (safe at school, thank goodness). I asked him in a matter-of-fact unemotional way if I was dead, and then I asked if he was dead (so sorry my Love).

It’s taken me months to process what took place that day. Just a month or so ago, thinking about the events of that day, I realized that I never saw the faces of the people who helped me that day. Not a single one-not the crash witness who came to my side, not a police officer, not an EMT, not a single doctor or nurse. My memories include looking towards them but unable to process their faces. I’m sure there is all kinds of science behind this-my bruised brain not being able to take in a new face.

Here is the beautiful thing…in that same hospital room where I couldn’t take in the face of a stranger, the faces of my loved ones were as clear as any other day. My very alive husband (again, sorry Love), my dear friend, who made it to the accident scene, announced she was my sister and climbed into the passengers seat of the ambulance, my mother, my sister, my brother-in-law-all crystal clear and comforting. My brain-my heart, already had a place for their images…what a blessing.

So, this Thanksgiving when my house is full and I’m on my second piece of whip cream loaded pumpkin pie, I’ll be thankful for the faces I love.

My Thanksgiving reflection, well this year it’s so simple.

“Thank you Jesus for the faces of my loved ones, for images that are etched deep inside of who I am-certainly, this Lord, is a reflection of abundant blessings.”

Oh-and Yes…I guess I must confess, apparently I have ugly step children. When you’ve been hit in the noggin doctors and nurses come in one after the next to ask questions-seemingly this helps determine just how many lights have been knocked out. When asked how many children I had, with an unsympathetic seriousness I told a doctor that I have four (nope, not true-just two), the oldest two were from my husband’s first marriage (umm…married to my high school sweetheart-I’m his first and only), making them ugly children (hmm, this one is tricky, I guess I’m quite comfortable, even on a subconscious level, with my husbands frequent declarations similar to “Thank Goodness you look like your Mother.”, My Love, seriously…terribly sorry). The kicker, I won’t claim them as my own (you know on the account of their ugliness). Really? Yikes-this-I have no answer for. Perhaps…it’s time for some self-reflection.

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Experience opens our eyes

Easter member Chris Cairo has his own college ministry where he stays in touch with young men he’s mentored over the years via e-mail blog posts periodically. What follows is one of his reflections he agreed to share with us on our blog. 

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Our friends in Tanzania (southeast corner of African continent–click on photos to enlarge)

I don’t know about you, but Ebola worries me. The first nurse getting infected bothered me, but the second one really gets one thinking. Why aren’t we doing more to contain this??

Hmmm, where was I two or three months ago when this was spreading in Africa?  Was this even on my radar screen?  (Probably not) …yours?

This is precisely why Easter Church sends our youth to places such as Heart Butte, Montana and Cortez, Colorado, and people to Guatemala and Tanzania…beyond the community work we do on these trips (which is good), mission trips expose us to the world beyond Eagan, MN, where life is…well, VERY good compared to some of these places.

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Our friends in Tanzania (click on photos to enlarge)

It opens our eyes to the needs of others in ways that the internet can’t (and never will). We begin to care about others who are very different and very far from us.

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) Jesus tells us “therefore go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS’, and to make disciples one must care for/love that person first.

DSCN2016We must care about what’s going on with Ebola in Africa, not because we are worried it will spread here, but because we are concerned with what it is doing to those we love there.

There is a lesson in this for us don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

Editor’s note: Thank you to Andrea and Matt Brokl for their photos of Tanzania. 

 

Intimacy Is Essential – FaithGateway

I have the pleasure of recieving via email daily devotionals and weekly Bible Study snipets from a website called Faith Gateway. This particular one was worth sharing. If you are looking for good Biblical truth consider signing up for FaithGateway’s daily or weekly messages.

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Intimacy Is Essential – FaithGateway.

Then once you’ve read this post about how much God loves you even through the hard times, take a few minutes to watch this YouTube video of “Beautiful Things” by Gungor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1spkhp41ig4

Crack the Door

Today’s post is from Intern Pastor Brandon Newton: 

 As we celebrate All Saints’ Day, a short reflection on a living saint, my dad, and his influence on my life of faith.

As the product of a Midwestern farmer, I didn’t move far from cornfields for college. I found myself at Wartburg in Waverly, Iowa, majoring in Religion. I thought I had faith and I enjoyed working with youth, so was chasing a career in youth ministry. But as I spent more time at a college of the church, I started to ask more questions about faith. Not just faith, but going to church in general. I began to wonder if there was much point in going to church and my prayer life had reached an all-time low. I didn’t feel as connected to God through prayer and became convinced my prayers didn’t matter.

Rex NewtonDuring fall break I returned home to help with harvest. Dad and I went to a nearby town to grab lunch at the bowling alley (sounds strange, I know, but in a small town the restaurant was also the bowling alley). As we left with full bellies, my dad started his rusty farm truck when another farmer ran out after him.

The farmer spoke briefly to my dad. “Can you please pray for my wife? She has surgery tomorrow and I’m really worried about her.” That was it. No more details. Perhaps farmers just know what is going on in each other’s lives or perhaps prayers don’t need to be as detailed as I sometimes think. My dad replied, “I’ll be sure to pray for her.”

That’s when it hit me. My dad prays. Outside of our common mealtime grace, I never heard my dad pray or offer prayer. But as a young adult wondering if I had faith and if there was a place for me in the church, I learned that my dad prays—and that made all the difference. My dad prays, so will I. My dad believes in God, so will I. My dad has faith and there is room for him in the church, so there is room for me.

I stuck with this whole faith thing and will just offer one lesson to readers:  let your children or others catch you praying. I know that Matthew 6:6 offers a different vision by saying “but whenever you pray, go to your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” My dad’s faith and prayer life was too secret. In the parking lot he cracked the door a little bit allowing one small glimpse into his faith and that made all the difference. I encourage you, if you are praying in secret, please leave the door cracked open a bit and let your children or others catch you praying.

Illuminating the Masks We Wear: An Important Part of the Spiritual Journey

One morning a few weeks ago, as my husband, Kent passed my office on the way out the door to work, he saw a strange sight. It was 7:30 in the morning, the sunlight was shining through the stained glass window in my office onto the mask that I have hanging on the opposite wall. The mask is one that I made as part of a class recently to symbolize the transformation of becoming our authentic selves.

Stained Glass Window     Mask_Regular

The sun was illuminating the mask in the most profound way. It was odd enough that this happened once, but when it happened again the next day, I concluded that this was too much of a coincidence to ignore.

 Mask Illuminated

I found myself asking these questions. Is there a message that the Holy Spirit is sending that I am supposed to pay attention to? If so, what is the message? Who is the intended recipient of this message? Is it for me because it’s my office, my mask? Is the message for Kent because he is the one who witnessed it first-hand? As I contemplated this, I have come to believe that the message is for each and every one of us. Illuminating the masks that we wear, that cover up our authentic selves, is an important part of the spiritual journey.

As part of the inner work that I have done over the past couple of years to become an effective energy healer, we learned that as humans we unconsciously create masks to portray an image of ourselves to the outer world. It’s what we think we need to do or be in order to be loved or to feel safe. The masks are really covering up feelings of inadequacy, fear, pride, will, anger, judgment, or criticism. These masks are a state of inauthenticity– it is not who we really are.

One mask we might wear is the “serenity mask”. The message we portray to the world when we wear this mask is, “Let’s not talk about anything bad. Let’s just be nice, whatever you want to think, say or do is okay with me. I don’t ever get hurt – ever”. When we wear this mask we avoid uncomfortable feelings of anger, grief, fear, and pain and the conflicts or confrontations that might occur if we express these real feelings. We wear this serenity mask because deep within us we are hiding the fear of aggression; so we may seek safety through isolation.

Another mask we might wear is the “power/will mask” that portrays to the world, “I can do anything. I will not say ‘No’. I am capable of everything and anything and I will push my way through it so that I don’t disappoint anyone. I will endure.” We wear this mask when we are unconsciously covering up our terror of feeling inadequate.

Another mask that is very common in spiritual communities is the “love mask”. We wear this mask to draw people in through an artificial facade of love. The way that this manifests is portraying to the outer world that we love everyone and everything, and we deny that we have any thoughts or feelings that are undesirable. “I love everyone. I have no ugliness in me. I walk in only bliss and peace all day.” This love mask hides the terror of hatred unconsciously within us.

Have you ever worn any of these masks? I know that I have. I think there are many times people feel that they need to wear these masks in order to be good Christians. Jesus demonstrated authenticity. He expressed feelings of anger driving the Money Changers from the Temple (John 2:13-17). He expressed anguish when he said to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “ My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father if it is possible may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will (Matthew 26:36 – 39). When the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus saying that the law commanded them to stone her, Jesus said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” When they all walked away, Jesus extended mercy to the woman and said, “Has no one condemned you? Then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:3-11).

A recent example that I believe beautifully demonstrates authenticity is how Pr. Kris and her sister Kim so vulnerably shared their thoughtful responses to the question, “How are you doing?” upon the recent death of their mother Karen on Karen’s Caring Bridge site on October 13 and 15, 2014.

They could have chosen to wear the “serenity mask” and not say anything that would make anyone uncomfortable and only shared how they may have been blessed by this experience. They could have chosen to wear the “love mask” and sugar-coated and covered up the pain that they are experiencing. They could have chosen to wear the “power/will mask” and given a message that they will push their way through this, they will endure no matter what.

Instead, they honestly shared about the pain that they have experienced as well as the blessings. They shared both the challenges and difficulties they experienced, their palpable grief from the loss of someone whom they loved dearly, and how it has impacted their lives and the lives of others who knew and loved Karen. They were not speaking through a mask when they wrote their responses to that question. They were honest and authentic, and I respect and admire them for the courage and vulnerability that this requires. Pr. Kris did not portray that she has to embody a super-human strength just because she is a pastor. It helped me to connect with her on a deeper level, as a human being who is on this journey along with the rest of us.

So as I look at that photo of my mask being illuminated by the light shining brightly upon it, I am reminded that God is calling me to become consciously aware of the masks that I wear. The Holy Spirit is gently nudging me to look underneath these masks to discover the fears from which I might be hiding. Why might I feel inadequate? Why might I be afraid of someone being aggressive towards me? Why might I be terrified of feeling hatred? The spiritual journey invites us to look deeply within and get in touch with these things so that they can be healed. And when we do, our core essence of light and love is able to shine through us effortlessly and we will be empowered to share our true, authentic selves with the world.

Thank you God, for the difficulties and blessings we experience on this spiritual journey. May your Holy Spirit illuminate the masks that we have created in order to feel safe, or to be loved. Be with us as we find the courage within us to seek to heal the fears that lie underneath these masks. And as we do, may we experience the abundance of your divine essence flowing through us and become more of our authentic selves that we are called to be. And so it is.

Excerpts taken from Rukha® Academy of Healing Arts and Science – Living With Consciousness™.