Damn You

By Chris Cairo

Image spotted on Equal Rights Institute Blog (see below for more info) -- "If what you’re doing remotely looks like what Westboro Baptist Church protests looks like, it’s worth immediate reevaluation. Image: LonelyConservative.com"

Image found on Equal Rights Institute Blog (see below for more info) — “If what you’re doing remotely looks like what Westboro Baptist Church protests looks like, it’s worth immediate reevaluation. Image: LonelyConservative.com”

One recent night, as we left the Minnesota Timberwolves game and waited for the train to come, we had a front row view to a guy “preaching” from on top of a stool across the street.

You may have seen this style before, flanked by two supporters with large signs, he yelled out his message: basically damning most of us who don’t live up to the standards he feels the bible states. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen these guys downtown.

After another game earlier this year I witnessed two guys on the train single out a twenty something young man for a conversation, “Hey, do you believe in God?…Do you go to church?…” They were friendlier than the guy last night, but no less aggressive.

Have you encountered this style of evangelism before? Maybe on your campus? Where you shop? The workplace?

I question its effectiveness.

It seems to me that Jesus taught us a much different way to spread the Gospel (that is, “the good news”).

Yes, He told the woman caught in adultery “to go and sin no more” (John 8), but first He dissipated the angry crowd by saying, “If any of you are without sin, let him throw the first stone,” and then, as He spoke to her alone, Jesus starts by saying, “Neither do I condemn you.”

Jesus goal, never seemed to be to shame, ridicule, or to mock someone. Even in calling for repentance, as in the above story or with the woman at the well,  He did so in a manner that was gentle, and guiding in its message, to point a person in the right direction. To point towards God.

And that is what I think He asks each of us to do.

Best way to preach the Good News?  Live it.  

Heart

 

Note: For related reading, see  “3 Great Points about Angry Street Preaching from Stand to Reason” by Josh Brahm on Equal Rights Institute Blog.  Photo of angry street preachers was found on that sight, with reference to the image source: LonelyConservative.com. 

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Love 101

Although I was involved in many different ministries over my years as a parishioner at my former Catholic parish, the ministry that meant the most to me was Loaves and Fishes.

In fact, even after I joined Easter Lutheran over a year ago, I volunteered to stay involved with Loaves and Fishes through my former parish.

Volunteers from that parish are responsible for cooking and serving a meal to as many as 250 people once each month at St. Stephen’s Church in Minneapolis. Generous parishioners also make donations to cover the entire cost of the meal.

DSCN0245That group of volunteers and donors comes together to provide a meal to the homeless, the unemployed, the working poor, the mentally ill and to any other person who is hungry… and who is our brother and sister.

For the past 29 years, I have made the trip to south Minneapolis each month to be part of the Loaves and Fishes serving team. I am part of a group of about 25 people who serve the meal that has been lovingly prepared earlier in the day by parish volunteer cooks.

Now, I will be the first to admit to you that I am not a scripture scholar… not even a little bit! But, when a scripture passage hits home to me, as it most certainly does in this quotation from Matthew’s 25th chapter, I need to take action.

In that quotation, Jesus says at the last judgment, “For I was hungry and you gave me food… I was thirsty and you gave me drink”

And, if we ask Jesus when we fed him and gave him drink, he will say, “I assure you, when you did it for one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it for me!”

For whatever doubts I have had with religion over the years and for whatever doubts I have in what I personally believe, I do know one thing for sure… Jesus Christ gave me an example of how I must live my life. How he led his own life on earth is a standard that I want and need to keep.

For all of these years, I have never, ever, tired of this ministry of Loaves and Fishes. It is a simple way to respond to the command of Jesus that we are truly our brother’s and sister’s keepers. It allows each of us as cooks and servers and donors to make a difference in somebody’s life…to live the gospel.

We, in effect, bring Jesus to the people eating our simple meal of salad, fruit, sloppy joes and beans. But, in another sense, the people we serve at Loaves and Fishes bring Jesus to us, as well.

Loaves and Fishes 004For you see, all types of people come through that serving line to receive our free meal. And, sometimes, it is pretty easy to tell that some of these folks are really down on their luck. But, that’s when Jesus makes his most meaningful appearance in my life because, through the life-worn faces of people coming through our serving line, I truly see the face of Jesus, on earth.

By serving these people, the command of Jesus… to feed my brothers and sisters… becomes so incredibly real to me, more than hearing the same words at church or reading those same words from my Bible. The people served at Loaves and Fishes create a spiritual experience for me and they strengthen my faith.

So, what has this ministry opportunity of having the privilege of feeding people meant to me? I truly believe that it is not enough to “know my faith”. It is imperative that I “act my faith”.

Loaves and Fishes gives me the chance to bring Jesus to others as well as have Jesus brought to me. It’s “Love 101”.

                                                                                                                          

Ron Jackelen continues to serve at Loaves and Fishes at St. Stephens in Minneapolis and also volunteers through Loaves and Fishes at the Easter Lutheran Community Meal.

A Living Death

A Living Death

When I was a child, I spent most of my time waiting to grow up and be independent. I wished my childhood away. Blessed with the opportunity to attend college away from home, I could not believe or fully comprehend my good fortune. Then something unexpected happened during my first visit home from college. I experienced a sense of detachment from the rest of my family. I did not belong there in the same way I did or like my siblings who were still living there. They saw me differently and perhaps I acted differently. I was independent. It was what I had always wanted but when it happened I was sad. In that moment I recognized the end of something big and my heart was struck by the loss of it. Life flooded me with classes, studying, new friends, a boyfriend and the excitement of college life. I never looked back. I did not have time to look back.

Engaged before graduation, I was neck deep in wedding planning, job hunting and moving to a new city before I ever left college. I loved school but it was time for my college days to be done. I was running in the direction of adulthood and married life. Wedding PhotoThe life I knew in school was over and the person I was as a student was gone. There was deep sadness with that realization but the busyness of preparing for my new life did not allow me to think about it but for a moment. I never looked back. I did not have time to look back.

As the wedding approached, I practiced signing my new name. I struggled with taking my fiancé’s last name. It was not that I was terribly attached to the name I was given at birth but I did not want to erase it either. It was culturally what I was expected to do. Every other married woman I knew changed her name. I understood that I would be someone new after the wedding even without a name change. People I met as a married person would never know me as an individual. I would from that time forward be defined by another person, by another family, without much evidence of who I was previously. I practiced and practiced writing my new name until it began to look familiar. When I was handed the marriage certificate I signed it with a trembling hand. I never looked back. I did not have time to look back.

A few years later, pregnant with my first child and on bed rest with preterm labor, any evidence of my youth was shattered. There was a transforming pressure in the realization that I was completely responsible for another human being. Every decision I made would directly support or threaten my unborn child. I prayed for us both to survive. I prayed for the pain to subside. I prayed for the pregnancy to come to a swift and positive end. Every moment of every day for more than 6 weeks I spent trying to stay pregnant, manage pain and cope with the life threatening implications of a situation I could not control. On February 21, 1990 at 2:32AM my daughter burst into the world a month early, yellow and limp. My body was torn apart. Immediately after birth, a nurse rushed our newborn to the ICU.   My Megan as a newborn 022492husband worried about leaving me alone but sprinted behind the racing nurse after I made him promise to not allow our daughter out of his sight. Several days later, a tiny child was placed in my weakened arms and I was wheeled to the door of the hospital. There was no time to rest or heal. There was a child who needed me, depended on me for survival. I needed to devote all my strength and energy to being a mother. I never looked back. I did not have time to look back.

Standing in the parking lot of a popular daycare center, I wrapped my colic baby in my arms attempting to picture myself entrusting her to the caregivers on the other side of the glass door in front of me. The thought of it caused me physical pain. I reminded myself that every mother I knew went back to work a few weeks after giving birth. I spent time and money earning a degree so I could have a career. It was my dream. Many people fought and sacrificed for me to have the opportunity to go to school. How could I let them down? How could I let myself down? In that parking lot clinging tightly to my child I made a choice that changed everything. I decided that I wanted more than anything in the world to take care of my child full time. I did not accept the title “stay-at-home mom” easily but there was nothing in this world I desired more definitively. The person I thought myself to be was redefined in that moment. The trajectory of my life shifted in a direction I never before considered. I never looked back. I did not have time to look back.

Life continued at fever pitch bringing with it love, struggle, fun, loss, self-discovery, self-doubt, health issues, another challenging pregnancy and a second child. I often teased about earning an honorary medical degree with the hours I spent in doctor’s offices, addressing all of our health challenges. While other mom’s complained of scattered toys or the toilet paper roll unfurled around the house, my heart soared with gratitude for the normal play of a healthy child. Some days lasted forever it seemed but the years sped by. Sleepless nights spent feeding babies were replaced with sleepless nights waiting for teenagers to arrive home. There were concerts and games to attend, leotards and football uniforms to wash, holidays to celebrate, birthday parties to plan, homework to complete and college applications to submit. Suddenly it seemed my young adult children did not require my assistance as they once did. My role as mother morphed into trusted adviser and observer. I was transformed from one person into someone new without so much as a breath between. Version 2I never looked back. I did not have time to look back.

Today both my children are college graduates and working in other states. I cannot help but laugh when I think about it. It seems they are each living the dream I once held for myself. I have plenty of time to ponder such notions now. What might have been? What actually happened? It is as if I died and now my life is flashing before my eyes. While reflecting on my life, I now see I have died this sort of living death many times before. At the end of each stage of life a part of me had to give way in order for me to continue living. The difference this time is that another task or responsibility is not bearing down upon me. Life seems oddly suspended and pregnant with choices or nothingness depending on the day. Instead of hurrying to the next thing, I am left to rest, to wonder about the future. While I rest I pray that I am purposeful and intentional with my choices about the person I am becoming. There is now time to look back, gather all that life has taught me and set that knowledge into action as I begin yet another new life.

Dear God,  Thank you for this time of rest, reflection and rebuilding. Please help me to remember with gratitude all the beauty and blessings I have received in this lifetime as well as the challenges. Help me to see struggle and loss as preparation for becoming the person I will be in the next phase of life. Teach me to recognize when others are experiencing times of transition from one life to another so I can show them compassion.

Thank you for another chance at new life here on earth. This unhurried time is allowing me to learn from my past and see the potential life holds for me still. You continue to provide examples of life, death and new life each day. Help me to lean on those examples to embrace and appreciate what is happening now and what is yet to come.

Love, Jean

John 11:25,26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?

Mark 1: 29 – 31 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paying Attention…to the Holy Spirit

(Note: Below is a reflection I offered at church on Sunday, a few weeks back. I was asked to share a personal faith story relating to Matthew 1:18-25, the story of Mary and Joseph’s call to be the parents of Jesus.) 

In today’s gospel reading, we hear about the amazing ways God sometimes communicates: Mary has her angelic vision, and Joseph has his remarkable dream. These things are recorded in the bible because they were outstanding experiences –God knew they needed these angelic visions because of the extraordinary calling to become the parents of our Savior.

007-prophecies-birth-jesus--from freebibleimages dot org

I am given to thinking, though, that for most of the time, Mary and Joseph found their inner peace in ordinary ways: in paying attention to the Holy Scripture, in praying, in practicing Sabbath, in listening to their rabbi, in watching the seasons of nature and the experiences of ordinary family living.

I would like to share a time when my husband Terry and I felt that the Holy Spirit helped us in a way that felt extraordinary — and yet others might see as “ordinary”…

capture-ely-minnesota-2-from-google-maps (1)We were fairly new to Minnesota, having moved here from Arizona/New Mexico, and we were excited about camping up in the Northland.  On this particular trip, we were tenting near Ely (EE–lee–rhymes with “really”) in mid-summer, and things weren’t going so well. We came to the place for the quiet, and instead heard loud partying late into the night, just two spaces away. We came for hiking, but the generous use of bug repellent didn’t keep the mosquitoes from swarming around us (it was a cloudy, muggy day, and apparently they knew we were “green Minnesotans” and took special delight in annoying us). Yes, too buggy outside the tent and too humid inside the tent…

In the midst of all this, we had this one night of intense heat, humidity, and unusual stillness… How could this be the frigidly cold Minnesota I’d always heard about?

In the morning, we saw a gray cloud appear in the west (you will recall campers didn’t have “weather apps” in those days). We considered cutting the trip short and going home, but wondered if that would keep us from becoming “hardy Minnesotans”?

In the end, we hurriedly threw our tent in the car and headed home. We were only as far as the city of Virginia, when the darkness hit in midday and the wind and torrents of rain forced us to stop at a restaurant.  Inside, a crowd of people was huddled by the door, talking about how bad this storm was.

Eventually, we made it home okay. The next morning, the news reported that this was a gargantuan size storm– you may remember this storm! It happened on July 4, 1999, and you may recall it took a full week to rescue all the campers in the Boundary Waters due to the millions of trees downed (they couldn’t even hike around all those trees).  [Note: You can read about this special, unique storm, called a “derecho”,  on the National Weather Service link: July 4, 1999 storm. ]

U.S. FOREST SERVICE PHOTO -- BWCAW blowdown on July 4, 1999.

U.S. FOREST SERVICE PHOTO — BWCAW blowdown on July 4, 1999.

holy-spirit-stained-glass-window-julie-mccarty-spiritual-drawing-boardWhen I think of this experience, I always think of the Holy Spirit. One could say it was a “coincidence” that we decided to go home, but I think it was more than that. We didn’t have some fancy spiritual experience with “special effects,” but I think the Holy Spirit was our “advocate” on that day, nudging us to pay attention to the signs around us, to pick up our tent and return home.

So, yes, sometimes the Holy Spirit brings us peace through the “special effects” of holy visions and rarefied dreams, but other times, I think the Spirit of God reveals things through ordinary, hidden ways, and waits to see what we will do with it. It is in responding to God’s invitation, with love in our hearts, that brings true inner peace.

 

Julie McCarty is a freelance writer, spiritual director, and volunteer coordinator of Easter Praise blog. She also writes spiritual reflections and prayers on  Spiritual Drawing Board blog , and “Spiritual Drawing Board…” on Facebook.