A Holy Place For The Broken – Vision Board Devotion by Catherine Byers-Breet

His name was Vince. He came up to me one Tuesday (after the Easter Job Transitions Group meeting wrapped up) to say “Thank you for this group. I’m new, and today was really helpful.” He started to walk away and I said “So, Vince … how can I help with your search?” He looked back at me, his eyes filled with tears, and said “I’m not sure. I don’t know what I need. Got any ideas about what I can tell my wife and kids? I’ve been unemployed for 15 months. I’ve had 29 phone screens, and not one of them has turned into a real interview. I just don’t know what to tell them anymore.” 6 weeks later, Vince was at work in a leadership role at a reputable company.

Mary had been unemployed for 6 months and was about to lose her house. At 63, she was convinced she would never work again. 3 days later, she got hired by a former coworker who, until then, she had been too embarrassed to call.

These are just two of hundreds of stories like this. Since December of 2008, over 2300 people have come to our group (40-80 people per week). Only 136 of them have been Easter members. 94% are something else. Talk about blurring the lines between church and community!

I would never claim that I – or our job transitions group – were the only reason Vince and Mary were able to stand back up again and go get those jobs. However, I know for certain that we – and God – had a hand in it. Every Tuesday morning, Easter offers a safe, inspiring place for so many to gather and get great advice, wonderful connections and a bucket full of “Yes … you can!”

For many Christians, church is just a place you go on Sundays. Before joining Easter, I thought “church” was done by pastors and staff … and that the congregation just showed up when they needed something. Now I know that “church” is all of us. At Easter, Sunday is the special place we go to recharge our batteries … so we can go out and do God’s most important work: the stuff that happens in the spaces between the Sundays.

I am so proud of what happens in our church every Tuesday morning. But here’s the crazy thing: the Job Transitions Group is just ONE of the over 20 important ministries running at Easter on any given day! If you’re wondering what our church is doing for our congregation and our community, show up for a community meal or local mission event. Better yet, turn to the person sitting next to you on Sunday and ask them if they’ve tried out any of the small groups of ministries at Easter. I think you’ll be delighted by what you hear. If not, perhaps you can inspire each other to try something new in the spaces between your Sundays. What’s waiting for you on the other side of that is pure magic.

God’s work. Our hands.

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Do you give up?

By John Peterson

Easter Lutheran window butterfly

Easter is here! He is Risen!

Matthew 6: 16-18: 

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” 

Forty Days imageForty some odd days ago, Ash Wednesday was upon us and many of our Catholic and other Christian brothers and sisters use that day as the first of 40 days to give up something for Lent. It may be something like chocolate, television, a favorite food, social media or something else that is important to you. My children would sometimes give up watermelon. Although it is a favorite of theirs, it was a questionable “sacrifice” as it is hard to find watermelon in February and March… sometimes I think they missed the point.  I have always understood giving something up for Lent would be a reminder of the sacrifice Christ gave for me whenever I thought about whatever it was I gave up.

As a Christian, shouldn’t Christ’s sacrifice be something that we reflect on all year long? Shouldn’t we always remember what Christ did for us on the cross? For me, I don’t always remember these sacrifices. I am guilty of selfishly focusing on what I perceive to be the sacrifices I give up for my work, my friends and my family and not on the real sacrifices that Christ gave up for us.

I read a story about a father who was talking to his son about what he gave up for Lent. His son said he gave up fighting with his brothers and sisters. When his father asked him how it was going the son replied, “I’m doing pretty well, Dad – but I can’t wait until Easter”. This story says a lot about how we can feel as Christians. We may give something up for 40 days, but if we don’t remember that this is a sacrifice we miss the point. Anything we give up should remind us of the greatest sacrifice that Jesus gave for every one of us. Reflecting on His sacrifice and focusing our lives to live as Christ lived helps us to “grow in faith and carry on the work of Jesus Christ”.

 

Stained glass window at Easter Lutheran Church

 

Dear Lord – We thank you for the ultimate sacrifice you gave for us. Help us to understand the extent of your love for us and help us to pass a portion of that love on to others. We thank you for the Easter promise and we thank you for loving us so much that you gave your only Son so that we may live. Bless us as we live our lives according to your will. Amen.  

Lenten activities for children

As Easter approaches, I have been trying to incorporate some devotions about the Lenten season into my children’s lives. Behind the Easter bunny, coloring eggs, and lots of candy…I want my kids to know what this holiday is truly about. I have included some of my favorite ideas, and I hope that this can help spark some conversation in your own family as well.

What are some other Easter traditions that your family shares?

Jelly Bean Prayer
This is one of my favorite prayers that I remember from childhood. It is short and sweet, but can bring more meaning by including in your kid’s Easter baskets next to all of their treats.

Red is for the blood He gave
Green is for the grass He made
Yellow is for the sun so bright
Orange is for the edge of night
Black is for the sins we made
White is for the grace He gave
Purple is for His hours of sorrow
Pink is for our new tomorrow!

(http://www.thatswhatchesaid.net/2014/jelly-bean-prayer-free-printable/)

Resurrection Easter Egg Hunt
Here is a fun Easter egg hunt idea I found, where you can walk your child through the Gospel at the same time. Gather 6 plastic eggs (each a different color). Place the items below in each egg, and tell your child the Resurrection story while they open them.

Bread crumb: Jesus ate dinner with His friends (Luke 22:14-15)
Cross: The next day, Jesus died on the cross (John 19:17-18)
Strip of cloth/tissue: He was wrapped in cloth and placed in a tomb (John 19:40)
Rock: A stone was placed in front of the tomb (Matthew 27:59-60)
Empty egg: Jesus’ friends came to the tomb and saw that it was empty! (Luke 24:1-3)
Candy: Jesus is alive, and that is the sweet surprise of Easter! (Matthew 28:5-6)

(http://happyhomefairy.com/2012/04/01/resurrection-eggs-for-toddlers/)

Lenten Prayer Chain
Remember those paper chains from when you were a kid?! A fun idea I found was to create a chain long enough to cover each day of Lent (or what is left of this season). On each chain, have your child write something that they would like to pray for, or a good deed.

A similar idea I found, was to create a “prayer pot” full of Popsicle sticks, where your child can write on each of them. Every day throughout Lent, they can pull one out and accomplish what they had written.

(http://fromthesheepfold.blogspot.com/2011/03/try-this-lent.html)

Teaching about grace – at home activity
This is a wonderful visual representation on how Christ washes away our sins with the help of a few common materials you have around the house.

Me & You (cup 1): Tap Water
Sin (cup 2): Water and Iodine
Jesus (cup 3): Water and Bleach

Watch this short video clip to see how it works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZN0DzWLthU

Resurrection Rolls                                                                                                                                     A sweet breakfast treat on Easter morning! Why are they called Resurrection rolls? You use a marshmallow in the recipe, and when the sweet rolls bake up, the marshmallow disappears! The “tomb” is found empty! Check out this link for pictures and step-by-step baking instructions: http://thelarsonlingo.blogspot.com/2012/04/ressurection-rolls.html

Don’t forget the Easter egg hunt this weekend at Easter Lutheran Church by the Lake! Check out this link for more details: http://easter.org/wordpress/?page_id=6648

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May everyone have a blessed Easter!!

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.

Bless You!

I was an only child. Still am, if you want to get technical.

Because of that, I remember my Mom being wildly overprotective of me when I was growing up. I make frequent jokes about feeling like she wanted to cover me in bubble wrap whenever I went outside to ensure I didn’t get damaged.  That memory of being smothered (s-mothered?) was one of my main arguments for having more than one child when Sara and I started talking about our own family 15 years ago; I didn’t want my own child to feel as tethered as I did.

But when I think about it? I was allowed to do so many things I wouldn’t let my kids do now.  Or, I could do things freely that cause me now to hesitate and second-guess and worry about when it comes to my own brood.  I played football in second grade.  In fifth grade I would take off on my bike on Saturday morning (by myself) and ride all around my hometown (by myself), and not come home until dark.  Speaking of dark, in 7th grade, my friends and I would walk around the city after football games on Friday nights, not being due back home until midnight.

Would open-minded, free-spirited me let my kids do these three things? Begrudgingly, doubtful, and are you kidding me??

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Earlier this week, Laura Backman came to our house to film the final video for the Faith Five series that has been playing during the Children’s Message on Sundays for the past month. Step five is “bless.”  As in, after you share, read, talk, and pray, each family member is supposed to bless each other.   While our family is pretty adept at the “share” step (we have been regular high-and-low-ers for nearly two years), the blessing step is a new addition.  At first, I struggled.  What, exactly, do I say?  Also, what gives me the right to bless someone else in God’s name?  Finally I settled on “God be with you” while touching the head of each kid, although I reserve the right to change that to something more pithy in the future.

While I was pondering this whole blessing topic earlier this week, my mind shifted to the memories I shared above. While my parents did not explicitly bless me, I have no doubt that God was with me along those childhood journeys—accompanying me, keeping me safe, and always returning me home before curfew.  (Except for that one time, but let’s not talk about that right now.)

Similarly, I know that God is watching over my family as they go out into the world whether I perform my clunky blessing each night or not. However, that doesn’t make the act any less important.  For one, I think it is a great reminder for the kids to help them remember that God is with them throughout their days.  While they are still relatively early in their education, school can certainly make one feel separate and apart; I hope hearing that God walks with each of them gives them some solace.

CM_PrayerOfBlessing

Just as important, though, is that the blessing reminds *me* that they are not walking alone. While I never won’t worry, ever since starting to do the nightly blessing I have felt more reassured that God is present in their day-to-day lives.  I know this won’t prevent them from ever hurting, but I am hopeful that it will make that hurt more tolerable.  (And, no, I still am not going to let them walk around on Friday nights until midnight.)

 

Dear God. Thank you for your abundant and undeserved blessings you give us.  Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit, who accompanies us throughout our days and reminds us of Your presence and grace.  Bless our families with peace and happiness and health.  Encourage us to bless others, to help us remember Your love for us. AMEN.

Chocolate Atonement

The one and only time I gave up something for Lent was more than, ahem… a dozen or so years ago.

I wasn’t raised in a Christian home-I was in my twenties and passionately navigating my faith walk.  As this particular Lenten season approached, I announced quite stoically to my husband that I would be giving up Chocolate for Lent. It would be my Grand sacrifice for Christ. I give in big ways (sarcasm intended).

Well… it felt like an epic failure-a Dove chocolate dipped creamy vanilla ice-cream kind-of failure to be exact.

Jesus spent forty days in the Judaean Desert. Forty. He fasted, like-he didn’t eat anything. Oh, and there was that whole thing with the devil showing up. Scripture says that he was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit-a time of preparation and deep spiritual reflection for what lay before him.

113Back to my delicious failure. As it turned out this first sacrificial Lent experience of mine just so happened to line up with my first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, no not the Coach Outlet Store in Eagan (remember this was 2002) no, The Happiest Place on Earth… DisneyWorld with its shiny castle and perfectly placed billowy clouds.

Our trip to The Magic Kingdom was about ten days before Easter Sunday. Up until that point I held true to my no chocolate vow. More importantly, I understood the value in giving something up. Each time I would normally reach for chocolate, I instead took pause and thought about the incredible, unfathomable, ultimate sacrifice on the cross.

Enter Dove Chocolate… Ugh. It was a short trip, my Hubby and I were there four days. We visited each park, all four of which had those little treat carts every twenty steps or so. The first three days I watched with envy as attendants reached into their portable deep freezers to pull out the Disney Signature Treat-Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar. Imagine a vanilla ice cream bar, on a stick, in the shape of Mickey’s head, and then covered in a thick hardened layer of rich chocolate. Each time I saw one I wrestled with the notion of breaking my Lenten promise.

On our last day Mickey won… and truthfully it was as good as I had imagined it to be. I am so impossibly human.  Jesus in the desert, fasting for forty days, forty.

The beautiful thing is that in Christ each day is new. Jesus, The Son of God, atoned for my sin, he atoned for your sin. His atonement leaves us fresh and clean. Nothing can separate us, not even our perceived failures, chocolate sized or otherwise.

I continue my faith Journey-and these years later I understand more deeply that it will always be just that, a journey. I’ll always be a work in progress, an impossibly human work in progress.

“Heavenly Father, we remain overwhelmed by the immense LOVE you have for us, regardless of all the ways we fall short in our intentions. Help us to continuously and faithfully return to you in all things. May this season of Lent be a time of deep reflection for each of us. Come Lord Jesus, more of you Lord.” And with that, a beautifully impossibly human, “Amen.”


Mindy Lynn Hilo and her family have been members at Easter for ten 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.