Where you go, I will go

lent-desert-path

Lent is designed to be an opportunity for everyday Christians to experience a similar reflection and time that Jesus had in his 40 days in the desert,  where he fasted and prayed for 40 days. During his time in the heat of the days and the cold of the nights, he found clarity, strength to resist temptation.and the foundation to begin his ministry.

How can we, in these modern days, replicate even a small bit of that experience?  Some people give up things, like chocolate or coffee.  Others add to their days a moment of service to others.  Some change behaviors during Lent, for instance, buying only what is needed and forgoing wants.

All of these actions are for naught, unless they come with time to pause and reflect how it is taking you into the desert.  Its not enough to just give things up, add service to your day, purchase differently.  The purpose of Lent is to follow Jesus to the desert, to contemplate our ministry in our life.

Maybe you don’t see that you have a ministry in this world.  We don’t have to go to divinity school, to be a minister.  The living of our lives is a ministry.  What we do, how we do it, what we say, how we say it, what we think, how we display it.  That is our ministry.

Lent is a time to get a keener vision of where God wants us to be, how he wants us to follow him.  It is a time to challenge what you are doing, saying, thinking.

It is a time to ask yourself, am I serving my ministry or am I serving myself?

These are questions that deserve time.  Perhaps that is the real sacrifice in today’s sped up world.  To take the time to make room for these questions, to sit with them for 40 days and nights, to give our time to God, listening for his vision for our ministry.  Time is our desert.

lent-contemplation

For this time of Lent, we are making this blog space available to any who have an interest in sharing your desert time.  We will be posing questions for you to consider and answer. There will be two questions, one for adults, another for children.   Your answers will be posted with your name or anonymously, however you desire.  We don’t care if you have misspellings or awkward sentence structure.  If you ask, we can edit for those kind of things.  This is not about perfection, but about the spirit of your words.


Question for Adults

How do you plan to follow Jesus into the desert to strengthen and build your ministry?


lent-heart


Question for Children

What can you do each day to show your Jesus heart to the world?


Send your answers to godiscallingblog@gmail.com.

Through community, we strengthen our faith and the faith of others.  Please share your heart so others can invigorate their faith.

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.

god-is-calling

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.

thanksgiving-plate

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

mother-teresa-quote

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.

gratitude-4

I Found Grace in my Closet

Today I was seeking my way in a new year, finding my spiritual footing for 2016.  The holiday activities are over, the world is returning to its regular routines.  I was grumpy for no discernible reason.  Our holidays were filled with moments that I will hold tight to my heart always, with people I love dearly.  No holiday season is perfect and we had a moment that startled both my husband and I in its less than grateful or joyous nature.  I’ve been turning it over in my head and my heart, trying to find a way to let it go.  Last night, I prayed that God would share with me an answer.  “Show me2016 what to do with this so I am not dragging its remnants into this new year.”

Today, I was looking for an online daily devotion site, particularly looking for one with an evening devotion.  There are many.  I was looking for one that grabbed my attention and really made me think.  The more I looked, the grumpier I got, because nothing was exactly what I wanted.  It was a dressing room sensation when you’re shopping for clothes but nothing fits or looks like what you’re shopping for.

I did what I often do after a frustrating shopping trip.  I went to my own closet.  I have a favorite website for spirituality growth called Spirituality and Practice.  Link to the website here.  Each day they post a spiritual practice, reading, quote and teacher of the day.  I still love this site, I was just looking for something in addition to it.  There, in my own spiritual closet, was God, serving up my answered prayer.

Today’s quote was “The universe does not suffer from a shortage of grace. . . . Grace is abundant in God’s universe.  — Matthew Fox in A New Reformation.  

It made me ask what others thought grace was.  I did what we all do, I Googled.  The answers were plentiful.

“The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.”  ~  J. Gresham Machen

“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”  ~John Stott

“Grace is unconditional love toward a person who does not deserve it.”  ~Paul Stahl

God's Grace

God provides us grace, despite our flawed nature.  His grace does not come to us after we behave well.  It just comes to us.  He doesn’t take our moments of ingratitude or lack of joy personally.  He has no expectations and delivers us heaps of grace anyway.

I find myself right back in my own closet, learning again what I have taught thousands of others – the meaning of QTIP – Quit Taking It Personally.  Others lack of gratitude and joy is not about me.  It is theirs.  How can I hold onto to something that isn’t even mine?

Basking in the grace of God, who loves me despite my many flaws, I have released my expectations.  I will put those whom I expected to display gratitude and joy in a tender hold of prayer and love.

I found the cure for my grumpies – a dose of grace.people said amen

Thank you, God, for speaking in ways we can hear and showing up in the most unlikely places.  Amen.

 

 

Epiphany – A New Way of Seeing

Wise menWhen I was a child, we celebrated every day of Epiphany.  Its a big word, but my mom would tell us even little kids can understand big words if they’re explained right.  Epiphany, she explained, was the 12 days it took the Wise Men to follow the star and reach the baby Jesus.  She also told us that an epiphany meant something that causes us to see the world differently.  Like the birth of Jesus.

 

In our house, the Wise Men didn’t even make an appearance as part of the nativity until Christmas.  And then, they started out somewhere in the kitchen, far away from the nativity scene in the living room.  Every day, we moved them a bit closer.  We would talk about their journey, where they slept, we named the camels and we talked about them stopping in to see Herod, a king without honor who didn’t speak the truth.  She and my dad talked about how excited the kings were when they found Jesus, Mary and Joseph, not in the stable but in a house.

Puppy in a basket 2

A puppy for Jesus?

We talked about the gifts they brought for the baby and how odd they seemed.  Not a toy in sight.  We learned that the gold  was presented as a gift of value, the frankincense as perfume because olden time people didn’t bathe often and the baby’s world should smell sweet, and the myrrh was an oil to place on the baby announcing that this was the baby  King.  We talked about what we would have brought to baby Jesus.   Toys, soft clothes, real blankets, a pillow, a mobile with animals, a bassinet, something that played lullabies.  Maybe a puppy.

We spoke about Herod the Horrible as my sister Carla called him.  How could he be jealous of a baby?  And he lied to kings!  Who wants to hurt a baby?  (Okay, I did try to throw my sister Carla out a window when she was an infant but I meant to throw her to my mom who was gardening in the back yard.  Carla wouldn’t stop crying no matter how fast I rocked her bassinet and I knew my mom could make her stop.  In my defense, I was only 3.  And I trusted my mom’s ability to catch her.)

My mom described a dream that came to the kings that warned Herod meant to hurt Jesus and so they went home a different way.  She asked us about dreams that we had.  She explained that taking a different way home was a way to see new things or old things in a new way.  That we should never be afraid of taking a different way to where we were going.  Plans are meant to change, she implored.

On the last day of Epiphany, the wise men were placed in the nativity.  We shared what we had learned over the last year.  Calling one another weirdos was a bad thing and we had to sit at the kitchen table holding hands and saying nice things to each other when mom overheard us.  Learning to ride a bike was hard but once you learned, it was easy.  Including my younger brother Brad when we played house was a nice thing to do, even if we didn’t like doing it.  That my baby sister Penny cold be bribed to do anything if you had a Hershey bar.

The emphasis my parents put on Advent and Epiphany allowed us to Epiphaniesexperience Christmas not as a day but as an adventure.  Advent was the lead up to Christmas with something to talk about and look forward to.  There was never a let down after Christmas because then we had Epiphany.  We experienced the whole of Christmas, not just the day.

These traditions were a gift that has fed me spiritually my entire life.  I carry such gratitude to parents who taught me reverence for anticipation, revelation and transformation.  It has led to an appreciation of anticipation.  I have learned to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.  I spend time to reflect on what has happened and how that leads me to the next roads taken, new ways of thinking, of being.

May you know the gift of Epiphany and share its startling beauty with the world around you.

Winter reflection 2

Dear God, thank you for your stories that guide us, fill us, make us think and let us know love.  May our lives be filled with epiphanies that change us, see with new eyes and linger in our days with transformed hearts.  Help us see you and your ways with spirits that reflect your love in our world.  Give us courage to act on our new ways of seeing so that the world can see the God in us seeing the God in them.  Rejoicing in Epiphany, Amen.

 

 

 

A Call for Personal Action

Reflecting on Advent 2015, The Way of Peace for You

PeacemakersIn these last moments of Advent, let a small part of Matthew sit with your heart.   Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Consider this.  The peace that comes to you when you see the God in others knowing the God in you.  Peace that fills a space where angry emotion could have reigned.  Peace that flows when you do for others without any expectation of repayment or acknowledgement.  Peace that happens when you address injustice and hate.  Peace that comes with the awe of seeing God in creations.

These weeks of Advent heart searching have guided us through many moments of contemplating the way of peace and a way closer to God.  Think of the random acts of kindness made in week 1, the love notes and hearts of peace in week 2, our stockings of joy in week 3 and different ways to bring about peace noted in week 4 as well as our own special gifts of peace.

A call for action.    A new year is beginning and peacemaking is needed in this world – in our families, our workplaces, our schools, our communities, our government, and our churches.    After the tinsel has been packed away, how do we keep this yearning for peace we have cultivated and discoveries of our heart we have uncovered this Advent season alive in our every day?  How does the intimacy with God in these dark days of winter transcend the Christmas season?

The answers will vary for everybody.  Did you make notes in the devotional?  Did you journal about things that pierced your heart this Advent?  Reviewing the activities you have done, the movies you have watched, the books you have read, what comes to you as your way of peace for 2016?  Still not sure?  A great place to begin the search is on Easter’s website.  There are so many ways to find the way of peace in serving each other and our community.

Commit, in this stillness, to answering God’s call for peacemakers.   Mary and Joseph didn’t know all that was to unfold by saying yes to God.  How could they ever imagine?  What could enfold if you say yes to God too?  Can you even imagine?

December 25, Day Six of Week Four – The Way of Peace though Peace

Matthew 2:  1 – 12  “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”  Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.   And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”  When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.  And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.   Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.”

Dawn

All Is Well Song Link

All is well, all is well
Angels and men rejoice
For tonight darkness fell
Into the dawn of love’s light
Sing A-le, sing Alleluia

All is well, all is well
Let there be peace on Earth
Christ has come go and tell
That He is in the manger
Sing A-le, sing Alleluia

All is well, all is well
Lift up your voice and sing
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Alleluia, sing Alleluia, all is well

Reflection:  All is well.  Christ is born and again we rejoice.  This day, this Christmas day, for some is filled with hectic chaos and joy.  For others, those missing ones no longer singing here on earth or separated from those they love, the day can be filled with a sadness amplified by expectations of what Christmas is supposed to be.  For a moment, let’s set aside this earthly world, travel back to the manger and sit ourselves on the hay, taking it all in.  The animals, accepting a babe the world had no room for.  Mary and Joseph, dusty and worn from a long journey and an evening of childbirth, swirling in the newfound and palpable love for their son.  A star, shining strong, beaming the good news, glittering white against a dark sky.  Amazed shepherds, at the incredible scene they alone were invited to.  Listen to their story as they tell of the angels filling the sky, scaring them and startling the sheep.  Sleeping in the midst of all around him, is the baby that will change the world forever.  The little town of Bethlehem, its streets quiet as it sleeps through the divine night.  Can you feel the powerful peace that colors the air?  How about the stupefying awe of a newborn, foretold by prophet and right there in front of you?  Can you see the angel that hovers over the manger, fluttering God’s presence?

Action:  No matter what society tells us that Christmas should be, God has already given us the handbook.  For this moment, in the midst of exhaustion or tears, lean back into God with a gratitude packed heart.  Ask him for what you need.  Thank him for what you have been given.  Sing a loud or quiet Alleluia.  All is well.

Dear God, Like the wise men, we rejoice with exceedingly great joy!  Be with us, give us a hope that soothes our hearts, plant in us memories that will ride for a lifetime.  Keep us in the moment of joy filled faces and laden tables of food and family.  In this day, of celebrating, let us remember Bethlehem.  Singing Alleluia, all is well, Amen.

December 24, Day Five of Week Four – The Way of Peace though Peace

Luke 2: 2 – 7  “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.

Holy STar 2

Oh, Holy Night  Song Link

The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices.
O night divine O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
O night divine, O night, O night divine

Reflection:  The story of Christmas is thousands of years old, but it never gets old in our hearts.  A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices!  Like Mary, we are pregnant – with a trembling hope, with a lively anticipation of something great coming.  As we go about the reflective moments of Advent, the excitement builds.  This is the true magic of Christmas – a babe who turns our world around every day.  Mary did the hard work.  But there is still work to be done.  No one is more humble than Mary in demeanor or circumstance.  If God can perform miracles with her, then it can happen with us.  No matter how ordinary we might think of ourselves, we carry the glory of God within us.  What is it that God is calling you to do?

Action:  Martin Luther King Jr. preached, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Though we are small, let God work great things in you.  Have a dream!  Be a beam of everlasting light, listening to how he taught us to love one another.   Do something today to help turn the world toward Jesus.  Commit to do something big or small every day.  Then do it.

Dear God, The stars are brightly shining.  Keep our eyes and hearts open to possibilities to bring you to the world.  Let us not be timid with our smiles, with our actions, with our chances to turn the world around.  Sweet hymns of joy we sing, O Night Divine, Amen.

December 23, Day Four of Week Four – The Way of Peace though Peace

Luke 2: 19 “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

MAry and Jesus 5

Breath of Heaven   Song Link

I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I’ve done
Holy Father you have come
And chosen me now
To carry your son

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone
Be with me now
Be with me now

REFRAINBreath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven

Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan
Help me be strong
Help me be
Help me  REFRAIN

Reflection:  This scripture is one short sentence power packed with insight.  Mary knows this baby boy of hers won’t belong to her long.  He is the world’s.  But for these moments in Bethlehem, he is hers.  For this time he is her baby, her’s and Joseph’s.  Her eyes and heart are bursting with all the many thoughts of a new parent.  Marveling at the miracle of a baby that grew inside her.  Counting his fingers and toes.  Touching the soft skin and sinking into the innocence of his eyes.  Knowing love like a mother, a love that can only be badly described because it is immense and powerful.  For now, the world is at bay and he is all hers.  She pulls all of it close to her, swaddling them as gently as the babe in her arms.  She knows the world is coming but for now, it can wait.

Action:  Today, treasure up all the things that matter most to you and ponder them in your heart.  Let it burst with gentle love.  Let that treasure travel with you all day and see where it leads.

Dear God, We are thankful for all the treasures in our lives.  Sometimes we take what matters most for granted.  Our focus drifts elsewhere.  Today, open us so that we may know as powerfully as Mary what makes our world sing with richness of love.  Help us find a quiet moment to ponder it all in our hearts.  Be with us now, Amen.