Go out and DO Faith

Editor’s Note: This is another message from one of the 10th Grade confirmation students who were confirmed earlier this fall at Easter. This was edited for readability but no content was changed. These kids have a lot of courage for sharing their message publicly first at the confirmation service and now through this blog. I hope and pray that you will learn a little something about your own faith through the words of this wise young lady. Sarah Barber

My name is Kendra Held and I would like to share with you all what I have learned from confirmation.

I have had the opportunity to spend my confirmation career with incredible mentors and wonderful fellow confirmands. From them I have learned so much about myself, God, my faith, other religions, our church etc.

We started as small groups of 7th graders and over the past few years we have gone to Sunday COGS meetings, week or weekend trips to Camp Wapo, other churches for educational visits and Wednesday Meetings together. I will admit that at first we were a bit distant and awkward around one another, but after dozens upon dozens of rounds of highs and lows, we have gotten to know each other well and share a special bond.

I have learned more about myself and what my strengths are. I have learned about God’s love. I have learned about other religions and what makes Lutherans unique. A few weeks ago we had our last meeting as a confirmation group, which was kind of sad, because I had gotten to know the girls in my group and our mentor so well and I would miss spending time with them.

Anyway, now we’re all here in this room and we’ve all said some important stuff, prayed some important prayers, and thought some important thoughts. It is wonderful that you all have come here to confirm your faith decision in front of people you love and who love you back. That’s pretty awesome. But what what about what happens after this service? Now, I’m not talking about exchanging hugs or taking cute pictures. I’m talking about what we are going to go do out in the world.

I want to encourage you all to go out and DO stuff with your faith. To take action. This service is not the end of your faith journey. This is not you graduating from learning about God, and going to church and sharing your faith with others. This is just a mile marker in a long road.

So I want to encourage you all to be active in your faith. Maybe for you that means coming to church services, or going on a mission trip or going to Bible Study. Maybe for you that means going to youth group, or volunteering or joining youth band. Maybe that means having the courage to open your bible and read a little bit of it every night. Maybe it means starting a conversation with your friends about their faith, and what they believe. Maybe it means talking with your parents or your siblings about their faith journeys. Or maybe it means praying more often. Who knows?

Every person experiences and explores and expresses their faith differently. So here are some final thoughts. Be thankful for all the supportive people in your life and the time you got to spend with your confirmation groups. Be thoughtful. Look deep inside yourself and take some time to really reflect on your faith. And finally, take initiative. Find ways to discover and share God’s word. Inspire others to do the same.

Go in faith.

And carry on the work of Jesus Christ.

Thank you.

Kendra is a sophomore at Eagan high school. She regularly attends YOWies (the high school youth group at Easter), this fall she went on a mini mission trip to Bemidji. She is an competitive swimmer for both Eagan high school and a local team. She enjoys downhill skiing, sleeping and competing in speech competitions. Thanks Kendra for the courage to share your message! 

Rekindle Your Spark

In 2013 Pastor Kris sent me a text that triggered a passion for a country I knew very little about. Guatemala! This passion has been ignited the last two years by reunions with the women I traveled with in 2013 and visiting with Pastor Karen when she’s been in Minnesota. At one of these events with Pastor Karen in January she stressed the importance of those of us who have been to Guatemala in the past returning and she encouraged me to come back in October.

Not surprising, Karen couldn’t have been more right! I was surprised at the number of people, especially at Salvador Del Mundo, who remembered me from my 2013 visit. Oh boy was it fun to see individuals that I have developed relationships with over the two visits. One of those in particular was Nora. I was excited for the opportunity to visit with Nora and her family after seeing them at worship on Sunday morning. Nora had a kidney transplant in late August and asked that the delegation from Easter visit due to the amount of help we provided the family to help make Nora’s transplant successful. We met Ericka, Nora’s sister and donor, as well as the rest of the family. Nora and Ericka have both recovered from their surgeries and many thanks have been given to God and Easter for our prayers and assistance.

 

Delegation with Nora's family.

Delegation with Nora’s family

Nora and Erika with Easter Delegates in Nora's bedroom

Nora and Erika with Easter Delegates in Nora’s bedroom

Seeing other members of Salvador Del Mundo during our other two home visits and at worship on Sunday was great. The people of the congregation are amazing and so filled with God’s grace, our worship was so full with the Spirit and togetherness. During worship Pastor Tim, from Christ the King Lutheran Church in Durango, Colorado reminded all of us that we are different and blessed. He had each of us bless those around us with the following words “Jesus loves you … no matter what!”

Delegation at Edgar's home

Delegation at Edgar’s home

The women’s retreat was being held at the Lutheran Center in Guatemala City so worshipping at Salvador Del Mundo on Sunday was such a blessing for our delegation, the women and the congregation. After worship we had the opportunity to fellowship at a fiesta where even members of our delegation were encouraged to help break the piñata celebrating our visit, the women’s visit and little Diana’s 4th birthday.

Worship at Salvador del Mundo

Worship at Salvador del Mundo

Albert Schweitzer writes “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” For whatever reason, looking back on the time between that conversation with Karen and my visit with the Easter delegation, my light was fading. I’m not even sure I was aware it was until the people I met again or for the first time in Guatemala lit a fire in me. Now my once fading light is burning brighter than ever.

Sunset over Guatemala City.

Sunset over Guatemala City

Let’s pray – Father, thank you for the opportunity to visit the amazing country of Guatemala again. Thank you for rekindling my light through the blessing of people; the people at Salvador Del Mundo, the people at Maya Itza, the students at El Mirador School, and the rest of the delegation. Thank you for making each of us unique with our own light, may others have their flames relit because of someone.
Amen

It’s Confirmation … NOT Graduation!

It’s Confirmation … NOT Graduation!

The following post was adapted from a message that Ryan Knipping, sophomore at Eagan High School and member of Easter shared at confirmation at Easter by the Lake in October. Ryan is involved with the youth summer mission trip program as well as TIM team and Yowies (Youth on Wednesday) high school youth group. Ryan is also involved in the boy’s swim team and other school acitivites.

Confirmation Class Selfie

Confirmation Class Selfie

So first off, I love microphones, so this should be fun. Hey, I’m Ryan Knipping, my story with this church goes back pretty far, I was baptized here, and grew up here. I always grew up going to Sunday school, and it wasn’t until the summer going into my 7th grade year that i truly started to get involved. It all started by signing up for a crazy thing called vacation bible school. Picture your biggest fear…spiders, heights, plane falling from the sky, just put that picture in your head. Now my definition of fear at that time was a huge group of elementary school children that are extraordinarily energetic, and just want to run and have fun. It was not my definition of fun, yet for some crazy reason I went back and did it next summer.

That same summer going into 7th grade, I went on my first mission trip to Milwaukee Wisconsin, despite it being in Wisconsin, it was the best week of my life. On that trip, it was the first time I found God. I say it’s when I found God because it’s when I realized that he’s always there.

Now skip to last summer, by last summer I had been on 5 mission trips to Milwaukee, Duluth, Cairo IL, West Virginia, and finally one of my favorite memories was my trip this summer to Alabama. This is where I was faced with that same agonizing fear that I have…large groups of elementary schoolers that just want to have fun and be kids!

I don’t know how many of you have been to Alabama in the middle of the summer, but let’s just say you never hear the words “I’m cold.” So we were at this community center that had “AC” that tried so hard to keep the heat out, somewhat unsuccessfully. It was in the gym of that community center that I met a little boy named Titus.

Titus was about as tall as my waist, so you can imagine the reaction I had when he ran up to me and gave me a bear hug, just wrapped his arms around me and shoved his head right where it hurts. Him and I soon got very close, and within 30 minutes we were sitting down listening to a story from the Bible about God’s love, shocker I know, story in the Bible about God’s love. He was sitting in my lap and he turns to me and says “I love you” and before I even knew what had happened, I had been kissed by a four-year-old on the lips.

I realized at that time that he might not have anyone to go home to after this and show love to, at the time and still today it almost brings tears to my eyes, all he wanted was to be loved, and to show his love for others.

Many of you know how involved I have become in the community of Easter Lutheran, I have been able to grow as a person and in my faith. The biggest thing that I have realized though this over 1000 day journey of confirmation is that it’s not a Sunday thing, we’re called to live it out each and every day.

Confirmation Friends

Confirmation Friends, Ryan is in the upper right corner of this photo!

The thing I hope that everyone realizes today is that this is not a graduation from the church, it’s not that we never have to come back. This is us confirming our faith, this is not the end of the book, but simply a new chapter. As cliche as it sounds, because it is, I’d like to say thank you to everyone that has brought me to where I am today, all of which are way too long to name, but trust me. You can’t begin to know the impact you have had on me. Lastly remember how much I love microphones, and how fun this experience has been, thanks.

Miriam: Faith, Joy, Love, Friendship

Miriam: Faith, Joy, Love, Friendship

Hello Easter community!  My name is Sarah Lardy and I am a current freshman at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. This past summer, I was fortunate enough to go on the Arecibo, Puerto Rico mission trip and thought I’d share a way I saw God throughout the week.

I have been on five mission trips total, all through YouthWorks, so you could say I’m pretty familiar with the typical daily schedule of a mission trip. In general, days consist of an early morning breakfast, and devotions, then work sites from 9-3 (including lunch), and showers, dinner, and evening activities to fill the rest of the day. On this particular trip, work sites were shortened to 10-2, to allow for more time to experience the culture and community in which we served.

Sarah, Emma, and Courtney

Sarah, Emma, and Courtney

My group was sent to the Salvation Army to work with kids, however we learned the morning of day 1 that no kids showed up for kids club. Instead, we would be cleaning and painting the building.  Normally, I expect to be working for the solid four hours we’re at the site, with a lunch break sometime in the middle. However, we soon learned that this place was not like that.  Miriam, the woman in charge of our projects, often gathered us inside the building and talked to us for hours. She constantly told us to take breaks and slow down. It was a little weird for me to experience this as I was planning on working hard to make a difference; it was odd to just sit.  What I didn’t know, is we weren’t just sitting around, we were being exposed to God’s work.  We came to learn that Miriam is a strong woman of faith, and she uses that to carry her through each day. She was so grateful we were there to help; it didn’t matter how much we worked, even the smallest amount made her so happy. She spoke to us about how God has a plan for each of us and that it’s important to put our faith in Him. She spoke of how she turned her life to God and followed where he led, and encouraged us to do the same. The people at the Salvation Army even took a morning to pray for us and hold a mini-worship through which they praised God and sang. It’s through Miriam, and others at the Salvation Army how I really saw God that hot week in July.

Emma Wingad, Karina Johnson, Courtney , Miriam, Sarah Barber, Sarah Lardy in front of the Salvation Army building

Emma Wingad, Karina Johnson, Courtney Wolfe, Miriam, Sarah Barber, Sarah Lardy in front of the Salvation Army building

One of the biggest things I learned on the trip was not that hard work makes a difference.  Work certainly helps, but the connections you can make to others, the conversations and shared laughter, are what really make a difference.  One other way I saw God on the trip was simply in the majesty of the ocean.  We were able to visit the beach four times during the week, twice to swim and twice to have devotions and hang out.  Often, I found myself on the edge of the water, right where the waves lapped at the shoreline.  Looking out into the vast expanse of the sea, unable to see any land across the horizon, really made me feel miniscule in this huge world.  More importantly, I could feel God’s power over the waves, and it was simply incredible. Overall, mission trips were an integral part of my high school experience, and I’ll never forget the memories made and lessons learned during my weeks away.

Jesus is the Light of the World

Jesus is the Light of the World

Thank you and God Bless!

Music and Mantras by Pastor Sarah Clark

‘Mantra’ is a big word we’ve borrowed from the traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. In these original traditions, a mantra was a word or sound that people uttered over and over in order as an aid in meditation. And, in Hinduism and Buddhism, meditation is an essential faith practice.

I am neither Buddhist or Hindu. I’m Lutheran (and I’m a pastor). Prayer, for me, works best when it’s a mantra. A prayer that repeats words, and builds its own melody and rhythym… that’s my favorite sort of prayer. That sort of prayer works its way into my heart- its easiest for my brain to grasp- and its repetition leaves a mark on my soul.

My habit of praying mantra-style is probably weird. 😉 My congregation only ever sees me praying prayers that are like a one-sided dialogue; they’re either pre-written prayers or impromptu leadership prayers in worship or at meetings. I had to learn how to pray like that and it has taken years to calm the butterflies that inevitably take off in my stomach right before I stand up to lead a prayer.

I spent four years in seminary and never had even one class session on prayer. Prayer is a mystery to me… and when I walk through the book shelves at any book store, I realize that prayer must be a mystery to most people: there are a LOT of books published about praying.

I know people who pray silently, with their hands folded. I know people who pray long prayers, out loud, in public. I know people who pray while they run. I have friends who pray when they drive. My dad prays whenever he sees an ambulance or fire truck with sirens blaring. I know families who pray at the dinner table. I know pastors who love reading and teaching about prayer. I never buy those books about prayer sitting so nicely in the book shops. And, I don’t often pray in the regular ways that people would expect a pastor to pray.

I pray through music. Music gets me praying because music is only one quick step away from being like a mantra. Nothing makes me happier than when I discover a few lyrics in a song (usually on the Current) that could be my heart’s mantra. When I pray musical mantras my thoughts fade away, my inhibitions are calmed, my word choice doesn’t matter. I can just be in a state of prayer… and the musical accompaniment lifts my soul.

If you’d like to try it out, here are some musical-mantra-type-prayers I’ve found and loved: “ordinary love” (by u2), “and grace will lead me home” (from amazing grace), “the sounds of silence” (by paul simon), “shine, unsingable name, over everything” (by mike doughty), “God is around you and all that’s about you shines with the light” (by mason Jennings).

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.

 intimacy-is-essential-400x400

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

Spreading God’s Love Through Piggybacks

My name is Sara Funkhouser and I am going to be a freshman at Concordia College! Like Adam, I went to Lame Deer, Montana. I have been on three mission trips and I have worked with children for the last two. Last year, I felt as if I was simply a friend to the children. This year, I felt like a mother. 

For two days, I was blessed with the opportunity to assist with Kid’s Club; it is a summer program for children that allows them time to be kids, get creative, and experience God’s word. I began my time there swinging with a young girl named Shantel. The entire time that we were swinging together, she would just giggle. After a while, I began working with a young boy named Kevin, and the trip was not the same after that first encounter. 

When I first began to work with Kevin, he was absolutely silent. He would not speak, nod his head, anything. He just stood there, looking into space. Then, I asked him if he wanted a piggyback ride, and he did not leave my side after that. We went everywhere together. Which meant that Kevin was almost always on my back. We would go between the playground and the reading station. We went up and down the hill countless times. Kevin would just sit on my back saying, “With speed! With speed!” So, I would run as fast as I could while making sure Kevin never fell off. At first he was afraid that I was going to drop him or that he was going to fall off, but eventually he learned that if he told me that he thought he was slipping, I would put him up higher on my back and on with the adventures we would go. We would run all around the park, well fly because I was his spaceship, and we would collect imaginary treasures as we went. He even let me stop for more fuel whenever I wasn’t running quite as fast; to check he used my neck and would tell me if my fuel levels were low. 

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Sara and Kevin at Kid’s Club in Montana

While we were often running around, he and I both enjoyed some of the quieter times. Together we would sit in the shade and he would sit on my lap as we read story after story. He especially loved Clifford, so I think we read that at least three times every day. I was also able to ride along in the van that brought him home one day. 

On the van rides home, the children received animal crackers. Those mean animal crackers tried to eat me. Don’t worry, though. Kevin ate them in order to protect me. Less than two minutes after asking for more “cookies,” as the kids called them, his little head began to bob. He fell asleep sitting next to me in the van, and he looked so peaceful. 

On the last night, we had a community cookout. Kevin and his older brother Markis came to eat with us. Unfortunately, I sprained my ankle during the preparations. When I came outside on crutches, they both rushed over to where I was sitting. Markis walked up to me and gave me a hug, while Kevin came and sat down on my leg like he had done so many times earlier in the week. He then walked back to where he had been sitting, talked to one of the adult leaders, Bob, and came back a few seconds later. Bob was carrying Kevin’s food over to my table because Kevin wanted to sit next to me and make me feel better. Bob walked over to their car with them when it was time to leave. He came back and told myself and the other girls sitting at the table not to cry. Then he said, “Markis told me to tell you that he loves you.” I cried, right then and there. From the first piggyback ride I knew that God had put us into each other’s lives for a reason. 

Love is sometimes unexpected, but it is still wonderful all the same. I want to thank everyone who aids in making these trips possible. Without your love and support, I never would have worked with some incredible people over the past three years. And, while I am now too old to participate in mission trips as a student, I look forward to the time when I can be an adult leader to assist other teenagers in their faith journeys. Mission trips are life-changing. It is not something that words can describe, but it is something that has to be felt. I know for a fact that my life will not be the same because I spent two days with Kevin and Markis in Montana.