Restoration

Some thoughts chase me. Healing, restoration…these have been trailing me lately. Pastor Kris’s recent sermon “Peter Heals” was the catalyst this time. It was beautiful.

During her message she shared how her brother was injured in an auto accident when he was 22 years old. A senior at West Point Academy, Bobby no doubt was a young man with nothing but promise ahead of him. A single moment of time changed the direction of his life, forever. He flew through the windshield of a car. He was left a quadriplegic with significant brain damage. He needed a-round-the clock care for the remaining 26 years of his life.

Kris shared that after his death his caregiver of many years, a deeply spiritual women, called her to tell her that she had a dream the night before. In her dream Bobby was in heaven, and that he had been restored, completely, restored. But the thing that struck her is that he remained in his wheelchair.

Remained in his chair, yet completely, perhaps most importantly, spiritually restored…

Kris shared how she never thought about healing quite the same way again. Maybe I won’t either.

I settled into a yoga class that following Tuesday morning. At the start of class my instructor sat upon her mat, faced her students and asked for Grace. With a heavy sigh she explained that one of her children, a Son who has struggled with drug addiction since his teens, had called her over the weekend asking for help. He was high and combative, and was likely to lose his place to live. In the process of trying to help him, he physically assaulted her.

She was brokenhearted. She shared a bit about her family’s seven year struggle. She asked for prayer.

Upon my mat, staring up at the ceiling I prayed for her family. I prayed for healing, for restoration. I thought about her Son, wondering if he’ll break free from his addiction. I prayed for healing for her brokenness, and for his. I thought about Pastor Kris’s brother Bobby.

Restored in his chair…maybe life altering adversity doesn’t have to cripple our spiritual wholeness.

Pastor Kris suggested that perhaps we assign worldly expectation to what we feel healing should look like, and in doing so maybe we limit God.

And so I’m left with this swirling about…

file000539488754Perhaps healing, the miraculous, crazy crisp, soul cleansing, blanketing kind, the kind that only He can offer, maybe that is best obtained by letting go of our own expectations, remove that which may hinder our renewal, and instead allow Him in. We might never be the same. Maybe we still carry with us the scars of this world. But, He shines them up, restoring us to more than we once were.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 New Living Translation (NLT) 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.


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

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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.  

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. 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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! 

Ballroom Bird’s Nest

420593_10200698533813210_651053855_nFor I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippines 4:13, Geesh, at least there won’t be a bird on my head… Yes, this continued to run through my mind, and thank you Jesus for it.

When God has laid out something before you he’ll prepare you, and in the most creative of ways. He’s kinda awesome that way.

Before Christmas I was preparing to share my heart-publicly. If you’ve read any of my stuff you know that it’s quite easy for me to spill it all over a page. I tend to leave nothing unexposed. However, this was entirely different, this was me, in the flesh, facing a full sanctuary. I knew God had led me to this place, but holy-cats, did he know what he was doing?

In my preparations (who am I kidding… truthfully, in my panic) it didn’t take long for me to recognize the parallel between this moment and that of an experience almost three years earlier.

He’s good at that-reminding us of our past experiences, of the moments we’ve already survived.  Perhaps our past is laid out for moments like these.

Spring of 2013 ~ I received an email from the director of Camp Odayin (a residential camp program for kids with heart disease). It’s an organization that we’ve been a part of since our son Charlie was about five years old.

She asked if Charlie would take part in their annual fundraising Gala. She asked if he would be part of a “fashion show” to highlight the things campers do while at camp. He would have the theme “Nature” which would require a home made costume to reflect his theme. Most remarkably, she asked if he would stand up at the podium and thank donors for coming to the Gala.

Without hesitation he said, “sure, no problem”. We had just celebrated his eighth birthday.

The day of the event, I put together his nature threads with a glue gun, a vest, and a dismantled easter wreath. I glued a bird’s nest to the bill of a white baseball cap. I took apart the vines from the wreath and I wrapped his entire body in them, and with that we set out for a ballroom downtown.

My normally very confident very outgoing little boy kept looking at himself and then at me like, “Really Mom?” Once downtown, we peaked into the ballroom where there was hundreds of people in suits and cocktail dresses.

He was nervous, and I kept reassuring him that it would be ok, that he’s got this-no problem.

He trusted me, I’m his Mama and I led him to this place and told him he’s got this. Encouragement came for the handful of campers as they entered the ballroom for the fashion show. To end the show, Miss Minnesota, who was the MC for the evening, invited Charlie up to the podium. She was wearing a pageant dress, and of course a crown (could this moment seem any stranger?). She helped him get up onto a chair to reach the microphone.

I didn’t know what he was going to say, as my own words rushed back to me, I had told him to say just what was on his heart-and then I thought …oh Dear God, what was on his heart? He leaned into the microphone and said, “Well, I just wanted to thank all of you for coming- and yeah, well… I’m just happy that my camp is gettin’ a whole lot more money!”

…and with that the ballroom exploded with cheers, he jumped off the podium and enjoyed a round of high-fives as he made his way back to me.

It was a done deal. He said what was on his heart. It was the truth, his camp was gettin’ a whole lot more money. He was also the only one who could say it out loud, considering that he was eight and had a zipper-club scar down the middle of his chest (all the while covered in a dismantled easter wreath).

December of 2015~ So I was reminded of that moment, and I hung onto it as I prepared to share “just what was on my heart”.

My night turned out to be a blessing-not easy-peasy, but definitely a blessing. Holy-cats, He knows what He’s doing, and thank goodness I got to dress myself.

As we enter this fresh new year, who knows what may be in store. Let us find courage in Him.

“Thank you Jesus for your unending presence. Help us to trust in you, to find courage in you- wholeheartedly, in the way of a child, especially where it really counts, where perhaps you are leading us into something bright and new. 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.