Where you go, I will go

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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?


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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.

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Kissing the Leper

Kissing the Leper

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Red Cups: Who is responsible for spreading the Good News?

Editor’s note: While retailers clear out their Christmas stock, Christians around the world continue to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas (Dec. 25 — Jan. 6).  

Starbucks_Red_Cups_2015 (1)Much was made about Starbucks move this year to eliminate any message on their holiday cup and go with a straight red cup. Are they trying to get rid of the Christmas message? Are they anti-Christian?

Maybe a better question is who is responsible for spreading the Christmas message?

I love the verse in Luke (2:1-14) that says “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” “

The Good News was not spread on a cup of coffee, by any retailer, or through a text or tweet. The Angels told the shepherds, and the story went out from there…the old fashioned way…through word of mouth.

Who is responsible for spreading the Good News? Not Starbucks…you and me.

Let that be your challenge this Christmas season, to share the Good News with your family and friends (and strangers!) by wishing them a Merry Christmas, in person, and with feeling!

Easter Lut

Since I won’t see you all personally, I will contradict myself and wish you good luck with finals, safe travels, and a very Merry Christmas! I hope to see you at Easter Lutheran during your Christmas break!

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.””

Merry Christmas!

 

Easter member Chris Cairo wrote the above reflection as part of his special ministry to college students and others, in which he writes to them on a monthly basis to encourage their faith to thrive in their daily lives.

December 4, Day Six of Week One – The Way of Peace though Hope

Luke 24: 36 – 40   “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”   They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”   When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.

Peace 3

We are Called   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luTgw96ZREA

Come live in the light 2

ReflectionWhat if we greeted people with, “Peace be with you,” instead of hello or goodbye?  What exactly would we be saying?  It is saying I wish you God’s peace, a peace that Jesus told the disciples was not just peace as the world gives.  It is more, much more.  It says I want you to be more than calm and tranquil because life’s realities are not always artful or gentle.  It says I wish you a peace that comes from God’s heart that will allow you to face the chaos, darkness and grief as well as the sweeter moments with resilience and hope.  It says I wish you a peace that brings you a calm strength when life’s harshest and warmest winds swirl around you, a depth of understanding and patience that brings out the grace in you no matter life’s twists and turns.   Isn’t that what you really wanted to say?

Action:  Choose three people today to say, “Peace be with you.”  It might be uncomfortable, but all good things start out challenging.  As you say the words, think of what you mean.  Let the meaning float through the air with your words.  You may get quizzical looks and you can choose whether to explain.  If saying it out loud is something that is completely uncomfortable, leave anonymous notes of “Peace be with you, “for three people. Peace be with you today.

Dear God, thank you for your peace, as it travels us through tough and treasured times.  Help us to remember to lean back into your peace and act with your grace and forego our human egotistical temptations.  Encourage our hearts to reach out to others and share your peace.  Remind us to not doubt that it is always within reach.  With peace, Amen.

December 2, Day Four of Week One – The Way of Peace though Hope

Luke 24: 28 – 29   “As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

Hospitality 5.pngDo You Have Room?  Song link

They journeyed far, a weary pair,
They sought for shelter From the cold night air.
Some place where she Could lay her head,
Where she could give Her Babe a quiet bed.
Was there no room? No corner there?
In all the town a spot someone could spare?
Was there no soul Come to their aid?
A stable bare was where the family stayed.

REFRAIN:  Do you have room For the Savior?,
And do you seek Him anew?
Have you a place for the One who lived and died for you?
Are you as humble as a Shepherd Boy,
Or as Wise as Men of Old?
Would you have come that night?
Would you have sought the light?
Do you have room?

A star arose, a glorious light
It was God’s sign this was the Holy Night
And yet so few would go to see
the babe who came to rescue you and me.
This child divine is now a King
His gift of life to all the world He brings
And all the world He saves from doom
But on this night for Him there was no room  REFRAIN

Reflection:  Here, as his time on earth is ending and he is known only as a stranger, he is invited to stay with the two he had been journeying with.  So different than his first night on earth when no one had room for his parents.  I don’t think this juxtaposition is an accident.  Jesus, who preached humility, hospitality and inclusion is offered shelter and a meal, not because he is Jesus but because he is someone who needs shelter and a meal.  A quiet lesson on hospitality slipped into the ascension story.  Hospitality starts with humility.  It is not offered because I have more than you and am willing to share.  It is offered because this is how we live when we follow Jesus’ example.  Hospitality isn’t contained to shelter.  Hospitality is being a welcoming spirit throughout our days.  Hospitality is recognizing that no matter how much we have, we have no more than any other in God’s eyes.  All are equal, the haves and the have nots as defined in earthly ways.  When we offer hospitality, we are opening the door to our heart so another can enter and rest in safety.  Humble hospitality is a sure way of peace.

Action:  Today, show hospitality to all you meet.  Hold a door open and say hello.  Let a car or two merge in front of you.  Let someone else go first.  Speak to a stranger in an elevator, on the sidewalk, waiting in line at the grocery store.  Go to our community meal and sit by a stranger as an equal in God’s eyes.  Share your story and listen to theirs.  Let your heart burst with the kindness and humility of hospitality.

Dear God, make us angels of hospitality.  Transform our heart so that hospitality is how we walk this life.  Open our hearts as we open doors.  Fill us with your inclusionary breath as we love one another.  Take away our fear of the unknown and replace it with the courage to learn more about your people.  Show us the richness in reaching out to others and reaching in ourselves.    With open arms, Amen.