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.

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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.

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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! 

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.

 

 

 

December 5, Day Seven of Week One – The Way of Peace though Hope

December 5, Day Seven of Week One – The Way of Peace though Hope

Luke 24: 45 – 53  “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”

You raise me up 3

Song:  “You Raise Me Up”

You raise me up

Reflection:  “When I am down and, oh, my soul, so weary.  When troubles come and my heart burdened be.  Then I am still and wait here in the silence, until you come and sit awhile with me.”  Do we?  When troubles come do we first try the human fix-it approach, operating on our own, relying on our limited wisdom to solve a problem?   How can we learn to let our first response to be still until God comes to us?  Is it impatience or a short faith that takes us to busyness first instead of quiet contemplation and prayer?  I found myself in the hospital for 10 days while I was writing this.  Pain had overtaken my existence.  My days and nights revolved around managing the pain and results of the pain medication.  The second night I was there, I startled awake to an unfamiliar room and found myself filled with anxiety, a highly unusual state for me.  As I laid there in the dark, I puzzled through what could be the cause.   For an hour, I turned it over and over, as the anxiety hovered.  Was it the medication, the unknown diagnosis or treatment, the simple fact this illness was interfering with a lot of life?  Exhausted, a blinding flash of the obvious occurred.  This wasn’t mine to solve.  As I leaned back onto a slim hospital pillow, in a darkened room that glowed with medical equipment numbers, I silenced my thoughts, and started, “Hey, God.”

Action:  Consider the weary and burdened times you’ve experienced in the past.  How did you react?   Write these down.  Was God a part of your reactions?  Then consider how you could react to future troubled times with a stronger faith.  Write these down as well.  What steps do you need to take to build your faith so that God is on speed dial in your heart?  Yep, you’re writing that down as well.  All will be well.

Dear God, thank you for never leaving our side, even when we forget you’re there.  Help us to make you our first response in all things, for we know we are strong when we are on your shoulders.  Give us the wisdom to ask for your help and quiet hearts to listen for your whispers so you can raise us up.  Clothe us in the humility that helps us remember we can’t do this alone.  Listening, listening, listening, Amen.

December 1, Day Three of Week One – The Way of Peace though Hope


Luke 24: 17 – 19  
“He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”  They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”  “What things?” he asked.  “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.”

We don't have wifi

Count on Me   Song Link

If you ever find yourself stuck in the middle of the sea, I’ll sail the world to find you.

If you ever find yourself lost in the dark and you can’t see, I’ll be the light to guide you

We find out what we’re made of, When we are called to help our friends in need

REFRAIN:  You can count on me like 1, 2, 3, I’ll be there.  And I know when I need it, I can count on you like 4, 3, 2, and you’ll be there.  ‘Cause that’s what friends are supposed to do, oh yeah.

If you’re tossin’ and you’re turnin’ and you just can’t fall asleep, I’ll sing a song beside you.

And if you ever forget how much you really mean to me, Every day I will remind you.

We find out what we’re made of, When we are called to help our friends in need.  REFRAIN

You’ll always have my shoulder when you cry, I’ll never let go, never say goodbye.  You know… REFRAIN


Reflection: 
In these days of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the long list of other social media, I can’t help but smile at Cleopas’ question of Jesus.  “Are you the only one who doesn’t know?” is asked as though our social media existed in Jesus’ time.  Their social communication methods were person to person.  No postal service, no internet, no television, no cell phone.  One person speaking to another.  There’s something plaintively inviting about that sort of communication.  Face to face and in this case, walking a long dusty road.

Our suburban world removes the necessity of walking to get somewhere.  Our modern world technology negates the need to speak to someone at all to communicate.  I love the technology that is available to us, that lets me communicate with family and friends scattered across the world in an instant.  It has allowed me to strengthen relationships with people I care about that are distanced from me, to know them in a more intimate way than I possibly could any other way.  But people need human touch, human conversation.  I value my hours long dinners with friends where we can talk over all that matters and doesn’t.  I hold gently the front porch talks I have had with friends and my family with the sun setting on our words and the stars hanging out with our thoughts.   We laugh together, cry together, hope together and we are each other’s peace.  They remain some of my most cherished moments.

Action:  Today, talk to someone that matters to you.  Face to face.  Go beyond the easy conversations.  Start with the weather, if you must.  You’re a Minnesotan, after all.  Then, share something of your heart.  Notice their eyes as they speak.  Reach out and touch their hand or clap at something they say.  Laugh at their stories.  Cry with their tears.  Let your soul touch theirs.  Create a moment that your heart will keep tight.  Find out what you’re made of.

Dear God, thank you for the stories that challenge us to step away from our comfortable spaces and to walk your peace into our lives.  Make our hearts fearless today.  Stuff us with courage to speak our heart to someone who matters.  Rejoice with us in its finish, as we collect the memory and put it in our pocket for safekeeping.  With courage, Amen.

The Way of Peace

 

Advent Candles 2

“I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue.”  Pope Francis

The theme for Advent this year is The Way of Peace.  This year we are using the traditional weekly Advent themes to emphasize the Way of Peace.

  • The Way of Peace through Sharing Hope
  • The Way of Peace through Sharing Love
  • The Way of Peace through Sharing Joy
  • The Way of Peace through Sharing Peace

Peace 2

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”  Mother Teresa

In our world today, peace seems to be in short supply.  Our world is noisy, demanding, overloaded with information and technology, filled with ongoing world discourse and multiple situations in own country that fly in the face of all that is peaceful.  What does it matter if we seek a way of peace for ourselves this Advent?  How will it make a difference in the world?

I boldly say it makes a vast difference.  Just as loose change adds up to dollars, small bits of peace dent the noise around us.  Peace begets peace.  Peace can be something as simple as a smile.  When you smile at someone, they will return the smile.  When you say hello, they will respond in kind.  Physiologically, these acts send good nutrients to our brains.  A kind act of peace will encourage the other person to do the same.  Some of my most tender and remembered moments have been when someone has visited an unexpected kindness on me or when I have shown a small kindness to someone else.  When we realize we belong to each other, no matter our differences, we are headed the way of peace.

There is no path to peace

Our own peace reflected outward is how we create peace in the world.  Seeking peace in ourselves and in our worlds – that is peace.  Choosing to respond to our world in a way of peace and not anger or indifference, is peace.  Meaningfully finding ways to accept our own life, wrapped in a context of peace, is peace.

Peace doesn’t mean to not have chaos or angst.  All of us have parts of our lives that are not how we wish them to be.  Peace describes how we respond to the chaos and the angst.  Peace is the God in me seeing the God in you and letting that vision rule my heart and my responses, knowing peace is the path.

Peace I leave with you

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

During the Last Supper, Jesus prepared his disciples for a world after he has left them.  Thomas asks how they will know the way to him if they don’t know where he is going?   Jesus answers, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  He goes on to say if they love him, they will keep his commands.  He promises that God will give them help through the Holy Spirit, who “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  He tells them, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”  And finally he tells them, “Peace I leave with you and my peace I give you.”

This Advent, we will reflect on the way of peace. As we ready ourselves and our hearts for the baby Jesus, we will consider Jesus’ life as a guide to the way of peace.  We will look for ways to walk in peace in our daily lives, in our prayers, in our own keeping of Jesus’ words.  We will look for the way of peace through hope we can offer others.  We will explore the way of peace by the way that we love, by remembering we belong to each other.  We will exult our way of peace through the joy we find in His world and the joy we scatter for others.  Finally, we will share the way of peace by showing the peace that flows within us and recognizing that peace in others, knowing peace is the path.  When we come to the night when the star shone bright, we will stand in the sanctuary, singing Silent Night, Holy Night while the peace of God wraps around us, sending us on our way knowing the true gift that is Christmas.

Peace Be With YouPeace Be With You  Song Link

Life so full I give to you
As the Father sends me so I send you
Spread my light throughout all life
Peace be with you


Dear God,
Ready us, as we journey again through the Advent season, preparing our hearts to seek Jesus through his peace.  Still us, so that we can absorb your peace and not stay the same.  Let our hearts rest in your peace so we can whisper it into our days.    HelpPrayer candle us keep it close in our everyday, reminding us, challenging us to act in peace. Hear our thanks in our songs and our prayers for bringing us a tiny babe that granted us your unworldly peace.  In Glory, Amen.