Bless You!

I was an only child. Still am, if you want to get technical.

Because of that, I remember my Mom being wildly overprotective of me when I was growing up. I make frequent jokes about feeling like she wanted to cover me in bubble wrap whenever I went outside to ensure I didn’t get damaged.  That memory of being smothered (s-mothered?) was one of my main arguments for having more than one child when Sara and I started talking about our own family 15 years ago; I didn’t want my own child to feel as tethered as I did.

But when I think about it? I was allowed to do so many things I wouldn’t let my kids do now.  Or, I could do things freely that cause me now to hesitate and second-guess and worry about when it comes to my own brood.  I played football in second grade.  In fifth grade I would take off on my bike on Saturday morning (by myself) and ride all around my hometown (by myself), and not come home until dark.  Speaking of dark, in 7th grade, my friends and I would walk around the city after football games on Friday nights, not being due back home until midnight.

Would open-minded, free-spirited me let my kids do these three things? Begrudgingly, doubtful, and are you kidding me??

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Earlier this week, Laura Backman came to our house to film the final video for the Faith Five series that has been playing during the Children’s Message on Sundays for the past month. Step five is “bless.”  As in, after you share, read, talk, and pray, each family member is supposed to bless each other.   While our family is pretty adept at the “share” step (we have been regular high-and-low-ers for nearly two years), the blessing step is a new addition.  At first, I struggled.  What, exactly, do I say?  Also, what gives me the right to bless someone else in God’s name?  Finally I settled on “God be with you” while touching the head of each kid, although I reserve the right to change that to something more pithy in the future.

While I was pondering this whole blessing topic earlier this week, my mind shifted to the memories I shared above. While my parents did not explicitly bless me, I have no doubt that God was with me along those childhood journeys—accompanying me, keeping me safe, and always returning me home before curfew.  (Except for that one time, but let’s not talk about that right now.)

Similarly, I know that God is watching over my family as they go out into the world whether I perform my clunky blessing each night or not. However, that doesn’t make the act any less important.  For one, I think it is a great reminder for the kids to help them remember that God is with them throughout their days.  While they are still relatively early in their education, school can certainly make one feel separate and apart; I hope hearing that God walks with each of them gives them some solace.

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Just as important, though, is that the blessing reminds *me* that they are not walking alone. While I never won’t worry, ever since starting to do the nightly blessing I have felt more reassured that God is present in their day-to-day lives.  I know this won’t prevent them from ever hurting, but I am hopeful that it will make that hurt more tolerable.  (And, no, I still am not going to let them walk around on Friday nights until midnight.)

 

Dear God. Thank you for your abundant and undeserved blessings you give us.  Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit, who accompanies us throughout our days and reminds us of Your presence and grace.  Bless our families with peace and happiness and health.  Encourage us to bless others, to help us remember Your love for us. AMEN.

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Paying Attention…to the Holy Spirit

(Note: Below is a reflection I offered at church on Sunday, a few weeks back. I was asked to share a personal faith story relating to Matthew 1:18-25, the story of Mary and Joseph’s call to be the parents of Jesus.) 

In today’s gospel reading, we hear about the amazing ways God sometimes communicates: Mary has her angelic vision, and Joseph has his remarkable dream. These things are recorded in the bible because they were outstanding experiences –God knew they needed these angelic visions because of the extraordinary calling to become the parents of our Savior.

007-prophecies-birth-jesus--from freebibleimages dot org

I am given to thinking, though, that for most of the time, Mary and Joseph found their inner peace in ordinary ways: in paying attention to the Holy Scripture, in praying, in practicing Sabbath, in listening to their rabbi, in watching the seasons of nature and the experiences of ordinary family living.

I would like to share a time when my husband Terry and I felt that the Holy Spirit helped us in a way that felt extraordinary — and yet others might see as “ordinary”…

capture-ely-minnesota-2-from-google-maps (1)We were fairly new to Minnesota, having moved here from Arizona/New Mexico, and we were excited about camping up in the Northland.  On this particular trip, we were tenting near Ely (EE–lee–rhymes with “really”) in mid-summer, and things weren’t going so well. We came to the place for the quiet, and instead heard loud partying late into the night, just two spaces away. We came for hiking, but the generous use of bug repellent didn’t keep the mosquitoes from swarming around us (it was a cloudy, muggy day, and apparently they knew we were “green Minnesotans” and took special delight in annoying us). Yes, too buggy outside the tent and too humid inside the tent…

In the midst of all this, we had this one night of intense heat, humidity, and unusual stillness… How could this be the frigidly cold Minnesota I’d always heard about?

In the morning, we saw a gray cloud appear in the west (you will recall campers didn’t have “weather apps” in those days). We considered cutting the trip short and going home, but wondered if that would keep us from becoming “hardy Minnesotans”?

In the end, we hurriedly threw our tent in the car and headed home. We were only as far as the city of Virginia, when the darkness hit in midday and the wind and torrents of rain forced us to stop at a restaurant.  Inside, a crowd of people was huddled by the door, talking about how bad this storm was.

Eventually, we made it home okay. The next morning, the news reported that this was a gargantuan size storm– you may remember this storm! It happened on July 4, 1999, and you may recall it took a full week to rescue all the campers in the Boundary Waters due to the millions of trees downed (they couldn’t even hike around all those trees).  [Note: You can read about this special, unique storm, called a “derecho”,  on the National Weather Service link: July 4, 1999 storm. ]

U.S. FOREST SERVICE PHOTO -- BWCAW blowdown on July 4, 1999.

U.S. FOREST SERVICE PHOTO — BWCAW blowdown on July 4, 1999.

holy-spirit-stained-glass-window-julie-mccarty-spiritual-drawing-boardWhen I think of this experience, I always think of the Holy Spirit. One could say it was a “coincidence” that we decided to go home, but I think it was more than that. We didn’t have some fancy spiritual experience with “special effects,” but I think the Holy Spirit was our “advocate” on that day, nudging us to pay attention to the signs around us, to pick up our tent and return home.

So, yes, sometimes the Holy Spirit brings us peace through the “special effects” of holy visions and rarefied dreams, but other times, I think the Spirit of God reveals things through ordinary, hidden ways, and waits to see what we will do with it. It is in responding to God’s invitation, with love in our hearts, that brings true inner peace.

 

Julie McCarty is a freelance writer, spiritual director, and volunteer coordinator of Easter Praise blog. She also writes spiritual reflections and prayers on  Spiritual Drawing Board blog , and “Spiritual Drawing Board…” on Facebook.  

Bath Day

Oct 4 Blog Photo--candle

Today’s reflection is written by Easter member Katie Larson:

As my oldest daughter, Clara, is now 2 ½, I have been trying to find ways to incorporate faith into her daily routine.  As her Baptismal anniversary approaches, I have been focusing on showing her the connection to water and the Word.  Whether she is washing her hands, brushing her teeth, or even running through the sprinklers…God is always there, listening to her and loving her.  Reminding her that on her Baptism, she was promised, by God, that she is always beloved!

Every night before bed, I cherish our time praying together, and marking Clara’s forehead with the cross of Christ.  Instilling a strong foundation, so that she knows that she is protected and safe because God’s love is big and everywhere.

During the Baptism class we took as parents, Pastor Brandon talked about the importance of celebrating your child’s “Bath Day” every year on their Baptismal anniversary.  I love the idea of not only bringing out their candle to light, but also looking at pictures from that special day, and even getting a cake to celebrate!  Last year, Clara’s Godmother made a contribution to ELCA Good Gifts on her anniversary, to help teach Clara at a young age that God loves all of His children, and that this love can be spread through giving and sharing.

How do you remember your Baptism?  Parents, Godparents, Aunts/Uncles, Grandparents…how have you reminded your children of their Baptism?  What family traditions do you share?

“…sustain Clara with the gift of your Holy Spirit; the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever…Amen.”

 

Katie Larson is a member of Easter Lutheran Church.  She lives in Eagan with her husband Andrew, and their two young daughters, Clara and Audrey.  In her free time outside of working as a marketing recruiter, Katie enjoys writing on the topic of faith and parenting.

God’s Great Dance Floor

Today’s post is written by Vision Board member, Chris Cairo:

IMG_3904Recently my wife and I went to the Chris Tomlin / Tenth Avenue North / Rend Collective concert: it was awesome. I’m posting some pictures, but you will have to go to my Facebook page to see/hear the videos (there are 12, as I got carried away).

This was our second concert within a week, as we had gone to Maroon 5 on the previous Monday. Maroon 5 had a lot of energy, but this energy was different.

I cannot begin to explain the feeling of being at a concert with over 10,000 other Christians:

Everyone singing.
Hands raised to God.
Praying.
Worshipping God.

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God created us to be in community, with Him, and with each other.

My favorite song of the evening? “God’s great dance floor”:

“I feel alive, I come alive
I am alive on God’s great dance floor”

The Target Center was alive!

The energy last night? In Matthew 18:20 it says; “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them”

The Holy Spirit maybe? Yeah, I think so.

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“I feel alive, I come alive
I am alive on God’s great dance floor!!”

Where or when do you feel alive with God??

Resurrection and Receiving the Holy Spirit

The store near our house is done clearing away Easter goodies, but in church communities all over the world, the 50-day celebration of Easter has just begun.

Today I’m pondering a passage from John’s gospel that was read yesterday at our church– and in many churches throughout the world– for the Second Sunday of the Easter Season. In this passage, the disciples are hiding behind locked doors in fear. They must have been afraid that if their leader, Jesus, was killed, they might be next on the list for the same treatment for following him.

Suddenly, the Risen Jesus appears in their midst. Peace be with you, he says. I think it’s important to notice what Jesus did not say. He could have easily said, where were you guys when I needed you?  You said you would stick by me no matter what happened!  He could have castigated Peter for denying him three times before the cock crowed. But no…Jesus says, Peace be with you!

Sunrise over Atlantic Coast--Clement of Alexander quote--Spiritual Drawing Board(click on image for full effect)

Not only does Jesus offer them peace. He gives them a special calling: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” They, too, are called by God to carry on the work of Jesus Christ–and he gives them the spiritual strength and gifts they need to do this ministry by breathing on them and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit…”

As I mentioned in the post about Jesus breathing his last breath on the cross, the words for breath and spirit are often closely related in the original languages of the bible. Jesus handed over his spirit to the Father when he died on the cross. The Father breathed life into Christ again in the Resurrection–a new kind of life, an eternally living, breathing, incarnated and risen way of existence.

Now Jesus is passing his Holy Spirit into the disciples to empower them to carry on his work. This Holy Spirit has been “breathed” into followers of Jesus throughout all the centuries since that time.

Today, Jesus “breathes” his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, into each one of us who seeks to believe and follow in his path.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts this day with your peace, inner strength, and gifts to serve others with love! 

 Until next time, Amen! 

 

Easter member Julie McCarty is a freelance writer, spiritual director, beginning artist, and volunteer coordinator of Easter Prays/Easter Praise! blog. This post originally appeared on her blog, Spiritual Drawing Board

 

 

Spreading the Good News and Holy Spirit Prayer

Do you use social media to express your faith? To spread the good news of  Christ’s mercy and love? To post a friendly and encouraging word?

A recent sermon at Easter Lutheran focused on spreading the gospel, and I thought how some of us do that today using social media. Like the first disciples, we spread Jesus’ message of love, forgiveness, and healing, in the public venue without even leaving our chairs. It still amazes me. If you enjoy using social media, you might think about some ways you could combine your gifts for words and photos with the gospel message online. One way to do this is to create a Facebook page devoted to spreading Jesus’ words to others, in much the same way some of you have created business pages online.

So I thought today I would share with you a prayer I posted on my public Facebook page, Spiritual Drawing Board. This prayer arose in me this morning, as I was thinking about Pentecost.

Many Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after Easter (this year, June 8). Traditionally, some Christians in the past prayed everyday to the Holy Spirit for nine days ahead of the Pentecost. This practice was a kind of devotion and spiritual way of preparing for the celebration of God’s Spirit with us and within us.

Below is the prayer I posted on Facebook…and I invite you to treat this moment as a devotion/prayer time for yourself.

Open sign--Julie McCarty--Spiritual Drawing Board--Eagan MN

 

Thinking about upcoming feast of Pentecost,
the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Join me in prayer? ...

O God,
I believe your Holy Spirit is within me, but please
help me not to “close” the door to your loving presence.
May my heart (soul) expand more and more within,
fretting less about myself
and allowing your Holy Spirit to live and move and act
more fully within my life each day.
Give me open ears, that I might hear You,
open mind, that I might think more clearly about You,
and open heart, that I might love You
and all your beloved people
more fully each day.
This I ask in the love of Christ,
and in the communion of the Holy Spirit,
Amen.