Recharging Our Batteries

Today’s reflection is written by Pastor Paul:  

The glory of God is a human being fully alive! — St. Irenaeus

Dear Friends,

snow covered pathAs I write this letter, I’m looking out the window at the snow drifting down and glancing at the outdoor thermometer which tells me we’re a long way from getting up to zero.  I wonder about my car battery, which has shown unsettling signs of not taking a charge when the weather turns frigid.  Will my battery fail just when I need it the most? What can I do to keep it charged?

My mind turns back to a talk I have often given at pre-marriage meetings about the Four Batteries.   With my retirement coming up this year, I often think about strategies for keeping them strong and fully charged.

1.  My mountain bike accident last August has been a powerful reminder of how quickly the physical battery can be discharged and how long the recharge can take.  Five months later my energy is only beginning to return, and I’m happy to welcome it back.  All of us are in pretty good contact with how our physical battery is doing.  We know when we’re in pain, when we’re exhausted or hungry, and we know when we’re feeling full of energy and delight.  Now that I have completed my course of physical therapy, I’ve decided to get a personal trainer to help me develop my depleted strength.

2. The meter on our emotional battery is harder to read.  We often aren’t entirely sure just what our emotional state is or what to do about it.  That’s why we need to attend to our emotional state, discern what re-charges us and commit to a strategy which will keep our emotional battery maximally charged.  I’m committing to cross-country skiing every possible day and to praying every possible instant. Both recharge my emotions and help me better face the emotional challenges every day brings.

3.  Our intellectual battery can go deader than a car battery without our knowing it.  I’m afraid the “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten” slogan applies to many people who have stopped thinking, questioning and learning.  (Don’t go to a doctor who has that poster on the wall.)  Remember the dental association’s slogan “Ignore your teeth, and they will go away”?  Ignore your intellectual life, and your brain will go to sleep.  I’m committed to reading new books, having vigorous discussions with friends about things that matter and learning more about God.  Commitment to being a Christian means a commitment to life-long learning about our faith.

4.  It is particularly hard to get a good read on the charge of our spiritual battery.  We can easily lose our connection with God and with the beauty of his amazing creation.  Our vision can tunnel, and our hope can freeze up.  St. Irenaeus, the great second-century theologian, could express the essence of Christianity with this pithy adage: “The glory of God is a human being fully alive!” To be spiritually charged up is to have a powerful personal connection with God, to be kindled by the beauty of the world, to be powerfully engaged in Christian community, to be focused on being part of God’s great work in the world and to be consumed by love.  I know that two projects I’m involved in give powerful boosts to my spiritual battery – the Radio Furaha project in Iringa and the “Bread Rising: Working Together to End Hunger by 2030 Campaign.”

Sea Lion--Clarita--Dreamstime Stock PhotosWe are all different, but we all have physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual batteries that need regular re-charging.  May God grant us insight, discernment, determination and faith as we seek to give glory to God by being fully alive.

Pastor Paul

The Prayer of Agony

Jesus said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” (Mark 14:36)

In our culture, it can be tempting to think that Jesus’ life was always easy. After all, he was the Son of God.  We tend to think because Jesus had miraculous powers, public popularity, and immense wisdom, that he must have been happy all the time.

However, the gospels paint a picture of a man who also experienced others’ rejection, family misunderstandings, ministry fatigue, and grief.

Easter Church--Hill focal pointFrom the above bible verse, we can see that Jesus felt the awful anticipation that some terrible experience is coming his way. Some believe that Jesus’ divine nature allowed him to know everything about to happen: the arrest, condemnation, beating, carrying the cross, torture, etc. Others point out that Jesus’ human dimension made it impossible for him to know every detail of the future; rather, he merely sensed that things were heating up, his enemies were plotting against him, and perhaps his very life would be demanded. The Holy Spirit may have revealed to Jesus that the end was near.

However we view the situation, Jesus’ prayer the night before he died is hardly an unfeeling, coolly detached type of prayer. Jesus obviously felt intense anguish over what is about to happen. Indeed, the same story in Luke’s gospel expresses this by saying Jesus’ “sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground” (22:44).

 In our lives, we may have both joyful times, when everything seems to go our way, and trying times, when everything seems to go awry. When we feel sadness, loss, or suffering, it is easy to feel God is far away. However, we can trust that Jesus, who experienced agony, truly understands what we feel. No matter how alone we feel, Christ is still at our sides and in our hearts.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You know what it is like to feel anguish and suffering. We pray today for all those who suffering here and around the world. Help us to lighten their burdens, and to trust that you are with us always, come what may. Amen.

Holden Evening Prayer Service at Easter Lutheran

Last night, I attended the Wednesday Lenten evening prayer service at Easter Lutheran Church (“on the Hill” location). The music we sang is called the Holden Evening Prayer, music written by composer Marty Haugen. (The name comes from Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center in Washington State, where Marty Haugen was musician-in-residence when he composed the music.)  

If you have never tried this Lenten tradition at Easter, I highly recommend it.  The candles were lovely in the dark winter night, the music was soothing, and the short message by the pastor was inspiring–a great boost for the middle of the work week. If you are not much of a singer, don’t worry–I’m pretty sure a bunch of choir people were in the congregation, and they carried the song well. I’m convinced even if you just sit and listen, your soul will soak up the beauty of prayer.

Want to hear a sample?  Here’s one of many clips from YouTube of the Holden Evening Prayer. This one was filmed at University Lutheran Church of the Epiphany (ELCA) in St. Cloud, MN (with a child singing one of the leads!):  

After the service last night, I felt so relaxed. That’s the kind of music it was–very consoling and calming. 

Whatever you do this Lent, keep on prayin’

About the writer: Julie McCarty is a freelance writer and spiritual director who attends Easter Lutheran. She also blogs at Spiritual Drawing Board, www.spiritualdrawingboard.com .

Transformation: Learning from Worms during Lent

[Editor’s note: Lent is a word that means “springtime,” the season when the trees and plants around us–which seem to be dead–come back to life again. Below is a Lenten reflection written by Pastor Sarah Clark last year. Her words remind us that God desires to transform all that is sinful, weak or “dead” within us into something better, new, transformed. —JM]

Jesus will take our weak mortal bodies and transform them into glorious bodies like his own… -Philippians 3: 21

I like to tell people that I got worms for my birthday…. because it’s true. I did, just not the gross kind of worms! My husband Brian gave me composting worms for my birthday – a 37 gallon bin of dark dirt and many hundreds of (maybe even a thousand) red worms. And now, these worms are happy to call the north-west corner of my basement ‘home.’

I know that composting worms aren’t a normal birthday present. The guys I share an office with remind me of that every time talk of the worms comes up. But I really like my worms. I like that during the week I save all my coffee grounds, veggie scraps, and egg shells in a big Tupperware container.

Then when Saturday rolls around, I take all of that gross, slimy, smelly stuff and I feed it to the worms. I open the bin’s lid, dig a hole, fill up the hole with the week’s gross collection, cover it all up with dirt again, and then top it off with some brown oak leaves from the tree in my yard. In some very strange way it’s satisfying.

The worms don’t say much. They don’t ever say thank you. They don’t cheer every Saturday when I open the lid. But I know they’re content because every week I see baby worms crawling around… eating the previous weeks’ blueberries, spinach leaves, and carrots. And each week, there’s more rich, black dirt for me to use in my garden this spring. Talk about transformation.

Transformation. From disgusting leftovers to rich, wonderful soil. From moldy refrigerator scraps to fertilizer for this summer’s tomatoes. This time of year is a time of transformation. From dark winter to warm, bright spring. From brown to green. From death to life. Lent is all about transformation… and I’m so glad that Easter [Lutheran Church] is talking about transforming at worship, and church school, and confirmation, and book studies, and Chick Talk [women’s group], etc.

‘Transformation’ means that there’s hope for us. If a bin of worms in my basement can transform slimy onion skins into fantastic soil… how much more hope there is for us… who will be transformed by the promises of Jesus Christ on a sunny Easter morning!

Jesus will take our weak mortal bodies and transform them into glorious bodies like his own… -Philippians 3: 21

Sarah Clark is an ELCA Pastor and works at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, MN. She graduated from Luther College in 2005 and Luther Seminary in 2010. Sarah seriously loves the Current (a radio station), good food, and the BWCA in northern Minnesota.

Photos of worms by Easter member Julie McCarty.