Group Prayer Outline — Dwelling in the Word

Dwelling in the Word Devotion with Narrative Lectionary
for Ministry Teams and Small Groups:

 

Welcome

Highlighted bible 2

Check in: Today’s Highs and Lows

Scripture Reading

Centering, Becoming Present: One minute of silence and deep breathing

Reflection Question: How is God speaking to you through this word? What do we need to hear today?

Prayer

Share Gratitude at End of Meeting: A piece of bread is shared around the table, with each member taking a small piece and reflecting on something he/she is grateful for today

End with prayer or blessing

Friendship

 

 

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! 

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,700 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Jesus Heals and Teaches

As we are currently going through the Gospel of Mark at church, I have been focusing my thoughts on how these stories of Jesus relate to my life today. During today’s service, we will learn about Mark 2:1-22 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+2%3A1-22&version=NRSV) where Jesus heals and teaches.

The story starts off with Jesus in Capernaum. A group of four men carry a paralyzed man into town to see Jesus. They go as far as digging a hole in the roof to get the man into the house, since the crowds were too large to be able to get him through the front door. This makes me stop to think, when in my (or your) life have we gone out of the way to meet a friend who is struggling? Did we brush it off due to our busy schedule, or did we actually take the time to invite them out to coffee, or maybe even invite them to church?! The paralyzed man could not have gotten to Jesus without his friends’ help who took the extra mile for him.

Later on – Jesus comes across Levi, the tax collector, and asks him to follow him. Jesus ends up eating dinner with Levi, as well as a table full of other sinners. Jesus says in the story, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” It is so easy to get caught up with my same group of friends, and this is a great reminder of expanding my circle. How are ways that we can minister to those outside of our “friends bubble” or congregation? Who in our life could use God’s love and grace right now? As Jesus gave forgiveness to the paralyzed man and Levi, he wanted to heal people both inside and out. Jesus was “all in” for people. Let’s come together and live the faith, and share the faith!

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.IMG_2755

I Found Grace in my Closet

Today I was seeking my way in a new year, finding my spiritual footing for 2016.  The holiday activities are over, the world is returning to its regular routines.  I was grumpy for no discernible reason.  Our holidays were filled with moments that I will hold tight to my heart always, with people I love dearly.  No holiday season is perfect and we had a moment that startled both my husband and I in its less than grateful or joyous nature.  I’ve been turning it over in my head and my heart, trying to find a way to let it go.  Last night, I prayed that God would share with me an answer.  “Show me2016 what to do with this so I am not dragging its remnants into this new year.”

Today, I was looking for an online daily devotion site, particularly looking for one with an evening devotion.  There are many.  I was looking for one that grabbed my attention and really made me think.  The more I looked, the grumpier I got, because nothing was exactly what I wanted.  It was a dressing room sensation when you’re shopping for clothes but nothing fits or looks like what you’re shopping for.

I did what I often do after a frustrating shopping trip.  I went to my own closet.  I have a favorite website for spirituality growth called Spirituality and Practice.  Link to the website here.  Each day they post a spiritual practice, reading, quote and teacher of the day.  I still love this site, I was just looking for something in addition to it.  There, in my own spiritual closet, was God, serving up my answered prayer.

Today’s quote was “The universe does not suffer from a shortage of grace. . . . Grace is abundant in God’s universe.  — Matthew Fox in A New Reformation.  

It made me ask what others thought grace was.  I did what we all do, I Googled.  The answers were plentiful.

“The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.”  ~  J. Gresham Machen

“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”  ~John Stott

“Grace is unconditional love toward a person who does not deserve it.”  ~Paul Stahl

God's Grace

God provides us grace, despite our flawed nature.  His grace does not come to us after we behave well.  It just comes to us.  He doesn’t take our moments of ingratitude or lack of joy personally.  He has no expectations and delivers us heaps of grace anyway.

I find myself right back in my own closet, learning again what I have taught thousands of others – the meaning of QTIP – Quit Taking It Personally.  Others lack of gratitude and joy is not about me.  It is theirs.  How can I hold onto to something that isn’t even mine?

Basking in the grace of God, who loves me despite my many flaws, I have released my expectations.  I will put those whom I expected to display gratitude and joy in a tender hold of prayer and love.

I found the cure for my grumpies – a dose of grace.people said amen

Thank you, God, for speaking in ways we can hear and showing up in the most unlikely places.  Amen.

 

 

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.

Rekindle Your Spark

In 2013 Pastor Kris sent me a text that triggered a passion for a country I knew very little about. Guatemala! This passion has been ignited the last two years by reunions with the women I traveled with in 2013 and visiting with Pastor Karen when she’s been in Minnesota. At one of these events with Pastor Karen in January she stressed the importance of those of us who have been to Guatemala in the past returning and she encouraged me to come back in October.

Not surprising, Karen couldn’t have been more right! I was surprised at the number of people, especially at Salvador Del Mundo, who remembered me from my 2013 visit. Oh boy was it fun to see individuals that I have developed relationships with over the two visits. One of those in particular was Nora. I was excited for the opportunity to visit with Nora and her family after seeing them at worship on Sunday morning. Nora had a kidney transplant in late August and asked that the delegation from Easter visit due to the amount of help we provided the family to help make Nora’s transplant successful. We met Ericka, Nora’s sister and donor, as well as the rest of the family. Nora and Ericka have both recovered from their surgeries and many thanks have been given to God and Easter for our prayers and assistance.

 

Delegation with Nora's family.

Delegation with Nora’s family

Nora and Erika with Easter Delegates in Nora's bedroom

Nora and Erika with Easter Delegates in Nora’s bedroom

Seeing other members of Salvador Del Mundo during our other two home visits and at worship on Sunday was great. The people of the congregation are amazing and so filled with God’s grace, our worship was so full with the Spirit and togetherness. During worship Pastor Tim, from Christ the King Lutheran Church in Durango, Colorado reminded all of us that we are different and blessed. He had each of us bless those around us with the following words “Jesus loves you … no matter what!”

Delegation at Edgar's home

Delegation at Edgar’s home

The women’s retreat was being held at the Lutheran Center in Guatemala City so worshipping at Salvador Del Mundo on Sunday was such a blessing for our delegation, the women and the congregation. After worship we had the opportunity to fellowship at a fiesta where even members of our delegation were encouraged to help break the piñata celebrating our visit, the women’s visit and little Diana’s 4th birthday.

Worship at Salvador del Mundo

Worship at Salvador del Mundo

Albert Schweitzer writes “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” For whatever reason, looking back on the time between that conversation with Karen and my visit with the Easter delegation, my light was fading. I’m not even sure I was aware it was until the people I met again or for the first time in Guatemala lit a fire in me. Now my once fading light is burning brighter than ever.

Sunset over Guatemala City.

Sunset over Guatemala City

Let’s pray – Father, thank you for the opportunity to visit the amazing country of Guatemala again. Thank you for rekindling my light through the blessing of people; the people at Salvador Del Mundo, the people at Maya Itza, the students at El Mirador School, and the rest of the delegation. Thank you for making each of us unique with our own light, may others have their flames relit because of someone.
Amen

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.

 

 

 

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.

A Call for Personal Action

Reflecting on Advent 2015, The Way of Peace for You

PeacemakersIn these last moments of Advent, let a small part of Matthew sit with your heart.   Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Consider this.  The peace that comes to you when you see the God in others knowing the God in you.  Peace that fills a space where angry emotion could have reigned.  Peace that flows when you do for others without any expectation of repayment or acknowledgement.  Peace that happens when you address injustice and hate.  Peace that comes with the awe of seeing God in creations.

These weeks of Advent heart searching have guided us through many moments of contemplating the way of peace and a way closer to God.  Think of the random acts of kindness made in week 1, the love notes and hearts of peace in week 2, our stockings of joy in week 3 and different ways to bring about peace noted in week 4 as well as our own special gifts of peace.

A call for action.    A new year is beginning and peacemaking is needed in this world – in our families, our workplaces, our schools, our communities, our government, and our churches.    After the tinsel has been packed away, how do we keep this yearning for peace we have cultivated and discoveries of our heart we have uncovered this Advent season alive in our every day?  How does the intimacy with God in these dark days of winter transcend the Christmas season?

The answers will vary for everybody.  Did you make notes in the devotional?  Did you journal about things that pierced your heart this Advent?  Reviewing the activities you have done, the movies you have watched, the books you have read, what comes to you as your way of peace for 2016?  Still not sure?  A great place to begin the search is on Easter’s website.  There are so many ways to find the way of peace in serving each other and our community.

Commit, in this stillness, to answering God’s call for peacemakers.   Mary and Joseph didn’t know all that was to unfold by saying yes to God.  How could they ever imagine?  What could enfold if you say yes to God too?  Can you even imagine?