Big Time Foot in Mouth Disease

By An Anonymous Writer/Member of Easter Lutheran Church

Ecclesiastes 3:7  “A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be silent and a time to speak.”

Several months ago my husband and I woke up to discover we’d come down with foot-in-mouth disease. Big time. We inadvertently offended someone we love and respect. (Big time.)  And wow she was angry. Big time. We’re talking “I’ll-never-speak-to-you-again” and “Don’t-you-dare-approach-or-I will-turn-my-back-on-you-and-walk-away!”  Really big time!

Amazing GraceIn Lent we heard so frequently of God’s love for us even when we ignore Him. He just keeps on giving. He loves and forgives us daily for our every sin. He even let His son be persecuted and killed just so our sins, our foot-in-mouth diseases, wouldn’t stand in the way of our salvation.  I am unable to comprehend a love that is so strong you would sacrifice your son.  That’s who He is–a giver who never stops giving; a Love that will always be there to welcome our approach.  Big time!

A common saying among our friends is, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  That’s not forgiveness.  I Cor. 13:5 says Love keeps no record of wrongs. When we sin we’ll never hear God saying, “Okay, that’s twice!”  And we must forgive others as quickly as we expect God to forgive us. That’s big time difficult! Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt someone who hurt me. This is what God does – all the time!

Lent this year meant weeks of watching Jesus be so very brave, loving and forgiving.  Weeks to not mourn our hurt, instead to tell our hurt and pain that’s it’s time go away and simply love. It meant we really understood the great disappointments we cause our Father. Yet we must do as He did and forgive. Big time.

The writer of Ecclesiastes said there’s “a time for everything.”  Lent showed us big time that our time is now.

Please join us in prayer that our ever forgiving Lord and His brave, unselfish Son will be with us in our times of missing the mark.  We ask them to bless our words and deeds so that we may always be loving—big time! 

Heart

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Do you give up?

By John Peterson

Easter Lutheran window butterfly

Easter is here! He is Risen!

Matthew 6: 16-18: 

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” 

Forty Days imageForty some odd days ago, Ash Wednesday was upon us and many of our Catholic and other Christian brothers and sisters use that day as the first of 40 days to give up something for Lent. It may be something like chocolate, television, a favorite food, social media or something else that is important to you. My children would sometimes give up watermelon. Although it is a favorite of theirs, it was a questionable “sacrifice” as it is hard to find watermelon in February and March… sometimes I think they missed the point.  I have always understood giving something up for Lent would be a reminder of the sacrifice Christ gave for me whenever I thought about whatever it was I gave up.

As a Christian, shouldn’t Christ’s sacrifice be something that we reflect on all year long? Shouldn’t we always remember what Christ did for us on the cross? For me, I don’t always remember these sacrifices. I am guilty of selfishly focusing on what I perceive to be the sacrifices I give up for my work, my friends and my family and not on the real sacrifices that Christ gave up for us.

I read a story about a father who was talking to his son about what he gave up for Lent. His son said he gave up fighting with his brothers and sisters. When his father asked him how it was going the son replied, “I’m doing pretty well, Dad – but I can’t wait until Easter”. This story says a lot about how we can feel as Christians. We may give something up for 40 days, but if we don’t remember that this is a sacrifice we miss the point. Anything we give up should remind us of the greatest sacrifice that Jesus gave for every one of us. Reflecting on His sacrifice and focusing our lives to live as Christ lived helps us to “grow in faith and carry on the work of Jesus Christ”.

 

Stained glass window at Easter Lutheran Church

 

Dear Lord – We thank you for the ultimate sacrifice you gave for us. Help us to understand the extent of your love for us and help us to pass a portion of that love on to others. We thank you for the Easter promise and we thank you for loving us so much that you gave your only Son so that we may live. Bless us as we live our lives according to your will. Amen.  

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.  

On Being Mortal

Reader’s Poem: Being Mortal

Book Cover--Being Mortal--Atul GawandeDeath is not failure.
Death is normal.

Sooner or later
independence will become
impossible.

Medicine has transformed
life into a long,
slow fade.

The trouble is
we expect more from life
than survival.

When life’s fragility is primed,
goals and motives
shift completely.

True freedom
is being the authors
of our lives.

Help people have
the fullest possible lives
right now.

Butterfly--Fundy Bay--Canada--photo by Julie McCartyFace mortality together
and preserve the fibers
of meaningful life.

Courage is strength
in the face of fear
and hope.

Enable well-being
—the reasons we wish
to be alive.

________________________________________
Atul Gawande. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters Most in the End. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014. Reader’s poem by Samuel Rahberg.

After I finish a good read and before I tuck it away on the shelf, I like to spend some time synthesizing what was most important to me. I use the author’s own words, varied only slightly, and follow the themes that speak most strongly to me at this time. The reader’s poem above remains a summary and serves only as my own interpretation, so I take responsibility for any deviation from the author’s original intent. Even so, may it be a helpful reflection for others and an encouragement to read a fine book in its entirety.

 

Sam Rahberg is the Director of the Benedictine Center , spiritual director, and writer who offers ministerial support to both lay and ordained Christian ministers.  Sam has experience in parish education and administration and holds a master’s degree in theology from Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. Visit Sam at www.samuelrahberg.com .

 

 

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.

Bible Marathon: Seven Things I Learned In Reading the Entire Bible in (Roughly) One Year

Cover of The NRSV Daily BibleIn the summer of 2014, I began hearing about a program at Easter Lutheran Church called “Bible in a Year.” The challenge was to read the bible, cover-to-cover, over the course of a year, beginning on Oct. 1, 2014. Outside of the obvious biblical stories, history, and facts I learned, there are a few things I would like to share from the experience:

1. The Old Testament is a lot longer than I realized. Have you ever counted the pages in the bible–with all that fine print? Tried to read the Old Testament straight through?  After the first month or two I found myself positively hungering for Jesus (as did many of us!). The benefits of reading the Old Testament, however, are many. For one thing, I came to understand ancient Middle-Eastern history/culture a little bit better—and that also helped me understand the situations surrounding the life and times of Jesus and his followers.

2. The image of God in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) is much more varied than I previously thought. It’s a stereotype to say that God of the Old Testament is warring, vindictive, arbitrary, wrathful, and harsh god.  Yes, we can find lots of OT stories in which God might seem this way. But the Hebrew Scriptures also the describe God as ever-faithful to us, as “slow to anger and rich in mercy,” the God who delivers people from slavery, gives them fertile land, identifies wise leaders, offers them a better way of living, desires justice and mercy more than sacrificial offerings.

3. We are a community of believers. I am not as self-sufficient and self-disciplined as I think I am. I wanted to quit a million times and often was lazy about doing this devotional reading. It was the others in the group who kept me going.  Although we mostly communicated via Facebook (with the occasional meeting), it was the strength of knowing other people were doing this—and, like me,  struggling along at times with certain readings—that kept me going.

freely-10064 - Smaller Copy

4. Deepening my understanding of the role of the bible in my life.  Christians have various ways of describing the bible’s importance (“sacred text,” “inspired,” “Word of God,” “inerrant,” or “inerrant in the original language”). Reading the bible forced me to ask myself: What do I personally believe about the bible?  What place does the bible hold in my own view of reality and Christian faith? How will I use the biblical teachings in my daily life? I found myself thinking that we worship God, and we hold the bible in high esteem because it reveals something of who this God is.

5. It’s so easy to quote favorite verses and ignore the Scripture passages that challenge us. Having favorite verses can be a way to truly feed our souls and guide our lives, but what I’m talking about here is the way some people in our culture use bible verses as a weapon to sling mud and condemnation on other people. In the morning, I would read about Jesus being full of mercy, kindness, healing power, and compassion—but then I would turn on the news and hear about people promoting the opposite values while purporting to follow Christ. I don’t know what to think about this—and I haven’t any answers. I’m just saying: I don’t get it.

2901744981_45c6284906_z--Red Letter bible by J Mark Bertrand with sig6. For Christians, the gospels are the four “aces” in the deck. Do you remember the old bibles that had the words of Jesus printed in red? My thought is  that although all parts of the bible are important, Christians actually worship Jesus Christ—and that gives the gospels special priority. It’s why Christian lectionaries have a gospel reading assigned every Sunday. It’s also why many mainline Christians stand when the gospel is read on Sunday, out of special respect (humans stand when kings, judges, or leaders enter the room, and we stand when excited during a rock concert). The gospel deserves special attention from Christ-followers.

7. We are never done pondering the mysteries of God and the wonder of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Reading the bible in a year was like a quick plane trip, flying around the entire globe in less than 24 hours. Once done, there are so many more places to land and explore in greater depth, and I plan to go back and do just that. As one person in the group pointed out, reading a bible passage leads one to specific questions and once those questions are answered, that leads to still more questions.  One is never done pondering the wonders, compassion, creativity, and mercy of God.

2013--Dec--Easter etc 043 Smaller Crop B

For discussion/reflection: 

What do you believe about the bible?  How does the bible fit into your own faith journey? Do you have a biblical story or passage that has special meaning for your life? How so?

Easter Lutheran member Julie McCarty is a writer, spiritual director, and budding artist who is the volunteer coordinator of Easter Prays / Easter Praise! blog. She also offers spiritual reflections at Spiritual Drawing Board blog and on Facebook’s Spiritual Drawing Board page.