Miriam: Faith, Joy, Love, Friendship

Miriam: Faith, Joy, Love, Friendship

Hello Easter community!  My name is Sarah Lardy and I am a current freshman at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. This past summer, I was fortunate enough to go on the Arecibo, Puerto Rico mission trip and thought I’d share a way I saw God throughout the week.

I have been on five mission trips total, all through YouthWorks, so you could say I’m pretty familiar with the typical daily schedule of a mission trip. In general, days consist of an early morning breakfast, and devotions, then work sites from 9-3 (including lunch), and showers, dinner, and evening activities to fill the rest of the day. On this particular trip, work sites were shortened to 10-2, to allow for more time to experience the culture and community in which we served.

Sarah, Emma, and Courtney

Sarah, Emma, and Courtney

My group was sent to the Salvation Army to work with kids, however we learned the morning of day 1 that no kids showed up for kids club. Instead, we would be cleaning and painting the building.  Normally, I expect to be working for the solid four hours we’re at the site, with a lunch break sometime in the middle. However, we soon learned that this place was not like that.  Miriam, the woman in charge of our projects, often gathered us inside the building and talked to us for hours. She constantly told us to take breaks and slow down. It was a little weird for me to experience this as I was planning on working hard to make a difference; it was odd to just sit.  What I didn’t know, is we weren’t just sitting around, we were being exposed to God’s work.  We came to learn that Miriam is a strong woman of faith, and she uses that to carry her through each day. She was so grateful we were there to help; it didn’t matter how much we worked, even the smallest amount made her so happy. She spoke to us about how God has a plan for each of us and that it’s important to put our faith in Him. She spoke of how she turned her life to God and followed where he led, and encouraged us to do the same. The people at the Salvation Army even took a morning to pray for us and hold a mini-worship through which they praised God and sang. It’s through Miriam, and others at the Salvation Army how I really saw God that hot week in July.

Emma Wingad, Karina Johnson, Courtney , Miriam, Sarah Barber, Sarah Lardy in front of the Salvation Army building

Emma Wingad, Karina Johnson, Courtney Wolfe, Miriam, Sarah Barber, Sarah Lardy in front of the Salvation Army building

One of the biggest things I learned on the trip was not that hard work makes a difference.  Work certainly helps, but the connections you can make to others, the conversations and shared laughter, are what really make a difference.  One other way I saw God on the trip was simply in the majesty of the ocean.  We were able to visit the beach four times during the week, twice to swim and twice to have devotions and hang out.  Often, I found myself on the edge of the water, right where the waves lapped at the shoreline.  Looking out into the vast expanse of the sea, unable to see any land across the horizon, really made me feel miniscule in this huge world.  More importantly, I could feel God’s power over the waves, and it was simply incredible. Overall, mission trips were an integral part of my high school experience, and I’ll never forget the memories made and lessons learned during my weeks away.

Jesus is the Light of the World

Jesus is the Light of the World

Thank you and God Bless!

Walking the Heart of Jesus

Above the clouds, sitting in a tight airplane seat, I sense God close. Is it because his angels fly on the wings guiding us safely back to solid ground? Is it because my child’s heart still thinks heaven lives in the skies? Is it being untethered to the earth? Could it be the stillness and quiet I enfold myself in when ensconced inside a steel bird? Is it the praise music that fills my headphones singly directly to my heart only? Whatever it is that hugs him to me, I welcome the embrace.

Tonight, I say a prayer of gratitude for the work I do that brings me into the orbit of people who care, with genuine mission and strength. They let their hearts serve those who need their talent and compassion. There is no glory in their work. There is no great financial reward. They are not heaped on with gratitude and recognition. They are called by something greater than themselves. Their caring souls make my heartbeats smile. They reflect the face of God.

I have spent a week in their presence, soaking up their effervescent spirits. While I am dog tired, I am rekindled with a sustainable energy that makes my weariness feather light and assures me it is transitory. I say a quietly loud thank you for people like them who walk the heart of Jesus in our messy world.

Above the cloudsAs I watch the sun set on top of the clouds, melting into a softness, it transforms the clouds into a brilliant thank you for yet another day. Day leaning into Gods tender love. This journey has wrapped its heart around my own and I know I am blessed beyond any words I can speak. I think of the love of a man and puppy that waits for me on the other side of today and this week. A silent but loud thanks to God who knows my heart better than I do for this extraordinary life he has gifted me. So, so blessed.

Here is the question this has stirred in me.  How do you walk the heart of Jesus?  I am going to try and let this question lead my days that I hope to end with a soft melting into God and a brilliant thank you to match the sunset. 

Dear God, Help us to take a moment to say a little prayer every day to thank all those who walk the heart of Jesus. Pray that their hearts remain open even when their hard work is not acknowledged or given gratitude. We ask that you continue to give them the strength to do the hard work of caring much. Last, thank you for this day and all I have seen and known today as well as all the blessings in my life. With a grateful heart, Amen.

Belonging, Sanctifying, and Sending: Jesus Prays for His Disciples in John 17

Just before his arrest, trial, and execution on the cross, Jesus prayed for all his followers. Today’s devotion is from guest writer, Sam Rahberg, reflecting on this prayer:

 

Easter Church--Hill focal pointFather, the hour has come. . . . 
I have made your name known
to those whom you gave me from the world.
They were yours, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word. . . .
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
As you have sent me into the world,
so I have sent them into the world.
And for their sakes I sanctify myself,
so that they also may be sanctified in truth. 
(From John 17: 1,6,17-19,  NRSV)

 

This day’s prayer began like any other for me as I settled in under a heavy blanket and quiet darkness. I had chosen to wake early and to reach out to God, yet again determined to pray for others and to make known the frustrations and wonderings of my heart. The Gospel of John stopped short my one-way pattern.

I had long been asking God to help me learn the wisdom and strength of conviction that I was finding in Jesus’ signs and teaching, but that prayer was reversed when I encountered Jesus praying for his disciples in John 17. It is a prayer of belonging, sanctifying, and sending.

Jesus begins his prayer to the Father, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (17:6). If we listen closely, we overhear Jesus claiming us as his own. He describes fulfilling his calling to share the truth and commends us to the Father for receiving and believing that truth (17:8). “All mine are yours,” Jesus prays, “and yours are mine.” We belong.

As he prays, he does not ask that we be relieved of danger or discomfort (17:15), but that we be protected and that we grow as disciples: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (17:17). We are sanctified.

The prayer is not over without reminding us of our calling. Jesus prays, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world (17:18). We are sent.

There may well be times to pray actively and intentionally, speaking out the desires of our hearts toward God. Yet, as John 17 invites us to see, there is also a time to claim our place beside the disciples, simply resting in the presence and ministry of Christ to us. The next time you pray, settle in and ask how Christ is praying for you. Relax and receive God’s belonging, sanctifying, and sending.

 

About the writer: Sam Rahberg is the director of the Benedictine Retreat Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is also a trained spiritual director and member of Christ Lutheran on Capitol Hill (St. Paul). Read more about Sam on Easter Lutheran’s  website under spiritual direction .