God designed airplanes and I messed it up

Today’s reflection is written by Chris Cairo: 

Messy Spirituality bookI flew home from a week-long business trip that started in Kansas City and ended in Miami. It was a long week, and I was tired (No excuse!). So as the plane was taxiing to the run way I pulled out a book to sit back and read (“Messy Spirituality” – good book). Just as I started to read the guy next to me asked the first of his questions: ” Hey, we were just on a cruise and they gave us a small book like that. Is it the same one?”… and then, “Is it good?” … “Where are you from?”... I answered each question politely, and he kept going until his wife finally said “Hon, I think he actually wants to read his book.” So the conversation ended.

I used to think that some sadistic, penny-pinching, profit-mongering person designed airplanes with one goal in mind: to stuff as many of us in as possible to maximize profits. However, maybe it was God who designed the seats to be so close that we are forced, literally and figuratively, to rub elbows with our neighbors.

And that’s where I messed up. I didn’t engage.

But later in the flight he engaged me again about my book, and this time the conversation went on. In fact we talked for about two hours! Randy and Lisa were returning from a ‘marriage’ cruise, hosted by Family Life, an organization they were involved with through their church. I learned a lot about their organization, and I had the chance to tell them about Easter Lutheran and our new partnership with Treehouse. We shared quite a bit, including bits about our kids and families. I really enjoyed getting to know them, and invited them to the upcoming Treehouse banquet (I hope they can come). I plan to stay engaged with them, as we have a lot in common.

Engagement. That is how Jesus ministered. His whole ministry was about engaging people where ever He met them: fishing, at a well, at a dinner or wedding, or when He was walking along a road. And I’ll bet He would never turn down the chance to engage someone sitting next to Him on an airplane.

Yep, I messed up yet again. But I am determined to get it right. I can’t be a Christian if I don’t try to follow His example. “Come follow me” (Matthew 4:19) was meant for more than Peter and Andrew…He was talking to us.

So, who can you engage?

 

Easter Lutheran’s Vision Board member Chris Cairo wrote the above reflection as part of his special ministry to college students, in which he writes to them on a monthly basis to keep their faith thriving in their daily lives on campus.  

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

Illuminating the Masks We Wear: An Important Part of the Spiritual Journey

One morning a few weeks ago, as my husband, Kent passed my office on the way out the door to work, he saw a strange sight. It was 7:30 in the morning, the sunlight was shining through the stained glass window in my office onto the mask that I have hanging on the opposite wall. The mask is one that I made as part of a class recently to symbolize the transformation of becoming our authentic selves.

Stained Glass Window     Mask_Regular

The sun was illuminating the mask in the most profound way. It was odd enough that this happened once, but when it happened again the next day, I concluded that this was too much of a coincidence to ignore.

 Mask Illuminated

I found myself asking these questions. Is there a message that the Holy Spirit is sending that I am supposed to pay attention to? If so, what is the message? Who is the intended recipient of this message? Is it for me because it’s my office, my mask? Is the message for Kent because he is the one who witnessed it first-hand? As I contemplated this, I have come to believe that the message is for each and every one of us. Illuminating the masks that we wear, that cover up our authentic selves, is an important part of the spiritual journey.

As part of the inner work that I have done over the past couple of years to become an effective energy healer, we learned that as humans we unconsciously create masks to portray an image of ourselves to the outer world. It’s what we think we need to do or be in order to be loved or to feel safe. The masks are really covering up feelings of inadequacy, fear, pride, will, anger, judgment, or criticism. These masks are a state of inauthenticity– it is not who we really are.

One mask we might wear is the “serenity mask”. The message we portray to the world when we wear this mask is, “Let’s not talk about anything bad. Let’s just be nice, whatever you want to think, say or do is okay with me. I don’t ever get hurt – ever”. When we wear this mask we avoid uncomfortable feelings of anger, grief, fear, and pain and the conflicts or confrontations that might occur if we express these real feelings. We wear this serenity mask because deep within us we are hiding the fear of aggression; so we may seek safety through isolation.

Another mask we might wear is the “power/will mask” that portrays to the world, “I can do anything. I will not say ‘No’. I am capable of everything and anything and I will push my way through it so that I don’t disappoint anyone. I will endure.” We wear this mask when we are unconsciously covering up our terror of feeling inadequate.

Another mask that is very common in spiritual communities is the “love mask”. We wear this mask to draw people in through an artificial facade of love. The way that this manifests is portraying to the outer world that we love everyone and everything, and we deny that we have any thoughts or feelings that are undesirable. “I love everyone. I have no ugliness in me. I walk in only bliss and peace all day.” This love mask hides the terror of hatred unconsciously within us.

Have you ever worn any of these masks? I know that I have. I think there are many times people feel that they need to wear these masks in order to be good Christians. Jesus demonstrated authenticity. He expressed feelings of anger driving the Money Changers from the Temple (John 2:13-17). He expressed anguish when he said to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “ My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father if it is possible may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will (Matthew 26:36 – 39). When the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus saying that the law commanded them to stone her, Jesus said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” When they all walked away, Jesus extended mercy to the woman and said, “Has no one condemned you? Then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:3-11).

A recent example that I believe beautifully demonstrates authenticity is how Pr. Kris and her sister Kim so vulnerably shared their thoughtful responses to the question, “How are you doing?” upon the recent death of their mother Karen on Karen’s Caring Bridge site on October 13 and 15, 2014.

They could have chosen to wear the “serenity mask” and not say anything that would make anyone uncomfortable and only shared how they may have been blessed by this experience. They could have chosen to wear the “love mask” and sugar-coated and covered up the pain that they are experiencing. They could have chosen to wear the “power/will mask” and given a message that they will push their way through this, they will endure no matter what.

Instead, they honestly shared about the pain that they have experienced as well as the blessings. They shared both the challenges and difficulties they experienced, their palpable grief from the loss of someone whom they loved dearly, and how it has impacted their lives and the lives of others who knew and loved Karen. They were not speaking through a mask when they wrote their responses to that question. They were honest and authentic, and I respect and admire them for the courage and vulnerability that this requires. Pr. Kris did not portray that she has to embody a super-human strength just because she is a pastor. It helped me to connect with her on a deeper level, as a human being who is on this journey along with the rest of us.

So as I look at that photo of my mask being illuminated by the light shining brightly upon it, I am reminded that God is calling me to become consciously aware of the masks that I wear. The Holy Spirit is gently nudging me to look underneath these masks to discover the fears from which I might be hiding. Why might I feel inadequate? Why might I be afraid of someone being aggressive towards me? Why might I be terrified of feeling hatred? The spiritual journey invites us to look deeply within and get in touch with these things so that they can be healed. And when we do, our core essence of light and love is able to shine through us effortlessly and we will be empowered to share our true, authentic selves with the world.

Thank you God, for the difficulties and blessings we experience on this spiritual journey. May your Holy Spirit illuminate the masks that we have created in order to feel safe, or to be loved. Be with us as we find the courage within us to seek to heal the fears that lie underneath these masks. And as we do, may we experience the abundance of your divine essence flowing through us and become more of our authentic selves that we are called to be. And so it is.

Excerpts taken from Rukha® Academy of Healing Arts and Science – Living With Consciousness™.

Did I Tell You How Three Idiots Kept Me From Missing My Flight?

My husband and I were happy it was finally time to leave on our trip to Santa Fe. We hurried to the airport early one recent Wednesday morning. As we made our way down Lexington Avenue, not one – not Two – but THREE cars turned in front of us into the EZ Air Park lot. Our tempers flared as we spit barbs and insults about these idiot drivers’ low IQ’s and murderous intentions. Then as we pulled safely through the intersection turning left onto Hwy 55, a reflective quietness blossomed in our car. “What if the parking lot at the airport is full? Is that why all those people are hurrying to the EZ Air Park lot?’

A quick visit to the MSP Airport parking site confirmed our suspicion. “Those idiots are trying to catch a flight just like us!” A well timed U-turn allowed us to join the ranks of our now peers attempting to turn into the EZ Air Park lot against an onslaught of oncoming traffic. This twist in identity, this sudden flip in consciousness changed me. Suddenly my world was redefined. Drivers all around me were no longer idiots but fellow travelers with a common destination.

never-criticize-a-man

Why are we so quick to judge, categorize, minimize, dehumanize those we do not know? Why is everyone driving slower than us an idiot and those driving faster maniacs? Why am I a daughter, a mother, a wife, a neighbor, a friend as I drive down 494 but everyone else is just traffic? If we could slow our reactions long enough to see the driver next to us as a human soul experiencing anxiety, grief, joy, worry, pain and fatigue, how would that change us? How might that change how we interact with each other, experience the world and the people in it?

Do you remember when it was common practice to raise a hand in gratitude when a car allowed us to merge or change into a lane in front of them? I started practicing that again – waving to those stopping for me, allowing me into a lane, waiting for me to pull away. Some don’t seem to recognize my gesture of gratitude. That is okay. I know my intention and that changes everything. It is a small change but I believe it is making a difference.images

My patience was tested on another early morning recently. I waited behind a woman in a large white pick-up truck blocking the right turn lane I needed. After several attempts to get her attention, she noticed me behind her then inched over just enough to let me pass. Instead of giving her a nasty look or simply turning my back to her, I smiled and eagerly waved my arm in a show of greeting and gratitude. As I stopped along side her to check for oncoming traffic, she rolled down her window, leaned down to meet my eyes, grinned and wildly waved back to me. Instead of getting angry we acknowledged each other as human beings; messy, imperfect people allowed to make mistakes and still be loved. My entire day was lifted by our exchange. I am hoping hers was too.

Dear Lord, Help me to demonstrate the love, acceptance and forgiveness I have experienced through Christ to others in both large and small ways. Help my actions, my hand waves of gratitude, to spark a renewal in the spirit of others; a hopefulness that allows them to pass kindness and acceptance on to even more people. Shine a holy light on our journey God. Deliver us safely and lovingly to our destinations. (Wave!)  Love, Jean

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”   -Ephesians 4:31-32

Outrageously Open

THE FULL ABUNDANCE CHANGE ME PRAYER

If you feel drawn, let it enter your Being, releasing any old ideas of constriction or limitation and returning Your true essence as expansive, radiant Light.

“God, Change Me into someone
who can give with complete ease and abundance,
knowing You are the unlimited Source of All.

Let me be an easy open conduit for Your good.
Let me trust that all of my own needs are
always met in amazing ways
and it is safe to give freely as my heart guides me.

And equally, please Change Me into someone
who can feel wildly open to receiving.
Let me know my own value, beauty and
worthiness without question.
Let me allow others the supreme pleasure of giving to me.
Let me feel worthy to receive in every possible way.

And let me extend kindness to all who need,
feeling compassion and understanding
in even the hardest situations.

Change me into One who can fully love, forgive
and accept myself… so I may carry your Light
without restriction.

Let everything that needs to go, go.
Let everything that needs to come, come.
I am utterly Your own.

All is well.

(adapted from Outrageous Openness, by Tosha Silver)

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.
 

Young Easter Lutheran member creates art to feed hungry children

This original painting was recently created by 9-year-old Mary K., who attends Easter Lutheran.

It’s called “Good Hair Day,” and Mary has decided she wants to help feed starving children by selling prints of her work, which is approx. 13 x 19 inches.

Good Hair Day--by Mary Kotrba

 

The prints are $10 and Mary is donating the money to Feed My Starving Children. Like many other Easter members, I know the Kotrba family– and this offer is legitimate. I am so happy to see a young painter create something so lovely and use the experience to help those in need.

If you would like to purchase prints, you can find more information on the April 8th post on Sara Kotrba’s blog,  “Sara’s Blog” at http://kotrbapianostudio.blogspot.com/

Until next time, Amen!

 

(Post written by Julie McCarty, Easter member and spiritual director, www.spiritualdrawingboard.com

 

 

Come to me, all who are weary

Today’s reflection is written by Easter Lutheran member, Laura Ring:

Snow-laden trees--photo from Laura Ring

“Come to Me, all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus (Matthew 11:28)

This is the verse that came to me as I looked at the evergreens laden with the heavy, wet snow from the February storm. So often after a storm, the clouds dissipate, revealing the blue sky and the bright sun. As the sun shines to slowly melt the snow the branches will become free of their heavy load, permitting them to stand tall and point heavenward.

The same is true for God’s children. We have burdens that weigh us down and Jesus commands us to come to Him to find rest for our souls. When we do, the Son shines brightly in our lives, enabling us to be free to stand tall and look heavenward.

God’s Frost Artwork, through a glass dimly, and our future

[Note: I began this draft last week, and the weather is quite similar today. That’s Minnesota for ya!]

For now we see through a glass, indistinctly,
but then, we will see clearly, face to face.
Now I know somewhat,
Then I will know completely–
so much that I will even know myself
as I am known.
(paraphrase of 1 Cor. 13:12)

It’s January in Minnesota, and today’s weather dipped into the dangerously cold zone, so frigid that school was called off because children would likely get frostbitten just waiting for the school bus.

Capture--Jan 23 2014 weather on MPR

I’ve been keyboarding away on my computer since early morning hours, by the light of the half-moon, when suddenly I noticed the sun was up and forming this pattern on the drapery:

Through a glass dimly--photo by Julie McCarty


When I pulled back the curtains, here’s what I saw:

God's Artwork--Ice Crystals--photo by Julie McCarty--Eagan MN

(window plus storm window–click to enlarge)

For a time, I just took in the beauty of the ice crystals sparkling in the sunlight, and then grabbed my camera. I call this “God’s Artwork”:

Frosty ice art on window pane--photo Julie McCarty


(Click on photos to enlarge.)

After taking many photos, I noticed a rainbow effect in the sky parallel to the sun, and began to search for a “sun dog.”  I didn’t get to see the sun dog because I went nearly half blind trying to look for it in all the glare. (No wonder St. Paul fell to the ground after seeing the Light of Christ in a vision. I felt fairly disoriented while I waited for my eyes to readjust.)

Here is a “sun dog” photo I took in December:

Sun dog--Dec 6 2013--Julie McCarty - Even Smaller Copy--with sig

We often think of Christ as the “Light” of God who came into the world. Early Christians sometimes compared God the Father to the sun, and Christ as the divine ray of sunlight sent to earth to bring us new life.

My experience of seeing shadows of ice crystals through the curtain — a sort of “veil”–and then seeing the beauty of the frost directly, and finally the sun beyond (practically blinding me–I’m still not really “seeing” the sun), reminds me that there is much to know about God, and much to experience of God’s presence. Even the most Spirit-charged experiences in this life are nothing compared to what we can expect in the next life.

In Chapter 13 of First Corinthians, Paul writes about this pattern of spiritual growth: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (vs. 11)  Then he turns to his belief about the future:

For now we see in a mirror [or glass], dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.  (vs. 12)

Paul is reminding us that there is so much more to come. Even if we have come to Christ, prayed, studied the bible, attended worship services,  and experienced the power of the Spirit in various spiritual gifts, there is still more for us to discover about God–and experience one day in God’s presence in heaven.

Thank you God --Gods artwork--frost on window--photo Julie McCartyNow, we see the light of God, as through a veil, or in a glass dimly; one day we will see and know  and experience God face to face.

I think that is Good News.

Until next time, Amen! 

Julie McCarty is Easter’s “Spiritual Director in Residence.” Read more about spiritual direction under “connections” at  www.easter.org 

Grateful with a Chance of Grump

Autumn Lubin writes: 

It’s a foggy day at the end of October. Thickly plush, the fog envelopes the world like a soft, silky blanket. When I was little, someone told me that fog is how God hugs us. That may be why I find fog so comforting. Wrapped up in the blanket of God, I say a prayer of gratitude for all the physical reminders God places around our world to remind us we are loved.

Foggy hillsides--photo Julie McCarty

(click on photo to enlarge)

Most of the time, I find the prayer of gratitude an easy one to send up. So, so much has been given to me in this world. How could I not be grateful for it all? Well, God made us in this quirky human form, that even when we are surrounded by a bounty of gifts of people, riches, experiences, nature and love, we will find the one thing that is missing or not quite right. That place where curmudgeon and envy live in our souls and snatches away the gratitude, replacing it with a lump of grumpy dissatisfaction.

I’ve been working on prayer that leads me from my lump of grump and back to gratitude. A favorite quote reminds me that being grateful is the only true response.

“You cannot be grateful and bitter. You cannot be grateful and unhappy. You cannot be grateful and without hope. You cannot be grateful and unloving. So just be grateful.” –(Author Unknown)

In Timothy 4:4 – 5, we read:

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”

I pray for these words to enter deeply and become the blood that pumps my heart. Breathe in heaven, breathe out gratitude.

I’ve come to find that gratitude is an intentional place in us. It doesn’t just spring from us. It requires sight and insight. It requires a desire to appreciate all of what is ours, that which we love and that we dislike very intensely and everything in between. It demands something I call painful gratitude – finding the gift in even that which hurts, angers, humiliates, makes us cry and saying a prayer of thanks. Not every gift we are given is one we recognize or understand its value or purpose. But as I was taught as a child, you say thank you even if don’t like it, don’t want it, don’t know what it is or already have it. With a smile.

The sun has set now and the darkness has vanquished the fog from my vision. But I know it remains outside my window. Gently blanketing my home, I lean back in God’s love and say thank you. Thank you for it all. I will remember to take each and every gift with grace and want for nothing more. This is what I pray. And then I pray for the grace I’ll need to honor my promise because I know some other day, maybe tomorrow, I will find myself again with a lump of grump obstructing my view of gratitude.

How do you practice gratitude?

How do you find you way back when your lump of grump is getting in your way?

~~~

Autumn is a writer, educator and a non-profit consultant. More importantly, she is a wife, mom, grandma, cousin, friend, neighbor and owned by a dog and two cats. You can reach her at amlubin@gmail.com.