Where you go, I will go

lent-desert-path

Lent is designed to be an opportunity for everyday Christians to experience a similar reflection and time that Jesus had in his 40 days in the desert,  where he fasted and prayed for 40 days. During his time in the heat of the days and the cold of the nights, he found clarity, strength to resist temptation.and the foundation to begin his ministry.

How can we, in these modern days, replicate even a small bit of that experience?  Some people give up things, like chocolate or coffee.  Others add to their days a moment of service to others.  Some change behaviors during Lent, for instance, buying only what is needed and forgoing wants.

All of these actions are for naught, unless they come with time to pause and reflect how it is taking you into the desert.  Its not enough to just give things up, add service to your day, purchase differently.  The purpose of Lent is to follow Jesus to the desert, to contemplate our ministry in our life.

Maybe you don’t see that you have a ministry in this world.  We don’t have to go to divinity school, to be a minister.  The living of our lives is a ministry.  What we do, how we do it, what we say, how we say it, what we think, how we display it.  That is our ministry.

Lent is a time to get a keener vision of where God wants us to be, how he wants us to follow him.  It is a time to challenge what you are doing, saying, thinking.

It is a time to ask yourself, am I serving my ministry or am I serving myself?

These are questions that deserve time.  Perhaps that is the real sacrifice in today’s sped up world.  To take the time to make room for these questions, to sit with them for 40 days and nights, to give our time to God, listening for his vision for our ministry.  Time is our desert.

lent-contemplation

For this time of Lent, we are making this blog space available to any who have an interest in sharing your desert time.  We will be posing questions for you to consider and answer. There will be two questions, one for adults, another for children.   Your answers will be posted with your name or anonymously, however you desire.  We don’t care if you have misspellings or awkward sentence structure.  If you ask, we can edit for those kind of things.  This is not about perfection, but about the spirit of your words.


Question for Adults

How do you plan to follow Jesus into the desert to strengthen and build your ministry?


lent-heart


Question for Children

What can you do each day to show your Jesus heart to the world?


Send your answers to godiscallingblog@gmail.com.

Through community, we strengthen our faith and the faith of others.  Please share your heart so others can invigorate their faith.

Advertisements
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Experience opens our eyes

Easter member Chris Cairo has his own college ministry where he stays in touch with young men he’s mentored over the years via e-mail blog posts periodically. What follows is one of his reflections he agreed to share with us on our blog. 

DSCN2271

Our friends in Tanzania (southeast corner of African continent–click on photos to enlarge)

I don’t know about you, but Ebola worries me. The first nurse getting infected bothered me, but the second one really gets one thinking. Why aren’t we doing more to contain this??

Hmmm, where was I two or three months ago when this was spreading in Africa?  Was this even on my radar screen?  (Probably not) …yours?

This is precisely why Easter Church sends our youth to places such as Heart Butte, Montana and Cortez, Colorado, and people to Guatemala and Tanzania…beyond the community work we do on these trips (which is good), mission trips expose us to the world beyond Eagan, MN, where life is…well, VERY good compared to some of these places.

DSCN2236 - Cropped Copy

Our friends in Tanzania (click on photos to enlarge)

It opens our eyes to the needs of others in ways that the internet can’t (and never will). We begin to care about others who are very different and very far from us.

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) Jesus tells us “therefore go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS’, and to make disciples one must care for/love that person first.

DSCN2016We must care about what’s going on with Ebola in Africa, not because we are worried it will spread here, but because we are concerned with what it is doing to those we love there.

There is a lesson in this for us don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

Editor’s note: Thank you to Andrea and Matt Brokl for their photos of Tanzania. 

 

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

Sing and Pray Twice

Music is a prayer the heart sings.Music is a prayer

My soul has been surrounded by music the last several weeks while on a break from real life. We attended a wedding with a reception that was music and fun filled, celebrating a young love and strong family ties. The new husband and wife slowly moving across the floor, eyes and smiles only for each other as a love song serenaded the start of their new life journey. A great nephew danced with his aunt to an Elvis tune, both of them caught in the sheer joy of the music and each other. A brother requested a song for his sister who had recently lost her husband of decades and then danced her through another step of grief.

“He who sings, prays twice.” St. AugustineHe who sings prays twice

The cousin who hosted us has been the organist and pianist for her church since she was 14 years old, a nearly 50 year relationship. She also was the musician to many cousin sing alongs in my childhood. Listening to her practice on her baby grand and her still clear voice reaching the sky was balm for my weary body vessel. She teaches other little girls how to play the piano, encouraging them through the hard parts, cheering them through the stretch and correct placement of fingers on chords and giving them the gift of music making and praying.

Rabbi Quote“To sing means to sense and to affirm that the spirit is real and that its glory is present. In singing we perceive what is otherwise beyond perceiving.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Singing has always taken me to places that I didn’t know I wanted to go or could go.  It transcends the words in my head and pulls straight from my heart.  I can’t remember not singing.  As a child, singing in church was always my favorite part.  Even now, when I’m in a different church than Easter, I will peruse the hymnals and make notes of songs that reach out and pull me closer.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise him all creatures here below.” I stood in the Presbyterian church of my Doxologyconfirmation and sang these words by heart and from my heart, my hands on the same wooden pews I rested them on as a child. This song, above all others, has always filled me with a sure faith even when life events caused my child heart to question. With stained glass story windows surrounding me, I remembered the bell choir I had once white gloved played in, glorious clear notes rising to heaven with our praise to God and glee we hit the right notes in the right time.

Colossians 3:16 “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”Col 3 16In a VFW hall in a small town, the room is packed with hundreds of people for a benefit for my nephew who refuses to quit in an epic battle with cancer. Music backdrops the community outpouring of love and hope. Elementary aged grandsons tearfully testify to the goodness of his grandpa and pray for healing. All of this for a man who unendingly serves his community, boldly loves his family and loudly praises God. When he asked the room, abounding with love, to stop and listen to the song, “My Wish“, we listened as a communal prayer beaming from each heart, the unity of the words and music seeking the ears of heaven.

Jesus Loves Me

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

The words are nestled in the brain and soul of any person who was a child in Sunday school. From our youngest days, we prayed and praised through song. A song is a thoughtful pause of prayer, a lilting cadence to accentuate our heartfelt desires and praise.

Today, pray twice. Sing. Loudly. Boldly. Badly. Pitch perfect. Tearfully. With joy. Alone. With others.

What song do you sing that pulls you closer to God?

 

As Long as I Have Breath

What is the reason to pray? We come to God in prayer for many things. We ask for wisdom, for guidance, for understanding, for others’ welfare, for peace, for acceptance. We share our blessings, our gratitude, our love, our humility. Sometimes our prayers seem to be answered and other times ignored. So what then is the purpose for prayer? If we don’t get the results we expected for our prayers, what makes us keep praying?

For me, prayer is not about outcomes, but about a relationship with God. Prayer is a way to keep my heart open to all that God displays around me and sends into my path. When I pray for someone to be cured, I don’t know for certain if that will happen. But what I do know is that God heard me. And that God’s love will surround that person no matter what outcome.Scripture Because he bends down

Prayer is the foundation of my relationship with God. I empty my heart to him and he pours his spirit into me. Through prayer, I can be reflective about my life and my choices. Through prayer, I can hear the needs of others and respond. Through prayer, I can see the God in someone else. Through prayer, I can bring his heart to this messy world.

My prayers are not a child’s list to Santa for all that I want in this world.  It is my way of letting God know I will keep listening for him and know he is listening for me.  As long as I have breath.

What is the reason you keep praying?