Spiritual Giftedness

During the weeks of Lent the Confirmands all engage in a Lent project in place of our regular weekly learning times.  They are instructed to choose a Spiritual Discipline (prayer, worship, scripture reading, devotions, service to one another, generosity/stewardship) and engage in that discipline using one of their own Spiritual Gifts and/or interest areas.  After Easter each of the youth present their project.  I don’t worry about a flashy or spectacular the presentation, but rather the process and engagement of their faith.  It’s such fun every year to hear how each person has engaged deeply and become more aware of how their faith is lived out.  Here are some of the projects this year:

Devotions:

*Teen devotional book and written daily reflections and prayers

*Volleyball with different scripture, used for devotions

*Looked at 25 different Christian songs and picked out the main point/theme of each and found scripture to match.

*Used weekly devotions and nature to explore scripture and God’s creation.

*Commentary on the book of Jonah along with painting depicting the story of Jonah.

*Words of faith art project & painting

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Rituals and Traditions

easter-lilyRituals and traditions allow us to hold on to special stories and memories.  I’ve been reflecting and savoring some of these traditions lately.  Though I try to not think of it and try to live in the present moment, I have been acutely aware that this will be my last Lent, Holy Week, and Easter at Saint John Lutheran.  I love all the worship services and the time spent with people but what also makes it special is the small rituals and traditions that have sprouted up over the years.

Traditions including Wednesday night dinners before worship, which give time to see more people and sit and have conversation.  And the Lenten worship services where different voices are heard preaching the gospel through meditations in worship and the singing of the liturgy from the Holden Evening Prayer, which just happens to fit perfectly into my vocal range, and my soul is filled as I get to belt out the leader parts.  Not only that, Pastor Jon and I have gotten the harmony down and the team atmosphere by which we work takes on a tangible form.

Then there are the other “hidden” traditions.  Each year, for the past 6 years, Deb makes me meals.  It started my first year at Saint John when she was worried that all I would eat for a week would be peanut butter sandwiches.  She wasn’t wrong.  She lovingly portions out cut up fruit, salad, muffins, treats, egg bakes, and casseroles into easy-to-grab containers.  Even more, it is packaged in a picnic basket with bows on it.

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Holy Week & Baptism

Malachi baptism

Colossians 2:12-15 “When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Holy Week brings with it a variety of emotions. Beginning Palm Sunday, with Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem, we soon see a sharp turn as the pharisees are angered and the joyful crowd soon turns to one of malice yelling, “Crucify him!”  The highs of waving the palms and welcoming the Messiah soon turn to the lows of cynicism, doubt, and death.  Despair leaks in as we hear of the warmth yet sadness of Jesus’ last supper and the washing of his disciples feet.  The drama and pain of his betrayal and arrest settles deep into our souls as the brutal, heinous beating and killing occurs on the cross.  The tears come, the weight of Good Friday rests upon our shoulders as we too are guilty of Jesus’ death.

Even in the midst, though, we hear the promise.  We hear it on the cross as one man says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” and Jesus, in the midst of his own torment, replies, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)  Today.  Not tomorrow.  Not next week.  But today.  This is the promise we hear again in baptism. “Today you are mine.”

On Palm Sunday, just a few days ago, Malachi Jacob was baptized.  His name, meaning “God’s messenger” was spoken as the Word and the water made him a member of the body of Christ.  The promise that was brought to life that day on the cross was heard once again as Malachi Jacob’s name was spoken, being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus died on the cross so that the Old Adam and the Old Eve–our sinful selves–would die daily and rise to new life.  Death and resurrection, death and resurrection.  The old self dying in the waters of baptism and the new self rising to newness of life, being fully cleansed of our sin.  We can only experience the joy of the resurrection by first going through the death on Good Friday.  We can be grateful that we know that the story did not end on Good Friday.   That is what, in fact, makes the Friday “Good”–that it was done out of extreme love and grace.  This is the love and grace that is given to us through the cross and bestowed on us in baptism.

In our lives we go through series of Good Fridays and Easters–through sin & death and through joys & celebrations.  We are drawn back continually to the One who has sealed our salvation, who has done it for us not because he had to, but because he wanted to, and who gives everlasting life to us all as a free gift. Good Friday and Easter is every day.  Thanks be to God this Holy Week and Easter.

 

Ardeth

Philippians 3:13-14  “Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Every week when I would get to church Ardeth would be sitting in her car in the parking lotThumbnail preparing to come into church.  I would walk into my office, drop my backpack, and go get a cup of coffee.  By the time I got out to the coffee bar area Ardeth would be sitting in her spot: first table in the chair closest to the door.  After worship she’d make her way back to that same chair, this time where a cup of coffee and a doughnut would be placed and she would sit with her friends talking, laughing, and catching up.  She would greet the young children, she would greet the “old children,” and her smile would light up with each adult who came to hug her.

Last Sunday was the first Sunday she wouldn’t be sitting in her spot.  Ardeth died on her way to church, just one block away, going to the place she loved most.

At 90 years old Ardeth had much to teach us and those of us who knew her were privileged to know this woman of faith.  There’s much we learn from others and from people like Ardeth. I learned that you are never too old to share your gifts with the heart of a servant. Her sewing and her crocheting—both exceptional skills, were her gifts to others, her way of expressing her love.  Ardeth had a knack for thinking about others, for being a giving person, knowing that what she could do brought love to another person. And she always thought of others. One day Ardeth invited Pastor Jon and Marcia to her place, “I have a little something for you” placing in their hands lovingly crocheted items for their grandchildren. Or at the time of my wedding—a package—with colorful dishrags and washcloths, ”To start your kitchen together” she said, and I noticed that she had placed on top two of the washcloths I had admired only a couple of weeks before as she lovingly worked on them during the crochet group time here at church.

They say that a church is a place to worship, a place to serve, and a place to grow with other people.  This indeed, is what Ardeth found, in the place she loved most. As Christians we know we can’t control the presence of Christ in our midst, but as someone said, “You can position yourself in different places where you know you’ll encounter the risen Christ: 1) in the Word—Bible study, worship, and the sacraments, 2) in fellowship with God’s people, and 3) among those who are needy.” Ardeth was well stationed and indeed the Holy Spirit made room among her and was there in the abiding places, encountering Christ’s self giving love, and living out of that for others.  Yes, she died going to the place she loved most, but ended up in a better place, a place she’ll love even more.

 

Moments

Psalm 118:24 “This is the day the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

It’s been quite some time since I’ve blogged, years in fact.  It’s funny how the hours, days, weeks, and months can seem to slip on by.  “I’ll get to it” or “Tomorrow…I’ll have time tomorrow” is a common thought process for those items that don’t seem high enough on the to-do list.  The thing is, the moments…the moments 142167-deer-grove-forest-trail-running-featureof rest, the moments of doing something that fills you with calmness or joy, the moments that fill up your heart…they matter.  They may not be at the top of the to-do list, they may not even seem important to someone else, but they are important.  Talking on the phone with a sibling or friend, quietly reading a book, sipping a cup of coffee in the early morning light, or running through the woods on a trail, these are all important to our lives of faith, to our time with God, to the small pauses in the day that allows us to be in the presence of God… when we pause and breath, even for just a moment.  God breathed into dust, creating us in God’s image.  With each breath we take, in each moment, God is with us.  Yes, there’s always more to do.  But pausing for just a moment, embracing those moments that God gives us to breath, those are holy moments.  Let us rejoice in these moments.

Camp Agape Day 5

God’s Love is For Everyone!!

Our final day of Camp Agape was such fun!  The week culminated with Cross+Generational VBS where parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends, and congregation members were all invited to participate.

We started with a good old fashioned cookout meal of hotdogs, chips, and watermelon.  The campers all got to sing songs for the adults and share what they have been learning throughout the week.  In the final skit Ranger Roger and Sally found out that it was the Rascally Raccoon who had been playing all those tricks on Sally.  Sally was relieved to find out that she had been working hard and being successful, but it was the raccoon who kept sabotaging her.  Ranger Roger and Sally both had forgiveness for the Rascally Raccoon and reminded her that God’s love goes beyond our sin because God loves us unconditionally.

While the campers went and played games and had snack time the adults spent some time together discussing the Bible lessons from the week, memories of their own experiences in Vacation Bible School, and ways that we can support one another in faith.  The adults then went to join the campers for campfire lesson time and crafts.  The craft for the day was to decorate the camping bags that each person received at the beginning of the week.  It is a great way to remember the week of camp and carry a visual reminder of God’s love.

The final hurrah was a real campfire and s’mores!  Pastor Jon tended to the two campfire pits and everyone was able to roast marshmallows and enjoy a sweet treat to close out our wonderful week at Camp Agape.  We are so thankful for all the volunteers, parents, grandparents, and for all the people who donated food and items.  We are especially grateful for the children who attended VBS and shared their excitement for God with one another as we all grew in faith together.

Camp Agape Day 4!

God’s Love is AMAZING!

God’s love certainly is amazing as we have been witnessing throughout the week via the love and care shared by all the campers and volunteers.  It is worth noting right away that the VBS campers raised $171 by Wednesday to “SWAT OUT MALARIA!”  We quickly surpassed our first goal of 15 bed nets and $150, so we set a new goal of 20 bed nets and $200.  You’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s update to find out if we surpass that new goal.

Dinner was a favorite of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and grapes.  You can’t go wrong with either when you are having a camping picnic dinner!  We enjoyed singing songs and even learned a new one, “Days of Elijah.”  Many songs are becoming quick favorites and are sung with gusto.  Ranger Roger, Sally, and the Rascally Raccoon were back!  Sally was given directions from Ranger Roger on how to build a campfire.  Sally didn’t quite understand the directions but she is a problem solver and finally figured out how to build a fire.  She was so proud of herself!  As she went to go get Ranger Roger to show him her successful campfire the Rascally Raccoon snuck in and put that fire out with a bucket of water!  Sally was SO disappointed!  I wonder how our story will end tomorrow?

The Bible lesson for the day was Pentecost and Pastor Shannyn was invited to do a remembrance of baptism for the campers.  She also ended up answering some very thoughtful questions from the campers.  For craft everyone made very creative and inventive luminaries that will be displayed tomorrow at the final campfire.  Games of course are always fun and the campers had fun running around and playing different games and activities on a beautiful evening.

We are grateful for God’s AMAZING love for us and look forward to coming back tomorrow for Cross+Generational VBS with families, friends, and neighbors!