Walking with Grief

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This week in the GPS guide we will “unpack” the part of the Apostle’s Creed that refers to “the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting.” For those of us who have loved ones who have left our sight and gone on to that life everlasting (and isn’t that just about everyone?), the reading and study this week should bring comfort, as well as hope for our own eternal future.

We all know that grief is not a linear process, and doesn’t follow any particular plan or map. We know that death cannot separate us or our loved ones from the love of God, but it is still not easy to reach for the phone to call someone who can’t be at the other end, or long to see a beloved face one more time.

There are two lovely pieces from Celtic Daily Prayer (©2002 The Northumbria Community Trust, Ltd.) that speak to God’s love for us in times of grief, and our eternal connection to the ones we love. I’ve found comfort in them many times, and hope you do, too.

WALKING WITH GRIEF

Do not hurry as you walk with grief
it does not help the journey.

Walk slowly, pausing often: do not hurry as you walk with grief.

Be not disturbed by memories that come unbidden.
Swiftly forgive; and let Christ speak for you unspoken words.
Unfinished conversation will be resolved in Him.
Be not disturbed.

Be gentle with the one who walks with grief.
If it is you, be gentle with yourself.
Swiftly forgive; walk slowly, pausing often.

Take time, be gentle as you walk with grief.

And this prayer:

Come now,
live in us.
Let us stay in You,
since if we be all in You,
we cannot be far from one another,
though some may be in heaven
and some upon earth.
Amen

Jennifer Creagar – Prayer Ministry

How is it with your soul?

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This week as we continue in our sermon series “Searching for Truth,” we will look at what the Apostle’s Creed says about sin and forgiveness. I don’t imagine many of you are jumping for joy as you consider these concepts of the Christian faith. For many of us these words make us cringe or want to run away and hide. So I thought I would start my prayer tip by telling you an embarrassing story about a time I didn’t live into God’s best for me. I hope this liberates you to be honest with yourself about areas or moments of separation from God in your own lives.

I was in high school and my little sister in middle school. As a high school student (and even now), I have always loved a good nap. One lazy weekend afternoon, I turned on my favorite TV show and drifted peacefully to sleep. Until, suddenly, I was rudely awakened. It felt as though an earthquake had hit, and it happened to have Taylor Swift songs blaring as its back-up music. Before you get alarmed, you should realize that once I was awake enough to get my bearings, I knew these obnoxious noises were coming from the basement, where my sister was running on the treadmill jamming to her favorite tunes. I asked her “kindly” (with the grumpiest spirit) to get off the treadmill and turn the music off. Nope–nothing. And who could blame her? She was exercising and jamming, both good and healthy things. So what did I do to my kid sister? I marched downstairs and shoved my sister off the treadmill. I hope none of you have experience with this, but it doesn’t produce pretty results. My poor sister, already walking through the awkward middle school years, was now scraped up from head-to-toe. She had the most pitiful tears coming from her eyes.

Why does this story get to me? You likely understand sibling quarrels, but this went way beyond that. I acted out of extreme selfishness with little concern for someone I love so much. My potential to cause harm was a huge wake-up call. Not only that, but this incident taught me a lot about the importance of self-awareness. So often we live with a sense of what I have heard called “hurry-sickness.” We rush around, hastily tackling the task at hand so we can move on to what is next. I don’t know about you, but at that pace, I push my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health to the side. In the story I just shared, I know my mind was full of anxious thoughts on replay, my anger had been growing inside me for weeks, my body was aching from a lack of sleep and I had been neglecting my prayer life. I never slowed down to realize just how bad things had gotten. I wasn’t even aware of all I was thinking, feeling, experiencing in my body or experiencing in my soul. So I exploded! The little steps I had taken away from God’s love and peace, intentionally or unintentionally, had mounted up, and I acted out.

So this is my prayer challenge for you this week. Take some time each day to sit in the presence of the Holy Spirit and check-in on yourself. Find a quiet place. Close your eyes. Pay attention to your physical self–do you have any aches or pains? Where in your body are you carrying tension? Then take time to tune in to your thoughts–what do you notice about them? Are there any unhealthy patterns? Focus on what you are feeling–anger, sadness, fear, jealously, hopelessness, etc? Finally, consider this: how is it with my soul? Do I feel close to God? Am I living faithfully? Know that whatever you find when you check-in is okay. You are normal. You are loved. Then take time to open yourself to all you have discovered of God’s love and care. Ask God to restore, renew and refresh you.

God, may our mindfulness allow us to have a more faithful walk with thee. Amen.

– Rev. Katherine Ebling-Frazier

Sunflowers

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I recently got to see one of the most wondrous sights (at least for a Kansas girl)—a field of a million sunflowers. If you haven’t visited or seen pictures of Ted Grinter’s sunflower farm,check out this news report. Better yet, the flowers may still be in bloom if you rush over this afternoon. My husband, mother, sisters-in-law and nieces and nephews enjoyed our Monday there. We all have a lot on our hearts and minds, but the flower field was so magnificent that for a moment we—along with hundreds of others—ooo-ed and ahhh-ed, played and felt at peace. We all left the fields feeling so refreshed.

The experience was striking to me especially after a week of listening to congregants’ stories. This week, like most weeks, I had the chance to hear stories that broke my heart and others that gave me hope. Some stories made me question God’s presence, and some assured me the Holy Spirit is at work. I had the honor of several folks with alcoholism sharing about the constant challenges they face—the darkness, loneliness, exhaustion, guilt, and temptation. I turned to the Alcoholics Anonymous Book to try to better understand their experience. The Holy Spirit drew my attention to the words of AA’s founder Bill Wilson. He wrote this about alcoholics (and, I believe, about all who struggle with hurts, habits and hang-ups): “I suppose some would be shocked at our seeming worldliness and levity. But just underneath there is deadly earnestness. Faith has to work twenty-four hours a day in and through us, or we perish.” For those of us walking through seasons of great pain, this statement rings so true. The amount of faith it takes us to get through each moment is astounding. And yet we too often judge or discard those we know who are at the end of their rope, believing they have little to offer.

At the sunflower field, folks from all over gathered, with different life stories and challenges, but for a moment, the glory of the sunflowers brought them together. People, in some small way, found common ground. All was well. I believe this is how the church is supposed to be. As we come together, in the glory of the Lord, we are free to come as we are, and find common ground. God’s glory fills our hearts with grace, and everyone’s “okayness” in God’s glory is apparent. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” This is our calling as we seek to be the church.

One thing this means to me is that the church should never be a place where people feel they have to be perfect. It’s a place where we come just as we are to experience God. I read this from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together: “He or she who loves his or her dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” If (like me) you often wish the church was something different or more, I challenge you to focus your energy on recognizing the God of Glory’s work in the church just as it is. Focus on the faithfulness all people are seeking to live into, regardless of their challenges. Celebrate evidence of God’s good work, even in an imperfect church and all of us, the imperfect people who make it up.

This week, every time you see a Kansas Sunflower (along the highway, in your back yard, etc.), pray for someone you know who is facing darkness. Pray that they would know they are loved. Pray that they would know they belong. Pray that they would know that they are okay—both in your eyes and God’s. Welcome them (literally, if possible, or figuratively) into the Church.

– Rev. Katherine Ebling-Frazier

Prayers for the School Year

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Prayer Tip:

In this sermon series, we will examine what we believe as Christians and why. As we prepare to dig into our faith, many in our community are also digging into their education with the start of school. This week, will you joining me in praying for the start of this school year?

A Liturgy for the Beginning of the School Year
We remember that God has promised to journey with us in all of life—school is no exception. Knowing this, we approach the school year with prayer. Lord, hear our specific prayers for…

The teachers in our community…
The kids in our community…
The parents in our community…
Our partner schools and the teachers, kids and parents there…Those who don’t have access to an education…

A Prayer For Teachers to pray:
We have a call to teach and have responded to that call.
We teach, trusting God’s promises to support, sustain and encourage us
through gifts sufficient for the task.
We teach, relying on prayer and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
We teach, guiding others as they gain wisdom and knowledge.
We teach, depending on our community to uphold us in this task.

We pledge ourselves to pray for each other
and for the education of the students in our care.
We pledge ourselves to enable, encourage and love each other.
We pledge ourselves to be learners with our students this school year.
May we be the hands of Christ in our classrooms.
-Adapted from the United Methodist Book of Worship #601

A Prayer For Kids to pray:
Dear Lord, help me use my eyes to see new friends. Open my ears to hear my teacher. Open my mind to learn new things. Let my heart remember You are near when I’m afraid. Help me to love others like you do. I want to shine your light so bright in my school. Amen.
-Courtney DeFeo

A Prayer For Parents to pray:
As you head off to school today, this is what I’m praying for you:
I’m praying that your day will go smoothly—that your locker will open, you’ll get to class on time, you won’t forget anything, and you’ll find friends in your classes.
I’m praying that your teachers will know how to teach you in a way that you will love to learn.
I’m praying that you’ll make loyal friends who can make you laugh and make you better.
I’m praying that you’ll have the opportunity to be the light of Jesus to someone.
I’m praying that you will always be kind, even in the face of conflict or disagreement.
I’m praying that you will seek out the new or lonely person and help them find their place.
I’m praying that you’ll learn to be a leader.
I’m praying that you’ll do everything to the best of your ability—even when you don’t want to.
I’m praying that you will be focused on the things your teachers are trying to teach you.
I’m praying that you’ll have confidence from knowing you are a child of God.
I’m praying that if things go wrong, you’ll always remember that God loves you and so do we.
I’m praying that you’ll laugh a lot during your day.
I’m praying that you will follow in Jesus’ footsteps and grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
I’m praying that this year will be filled with learning, growth, joy and fun.
Have a great year!
A Back to School Prayer from Godvine

Students and parents, know that as you journey through the school year, you are never alone. God goes with you in all things. And we are always here for you in Congregational Care as well.

-Rev. Katherine Ebling-Frazier, Pastor of Prayer

Seeing with God’s Eyes

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I am blessed to “wear two hats” in my job here at Resurrection in Congregational Care. Wearing one hat, I provide administrative support to the Prayer Ministry and get to do things like process prayer requests, facilitate prayer events and retreats, and write prayer tips. Wearing my other hat, I work with members of our church family and community who are experiencing a financial emergency. Those two ministry areas seem like an odd combination, but I have discovered that each informs and supports the other. Funny how God puts us in unusual places sometimes so that we can see things from a different point of view.

This week in the GPS, we are going to look at the parables about wealth and poverty. Like all these good stories we have been exploring, Jesus used these parables to make his followers think about and see what the world looks like through God’s eyes. Issues surrounding wealth and want, need and providing for those needs, were hard for the disciples and people of Jesus’ day and they are hard for us now.

I want to see every person I meet through God’s eyes. I want to give them the answer Jesus would give them, but that does not necessarily come as naturally as it probably should. I am much more likely to see the world with God’s eyes, and care for my brothers and sisters like Jesus does, if I am in constant contact with God through prayer.

Here is a beautiful prayer from Praying in the Wesleyan Spirit: 25 Prayers for Today by Paul Chilcote that we can use this week as we explore the stories Jesus used to teach us about keeping “our eye firmly fixed upon Jesus in all things.”

Oh Eternal Light, I want to walk as a child of the light and to be filled with joy. I want a principle at the center of my being that not only represents who I am but is a guiding force that both accuses and excuses, disapproves and approves, condemns and acquits every thought, word, and deed from the perspective of your love.

I need a conscience that helps me to perceive what is right and wrong, that helps me know how to live in loving relationships with other people.

Grant to me, O Lord, a right understanding of your Word, a true understanding of my self, a consistency of heart and life, an inward perception that I walk in your ways and follow in your paths through faith in Jesus Christ.

Help me to cultivate a simplicity of spirit in my life – the ability to keep my eye firmly fixed upon Jesus in all things. Nurture within me a godly sincerity, a daily reliance upon your strength, wisdom, and love, so that all of my conversation might be compelling and winsome and pure.

Witness to your love daily in my life through the power of your Spirit, so that I might rejoice in you always.

May my joy-my happiness-always lead me to rejoice in obedience to your loving will, to rejoice in loving you, to rejoice in keeping your commandments.

May my sense of blessedness spring from the assurance that you love me and have restored abundance to my life through Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 – Jennifer Creagar, Prayer Ministry


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