Mother’s Day 2015

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This week in worship we’ll be exploring both the deadly and life-giving ways of mothering. As a child I remember my mother taking my sister and me to church. At times she would have to literally drag us or negotiate with us to go. Once we got there we would go to Sunday school and then during worship inevitably one of us would fall asleep in her lap or I would read the story of David and Goliath. After leaving home I strayed from the way my mother had taught and brought me up, which is not uncommon for those in college. Proverbs 22:6 speaks to these all too familiar circumstances: “Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it.” Mothers are constantly in prayer for their children’s salvation, future and protection.

As I reflect on how I was raised in the way, strayed and then returned, I ask myself, “How can I be in constant prayer with God?” One of the easiest ways that I’ve found to be in constant prayer with God is through breath prayers. Breath prayers are a good way to invite God to interact with you throughout your day. An example of a breath prayer is, (breathe in) Jesus, (breathe out) Be my guide.

I’d like to challenge you this week to be in constant prayer with God, whether you are driving your car, shopping for groceries or wrangling toddlers. Invite God to be the co-author of your life’s book.

–Alex Rossow, Pastoral Care Intern

Who Hears When We Speak in Silence

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One of my favorite observations about prayer comes from author Anne Lamott in her wonderful book Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers:

“Prayer means that, in some unique way, we believe we’re invited into a relationship with someone who hears us when we speak in silence.”

If we are honest, when we pray, we sometimes feel like that God must not be listening. We prayed for ACTION – healing, change of heart, change of circumstances and we just don’t see it happening. Things didn’t magically get better, the pain still exists, the broken heart shattered into even more small pieces. We feel like our prayer has gone unanswered.  Sometimes we fall silent because we just don’t know what to pray any more.

But God still hears us:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.  Romans 8:26-27

Prayer is more than just words. God still hears us when we run out of things to say, when we are spent, exhausted and broken. God answers those silent prayers with one great reassurance: “I’m here.”

Prayer is a relationship. When we pray, we invite God in to our messy, sometimes painful, often confusing lives. That is where the miracles happen—not always outward miracles, but sometimes inner miracles like peace, faith, or resilience. When we are out of words and we “speak in silence,” the Creator of the Universe speaks for us and to us and tells us, “I’m here.”

This week, in the sermon and the GPS guide, we will reach out of our comfort zones and look at all the questions surrounding prayers that seem to go unanswered. As we do that, let’s not be afraid of our own silence and lack of words. Let’s try to listen and hear God’s certain reply, “I’m here.”

 

–Jennifer Creagar, Resurrection Prayer Ministry

Examen

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Prayer Tip:
Over the course of late middle school and early high school, I lost both my grandmothers—affectionately known as “Nana” and “Mimi.” I remember feeling for the first time the sting of death as a teenager—the indescribable pain, hidden deep in one’s heart. Both of them were extraordinarily kind, good humored and they served as the “glue” in our family. They also shared a love of the garden. Nana had a love for flowers and my sisters and I would play for countless hours, climbing the trees in the garden—while the rest of the family acted like “grown-ups.” Mimi, on the other hand, had a “Secret Garden” and a tree-swing in the backyard and we played make-believe all the time when we stayed at her house.
Easter, in our family, was a time in which my sisters and I put on our prettiest dresses (which the grandmas had often purchased) and gathered for a meal, followed by magical Easter egg hunts. When my grandmothers passed away, one in late January and the other in early March, I remember the pain I felt when Easter rolled around. The deep pain of losing such dear role models was coupled with the excitement and joy of Easter. I was feeling so much all at once.
I wish I could say that arriving at Easter overwhelmed my complex emotions. But I am beginning to realize complex emotions are fairly common. This week, for example, I watched as a sweet baby was born early and went on to heaven, I prepared a funeral for a woman who I looked forward to seeing each week in service and I learned that a dear family member has cancer. All of these things recreated the sinking feeling I felt when I lost my grandmothers. Alongside these heart-wrenching experiences, I also planted my garden and enjoyed the sights and smells of spring, met with a teenager who was recovering from a health scare and shared laughter with my husband as we shared a meal. In these situations, I felt a fullness—a joy, bubbling up within me.
An article got me to thinking: is feeling complex emotions not the pattern of Holy Week? Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. Talk about an emotional roller-coaster! When we journey with Jesus, when we accept that we are fully human and live courageously, our lives are full of ups and downs. These swings often feel like more than our hearts can bear, but our hope is that God is present with us in all of life. And, at the end of the day, we turn to God praying and trusting that God will make us people of hope. I so loved this quote:

“…God also has planted within each human being a seed of hope that, if properly nurtured grows into a confidence that all will be well, all manner of things shall be well. The breath of God reaches into even the smallest and most remote garden and human heart and infuses life.” (Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening, Vigen Guroian)

So this week, my prayer challenge to you is that you find time to engage in the practice of Examen. Answer the questions as honestly as you can. These questions allow us to slow down and take a closer look at what God may be speaking to us in our everyday lives. They help us see moments of resurrection in both the joyful and painful experiences life throws our way. Here are the questions:

  1. When did I feel closest to God?
  2. When did I feel farthest from God?
  3. When did I feel the most alive?
  4. When did I feel like the life was being sucked out of me?
  5. When did I feel the most like myself?

– Rev. Katherine Ebling-Frazier, Pastor

When Life is Hard to Handle

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This week, we will reflect on the saying, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I have only been serving at this church for a relatively short while, but I have already had the honor of listening to so many of you share your stories with me as a pastor. Day after day, I am overwhelmed by the pain, suffering and injustice so many of you have known. It is definitely more than I could handle and I stand in awe of all of you as you continue to choose life, hope and joy in the midst of such challenges.

In a very deep sense, this experience and my own pain have led me to believe in the fact that through God’s grace, love, redemption—alongside the support of community—there is hope even in the moments we feel we cannot handle. My problem is that I often avoid vulnerably sharing my pain with God, or in my community. Do any of you relate to this?

As we approach the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., I couldn’t help but recall that this great follower of Christ had moments of doubt where he felt God was giving him and so many of God’s people more than they could handle. Rather than attributing the pain, suffering and injustice he and his African-American brothers and sisters encountered to God, he had a way of telling the truth about the things that seemed hard to handle. This, I believe, is how God used him. As he told the truth, the lies that oppressed others were revealed for what they were and people were liberated because they no longer felt alone in their struggle.

As we learn to be truth-tellers, sometimes revealing how hard life can be, I believe God can use us in great ways too. I have found the Psalms so helpful as I learn to be more honest about the things in my life I feel I can’t handle. Here are two that resonated with me this week. Psalm 6:

1 Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
3 My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
4 Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?
6 I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.
8 Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the Lord has heard my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Psalm 130:

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

So this is my challenge for you this week. Take time to tell God and trusted friends in your community about the things in your life that feel difficult to handle. Write your own lament—an honest and heartfelt plea—inviting God to help you and help those in your community, our nation and our world as we walk through times that are difficult to handle. And do this with the same hope that motivated Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

— from Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Address, 1964
Amen.

Rev. Katherine Ebling-Frazier
Pastor of Prayer

Praying Together

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This week in the sermon and GPS guide, we will be exploring the truth behind the half-truth, “God helps those who help themselves.” This particular “truth” has always bothered me, because it doesn’t take much looking around to see those who are asking for God’s help precisely because they have no means – spiritually, emotionally, or physically – to help themselves. This week, one of the real truths we will examine is our calling as God’s people to “Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of wicked.” (Psalm 82:4-5)

We don’t always think of offering prayer as being part of the rescue of the weak and needy, but in truth, one of the things most lacking in the lives of those who live in need is not physical or financial, but emotional and spiritual connection. Praying together is an intimate and bonding experience that stresses our equality before God.

When we pray with someone else, listening to their story is an important first step. Companions in Christ: The Way of Blessedness Leader’s Guide (Upper Room Books, 2003) offers these great instructions for truly listening to someone else as you prepare to pray:

Practice listening with your heart as well as your head. Create a welcoming, accepting space in which the other person may explore freely his or her journey in your presence and in the presence of God. Be natural, but be alert to any habits or anxious needs in you to analyze, judge, counsel, “fix,” teach, or share your own experience. Try to limit your speech to gentle questions and honest words of encouragement. Be inwardly prayerful as you listen, paying attention to the Spirit even as you listen to the holy mystery of the person before you.

When appropriate and non-intrusive, invite the other person to explore simple questions such as these:

Where did you experience God’s grace or presence in the midst of this time?

Do you sense God calling you to take a step forward in faith or love? Is there an invitation here to explore?

By practicing this kind of “holy listening” and then praying together, we can reach out to the heart and spirit of our neighbors and brothers and sisters who need help. Who can you pray with this week?

Jennifer Creagar
Resurrection Prayer Ministry

Prayer Journaling

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There have been times in my life that I felt I was just certain I knew the outcome of a particular situation—a job interview for a promotion went well, an application for a volunteer assignment that was a great fit for my gifts and experience. I just “knew” that I was going to receive the promotion or assignment…and then I didn’t. How disappointed I was! I thought I had things all planned out only to be told “no” or “not yet.”

Days, weeks, sometimes even years later, after reflecting on the situations and outcomes based on decisions I made in light of those circumstances, I have been able to see the good, and even joy that have come in the aftermath of those disappointments. This helps me understand Romans8:28 which says, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” It’s often hard to see in the moment of pain or sadness. Hearing someone say “everything happens for a reason” feels like they are minimizing or trivializing that darkness. Even more, it suggests that God personally caused our pain or disappointment.

A prayer journal can help us remember the times we’ve prayed through a struggle and we receive an answer. I know many people who write down their prayers (both joys and concerns) in a notebook or journal, and then review and reflect on those periodically. When there is some sort of response—an update over a health concern, a new opportunity that occurred only after another one was no longer available—these notes are added to the prayer journal as answers to prayer. After a while we begin to see how God can work good out of a situation, no matter how dire it seems at the time. God’s grace can redeem all things we experience into opportunities for us to reflect God’s love to others. Seeing these occasions written down in black and white helps me to grow in my trust of God to be present and working in every situation I experience—whether good or challenging.

Are there times you can think of in your life where God has been actively working to bring about positive outcomes even in the midst of turmoil? Perhaps you can reflect on those times and begin a prayer journal as a way to remind yourself of God’s grace and desire for good things in your life when you next face a difficult time.

Prayer: God, I ask in times of darkness that I trust you to work some sort of good out of the situation. Help me when I turn away from you in fear. Bring me close to you again, Oh Lord, when I’m facing a challenge. Remind me that you are present with me at all times, whether I feel it or not. Restore my courage, strengthen my resolve to hold on to my faith and trust in you in all things. Help me remember that your grace is sufficient for all. Amen.

Kelly Hansen
Pastoral Intern
Congregational Care

Praying for Justice

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In the GPS guide for February 9-13, we read a lot about justice, action, and putting hands and feet on our faith. We will read scripture about caring for widows and orphans, loving strangers and providing for their needs, God’s provisions for the needy, justice that rolls like waters and righteousness like an every-flowing stream, being doers of the word, giving honor to the poor and loving our neighbors as we do ourselves.

Wow.

And what is a prayer we can be praying while we think and see and act and love? There are many, but there is one you very likely know. If you participate in worship here at Resurrection, I know you say it out loud at least once a week.

“…May your kingdom come and may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

This week we could pray this daily, and expand a little, asking God to help us live into our real desire to do his will. We can ask:

  • Where am I called to participate in bringing God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven?
  • How can I contribute peace and love to all whom I encounter?
  • How can I grow in humility so that I may seek to serve others?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.* put it this way:

Forgive us for what we could have been
but failed to be.
Give us the intelligence to know your will.
Give us the courage to do your will.
Give us the devotion to love your will.
In the name of the spirit of Jesus, we pray.
Amen

*Thou, Dear God: Prayers that Open Hearts and Spirits (edited by Lewis V. Baldwin, Beacon Press, 2012)

 

Confession…and Compassion

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As I sit down to write this prayer tip, I have to be really honest and share that I feel frustrated. Why, you may ask? Because I make mistakes—I am not perfect. Some days the Apostle Paul’s statement: For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19) really resonates with me. I have a vision of God’s best for me and somehow, when the rubber hits the road, I often miss the mark. As a perfectionist, this just drives me crazy!

This week, as we study loving others, I can’t help but think that one of the people I fail to treat with love and compassion is often myself. Can any of you relate to this? I have such high expectations for myself and I am so unwilling to receive God’s grace and forgiveness when I fall short. When others come to me asking if they are loved and forgiven, I have a very clear sense of God’s compassionate love for them, but I can’t make sense of the fact that I am deserving of the love.

I say all of this, because I think that when we don’t feel we are deserving of God’s love, I think it can be painstakingly difficult for us to be filled with love and the Spirit to share with those around us.

So, what can we do about this? First, I think we have to be honest with ourselves about how often we consider ourselves unlovable. Second, I think it’s important that we find a person to share honestly about the mistakes we have made that leave us feeling ashamed and unlovable. As Congregational Care Pastors, please know we are always here to think with you about these moments. You deserve to be freed from the sense that you are unworthy of love.

I love listening to Christ’s words in Matthew 11:28-29: 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” I hear such compassion is Jesus’ voice. This is the sort of compassion I want to learn to extend to myself.

So for this week’s Prayer Tip, I challenge you to reflect upon the moments you missed the mark at the end of each day. After you confess each of these moments, read Matthew 11:28-29 and remember that you are loved by a God of compassion. Tune out the messages of inadequacy and open your heart to God’s great love.

Amen.

Katherine Ebling-Frazier, Pastor of Prayer

What, really, is our goal?

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Over the last few weeks, I have had the honor to lead several funeral services on behalf of the church. Before every funeral, I get the privilege of sitting with each family and listening to them tell stories of the one they love who has died. The impact that one human being can have on those around them becomes clear in our time together. It leaves me asking the question: what was his or her secret?

 
As a young person, I often am fooled into believing that the goal of life, the secret, per se, is to be extraordinary. I am always re-evaluating my goals and formulating new ones. Do any of you have a bucket list? To me, this is fun stuff!

 
And, then I read something like this, from Richard Rohr, one of my favorite theologians: “It’s a gift to joyfully recognize and accept our own smallness and ordinariness. Then you are free with nothing to live up to, nothing to prove, and nothing to protect. Such freedom is my best description of Christian maturity, because once you know that your “I” is great and one with God, you can ironically be quite content with a small and ordinary “I.” No grandstanding is necessary. Any question of your own importance or dignity has already been resolved once and for all and forever.”

 

When I listen to families share stories of their loved ones, the folks who often leave the most significant marks are the one whose main goal was simple: love for God and neighbor. Often, these are the people who would never boldly claim this was their goal. Instead, they humbly and consistently embodied it—they exhibited “Christian maturity.”

 
So I ask you, how might following Christ redefine your ideas about what it means to live a good life? What really is our goal? This week, I challenge you to read these scriptures and others from Paul’s letters.

 

  • Ephesians 3:17-19: And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
  • Philippians 1:9-11: And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
  • Galatians 5:13-14: 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

Do any of those passages particularly speak you? Pray those scriptures. Spend time asking God to help you define your goals for your life in Christ and to give you strength to embody them humbly and boldly.
–Katherine Ebling, Pastor of Prayer

The Person We Were Created to Be

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A few weeks ago, I married a fantastic fellow. As most of you know, one big joy at weddings is that for a brief moment in time all of the people that you care for deeply are gathered together. After the craziness died down, we began sharing with each other the importance of the folks who joined us for this event, and who had formed us spiritually. Turns out our spiritual mentors are extroverted, introverted, gentle, blunt, intellectual, emotional, men, women, rich, poor, serious, silly, liberal and conservative. The main character trait all of these people had in common was that they are really authentic people. They are confident in the person God created them to be, and they seem to understand who they are in Christ—quirks and all.

In The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen pegs authenticity as an key foundation for sharing God’s love. He explains: “When the imitation of Christ does not mean to live a life like Christ, but to live your life as authentically as Christ lived his, then there are many ways and forms in which a man can be a Christian” (99). Being ourselves, it seems, greatly enhances our ability to carry out God’s commission to love God and others.

I believe Paul’s identity in Christ allowed him to share the good news of Jesus Christ in a way that resonated with many who did not yet believe. He wrote that when a person comes to know Christ, that person is a new creation with a call to be “Christ’s ambassador.” Take a look:

“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! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-20)

So, here are my challenges to you this week:
-Take time alone, in silence to think and pray about the person God has truly created you to be. Make a list of some of your main character traits. This is no easy task. (I believe it takes a lifetime to fully discover, but now is a great time to start.)
-Ask yourself: “How can being myself in interactions help me be a more faithful ‘ambassador of Christ’? How might it allow others to listen to the good news of Christ I have to share?”
-Share your faith with one person in the way that feels most authentic to the person you are.

-Rev. Katherine Ebling-Frazier, Pastor of Prayer


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