Monday, October 31, 2011

Reformation

Happy Reformation Day and Happy Halloween dear readers and friends! Yesterday I preached for our Reformation service. I don't normally post my sermons at this blog anymore because I started a new blog just for that but since people seemed to enjoy it. I thought I would post it here as well. Enjoy your day dear friends!

It's All About Grace! (A Reformation Sermon)
I don’t know about you but I love being Lutheran!// Now I realize not everyone here today was born and raised in the Lutheran faith. Some of you married into it. Others of you have found yourself here because perhaps a friend or a neighbor invited you here.// However the truth is that as Lutheran Christians, we don’t spend a lot of time focusing on our Lutheranism.// Although on a day like today; Reformation Sunday, it is very difficult for us not to talk about what it means to be a Lutheran Christian.// Did you know that Martin Luther is named as one of the most influential people of the last one thousand years?//


16th century Reformer Martin Luther opened the door to renewal and reformation for the church when he posted his 95 theses on the castle doors at Wittenberg calling for debate. This renewal and reformation was founded on being “saved by grace through faith”; faith in the one who calls and claims us as God’s children.// Through the precious holy waters of Baptism, God calls and claims us as God’s children despite our own failures and shortcomings.// It is all about God’s immeasurable grace!!!!//

In the meaning of the Third Article of the Apostles Creed in Luther’s Small Catechism, Luther reminds us of the power and gift of this grace when he writes, “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him,// but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith,// just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith.// Daily in this Christian church, the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins---mine and those of all believers. On the last day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life.// This is most certainly true!//

Martin Luther wrote these words after he came to understand God’s Word more fully.// As a young man, Luther questioned if he was even lovable. He questioned if he was living up to God’s expectations of him.// But as he began to study God’s word, he began to discover a God who infinitely would love him despite his own failures and shortcomings. He began to see God’s grace pouring through God’s Word.//

Luther Seminary Assistant Professor of Old Testament Kathryn Schifferdecker captures this well when she writes, “Luther knew that God’s nature does not change.// God was, is, and will continue to be a God of great mercy, forgiveness, and love for a wayward people.// It is that people’s (the church’s) understanding of God’s nature that had become clouded in Luther’s day. Like Jeremiah, then, Luther called the people of his day to a new understanding of God and a renewed emphasis on God’s grace and God’s abiding love even for a sinful people.”//

As Lutheran Christians, we are people who are simultaneously “saint” and “sinner.”// The truth is that we consistently fail.// We fail at loving each other.// We fail at being who God has called us to be.// For in the words of Romans, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Yet despite these failures and shortcomings, God still shows us God’s immeasurable grace by sending God’s Son to die on the cross of everyone of us.//

And because of that grace, Martin Luther’s renewal and reformation of the church continues to challenge us daily.// The Lutheran church is a church that is constantly evolving; trusting in God’s grace, clinging to the promises of that grace, and knowing that God and God’s grace is the truth that will set us free.// So what does it mean for us; Dilworth Lutheran church, to be a “renewing” and “reforming” church?//

Dilworth Lutheran church is a “renewing” and “reforming” church by reclaiming what it means for the home to be actively involved in the faith nurture of our children, grandchildren, and all those we love.// Dilworth Lutheran is a “renewing” and “reforming” church by equipping families to take faith home through our Milestone Ministries and Confirmation programs.// Dilworth Lutheran is a “renewing” and “reforming” church by helping our neighbors beyond these walls; whether it be by building a home in Haiti, starting a community garden, or collecting canned goods for our local food shelters.// However the truth is that we are never done “renewing” and “reforming,” we are constantly in need of renewal and reformation. We are constantly evolving and changing just like Luther saw his church as constantly evolving and changing.//

But the beauty is that as Lutheran Christians, even in the midst of continual renewal and reformation, God promises that God will never leave us or forsake us.// God continually shows God’s love for God’s children despite our own failures and shortcomings.// In all actuality, it comes to down to God’s immeasurable grace for all God’s children! Or in the words of my friend Lynn, “Being Lutheran is about grace, liturgy, Scripture, grace, coffee, and one more helping of grace.”//

That immeasurable grace, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ is why on a day like today; Reformation Sunday, I am proud to proclaim myself a Lutheran Christian who fully believes in and clings to that grace not just on this day but every day.// So as a fellow Lutheran Christian, will you join me in proclaiming and sharing God’s grace not just today on Reformation Sunday but everywhere that you encounter God’s grace in this world?// Amen!// (Copyright Tara L. Ulrich)

Friday, October 28, 2011

What Lifts You Up Friday Five?

With that in mind I wonder what lifts you? So I'd like you to share 5 things

1. A Scripture- it might be a verse or a whole book! There are so many books and verses in the Bible that uplift me. One of my favorites is "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." I also love Psalm 30...holds a special place in my heart and makes me smile!


2. A piece of music. I'm definetely not a singer or a musician but I love music. Ben Larson has a song that put Psalm 30 to music. Love it! Jars of Clay "Love Song for a Savior" is another fave! There are so many more I could name. Lately one of my new faves is anything by Francisca Battestelli!

3. A place. Super Awesome Bible Camp that I worked at forever! Wartburg Seminary. All these places  feel like "home" to me!


4. A person/ group of people  So many...my friend Sonflower child! My group of seminary friends! My family! And so many more...you know who you are!!!!
5. Something you do...Spend time with family and friends, watch one of my fave movies, listen to some great music, etc!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday Tidbits

Confirmation tonight was fun! I used the smell of popcorn popping to talk about the 4th petition to the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread." Then I had them engage in caring conversation, "Is it harder or easier to pray for food etc when you can smell it, see it, etc or when you cant? So fun to watch our mentors/mentees engage and talk to each other. I love that its about teaching them and helping them take faith home!
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So many of my friends are having babies! So excited for them. My colleague became a new grandpa last night....their first granddaughter. So precious! What a gift from God!
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As many of you my faithful readers know, Im constantly thinking and reflecting on my singleness. Im so ready to find my Mr. Right etc. And as I am at the time in my life when I am so ready and yearn so deeply for these things, I find myself realizing how much harder it is. I am trying to be patient and trust in God but that is so much easier said than done especially when friends are announcing their engagement or talking about their new child. I honestly am so excited for them but find myself holding back some because it is something I yearn so deeply for. Will I ever walk down the aisle? Will I ever be a mom and hold my precious child in my arms? And then I find myself thinking about what if it doesnt happen, then maybe I could adopt etc. I honestly can say I haven't really thought about that but it is something that has popped into my mind more recently.
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So thankful and blessed for the awesome friends and family in my life. I wish I could see more of you more often. Tonight a friend posted about his approval language. I remember so well that day and am so thankful for the people that walked with me etc. I am humbled by what you/they have taught me. You have blessed my life in more ways than I could ever imagine!
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Well thats the end of this Wednesday tidbits post. Goodnight friends and faithful readers!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Patience

I normally consider myself a pretty patient person, but lately my patience has especially been tested. I long for the day that I meet my Mr. Right and can start my own family. Just the other day yet another friend announced her engagement. Honestly, I am so happy and excited for her! Yet it is in moments like these, that my patience really gets tested. At 33 years old, Im so ready and want these things so badly in my own life. It's hard to trust that God is with me in the midst of all of this but the truth is that God IS with me. I keep looking down at the neon green bracelet on my wrist that I got at a cancer benefit the other day. It reads "Trust in God" and on the other side "Faith Hope." Sometimes thats easier said than done though. I long and yearn so deeply for these things in my life. Part of me wonders if it will ever happen for me and the other part of me is trying to be patient! I just wish it wasnt so hard and frustrating...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Stages of Life Friday Five

Jan at RevGalBlogPals writes, "For today's Friday Five, I am suggesting that we each divide our age into 5 sections. You don't have to say your age or ages for the different parts, unless you want to. In each of the 5 points, please describe a memorable and/or significant event, either good or unpleasant"

1. The birth of my sister! I love my sister so much! We fought a lot when we were little but we are pretty close now. Shortly after my sister's birth is when my mom had her nervous breakdown. It is so much a part of who I am!

2. My parent's divorce! Not exactly what you want to happen when you are a sophomore in high school. Ill never forget the words that came out of my dad's mouth that day. He was like,its not that I dont love your mom anymore, Its just that I cant handle this illness anymore!"

3. Graduating High School and working at SuperAwesome Bible Camp. It is where I finally heard my call to ministry. That place will always hold a special place in my heart.

4. Wartburg Seminary! Blessed to have this place and these people as a part of my life. I love them all so much!

5. Now-Today! I love my job and where I am in my life. However I must admit that I am ready for that next stage in my life; marriage, family, etc. There are days when I wonder if it will ever happen for me. And then there are other days when I find myself just patiently waiting and fully trusting in God.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Door to the Church

This weekend has been an awesome, refreshing, faith-filled weekend that has me thinking about a lot of things. Vibrant Faith Ministries talks about how home is church too! They are so right! I realized something this weekend in the course of our conversations. When my parents got divorced, it would have made such a difference in my life and my sister's life if our parents came with us to Confirmation etc. The reality is that families are no longer 2.5 kids, a mom and a dad, and a cat or a dog. So how can we equip and help families to realize that home is church too. This morning we had wonderful people from Vibrant Faith Ministries with us in worship. I love what he said about how our doors are our front doors to the church. What would happen if all the homes in the world saw their front doors as the door to the church? Im not suggesting that it has to be complicated. In fact, it isnt at all. Talk to each other, engage in caring conversation, spend time being the church in the world, keep up with those riturals/traditions that are a part of your home and represent who and whose you are. My mom is one of the most faith-filled and faithful women that I know. Even though she lives with a mental illness, she has never let that get in the way of who and whose she is. She has been for me the embodiment of what faith and the church look like. For me, church truly did begin at home. And I think for many of us that is the case but I also think that sometimes we dont realize the impact we have on our children, grandchildren, etc. Praise be to God for my mom and other caring adults who I caught my faith from. This week may you take the time as a home to talk to each other, to pray together, or to do something missonal together.

I cant help but think of all the doors I encounter in a day. What if all those doors were a reminder that the front doors of the church arent at the church, but everywhere that we encounter Christ? At work? At play? in our cars etc?

I am reminded of the words found in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 "Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

(The thoughts and opinions represented in this post are entirely my own. However I truly do believe that the work and mission of Vibrant Faith Ministries is extremely important to the church today!)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Scattered Friday Five

Revkjarla at RevGalBlogPals wrtites, "So, I don't know about you, but I have had quite the scattered week. Sometimes, life is that way, right?
In the spirit of Scattered-ness, I offer you a scattery kind of Friday Five":

1. I lose my keys all of the time. Even if they are in my hand, I still am looking for them. Sigh! What is something you chronically looking for, if anything? Hmmm...at 33 years old and as I watch all my friends getting married and starting their families, I would say I am chronically searching for my future husband!

2. What movie are you looking forward to watching sometime in the future? (me, the new Footloose!) I agree with Revkjarla, Im excited to see the new Footloose too.

3. What is one of your favorite comfort foods? (me, pizza. hands down). Any German food----knoephla soup, dumplings, strudels, etc....its what Grandma always makes for my sister and I. A good American comfort food for me would be chili, meatloaf, pizza, etc.

4. Story time. Tell us a story of one your favorite people that has touched, blessed your life. This is such a hard question to answer because so many people have blessed my life's journey. There are those that I went to seminary with, those that I worked at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp with, etc. But since I have to pick one, Ill start with one of my most recent blessings. This summer I attended the Lutheran Academy of the Rockies! IT WAS AWESOME! While there I met so many wonderful people. Dana and his wife sure are two people that I am so glad to have blessed my life. We hiked and talked and had many wonderful discussions. I am blessed to have them both in my life. I feel like I have known them much longer than I have! :)

5. What do you do to focus or calm or center yourself? (please, I need ideas!!!)Spend time with friends and family, praying, praying, praying, and writing!

BONUS: Share the first thing (or second thing) that comes to your mind after your read this! Thinking about my friend who got news of cancer this week. Continue prayers for her and her family!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Risky Business

"We are not that far apart, God can see us both!" These words were written on a friend's carepage last week and they have been running through my head a lot especially today. Do you ever feel like you are alone? in life? in your vocation? in ministry? in the world? If you are like me you probably answered yes to this question and it probably feels like such a daunting feeling. How else are you suppose to feel when you see these words; solitary, lonesome, forlorn, and desolate under the definition of alone in Webster's dictionary?

When I graduated from seminary in 2005, I knew that I had made the right decision. God truly was calling me into the ministry of Word and Service; Diaconal Ministry. There has been and continues to be no doubt in my mind! Yet at times, it feels like such a lonely call. So many don't understand my call to Diaconal Ministry. Heck; they probably dont even know what a Diaconal Minister does or is! (Now don't get me wrong; this isn't the case for everyone!) But the reality is that the roster is such a new (compared to the other two rosters in the ELCA) roster that there is so much to educate and for the world to learn about us! My call calls me to "home and family ministry" yet so many see it as a call to "youth ministry."

Today I am having one of those days where the joy seems to be outweighed by the loneliness. In other words, today I'm feel quite a lone. I am currently the entire DM roster in my synod! Boy who would have thought that I would be a pioneer??!?! And in the midst of the loneliness, I am reminded of those who have seen my gifts to this ministry. I think of my seminary advisor who reminded me that it would have been so much easier to walk out that door and quit and never look back. I am reminded of the many who bring such joy into my life when they "get" Diaconal Ministry or even approach the question with me! I am reminded of the gift and blessing of my DM brothers and sisters in the ELCA and around the world. I am also reminded that not everyone of us has the same gifts; "There is a variety of gifts, but the same call." Jesus himself took a risk when he washed the feet of his disciples. It was completely out of the norm and wasn't at all what people expected! Yet Jesus did it anyways!! I have to remember that even when I feel lonely etc.

The truth of the matter is that I (we) are never alone! God walks with us at all times. And it is especially in the times when we are feeling lonely and afraid and like God isnt even here when God says, NO WAY! LOOK! LISTEN! HERE AM I!!!! Or in the words of my friend on her carepage post, We truly arent that far apart. God can see us both." In other words, WE ARE NEVER ALONE!(even when that is the only feeling we can seem to comprehend)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Smattering of Tidbits

Today has been a FULL day; full of lots of activities. Days like this remind me of how truly I feeled to this community of faith and how awesome life is. But then silly things happen that are pretty much out of my control. And when those things happen, I am reminded of how important it is to remember the blessings in my life.

First, the photograph we hired to do Confirmation pictures didnt show and the church office manager called to confirm etc. GRRR....so we ended up punting and taking pics on the church camera etc. Makes me so sad! Then we asked the 9th graders to help serve the banquet because they will be confirmed next year. Somehow the parents didn't realize they needed to be there too but it all worked out!

So instead of thinking about these things, Im going to reflect on the blessings of today---

1. Getting a picture from one of my favorite three year olds (Thanks C)

2. Getting high-fives from all the three year olds at our Prayer Milestone

3. Registering some youth for the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering

4. Having a friend make faces at me from the back of the sanctuary while I was helping Pr. M with communion (She is such an instigator. I was trying so hard not to laugh!)

5. Making Wild Rice Soup from the new church cookbook

6. Eating that Wild Rice Soup

7. Catching up with my shows from the past week; especially Glee!

8. Walking outside after church into a pouring rain, I couldnt help but smile as I thought about the little girl Pastor M just baptized and it also reminded me of my Baptism!

9. Talking to my fave sister online for a few minutes!

10. Being reminded of how awesome God is. I think of my dear friend who is awaiting results from her doctor to see if she has cancer. On her carepage, she talks about how we arent that far apart because God can see us both. I love that image!!

God bless my dear friends and readers!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

"Jesus with Flesh On"

Have you ever thought about how sometimes we just need "Jesus with flesh on" in our lives? As many of you know, last week I posted an entry about a dear friend from seminary who was diagnosed with cancer. However when they did the biopsy the doctor gave her some hopeful and hope-filled news; the tumor didnt look cancerous. But now its time to wait; time to wait until the results come back. How hard it is to be patient when we have to wait. My friend has a website where she has been posting updates etc. Last night she talked about how she loves Jesus but sometimes she needs to have "Jesus with flesh on" and for her, that has been the hundreds, no thousands who have been praying for her from miles near and far away from her. She is so right though. Sometimes we just need "Jesus with flesh on" We need to see Jesus through the eyes, ears, smiles, hugs, etc of those who love, care, and pray for us! What an awesome image that is! This friend has reminded of how awesome it is to have brothers and sisters in Christ who hold you up when you dont think you can do it yourself; who love you for who you are and will pray for you no matter what. What a blessing and a gift that is! Last week my youth at church were "Jesus with flesh on" when they collected 1,383 pounds of food for our local food pantry. So my friends, I challenge you to be "Jesus with flesh on" not just today but every day!