Friendship on Purpose

“We were made to love and be loved, But the price this world demands will cost you far too much, I spent so many lonely years just trying to fit in. Now I’ve found a place in this circle of friends, In a circle of friends we have one Father, In a circle of friends we share this prayer.” (Point of Grace; Circle of Friends)

These words from Point of Grace’s song Circle of Friends have always been words that have spoken straight to my heart. But I am realizing even more how important and amazing it is to have friends grounded in God’s love.

Growing up, I had a hard time making friends. I was an emotional child. And I also was the kid that was picked on and bullied (in some senses of the word.) There were many who picked on me relentlessly. As they hurled those words at me, tears always ran down my face. I remember being called “cry baby” and “orange juice spiller” and other names. Little did these individuals know the brokenness that I was experiencing in my life. Their words continued to add to my brokenness.

In elementary school, I met my best friend Mandy. Mandy was a year older than me but she was held back because she had a kidney transplant. Mandy and I were pretty inseparable growing up. And we always stood up for each other. After high school graduation, we both went our separate ways. I went off to college. While at college, Mandy met a really great guy.and shortly after I graduated college and started seminary, they got married. I came home to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. During my seminary days, Mandy and I lost touch a little bit. But every once in awhile, she would call and we would talk like old times. I graduated seminary and moved back to North Dakota/Minnesota. While I was working in Dilworth MN, Mandy’s mom called me one day to let me know that she had passed away. I was heartbroken. Even though we had gone our separate ways, she was still my best friend; my very first best friend.

While working at camp, I made some really great friends. At seminary, I was blessed with great friendships as well. And while serving at Dilworth Lutheran, I met and made some amazing friendships as well. All of these friendships were/are grounded in God’s love for God’s people. Many of these friends were there when I needed them the most! My best friend Joni was someone that I met through camp. She is a dear soul sister in my life and has been there for me in many ways. There is also my friend MW who is a dear brother in Christ. I am so blessed that God had our lives cross. We have been there for each other through thick and thin; through the joys and the sorrows.

As I have grown older, I will admit that finding friendships has had its challenges. In fact, when I moved a year and a half ago, that was my deepest darkest fear; not being able to find friends. Yet God has blessed me immensely. (I should have known that our good God would come through like God always does!) There is my friend EG, my friend CT, my friend KW, my friend MJ and my friend KG. KW and MJ have since moved away but I am so glad that God had our paths cross. These individuals are my prayer partners. They are my soul sisters. CT and her hubby have shared their home with me. We have broken bread together. I cannot even begin to describe how thankful and blessed I am to have these individuals in my life.

And to my surprise, I have been blessed by amazing friendships through online community as well. I have never met these women in real life but yet I feel like I have known them for a long time because they have been open and shared their stories with me. I grieved for dear Kara Tippetts (and her family) because she was open, vulnerable, and taught me; taught us how to love well. There is power in community! At Kara’s memorial, they shared a quote from her that reminds me of God’s great, great good; a great, great good that is found in dear friendships and relationships in my life. Kara wrote “The absence of suffering in my life is not my good. The nearness of God is my great, great good!” And, my friends, I believe one way that great, great good is manifested is through friendships; friendships that are with us in the midst of our suffering.

I hope and pray that I am as good of a friend to my friends as they are to me. I want to be the friend who brings a meal when my friends are suffering. I want to be the friend who always lifts her friends up in prayer. I want to be the friend who drops everything to be there for her friends. I want to always be that listening ear and shoulder to cry on. I want to be, in the words of Jennifer Dukes Lee at InCourage today, the kindness giver, the Kleenex bringer, and the joy donor. (Read Jennifer’s post here: The Secret to Being the Best Kind of Friend)

I want to be those things MOST OF ALL!


Linking up with these lovely ladies:


 

Telling our Stories Offers Sweet Relief (Five Minute Friday)

Tonight I spent time on Twitter multitasking between a #fmfparty Twitter Party and an Incourage #girlfriend gathering Twitter party. It is such a joy to find community online. I never knew how incredibly blessed a girl could be. I am so lucky to have dear friends who bless me each and every day; those InRL and those in online community. Thanks for loving me friends! And always reminding me who I am!

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Relief.” Write for five minutes; unedited. (I am also featured on the FMF Intro video this week as well. Hope you enjoy!)

Our stories are never easy to tell. Each of us carries with us our own stories of brokenness and death and destruction. It took me a really long time to share my mom’s struggle with a mental illness. I never realized how much relief there would be in telling my story. But the truth is, my friends, that in telling our story; our story of brokenness but also of joy, redemption and resurrection I have felt sweet relief; the sweet relief that only Jesus can give.

Our stories tell people who we are. But  they also remind us of who we are. Our stories are full of vulnerability. Yet that vulnerability also opens us up to be brave; to continue to share our stories in the hopes that others will find relief; sweet relief in knowing that they are not alone in their own journeys of brokenness.

Our stories won’t always bring the relief that others will want to experience and will need to hear. Yet in sharing our stories with each other, God is there among us. God has a way of overcoming death and the grave. God, through his son Jesus, always offers relief; a sweet relief that we all need and yearn for. So, my friends, tonight please know you are not alone. God is there in the midst of all of the brokenness and God is also there in the midst of our moments of joy as well. God has sent his son Jesus to bring us relief; sweet relief!


The Master Risk-Taker

I AM NOT A RISK-TAKER! You won’t catch me jumping out of any planes! Or driving around a race car track going 100 plus miles per hour. I am more than comfortable knowing that things are going to stay the same. Yet during college, my friend Kristi and I (neither of us being risk-takers) decided to hop in the car and drive from Bismarck ND to Fargo ND about a four drive. Kristi was craving Olive Garden and the closest OG was in Fargo so in the car we went. I remember looking back on that experience thinking how crazy we were especially being the hotel we stayed at was not the classiest hotel.

Yet Kristi and I learned something that day! It is more than okay to take risks. God wants us to trust fully in him and to know that even when we take risks, he is standing there right beside us. I honestly don’t know if I would have gone to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp, or gone to seminary, or…..if I hadn’t taken that risk that day during college.

But because I have learned to be a little bit of a risk-taker, I have had some amazing blessings occur in my life. I graduated seminary even after struggling immensly with systematic theology. I remember my advisor telling my candidacy committee that it took more guts for me to stick with it. I wouldn’t have gone to work at a Bible camp for seven summers if I hadn’t taken the chance. And I wouldn’t have gotten that job if the camp director didn’t take a risk with me and hire me. I remember very vividly him saying to me, “I didn’t think you would make it but now I can’t get rid of you.” And I wouldn’t have listened to all the times God told me to take a risk…like leaving my last call to come to my new call.

I may not be the risk-taker that many others are. But what I am slowly learning is that when I, when we fully trust in God, God has a way of showing us that taking risks can and will pay off. Jesus himself is the master risk-taker. Jesus lived his life in the eyes of many who believed wholeheartedly in him and in the eyes of others who ridiculed his every move. Yet Jesus turned the world upside down, by taking his own risks, washing the feet of his disciples and sitting with tax collectors and sinners. Then ultimately, Jesus stood, arms outstretched, a crown of thorns upon his head, and breathed his last “It is FINISHED!” But he said those words knowing that God (his father) wouldn’t risk his life if he didn’t have the power to overcome death and the tomb. That my friends is exactly what happened.

There are still days that I look at Jesus’ sacrifice and wish I was more of a risk-taker. I wish that I wasn’t so afraid to be vulnerable; to share my own story. My friend Dana who I met through her blog and as part of the 31 days challenge continues to teach me about what it means to be vulnerable and to take risks even though it is SCARY! I honestly cannot put into words how much I love this woman (and we haven’t even met in real life yet!) because she reminds me that its about leaning in and trusting in this one who reminds us of the words we hear so many times in Scripture “Do not be afraid.”

You see, there is power in those four little words. Mary came to the tomb that Easter Sunday morning to see her beloved Jesus’ body. Yet when she came to the tomb, the stone was rolled away and Jesus was no longer there. Oh how risky….risky for Jesus to be raised…risky for us to believe like Mary and see that his words had come true. Jesus is no longer dead…he is alive! And because Jesus is risen…and because he is here, I find myself clinging to the promise that he will never leave me or forsake me. He will never leave YOU or forsake YOU either…..especially when we lean in and trust in him.

So my friends, as I come to the tomb and still see the tomb rolled away, I am going to try and be more of a risk-taker…a risk-taker who uses her gifts; the gifts God has given her to share his own messages of grace, love and being the master risk-taker; the one who sent his son knowing that death would not have the last word but that he would.

I am linking up with these lovely ladies today Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory, Meredith Bernard for #Woman2WomanWednesday, Kelly Balarie for the #RaRa LinkUp; and Holley Gerth for #CoffeeForYourHeart. 

 


Easter Joy Comes in the Morning!

“Easter says you can put truth in the grave, but it won’t stay there”–Clarence W. Hall

Today is the day that continually reminds us that death does not have the last word but that God does. In the midst of our own struggles, there are days that we cannot even comprehend that death does not have the last word but that God does especially when we sit with those we love and say goodbye to them. We find ourselves overcome by darkness looking for even just that little bit of light. We find ourselves looking for the hope that we have lost. But today Easter reminds us to hang on and to trust in this one who overcomes death in the grave. “Resurrection announces that whatever way death, despair, and destruction have got you in their grip, they do not have the last word (Rob Bell).”

There are days that I am mightly aware of how death, despair and destruction have me in their grip. And I am sure there are days you are mightly aware too. There are days I desperately yearn to be a wife and mom. There are days I desperately wonder if God hears my prayers. Yet, even in that despair, I want to cling to the promise that we proclaim today; “Jesus Christ is risen today! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

One of the things I love about Easter is continually being reminded of the joy that comes on Easter morning. I watched as the group I am taking to the national youth gathering this summer served breakfast this morning. I watched as the kids excitedly found Easter eggs as part of our egg hunt. I listened as the fanfare of my favorite Easter hymns were sung. I found myself realizing how this day reminds me again and again of what Christ did for me.

But again we cannot experience the joy of Easter without first experiencing Jesus’ seven last words. We cannot experience it without standing at the foot of the cross as his hands and nails are nailed to the cross. There are times, in my life, that I find myself guilty of holding that very hammer. We cannot experience it without hearing Jesus’ utter his last words, “It is finished.” And we cannot experience it without seeing him laid into the tomb.

Then today we come to the tomb like Mary and the others finding the stone rolled away and Jesus’ body gone. I cannot imagine what it was like to come that day and not see Jesus laying there because the dead are not supposed to leave. Dead is dead! But that is the thing, my friends, when death, and despair, and destruction think they have the tightest, most unbearable grip on us, God shows up and shows us that death in no way has the last word but that God does.

Last night as I read one of my favorite Psalms (Psalm 30: verse 5) “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes in the morning” it took on a whole new meaning for me. For it is in Christ’s death, that we weep; weep with Mary and all those who loved him but then we come on Easter morning and see with our own eyes that joy especially Easter joy does come in the morning.

Mourning into Dancing (Ben Larson)
(Click on the link above to hear this version of Psalm 30)

Linking up with Anita at Blessed but Stressed for Inspire Me Monday

Sunday Blessings 76

(1) Voxing with two of my faves; DB and TM.

(2) Getting to talk to one of my friends who I haven’t talked to in a long time.

(3) Going to support one of our college youth and her group raise money for their trip they are taking in April.

(4) Soup Tuesday at Minot State

(5) A sweet thank you note from some of my youth kids.

(6) Our janitor at church helping me with my car. I went home to do errands and it wouldn’t start. J helped me hook the charger up.

(7) A member bringing us two egg quiches for our Easter breakfast

(8) An awesome night with our First Communion participants and their families.

(9) Worshippers participating our hand washing station as part of Maundy Thursday worship.

(10) Lunch at the Starving Rooster with EG.

(11) Decorating for Easter breakfast and hiding eggs.

(12) A hugely successful Easter breakfast.

(13) The butterflies for my children’s sermon were a HUGE hit!!!

(14) An Easter text from my dear friend PB. Miss her and her family so much!!

(15) Spending Easter at a parishioners house. Great food, playing Dominoes, good conversation and so much fun.

(16) Having leftovers sent home with me.

(17) EASTER JOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I Don’t Ever Want to Forget!

Standing arms outstreched
A crown of thorns upon his head.
The sound of the hammer
Driving the nails into his hands and feet.

Thunder rolling.
Lighting flashing.
The curtain being torn in two.
Jesus uttering his last words.

IT
IS
FINISHED!

And then pure and utter silence.

(His Last Day by Tara L. Ulrich)

Today we sit in silence as Jesus lies in the tomb. And as Jesus lies in that tomb, I find myself reflecting on what he has done for me. I don’t want to ever forget what Jesus did for me and for you. Yet in the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Sunday, I find myself realizing how easy it is to forget. I had to go to Walmart this morning to pick up groceries for our youth Easter breakfast. As I walked around the store, carefully placing items into my cart, I found myself watching the crowds of people busying themselves for tomorrow too.

I bought our groceries and headed back to church. The youth and their parents met me there. We decorated for tomorrow, cut fruit, and I hid some eggs for our Easter egg hunt. After about an hour, I came home and finished my butterfly craft for my children’s sermon for tomorrow. And then I mixed up some muffin mix and placed those in the oven. As I was washing my kitchen counters, I came across a gift that my aunt gave me several years ago. It is a cookie jar but this cookie jar is unlike any cookie jar I have ever seen. This cookie jar is a Nativity. This jar stopped me dead in my tracks as I was washing my counters.

That jar has been sitting there  for months. There are times I think, oh, I should put that away until next year. But then I get busy and forget about it. So it still sits upon my kitchen counter. Now Nativities in my house are not unusual because I collect them. All of them are carefully packed away after Christmas. But there is one that sits on my tv stand. That Nativity is there to remind me that Christ did not come one day a year but is here all the year round.

The Nativity sitting on my tv stand is always there and I love that it reminds me of the love of this man who gave his life for mine…for yours. But the Nativity in the kitchen, it so easily has just become a part of the decor. Yet today, on this Easter Saturday, this eve before we come to the tomb and find the stone rolled away, it stopped me. It reminded me again of the nails being driven into his hands. It reminded me again of the tears that his mother shed for him. It reminded me of the deafening silence after he uttered his last words. It reminded me again that death does not have the last word but that God does.

Christ has done so much for us. Christ has put on the victor’s crown (Thanks for sharing that song, Karrilee). Christ will come again. But for now, let us sit in silence and remember as Jesus is lying in the tomb. We cannot experience the joy of Easter without Good Friday.

Sunday is coming, my friends. And because I don’t ever want to forget, that Nativity will remain on my kitchen counter.

I am linking up with Barbie and Mary at My Freshly Brewed Life for the Weekend Brew.

It is Good!

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Good.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

God created the light and called it day and created the dark and called it night. Then he said, “It is good.” And on the 7th day God looked at the world God created and said again “It is good.” Then God rested.

Later God sent God’s son into the world to die on a cross for our sins. But what is good about this day in which the crown of throwns is placed upon his head? What is good about Jesus breathing his last? What is good about Jesus just the day before sitting silent among his accusers and washing his disciples feet knowing that some of them would soon betray him? I don’t know about you but I have a hard time finding good as I stand and watch my savior crucified on our behalves.

But the thing is God loves us so much that God sent his Son into the world. But then on the third day, God reminds us of the good God has when God raises Jesus from the dead. It is good when the women come to the tomb and find the stone has been rolled away. It is good when we see that “Easter says you can put truth in a grave but it won’t stay there (Clarence W Hall).” It is good when we find the holy hopeful found in the Easter promise. It is good when we cling to the love of this one who gave his son for us. It is good when we come and can triumphantly proclaim “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

Maundy, Maundy

If there is any holy day that I like more than Christmas and Easter, today is indeed that day. Today, in many traditions, is known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday is a part of the Triduum (the three days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday). Maundy comes from the latin word “mandatum” which means “mandate” or “command”. On this day, Jesus gives us a new commandment “Love one another as I have first loved you.”

Maundy Thursday often uses the Last Supper reading from the Gospel of John where Jesus washes the disciples feet. The foot-washing does not appear in any of the other gospels. Maundy Thursday is an important day, in my opinion, because it teaches us how to follow Jesus’ example of being served and serving others. Jesus still washes Judas’ feet even though he knows what is yet to come…that Judas will betray him before his death. Jesus calls all of us with all of our brokenness to come to the table, have our feet washed, and gather as we eat and drink together. Then we are called to go out into the world “to serve and be served.”

My call to Diaconal Ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is based specifically on this gospel text from John. Diaconal Ministers are called to pick up their basins and towels and wash the feet of all God’s people. Diaconal Ministry grew out of the Catholic understanding of deacons and deaconesses. On my consecration day, I was presented with a basin and towel to represent my call. It is a daily reminder to me to pick up that basin and towel and reach  far beyond the church walls. I am called to bridge the gap between the church and the world. So now you can see why Maundy Thursday is one of my favorite holy days.

Often, on Maundy Thursday, many congregations have their youth who are going to take their first communion do it on this night because it is the night we celebrate the holy meal in addition to the foot-washing. I am excited that we have 21 youth publicly joining us at the table tonight. What a powerful reminder of how we are all called to be fed and forgiven.

“How beautiful are the voices; How beautiful are the hands; How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good news to the world.”

This Holy Week

Our foreheads were marked with the sign of the cross almost six weeks ago on Ash Wednesday as we began our journey to the cross. With the sign of the cross on our foreheads, the words “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; to dust you came, to dust you shall return” were spoken over us. Every time I mark a person’s forehead, I am reminded of their humanity and their mortality. It is especially hard when I mark the sign of the cross on a child’s forehead. Yet God declares that God will never leave us or forsake us. This Holy Week I am especially mindful of all who have gone before us including dear blogger Kara Tippetts who lost her battle with cancer a few weeks ago.

It is indeed a holy Week; a week in which we remember all Christ has done for us and experience so many emotions. It is a week in which we feel sadness but it also is a week in which we can be so very thankful. It is a week that walks us from the foot-washing of the disciple’s feet and gathering at the table, to the intensity we feel on the night of his crucifixion and death, to the hope that pours out when we come to the tomb and see the stone rolled away. It is a week that reminds us of the holy hopeful promise found in Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection.

But we cannot experience the promise of the Resurrection without first walking from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday to that joy-filled Easter morning. Clarence W. Hall once wrote, “Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.” I find myself clinging to those words this week. There is such hope in knowing that death does not have the final word but that God does.

This Lent I have had the privilege of praying through my Facebook friends list. It is always such an enriching experience to pray for these friends. With their prayers in my heart and knowing how they have experienced their own deaths (death of relationship, death of life, etc), there is hope found in knowing that death does not and WILL NOT have the final word. I am again reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses; Psalm 30: verse five “Weeping may come for the night but joy comes with the morning.”

Tomorrow, on Maundy Thursday, we will gather at the table, with all of our brokenness, where God calls us to come, have our feet washed and eat and drink. Then on Good Friday, we are brought to our knees as Jesus is beaten and crucified. There is a eery stillness that comes over the world that night. But then three days later, we come to the tomb and find that the tomb has been rolled away. And we know that death has not had the last word, but that God does!

God sent God’s son into the world for each and every one of us. God loves us so THAT MUCH! And knowing that love, I find myself thankful for what Christ has done for me…..has done for all of us. But there is also a trembling that comes over me. I am reminded of the chorus to the African American spiritual “Were you There” “Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.” And, my friends, this holy week I especially don’t want to forget that trembling; a trembling that is there as my feet are washed; a trembling that is there as I hear Jesus being beaten and crucified; and a trembling that is there when I come to the tomb and find it empty! Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!

I am linking up with these wonderful writers today: Holly Barrett for #TestimonyTuesday, 
Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory, Holly Gerth for Coffee for your Heart
and Angela Parlin at the #RaRaLinkup.