Mt. Pleasant Lutheran Church

Faith & Life (blog)

Perspective

March 14th, 2012 by Holly Hess

Perspective

By Holly Hess

 

My math teacher used to say, “You can’t see the forest through the trees.”  He was right.  It is hard to assess things we’re too close to.  Sometimes we need a change of perspective in order to see life more clearly.

The other day I was frustrated when one of my children stole some art supplies and painted my upholstered chair.   I was up to my elbows in stain remover and a little crabby when word came that a friend was in the hospital with her little girl, who had just suffered a serious seizure.

Perspective.

Lent changes our spiritual perspective.  We experience Jesus differently during lent.  Jesus the savior also becomes Jesus the sufferer. The tone of our worship and our lives change in response to his suffering and sacrifice.  We ask, “How are we responding to Jesus?”  Is our faith making a difference in the world?  Are we too caught up in little things to be grateful for the big things?

I recently read a quote that said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car.”

Perspective?

God gathers us together as a Christian family and calls us to live a life of love and service.  Being at church feeds our family.  It sustains us.  But we should also consider what our every day actions say about our faith.  The perspective from the pew is important but how we act on our faith beyond these walls can and does change the world.

My, “I’m spiritual but not religious” friends ask why going to church is so important to me.  It’s simple.  My faith shapes my perspective and being in worship opens my eyes to things I would never see on my own.

It’s Lent.  Jesus is in the wilderness and we’re trying to see the forest through the trees.  We can go through the motions or we can make things happen.  We can demonstrate that people of faith are people of action.  We can gather together to share the Lenten experience.  We can let go of little things and focus on more important things.  We can model Jesus’ strength, trust and selflessness.  We can lead by example.  We can change perspectives.

All-Seeing God,Give me perspective and help me to see where you are calling me in this world.

Amen.

 

God is Love

March 7th, 2012 by Holly Hess

God is Love  

By Holly Hess

Today I went shopping, hoping to find some pink M&M’s in a Valentine’s clearance bin for a baby shower I’m hosting.  I soon realized that Valentine’s Day, and all of the merchandise associated with it, is a distant memory.  The red roses have dried up, the pink candy has been put away, and the threat of being shot by that creepy little Cupid has passed.  Retailers have moved onto the greener pastures of St. Patrick’s Day.  Love is no longer in the air.
This got me thinking, is Valentine’s really the undisputed season of love?  I don’t think so.  I think the truest season of love is upon us.  I think it’s Lent.

More so than any other season, during Lent we see the full scope of God’s love.
“For God so loved the world that He gave his only son… “, plays out right before our eyes during Lent.  Jesus is the ultimate valentine, the ultimate “Be Mine”, the ultimate example of unconditional love.  During Lent, Jesus assures us that nothing can separate us from God’s love for us.  Because of Jesus’ undying love, any barriers between us and God are our doing.  Not God’s.

Recently, I was talking with a friend who has been away from the church for a long time.  At one point during our conversation she said, “I’m pretty sure I’ve been banned from almost every church by now.” The longer she has stayed away, the more convinced my friend has become that the distance between her and God cannot be closed

Earlier this week I read an article about a woman who was denied communion at her own mother’s funeral by a clergy who didn’t agree with her life choices.  Grieving and deflated, she also perceived the gap between her and God as simply too big.

The truth is, there is no gap.  Even when we draw away from God, God holds us close.  During Lent we are reminded that Jesus closed every gap, removed every road block, broke every barrier between us and our God who loves us.  Nothing we have or have not done can keep us from God’s grace.

As our retail seasons change and Cupid’s hearts are replaced by St. Patrick’s pot of gold, we should remember that of all the symbols of love and good fortune we know, none can compare to the symbol of Lent.  The cross, not the heart, is our truest symbol of abundant and everlasting love.

It’s Lent, and love is most certainly in the air.  The kind of love we can’t earn and God won’t deny.

Romans 8: 39
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Loving God,
Help me to know the strength of your love and to draw on that love during lent and always.
Amen

Sort and Wash

February 29th, 2012 by Holly Hess

Sort and Wash

By Holly Hess

 

I try to live my life aware of the lessons in each day, but I have to admit, this week they’ve been hard to see.  It’s been an ugly week at our house.  All six of us have been hit by a nasty flu bug.

This morning, as I was washing the twelve hundredth load of laundry for the week, I realized I must be feeling better.  Instead of dragging myself to the laundry room, I found myself thinking how good it felt to be doing the wash.  With renewed energy, I started sorting and washing everything in sight, even the things I washed yesterday.   You see, I’ve walked through a very smelly valley, and now I want everything to be mountain fresh.  In the stripping, sorting and washing of my household things I realized a good deep cleaning was exactly what I needed.

And just like that, I found the lesson.

Stripping, sorting and washing is good spiritual practice.  It’s easy to get covered in an emotional film that creates a barrier to the kind of life we really want to live. Unfortunately , it’s not always as easy to wash away as the flu virus.

What do you need to sort through?  Is your life filled with too many things?  Are you making a living but not living your life?  Do you have unfinished business with someone that needs to be addressed?  Are you taking good care of your physical and mental health?  Are you in open, honest conversation with God through prayer?  Have you been avoiding church?  Do you have anxieties that need to be released?

How would stripping away these burdens change you physically?  Emotionally?  Spiritually?

During Lent, Jesus models how to walk through pain, fear and uncertainty. We see him stripped of all earthly protections.  We relate to his vulnerability and we draw our strength from his.  Jesus understands that we wear a heavy coat.  He shares our humanly burdens.  He understands that while we don’t want to separate ourselves from God, we do, and we don’t always know how to wipe the slate clean.

The good news is, we don’t have to.  Jesus has already washed it all away.

Lent is a good time to make a spiritual assessment.  To lay our dirty laundry before God, to sort through the things that are piling up around us, to wash away those things that are creating a barrier to a cleaner, healthier relationship with God and others.

It’s time to move the process of sorting and washing beyond the laundry room.  It’s Lent.  Let’s strip away what’s built up and embrace the fresh start that is each of ours through Jesus.

 

Psalm 51:1o

Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.

 

Gracious God,

Wash away my worldly concerns and fill that space with your love and understanding.  Amen.

 

 

Ashes, Ashes We all Fall Down

February 21st, 2012 by Holly Hess

   

Ashes, Ashes we all fall down

                        By Holly Hess

 

 

Ash Wednesday is here and so begins our annual Lenten journey.

I like Ash Wednesday.  I like to see people walking around town with ashes smeared across their foreheads.  I like to catch a glimpse of my own ash-marked reflection throughout the day.

The ashes remind me that I am a person with plenty of flaws. They bring me down a notch.  They help me to realize that no amount of cleaning the house, reading parenting books, exercising, striving to be a good spouse, community service or acts of friendship can wipe away those imperfections.   We have flaws, and on Ash Wednesday,  we acknowledge them.

We gather at the altar on Ash Wednesday to lay our imperfections before God.  We bring our sins, fears, concerns and quiet thoughts and we kneel before our all-powerful God.  We don’t come alone, we come together.

Ashes, ashes we all fall down.

On the very day we gather to acknowledge our flawed lives, we are reminded that those flaws don’t define us.  Through grace, our all-loving God responds to our brokenness with forgiveness, and lifts us up again.

Ash Wednesday reminds us of all that we are not but more importantly, reassures us of all that we are and all that we can be as people of God.

Ashes, ashes we all fall down.  But God picks us back up.

 

Psalm 121

I lift my eyes to the mountains.

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD;

Maker of heaven and earth.

 

He will not let your foot slip.

He who watches over you, he will not slumber.

Indeed, He who watches over Israel will not slumber or sleep.

 

The Lord watches over you

The lord is the shade at your right hand.

The sun will not harm you by day;

Nor the moon by night.

 

The Lord will keep you from all harm;

He will watch over your life.

The Lord will watch over your coming and your going; Both now and forever more.

 

Prayer

Forgiving God,

I fall before you and ask for forgiveness.

Fill me with your grace and lift me up as a child of God.


 

Mr. Rodger’s Play Book

February 8th, 2011 by Holly Hess

It’s the day after the Super Bowl here in the Frozen Tundra and people are relishing in a Packer’s victory.  To be honest, I really don’t pay much attention to football and I am married to a Bear’s fan (now, now; nobody’s perfect).  Still, I do like the human interest stories that always come out of the game.  Here’s my favorite from this year.

I heard that during “Media Day” last week, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was asked what his favorite book was.  Maybe the journalist was trying to be clever.  Afterall, do football players really read?  Seems they do, Mr. Reporter.  Aaron Rodgers, athlete, superstar, MVP, role model and Christian quickly replied that the Bible is his favorite book.

Isn’t that a great answer and just what we want to hear from a man so many of our young (and old) people look up to?  I don’t know much about quarterback sneaks or two point conversions but when it comes to choosing a playbook for life, I think Aaron Rodgers is on the right page.

So cheers to you, Mr. Rodgers, for being a good football player and a good man.  Now go have some fun at Disney World!

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