A Travel Testimony: A Summer of Positivity

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As part of our summer sermon series at Friedens – “Journeying with Jesus” – several people are offering up testimonies in worship related to their recent travels. A testimony is a spoken story about how we have experienced God – in dramatic ways, in the ordinary spaces of life and in our church community – offered in the context of our community of worship. Rooted in our Christian tradition, testimony is an ancient practice that enables us to express our faith and point others towards the light of Christ. In a world where bad news gets more attention than good, we have the opportunity to tell of the Good News of Jesus Christ. This week’s testimony comes from Carissa, one of our middle schoolers.
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For my testimony today, I am going to talk about my summer, where I experienced positivity through and because of God. Whether or not I was traveling, I felt lots of positivity, but here are moments that stuck out to me. The first one was when I started a music program called SYO. I was SO nervous, but the people around me were really positive to everyone and happy they were there and I felt God watching over me.
The second thing I want to talk about is a place called USPIRITUS. That is a home for children who for whatever reason can’t live with their parents, or have experienced something and can’t be around other people. We played games and ate lunch with them and it was really exciting to meet them, because they all had such different backgrounds, and they still looked on the bright side and were very friendly with each other. I know that when I have problems in the future, I will remember these kids and do my best to look on the bright side as well.  After they left, we cleaned up some trash around the area, and I felt the presence of God because of the nature, and how peaceful it was.
Then we came back to Friedens and for the lock-in we played sardines and watched a movie… And just talked and hung out. Then we woke up and we ate breakfast and helped in the 8:30 service. Which, I felt God because it was a church service. After church we went to a trail in Brown County and we picked up trash on a trail, and we didn’t talk, we just walked and enjoyed the nature God made and took care of it. After that we went swimming, and went to downtown Nashville and looked at stores for a while, which was a positive experience. Then we went Mr. and Mrs. Strietelmeier’s. In the evening after eating dinner we talked for a while, then went back to church and went home, and it was just a great place to be because everyone there was very positive and experienced God too.
Then the last thing I am going to talk about is where I felt this in Disney was when we saw the voices of Liberty because we listened to them sing, you could hear how passionate they were about their music and then they let us get pictures and they gave us hugs. They were very kind! Another time, when I was on a bus to animal kingdom, I saw a message that said trust Jesus which was exciting, and I showed Mom and I thought about things I am thankful for. Those are moments this summer when I felt God and positivity.
Thank you, Carissa, for telling your story and bearing witness to the Good News! 

A Travel Testimony: Good News in Germany

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As part of our summer sermon series at Friedens – “Journeying with Jesus” – several people are offering up testimonies in worship related to their recent travels. A testimony is a spoken story about how we have experienced God – in dramatic ways, in the ordinary spaces of life and in our church community – offered in the context of our community of worship. Rooted in our Christian tradition, testimony is an ancient practice that enables us to express our faith and point others towards the light of Christ. In a world where bad news gets more attention than good, we have the opportunity to tell of the Good News of Jesus Christ. This week’s testimony comes from Friedens member and Director of Music, Kristin Petty. 

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This spring I was awarded a Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship. This generous grant from the Lilly Endowment allowed Darren and me to explore Iceland and Amsterdam before traveling to Wehdem, Germany where we visited extended family and learned about the origins of Friedens Church. From there we traveled to Bavaria and spent time in Munich, Germany and Salzburg, Austria.
Since I have been home I have been asked numerous times about my favorite part of the trip. Our 3 weeks in Europe gave us memories to last a lifetime and experiences that we will never forget, but is the human interactions that are the first things that pop into my mind when I think about our adventure. A trip that spans 4 countries, 10 cities, several significant train trips and 8 hotels with no home base for 20 days creates a certain level of vulnerability. All though we always felt safe we at times felt insecure because we were completely dependent upon those in the service industry for everything including transportation, meals, directions and even clean laundry.
What I remember most are the kind people. The young man from the hotel in Iceland who was sent to pick us up at the airport and who circled the airport 4 times waiting on Darren to get a much needed cup of coffee after our 6:30 am arrival. Once we were at the hotel he rearranged rooms to get us into our room 8 hours early because he saw we needed to sleep. The two men from England who patiently explained the tram system in Amsterdam when we were completely bewildered. The compassionate conductor on the train from Hannover to Munich who allowed us to stay on the train, in first class even, when the app on my phone adjusted for the time change when it never should have and we missed our original train by 6 hours. Our extended family in Wehdem who were gracious hosts. Driving us all over, inviting us to family dinners and cookouts and even offering to wash, dry and fold our clothes. My patient husband who after we rode bicycles over 30 miles in 3 and a half hours round trip from Salzburg to Oberndorf, Austria trying to find the Silent Night Chapel, which we never found by the way, looked at me with a smile on his face and said let’s return the bikes and find somewhere to eat and you choose. And the one that meant the most – the airport employee in Boston who gave up his break to walk us from the E terminal to the A terminal so we wouldn’t miss our flight back to Indianapolis. When we thanked him and offered a tip he declined, smiled and said, “God bless you and have a good flight!” His generous use of his break time allowed us to get back to Zeke a day earlier than we had planned.
I know that I noticed these small acts of kindness more because I needed them. I needed help and this help made a huge difference in the way our days went. I also noticed them more because for 3 weeks we were completely in the moment. Our phones weren’t ringing. We weren’t checking email. And though I found wifi each evening so I could write my blog post that I new my good friend Tom Williams was waiting for, I wasn’t consumed with social media news feeds. Without having access to data usage on my phone, let’s face it I’m too German and tight with my money to pay international roaming charges, I couldn’t rely on Siri and Google Maps like I do in the United States. Instead, I interacted. I talked to people. I lived in the moment.
As the summer ends and people finish up their travels my prayer is this. I pray that you live in the moment, see the simple acts of kindness in front of you, appreciate those acts and thank those that bless you. I also pray that you find those simple yet special ways to bless others whoever they are and wherever they are on their journeys.

 

Come, Holy Spirit

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In worship yesterday, our sermon takeaway was, Come, Holy Spirit. When we are in a challenging situation in which there’s dissension and strife; when we seek not to be motivated by selfish desires; when instead we desire to choose love – the kind of self-giving love Jesus modeled for us, Come, Holy Spirit is a simple prayer that acknowledges the transformative power of the Spirit of Christ and calls upon it to produce love, joy, peace, unity, etc.

On the days when you want more than a three-word prayer, the Catholic tradition offers a beautiful prayer known as “Come, Holy Spirit.” (I have changed one word in an effort to use more inclusive language.) May you boldly call upon the Spirit this week, and may your life be filled with fruit!

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.  And You shall renew the face of the earth.  O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy Your consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

 

(Extra)ordinary Time

AdobeStock_72665840.jpegEven though the season of summer doesn’t officially begin for a couple more weeks, it definitely feels like summer around here. It’s hot and humid, schools have let out, and now with Memorial Day behind us, according to my grandma, we can officially wear white.

We are also transitioning into a new season in the liturgical calendar. With the Easter season ending with Pentecost a couple weeks ago, we are now in the season called Ordinary Time.

Here’s a recap of the liturgical year. It actually begins with Advent in late-November/ early December and extends into Christmas. After the holidays, there are a few weeks of Ordinary Time. Next come the seasons of Lent and Easter. After Pentecost Sunday, we begin a long season of Ordinary Time that lasts until Advent – and thus the liturgical year – begins again.

The Christmas and Easter seasons tend to get the most attention in our culture. That’s when we ponder the central mysteries of our faith – the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the ascension of Jesus Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Even people who have never stepped foot in a church know a few things about Christmas and Easter. But how many people – inside or out of the church – know about Ordinary Time? Confession: only reason I do is because I spent lots of money to attend seminary and learn about such things.

The popularity of this liturgical season isn’t helped at all by its name. When we think of ordinary, we tend to think routine, normal, nothing special. Perhaps then there’s a temptation to think that since there aren’t any bells and whistles in Ordinary Time like there are at Christmas and Easter, then we can just kick up our feet and coast for a bit.

Not so fast … Ordinary in this sense doesn’t mean routine. Rather, it comes from the word “ordinal,” which means numbered. To keep track of the Sundays in Ordinary Time, they’re numbered. So, we have the first Sunday in Ordinary Time, the second Sunday in Ordinary Time and so on …

So, what Is Ordinary Time all about? Well, this is the season when we move through the life of Christ – discovering who Jesus is and what Jesus is about – and grow as disciples in the process. It’s the season for conversion and maturation. Thus, the liturgical color is green, which is the color of growth. This is the time when the profound mysteries of Christ penetrate us even more deeply as we walk the Way of Jesus.

So, Ordinary Time is anything but ordinary. It’s actually an extraordinary opportunity to go deeper in discipleship and reach wider with Christ’s love.

Won’t you join me for this extraordinary time of learning and growth?

Reflections on Pentecost

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Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday – the day in our liturgical calendar when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It was the ancient, Jewish festival of Pentecost that brought the disciples together not long after Jesus ascended to heaven. It’s reported in Acts 2 that as the disciples gathered, the Holy Spirit entered the room quite dramatically in the form of wind and fire and entered the disciples. They then began speaking in different languages. Witnesses were so amazed and perplexed by what was happening that some actually accused the disciples of being drunk.

Peter refuted that charge, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, he proceeded to powerfully proclaim God’s act of salvation through Christ. At the end of his sermon, it’s reported that 3,000 people joined this new religious movement. As a result, Pentecost is known as the birthday of the Christian church. So, Happy Birthday to us!

The idea of the Good News of Christ being proclaimed in multiple languages is actually something we are familiar with in our congregation at Friedens Church. Having been a church established by German immigrants, for decades, the people of Friedens worshiped in both German and English. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1940s that that tradition ended.

This week I was reflecting on our heritage a bit. And thinking about how interesting it is that the land that our German-American ancestors settled here on the south side of Indianapolis is now the home to so many Burmese refugees. In churches scattered across our townships, Christians sing and pray in Chin. Just as we do in English. And just as our ancestors did in their native German language some 80 years ago.

Isn’t this a beautiful image of the Kingdom of God right here in our suburb?! Our neighborhood is one in which, throughout generations, people of different tongues and ethnicities have proclaimed the love of Christ. As we celebrate God’s gift of the Spirit, we are reminded that God has given us ONE Spirit that unites all of us – black, white, male, female, Gentile, Jew, Burmese and German-American- together in the bond of peace.

Yes, friends, we are one in the Spirit. Or, as we’d say in German: Wir sind eins im Geiste!

Here on the south side of Indianapolis, throughout the week, I hear many people speaking languages other than English. At the drug store, I run into folks speaking what I assume is Chin or Burmese or one of the many other languages that originate in Burma. In my son’s preschool class, there are several children from India who are learning English as a second language. And I recently befriended a woman at the YMCA from Pakistan.

I’m not sure if you can relate, but sometimes, I hold back from engaging with people when I know there might be a language barrier. I fear the awkwardness and discomfort. However, yesterday, I challenged myself and the congregation to push through this hesitation and speak to someone whose native tongue is different than our own. Not only that, but I encouraged everyone to ask that person how to say something in their language.  Perhaps something simple like “Have a nice day.” Or maybe, even, “We are one in the Spirit.”

I encourage you to join us in the challenge. May this be an opportunity for the Spirit to break down some barriers and to unite as as one!

 

A Resurrection Life Litany

In our recent, Eastertide sermon series entitled “Life-Giving Acts,” we’ve been exploring some stories about the early church as recorded in the book of Acts. Each week, we’ve concluded worship with this Responsive, Resurrection Life litany. Perhaps you’d like to pray it throughout your week …

 

One: A new creation is bursting forth right here in the middle of this one, and there is a new heaven and a new earth coming together.

All: We are getting up to live the resurrection life.

One: In the conquering of death, Jesus is bringing about something new.

All: We are getting up to live the resurrection life.

One: Jesus invites us to be part of the life-giving work he started among his disciples.  Like Simon Peter, we are called to feed Christ’s sheep and take care of Christ’s lambs.

All: We are getting up to live the resurrection life.

One: By the living Spirit of God, we are empowered to do this good work. Like the church in Acts, we are the hands and feet of Jesus in our place and time.

All: We are getting up to live the resurrection life.

One: Like the disciple, Tabitha, we follow Jesus to the margins of society to serve the poor, care for the vulnerable and welcome all people into Jesus’s flock.

All: We are getting up to live the resurrection life.

One: We are inspired by Cornelius who influenced everyone in his household to come to faith in Christ.

All: We are getting up to live the resurrection life.

One: Like Lydia we have caught the wind of the Spirit and are rising with open hearts of hospitality.

 

All: Praise be to God who is getting us up to live the resurrection life!  Alleluia!  Amen!

Doodling through Psalm 23

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This past Sunday was Good Shepherd Sunday – a day in the liturgical calendar when we celebrate God’s protection and provision. Sunday’s Old Testament Lectionary text was Psalm 23 – one of the most well-known psalms that I’m sure some of you even have memorized. It’s definitely a favorite of mine and one that I return to when I’m in need of some comfort and reassurance.

In fact, just this morning I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by life and in need of some of that comfort. I was dealing with a complicated set of feelings that I couldn’t actually put words to. I wanted to pray but wasn’t sure where to even begin. Can you ever relate?

I’ve discovered that a very helpful outlet for me when I’m feeling out of sorts like that is to draw. Keep in mind, I’m not super-talented in the visual arts department. But being best friends with an art therapist, she has convinced me that everyone can benefit greatly by engaging in the creative process.

So, I sat down at my desk, got out my journal and colored pencils, pulled up Psalm 23 on my Bible app and proceeded to doodle my way through the psalm. As I concentrated on creating a colorful assortment of pictures and words, my prayer rose to the surface and poured onto the page.

When I was finished, I felt a sense of peace and calm. I had been ministered to by the Scripture and by the creative process, and I was grateful to God for connecting with me in this way. The experience proved so powerful for me that I wanted to share some tips on how to do this exercise in case you’d like to give it a try. Again, if you aren’t very artistic, don’t let this stop you! All this exercise requires is a few basic art supplies and an open spirit!

 

  • Gather your art supplies – a blank piece of paper and some markers, crayons or colored pencils.
  • Turn to Psalm 23 in your Bible or click here.
  • Take several deep breaths and invite the Spirit into the experience.
  • Read through the psalm several times – both silently and aloud.
  • Look at your box of colored pencils (or whatever writing utensil you’ve chosen) and start with a color that catches your attention.
  • Begin coloring, doodling and writing. Don’t think too much or try to analyze your choices. Allow yourself to get lost in the creative process.
  • At some point, pause and read through the Scripture again a couple times before returning to your picture.
  • When your creation feels complete, take some time to reflect on the experience. What insights, words or feelings rose to the surface? What do you see on the paper? How is this passage of Scripture being illuminated to you in fresh ways? Do you sense the Spirit speaking some assurance or guidance to you? Are you being asked to respond in some way?
  • Offer up a prayer of thanksgiving!

I pray that you will be ministered to in your doodling!

If you give this exercise a try, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comment section or in person!