St Andrew Blog

Letters from the Intern

Dirty Foreheads

ashwedforehead 1About five years ago a man stopped me in the grocery store. He said, “Excuse me, miss, but you have dirt on your forehead. Just wanted to let you know.” I paused for a second wondering how to respond. Should I just say thank you? Should I tell him that I know and it’s for Ash Wednesday? I didn’t want to make him feel foolish for telling me because if I really had dirt on my forehead, I’d want to know!

So, I thanked him and said that it was a special religious holiday and although it might look like a blob of dirt now, it’s supposed to be a cross of ashes.

He looked puzzled. I didn’t know what to do, so I waved goodbye and continued to the check-out. I stood there thinking to myself, “Dang it, Kate, you missed this great opportunity to have a possibly awesome conversation! You should have told him more about Ash Wednesday.” To be honest, I still kick myself for missing this chance. But I panicked! Not just because I wanted to be polite, but I’m not sure if five years ago I knew exactly how to put the tradition of Ash Wednesday into words.

Trying to explain any tradition to someone who isn’t familiar with it is difficult. From the inside, it all makes sense. We come to church and we put ashes on our forehead as a ministry leader recites Genesis 3:19, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It’s a ritual we do every year at the beginning of Lent. It reminds us of our fallible nature and the reality of sin.
Okay, now writing that down, it sounds even more confusing and gloomy. Yet, there is beauty in this penance as we acknowledge what we lack. During Ash Wednesday, we acknowledge not just that we are sinners, but that we cannot cleanse ourselves without God.

We live like we are all toddlers trying to eat. We sit in our highchairs with a bowl of apple sauce in front of us. Our parent is close by watching; not holding the spoon or helping because we have exclaimed that we can do it ourselves. We begin to eat. Maybe we get a couple of successful spoonful’s, but eventually, the apple sauce is everywhere. It’s on the ground, all over our eating area, behind our bibs, in our hair, and all over our faces. We are talented at making messes. The apple sauce is like sin that is in our lives. We didn’t necessarily intend to make such a mess, or even know we were, but it’s here and we are filthy.

Thank the Lord we have the most patient parent in the world; God, the one who comes running with a rag to wipe our faces.

“You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” God took dirt and ash on the ground to create humankind. God saw that it was good and created another. It is through God and with God that we exist and because of that alone we rejoice in God’s holy presence. Yet, God did not stop there. God came down to dwell among us. It is through Christ we understand the relentless love of God; a love that displays a willingness to die so we could be made free. God washes us through Baptismal waters where we are marked with the cross, renewed and made clean.

So, if you’re asked why you have dirt on your forehead today, remember that you are dust, created by the hands of God. Remember that we wear ashes as a sign of penance, acknowledging our broken and sinful nature that God washes clean. And remember that for God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes may not perish but may have eternal life.

Let us pray: Gracious God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust the breath of life, creating us to serve you and our neighbors. Hear our prayers and strengthen us to face our mortality with confidence in the mercy of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Email Kate

Letters from the Intern

Finding the Courage to Lead

leadership

 I wanted to start this blog post off with a thank you because I have officially been at St. Andrew for 6 months! Isn’t it crazy how time flies? I only have 16 more months with you, and I am determined to let the Holy Spirit lead us through it; showing us God’s grace and love each day.

As you all know, I am still a student. Part of my schooling is to explore leadership and what it means to be a leader in ministry. Just recently, I started listening to the audio book, Dare to Lead, by Brené Brown. She is one of my favorite authors who’s writing is authentic and captivating. In this book, Brené dives into why being a leader takes courage and vulnerability. She says, “The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”

Now, I know this sounds nerdy, but I couldn’t help it. After hearing this I immediately thought of the 12 Apostles. Among the miracles and parables, Christ led these 12 through, what I can imagine, were some of the most challenging times of their lives. They traveled all over the place and followed Jesus, not really sure what was going to happen next. Even though they couldn’t predict or control the outcome, they continued to show up.

Now I want to be clear, the Apostles were not perfect people. They were sinners and broken folks just like you and me. They knew that about themselves. They knew that without Christ they would be living their lives ignorant to the blessings and grace God gives us. But no good leader leads thinking they can do it all on their own. The Apostles relied on God to lead them so that they could lead others. After Christ ascended into heaven, the Apostles were left as the faith leaders for the world. Talk about feeling the pressure! Christ told them to go out and make disciples of all nations. They knew they didn’t have all the answers, but they allowed themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit. They continued to share the Word of God with everyone, even when they were rejected.

In a letter from the Apostle Paul, 2nd Corinthians 1:8-10, it says, “My friends, I want you to know what a hard time we had in Asia. Our sufferings were so horrible and so unbearable that death seemed certain. In fact, we felt sure that we were going to die. But this made us stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting God…”

Although we may be in different situations compared to the early disciples, the command still stands for us. We continue to rely on the Holy Spirit to help us go out and share the Word of God. So, what does this look like? Did you know the number one reason that people start coming to church is because a friend invited them? It’s true! When people like you invite others to come and experience Christian communities, you are inviting others to hear how much the are already loved and accepted by God. What a gift! But inviting people to church takes courage and vulnerability. It takes vulnerability to reach out, but it takes courage to listen to their response. Sometimes you will be met with a joyful “YES!” and sometimes you will get a no. That’s okay. Respect their decision, but remind them that invitation is always open.

Let us pray,

God, be with us as we go through this day. When we are tempted to give up, help us to keep going. Grant us a cheerful spirit when things don't go our way. And give us courage to do whatever needs to be done. In Jesus' name,  Amen.

 

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Letters from the Intern

Decluttering...

let go and let god widow of zarephathIt's 2019!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful start to their New Year.

I want to know; how do you feel about New Year’s Resolutions? Do you find them helpful? Or do you think they aren’t worth your time?

No matter if you’re writing down ten to twenty resolutions, or just continuing to go about daily life, God is working in us to be the best versions of ourselves. I find that the New Year provides a chance for us to focus on how God “renews.”

In Isaiah 43:18-19 it says,

“Do not remember the former things,
    or consider the things of old.
19 I am about to do a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.”

I was conflicted with this passage upon reading it. I have learned that the only way to not repeat the past is to learn from it. To learn from it, we need to remember it. Yet, this passage tells us otherwise. “Do not remember the former things… I am about to do a new thing…”

This week, I started a seven-day exercise to “declutter.” I know, an awful word. Doesn’t it make you stressed to hear it? I don’t want to have to go through my things. I have too much stuff! Nevertheless, I am trying to challenge myself to get rid of things I no longer need, especially clothes.

In this exercise, when entering each area of our house to declutter, you are supposed to hold up each item and ask yourself three questions:

  1. Is it beautiful? AKA- Would you buy it today?
  2. Is it useful? AKA- does it get used regularly?
  3. Is it sentimental? AKA- does it help tell your story?

So today, I entered my closet and began. As I was holding up each item of clothing, I started an inner dialogue that was surrounded in shame.

“Why didn’t I do this sooner? Why did I even buy this? I waste so much money on things that I shouldn’t…”

Then I thought of Isaiah 43, “Do not remember the former things… I am about to do a new thing…” and my inner dialogue stopped.

I realized that my thoughts were not beautiful, not useful, or sentimental. They were full of guilt. My mind was “considering the things of old” instead of the renewal that comes with letting go.

Along with our closets, our minds could use a good decluttering. How often do we fill ourselves with negative thoughts? Or fill up with media, gossip, and distractions from the world around us? What would it look like to declutter ourselves?

It’s not about the pants. I should never have bought them, so they are in the donate pile. It’s about admitting that to myself and letting go. We are going to make mistakes, like buying the pair of pants that we never wear. And God’s grace is greater than our impulse purchases. God renews us each day so that we can learn. Yet, if we hold onto the shame and guilt of our mistakes, they cloud our ability to see God’s grace working in our lives.

If you look at the picture associated with today’s blog, you’ll see the letters spelling out “Let Go” in bold. But at the end, there is a faint “D.” This depicts the phrase, “Let go, let God.” Just like it says in Isaiah, we must let go; let go of our sins, our mistakes, our guilt, and our shame. For God is doing new and wonderful things within us; decluttering.

I hope no matter if you write down your resolutions or not, together we can remember to let go and let God.

Let us pray,

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Amen.             

(Psalm 51:10-12)

 

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Letters from the Intern

Finding the Words

hands pray crop21

Can you believe that it’s almost Christmas?? We are only 13 days away! It’s crazy how easy it is to lose ourselves among the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season. One thing that I have been trying to do is spend less time worrying, and more time in prayer.

Individual prayer is such an integral part of our spiritual lives because it allows us to have a vulnerable conversation with God. It’s a time where we can say what we need to; asking for anything and thanking God for all that we have. Jeremiah 29:12-13 says, “Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.”

How comforting and beautiful is it to know that God hears our prayers? Every. Single. One. God is listening to our cheers of joy and our cries of lament. While the truth that God is listening is reassuring, has anyone else tried to pray and just couldn’t figure out what to say?

I just read the book, Help, Thanks, Wow, by Anne Lamott. In the book, she says, “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… It is us reaching out to be heard, hoping to be found by light and warmth in the world, instead of darkness and cold.” Anne explains that when you “tell the truth,” you are close to God, inviting us to pray exactly the words on our hearts.

The words within us do not need to be profoundly poetic, or even complete sentences. They can be as simple as, “God, thank you for creating flowers. They bring me joy,” or, “Please help me be more patient,” or maybe it’s a deep sigh that is followed by a few tears. Anything you pray is a prayer and God is listening.

Along with God hearing the words of our prayers, God also hears our prayers every way we pray them. Do you journal your prayers? Read from a prayer book? Take time for silent, prayerful meditation? Set an alarm during the day to take a second to talk to God? We are met in these precious moments of prayer and held in the arms of the one who has created us.

Let us pray together:

Holy Listener,

Thank You for you for your unending grace. Help us move beyond the hurdles that lie before us and give us the strength and wisdom to see the hope we have in Christ.

Amen.

Email Kate