FaithBits

 

A weekly digital publication called FaithBit:

FaithBITs will be:

 


February 8

 

 

 

 

Family Faith at Home

By Jenny Naslund

Blessings often happen when we least expect them. Before the pandemic our family made faith a priority in our life, but between practices and activities sometimes the faith rituals fell to the wayside.  For our family this COVID season has meant slowing down and truly focusing on our family and establishing stronger more robust faith practices and routines.  

On Sunday mornings we attend the service online, followed by family time working through our Anyday Sunday school lesson for the week.  These family based lessons have given our family the perfect opportunity to read the bible and discuss our faith together.  Wednesday evening our daughter attends God Squad via Zoom where she spends time diving deeper into the bible while connecting with her friends online. 

In addition, as a family we have made a conscious effort to make our faith practices a part of our daily routines.  During dinner we spend time discussing our highs and lows from the day.  This time is a chance for our whole family to give each other our undivided attention.  At bedtime we share prayer requests and then bow our heads and bless each of our children.   These daily faith practices have become an engraved routine that is deepening our family's faith.

When this COVID season ends we will intentionally continue to nurture and grow our faith habits as these routines have strengthened our relationships with each other and our heavenly father.
 


January 18

 

 

 

 

Spiritual friendship, God is there

By Phil Weber

Henri Nouwen once wrote about the temptation of success, popularity, or power and how their seductive quality can often lead to the greater temptation of self rejection.  If we come to believe messages that can make us feel worthless or unloved, then success, popularity, and power can appear to be a solution.  Rejection, loneliness, or abandonment can all easily make us feel like we're a nobody.  Nouwen regarded this kind of self rejection as the greatest enemy of our spiritual life because it goes against God's most sacred message to us that we are eternally beloved - the core truth of our existence. 

The new year often marks for us a new beginning, a renewed outlook, a sense of hope.  This was true for Jesus, too.  According to scholars, it was early January when Jesus started his ministry, beginning with his baptism by John the Baptist who called to all standing at the banks of the river Jordan - "change what needs to be changed in your life!"  
January also commemorates the lives of Saint Paulinas II (January 11, 804 AD) - priest, theologian, and Catholic saint known for his profound belief that Jesus Christ was central to our understanding of the Triune God and that Jesus be incorporated into the Nicene Creed ("only begotten Son of God"); and the life of Aelred of Rievaulx (January 12, 1167), medieval theologian, poet, writer, and monk whose treasury of writings on the concept of Spiritual Friendship (God is love, God is friendship) reminds us that we are never alone, that we are eternally beloved, and that we are sharers in God's divine presence whenever we are gathered together - "for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them," (Matthew 18:20).

How good it can be as a congregation of friends to stand and sing together "what a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!"  Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our Refuge - take it to the Lord in prayer. In His arms He'll take and shield thee, Thou wilt found solace there."

We have all faced unprecedented challenges during this time of the pandemic, among them our inability to gather together in the pews singing great hymns of faith.  However, as people of God, the caring, the charity, and the love expressed to one another during this difficult time has exposed something more powerful than coronavirus - the spiritual friendship of our Immanuel community and God's abiding presence. 

As we begin a new year and prepare to move beyond the extreme miseries and changes of the pandemic borne by our friends, families, our nation, and our world, we can awaken ourselves to the possibilities of a new beginning, a fresh perspective, and renewed hope. We can reflect on John the Baptist's words to the crowds along the banks of the Jordan - "change what needs to be changed in your life!"  As recipients of God's charity and grace, through our spiritual friendship and as sharers in God's divine presence, we can move beyond the changes forced upon us by the pandemic and continue to pray, gather, sing and worship in God's name and continue in faithful, charity-filled actions wherein God abides - in our caring, support, and love for one another. 


January 11

 

 

 

 

It Takes a Village

By Dana Connett

When on church council, we were asked to share our faith stories. It was a meaningful exercise but also one that challenged me to reflect on what and who impacts my personal journey of faith. Now, in thinking about women in particular, I realize the African village metaphor of childrearing applies to “faith-rearing” also.

My mom was my first, and primary, example of faithful living. She instilled in me the value of weekly worship and Sunday school, service opportunities, and church involvement. I also witnessed her reading the Bible and a devotional every day, on good days and even on the difficult ones leading up to her early death. We always said table grace and evening prayers, and her everyday life was a godly example of kindness, humility, generosity, and compassion. Likewise, my sisters and nieces have always been, and still are, strong Christian women with whom I can share prayer requests or discuss biblical questions. As my children have grown into faithful young women, our discussions have also helped me to question, seek understanding, and grow in my faith.

I grew up attending a small country church that, over the years, called two women as pastors, something that, though new to the ELCA, I took for granted. It just WAS, and that, combined with my upbringing, led me to Concordia College in Moorhead, where I intended to pursue a pre-seminary degree. Although circumstances changed and I entered the secondary teaching profession instead, I never lost that tug nudging me toward God. Years later, Pastor Susan reawakened my interest, which is when I became a confirmation guide and joined the Wednesday morning women’s Bible study. I cannot express how much this group of women has influenced my faith, my understanding of the Bible, and my personal relationship with God over the years.

It matters not the age of the women in my life nor the stage of life I’m in, for my village of mother, sisters, daughters, pastors, and Bible study women have all nurtured me, encouraged me, blessed me, and set examples I hope to emulate.


December 28

 

 

 

Living in Exile

By Dave Paul

Separation, upheaval, isolation, loss, loneliness, anxiety, lamenting, and nostalgia are some aspects of living in exile. When have you experienced some of these for any length of time? It is easy to understand how the current global pandemic might be foremost in everyone’s minds. However, I believe the sense of living in exile is far more pervasive.  I’ve experienced feelings of exile at other times in my life, such as:

Granted, these are probably not as profound as being uprooted from one’s country and becoming an immigrant in search of a new home. And yet I believe they still qualify.

One exile we all share dates to the creation story in Genesis—the fall, when Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden. They were exiled from that garden and separated from God. Death became their wages for sin. This is lamented in a familiar hymn that says:

 We mourn in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appears…

Where is our redemption? How can we be restored? I believe it came to us in the birth of the Christ child, Jesus, who was born into exile in a stable and lying in a manger. And he was exiled to Egypt with his parents to escape the wrath of King Herod’s slaying of the innocents. However, I believe his most painful moments in exile were hanging on the cross and crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He must have felt completely alone and abandoned by God. He suffered, endured, and died while atoning for our sins, redeeming us. In those moments, I wonder if he knew that his death was not the end but a new beginning on that Easter morning when he rose from the tomb and avenged that sentence of death.  Immanuel, God is with us.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

Although our separation from God continues in this life, we hold a “get out of jail card”, namely our baptism, when Jesus adopted us into his heavenly family forever. Baptism is when “…each of us became a child of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked with the cross of Christ forever.” Paul writes in Romans 8: 38-39:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I now have a better understanding why Martin Luther asserted that we are “simultaneously saints and sinners.” We became sinners in exile ever since the fall, and we became redeemed/restored into sainthood through our baptism. Therefore, I think it is important to remember who we are (sinners in exile) and whose we are (Baptized children of God). Our baptism gives daily hope during moments of exile in our lives.

In closing, so many around us experience feelings of exile at different times in their lives, and I hear a calling in our confession and forgiveness during this Advent season: “In the love of God we go into the world—to our friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors. We are Christ’s ambassadors. We are a new creation in Christ.”


December 14

 

 

 

Another Perfect 10!

By Jerry Martin

This was a comment from a friend of mine during a recent Friday morning men’s group bible study (virtual of course).  He was reflecting on his quiet times with God as he shared that he kept thinking about God’s perfect creation and perfect record of doing all things for the good of those that love him and are called according to his purpose. 

Think of God’s incredible creation and all the finely balanced details of that creation.  Amazing right!

My friend’s comment made me reflect and appreciate the duality of everything and the harmony found in the balance.  Can I have joy without sadness?  Rest without work?  Peace without worry?  Can I learn selflessness without experiencing loss?  Can I experience calm without first accepting the cleansing harmony of grace and forgiveness from the burden of my sin? 

Then I watch nature, the restoration after destruction, the cleansing of the air we breathe from the annoying strong winds, and on and on and on.  It is almost as if God gives us what we need and not what we want.  Because only He knows what we truly need.  Huh, that is comforting.  God cares for me…I must be loved.  Ahh, there it is….God’s peace.  It feels so good.

After all, how many mistakes has God made?  I am confident He has made none.

So, in the morning when I raise my head off my pillow…I think “Eureka, he did it again!  Another perfect 10!”  And when I lay my head down on my pillow at night, I thank God for another perfect 10.  And although there is plenty of things in my life that don’t go my way, I am good with that…because if it is God’s will, then it must be perfect.  And I pray daily for God’s will and not my own.

So the next time I screw up, or feel insecure, or anxious about the future or a little voice inside me creates doubts…I remember that Sunday School song I used to sing 40 years ago…”Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong.”  I am a loved child of God – perfectly made with all my idiosyncrasies and imperfections, and through His grace made perfect….huh…another perfect 10!

 

Isaiah 41:10: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Romans 8:28:  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.

Philippians 4:6-7:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 12:11: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on however it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Matthew 11:28-30: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Thank you my Lord and Savior, for these blessings of comfort and joy.


 

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