…Prayer…

Small group

Disclaimer: This post was originally written right after the 4th of July weekend.

It’s been awhile since my last guest blog post here… And I’m glad to be back! I was inspired recently by the “Letter to the Ephesians” topic being picked apart in my church in Barcelona. Our head Pastor, John, especially got my attention when he explained by saying: “It’s time to walk in the sonship and daughterhood that we have been offered by the Father.”

I think this is an important idea in terms of the key ideas that children need to understand. God is not some far away, idle being; but rather He is your Father, your confidant, your savior, and your rock. For me, growing up it was much easier to build a relationship with God thinking of him as my loving Father figure, as opposed to an untouchable, vague entity.

The other takeaway from the service was when John went over how to pray. Many, many Christians grapple with the issue of how to pray. Here’s the good news: it’s easy! If you’re someone who likes structure and routine, you’ll probably appreciate how they broke it down. A simple yet effective way to pray is to break it up into three parts: Give thanks, Specific requests, Give Praise. Not too bad, right?

So Part One: Give thanks… pretty self-explanatory there. This is my favorite part of praying. Every time I pray I start off by rattling off a dozen or so things for which I’m thankful. For example, “Dear God, THANK YOU for the sunshine today, for my family and friends, for fireworks, thank you for lemonade, for diversity, for my wonderful church, and God, I also want to thank you for all of my talents, my health, my opportunities, and my relationship with you.” All you have to do is thank God for whatever comes to mind; it is that simple!

Part Two: Specific requests. This is what people usually think of when they think about praying… “God please help me pass this test; God please say that I get this job,” etc. God already knows what’s on our hearts, but there is nothing wrong praying this way. Often times, it also makes us feel better in the moment. What is interesting, however, is if you try to switch from Heaven-up prayer requests to Heaven-down requests. So instead of sending your daily requests up to God, perhaps next time ask: “God, what should I be doing to better this situation?” or “Father please show me how to be a better sister” – that is more Heaven-down style praying. Mix it up!

Part Three: Give Praise! Conclude your prayer by rejoicing in your faith. You can make it as long or short as you like. I usually wrap it up with “Thank you God. You are so good, always. You fill up everything everywhere. I love you; I praise you.”

Don’t make praying harder than it should be. Through prayer we get to directly communicate with our Father and that is awesome! As our head Pastor reminded us, “He is profoundly near whether we feel it or not.” So pray, pray often, and pray with your heart! Happy Saturday everyone!

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Be kind and have courage.

So the Spring Game here in LNK a few Saturdays ago was an absolute blast. Beth and I went over to Kirby’s house to hang with her Anna, Liz, and Craig before heading downtown. Per the usual, it was just so great to get to catch up with people. And tailgating is still a treat that I’ve experienced few and far in-between; I had never gone to a Husker game before going to the University, and even in my four years as a Husker student, I barely ever tailgated (mind you I worked in the skyboxes my latter two years). Kirby ended up driving us down to Barry’s in the HayMarket. It couldn’t have been a prettier day, weather-wise. Couldn’t tell ya which side won but speaking on behalf of Beth and myself, ’twas a wonderful day!

Life here carried on as normal as my current state of affairs can allow. Both my mom and best friend, Beth, celebrate their birthdays on April 18th. Given my flexibility right now, I was elated that I got to surprise them both at their respective places of work the day before their actual birthday, aka Friday the 17th. Plus, it was the first time I got to see Beth’s classroom and meet some of her co-workers at Adam’s – so fun! Even though Beth teaches third grade, I was totally reminded of Ms. Honey’s classroom from Matilde. Of course, several of Beth’s students (and parents) and already given her birthday presents by mid-day; those kids are so lucky to have her!  Red velvet cupcakes and Trader Joe’s flowers for the win. Also, loved getting to see Cass and Mag at SF.

So for my mom’s actual birthday, I helped her celebrate by accompanying her to the Women’s Spring Retreat speaker at our church, Southwood Lutheran in the AM.  It was an awesome program called “Noticed by Jesus” by Amy Johnson, founder and owner of The Noticed Network.  Just as we were hoping, this turned out to be a lovely way to start the day and got us thinking about what we do to get noticed these days. In the end, it was comforting to be reminded that God loves us JUST AS WE ARE. To quote the newest song I put up on the Jammin’ page and here: “You see the struggle, you see the shame. I see the reason I came.” – Mac Powell (When Love Sees You). To take a step back from our perfection obsessed society and be reminded that God loves, adores our scars, imperfections, quirks, and ‘problem areas’ was so good. Also, The Noticed Network is a really great cause and you should check it out more!

Later on her birthday we eventually popped open a bottle of Freixenet cava (Spanish sparkling wine), which is delicious and festive, and grilled out – since Scott was home for the weekend! My cousin Wade and his best friend, Joel ended up joining us for dinner and it was perfect! Grilled chicken with Stubbs Moppin’ Sauce from MS, Mom’s homemade potato salad, grilled veggies, and fruit. It was awesome just to get to leisurely enjoy birthdays and being present for family time. Trying to soak it all up! At the end of the day we ended up watching The Imitation Game, which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it yet!

 

A Perfect Love Story

So this is the first time I’ve written a blog post from up in the air in an airplane… But this post has been a long-time coming. For a week now I’ve been meaning to start writing this post, but as life would have it, things have delayed its creation until now. I have been wanting to write about this topic since several weeks ago when my church in Barcelona, ICB, started the series: “Redeemed – A Journey Through the Book of Ruth.” While I had always known there was a book in the Bible called Ruth, I wasn’t familiar with the story at all really. I’m happy to say I now feel well-versed in the small, yet mighty book of Ruth and wanted to share some awesome stuff with yall.

So the book of Ruth starts with Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, and their family as they move from Bethlehem to Moab. For those of you who are also lacking in extensive Bible knowledge like myself, here’s the Spark-notes version: Naomi followed her husband and two sons from their home in Bethlehem, where there was famine, to Moab in hopes of a new start and more prosperous life. This is significant because they were leaving behind God’s land and trying to go it on their own essentially. Also noteworthy, the people of Bethlehem generally held Moab and Moabites in a negative light due to the history of their lineage.

After some time in Moab, all we know is that Naomi’s two sons married Moabite women, and both of her sons and her husband end up dying there. So Naomi is left with her two daughters-in-law and that’s about it. Especially back in this time, this would have been a pretty destitute situation. Hence, Naomi urges the two women to go back to their families in Moab and there they can attempt to re-marry and have a good life still. One of the daughters obliges Naomi’s request and bids them farewell before leaving to return to her family in Moab. Ruth, on the other hand, says no. Despite all of Naomi’s prodding, Ruth is resolute in her loyalty and commitment to sticking with her mother-in-law. It is here that Ruth uttered the well-known verse of “where you go, I will go; where you live, I will live.” As Naomi explains to her that she is planning on returning to Bethlehem, Ruth goes even further by saying “your land will be my land, your God my God.”

And so as the two women make the journey from Moab to Bethlehem, we learn about how Naomi wants to change her name to something that means, literally, bitter. As our Lead Pastor, John Carrano, said during service, “This was big. That’s like going through a rough patch in your life and deciding to change your name to Failure.” Moreover, both women were dealing with their own unearned disgrace. Naomi came back to Bethlehem basically like a dog with her tail between her legs. She felt ashamed of what had become of her life, though what happened was not her fault in the least. Hello unearned disgrace. Then we have Ruth, who has to deal with the unearned disgrace of being a Moabite, a foreigner.

I bet a lot of people can relate to these women who were working through shouldering this unearned disgrace, right? With all of the labels and quick-judgments of today’s world, most of us have experienced some unearned disgrace by this point. For example, the fact that I didn’t end up going to an Ivy-League university caused unearned disgrace to fester within myself for a good amount of time. That disgrace was certainly unearned, but man it was heavy. But let’s get back to the good stuff…

Ruth and Naomi are settling into a new life in Bethlehem. Ruth goes to the fields to try and gather the leftover scraps of barley. She soon finds herself in the field of a distant relative of Naomi’s, Boaz. Boaz had heard of Ruth before he met her in person, for the story of her unfailing loyalty to Naomi was hot news. Upon their meeting, Boaz shows favor on Ruth for these reasons, and invites her to continue finding food in his fields and to work with the other women there. Suffice it to say, Ruth was shocked at his favor and kindness.

So as the time passes and barley harvest goes to wheat harvest, Naomi eventually prompts Ruth to approach Boaz… (The women were hoping to be redeemed by a male relative of Naomi’s husband. This was the only way they would possibly have a prosperous future, restore the legacy of Naomi’s family, and ensure land for future generations). In Chapter 3, Ruth presents herself to Boaz with the utmost humility, and in response Boaz promises her their redemption.

Then in Chapter 4, Boaz follows through with his promises and goes through the ritual of asking the man who was first in line to redeem them (technically). This man declines on hearing that Ruth is part of the deal, and so Boaz and him finalize the arrangement with Boaz promising to redeem Ruth and Naomi (aka he’ll marry Ruth, restore their family’s land to their late husband’s last name, have a family, etc.). Towards the end of Chapter 4, we learn that Ruth and Boaz have a son, and in the end their family’s lineage leads to King David, the greatest King Israel ever knew.

My favorite thing I learned from the Book of Ruth is what ICB’s other Lead Pastor, Brandi Carrano, introduced as “HESED” – this Hebrew word does not have an exact English translation, but means compassionate love, loving-kindness, and love in action. Hesed is also said to be a vertical action, as in God shows Hesed to people, and then from one person to another person – as Hesed is also a reciprocal action. Hesed is mentioned 248 times in the Old Testament; it is through Hesed that people are redeemed and legacies are rebuilt.

I like the idea of Hesed because it goes in stark contrast with lots of modern ideals, such as self-interest, self-pity, greed, and so much more. I can’t recall now if it was Brandi or John who said this, but this really spoke to me: “If we can’t take our eyes off of ourselves, than we cannot be agents of redemption.” Showing love, compassion, and interest in others isn’t always easy, but it’s what we were created to do. God redeeming us is the most beautiful love story of all time. And even better, it’s a love story that has no end. Today, tomorrow, or the next day if you posture yourself towards God and humble yourself at his feet, God will show you Hesed. I guess overall, being familiar with the Book of Ruth has made me feel quite lucky and reaffirmed by belief that our God is for us.

In other news, I miss Barcelona and all of my friends there! But I am very happy to get to spend some time at home with my family and friends here. This last weekend was a whirlwind of activity but I loved it! Although I am currently suffering from serious allergy problems here, it has been so great to spend time with the people I care about most. More on my time in Lincoln to come…

 

#Lent2015

Growing up at Southwood Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, I have always known about Lent and, moreover, enjoyed it. Considering today is Ash Wednesday, I thought it opportune to talk about Lent and what it means in today’s world and how you can actively participate this year. I currently live in Barcelona, Spain and recently as we approached the start of Lent, my small group gals and I discussed the topic, where it originates from in the Bible and how to best take part in this annual occasion.

Tuesday mornings w/ the gals at Skye Coffee Co.!
Tuesday mornings w/ the gals at Skye Coffee Co.!

Here’s the deal, Lent is about giving up something for the 40 days following Ash Wednesday up until Easter. Hence, the act of giving something up involves temptation. Just as the serpent in Genesis 1 tempted Adam and Eve, so are we today tempted by any given number of things each and everyday.

I don’t know about you, but I am tempted by many things – procrastination, sweets of any kind, and comparison – just to name a few. This year for Lent, I am choosing to give up two things (adding sugar to my coffee & drinking pop), and making two other commitments (floss at least once daily & add something to my blog daily). For me personally holding myself accountable to these resolutions will surely prove difficult at times. But those are exactly the times at which you are adding opportunities into your daily life to lean on the Lord, pushing yourself to depend on prayer for that extra self-control.

Some of my friends are also doing these things: reading the Bible daily, cutting out all refined sugars, spending time with people who need a friend, working out daily, etc. Whatever you think is going to better your life and help you get closer to God, do that! Use this time of the year to refocus energies on keeping God at the forefront of your mind and leaning on Him when holding yourself accountable gets hard. You, and all those around you, will be more successful if you go into Lent truly committed.

Considering it’s already evening time here in Barcelona, by posting this on my blog, I will have so far been successful at keeping my Lent intentions! Woo hoo! I am currently drinking my second cup of coffee sans sugar, and while I’m not entirely satisfied, it’s progress in the right direction. Also, today is officially THREE weeks until I will be roaming the wild streets of Lincoln, NE, USA again! Aka I need to start gift shopping stat and am looking forward to seeing family and friends! Have a great week everyone!

Bogatel Sunset




Related articles that might interest you…

“Your Children are Distracting” via The Family Box

Ash Wednesday Devotional via Southwood Lutheran  

“Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year” via TIME