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walk-dusty-banner_614x900Walk Dusty…

As we enter March we enter Lent. A time to remember we are dust. A time to put on sackcloth and ashes and contemplate out lives.

Well maybe not. But it is a time for reflection on the sacrifice our savior made for us. The reading for today, Ash Wednesday, from Matthew tells us to practice our piety in secret. To not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. To not pray in public, to not make it look like we are fasting.

So why am I, and Old Lutheran, saying, Walk Dusty? Shouldn’t we show off our faith?

Well, who or what are we drawing attention to? You see all the things in the Matthew reading draws attention to us. We pray in public for attention and give so others see us and fast so we get noticed for what we are doing.

But it is not about us. When we walk dusty, we remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us and we step out of the way and allow Him to shine through our dirty lives to give God the glory. Attention is not on us, but on Christ who is the one who lives through us.

In our brokenness, He makes us whole. We journey in our dusty dirty lives stepping out of His way so that He is glorified through our lives.

This Lent I invite you to walk dusty, and live your faith out loud so that God gets the glory!

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:1-12, NRSV)

What makes one blessed? Or to put that in a term we use every day what makes one successful?

How do we determine success?

Do you have a big bank account? A nice new fancy car? The newest phone? The best electronic devices?

Do these things make one successful? Do these things make you blessed?

Maybe according to the world and the prosperity gospel. But not to Jesus.

Jesus says that you are blessed when you seek after him because you can’t do it on your own. Blessed are you when people revile you because of me. Blessed are you when you seek for justice for others and have all justice removed from you.

You see we live in a world where it is about us first, but in the kingdom of God it is about the other first. God gave His Son so you could be in a relationship with Him. He thought of you over His own Son. And He wants you to think of the other before yourself.

You see God requires us:
To Do Justice
Love Kindness
and to Walk deliberately with Him!

So look out for the other first. And He will always fill you back up!

The other night I was watching tv, I honestly don’t remember what the show was but a commercial came on from Toyota. It was about a football playoff down to the last seconds and a hopefully throw and catch to the end zone, but the referee called the catch out of bounds. So the team lost. Then pan to a car on the side of the road in the rain broken down, and a truck driving up. The broken down car is the ref, and the truck has the quarterback from the losing team and his family, the ref looks in like this will go nowhere, but they give him a ride. And the quarterback gives the ref a towel to dry off. The tagline is Let’s Go Compassion.

To have compassion means to have an awareness of others needs and a desire to help them.

Think how the world would change if we had compassion for others. And yes the world would change because of your actions to seek to show compassion to those around you. You would influence your tiny section of the world and that, in turn, would influence the tiny section of the world of all the people you have an impact on, and it would ripple out like waves in water.

So Let’s Go Compassion.

This year let us look out for the other, and show them the love that we just received in the gift of a baby on a manger. Let us see others as Christ sees them and give them the grace, mercy, and love He has given us.

Let’s Go Compassion!

As I was thinking about what to write for my newsletter article I did a little internet search and found this. I thought it was very appropriate to share at this time of year and is a good reminder to us all. Let us let this Advent season be one that points us to the real meaning for the season, the baby coming to us in the manger.

THE ADVENT SEASON, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, are perhaps the busiest, most hectic times of the year. In the breathless rush to make the most of the season, it is easy to forget that this sacred season is less about “holiday cheer” and more about a “holy child.” Advent is our opportunity to re-orient ourselves to receive the gift of Jesus. Here, in descending order, are the Top 10 things not to do during Advent.

  1. Do not forget your rituals:

Be careful not to treat Advent as just another busy time of the year. When we enter the Advent season, life is supposed to be different. Rituals in your personal and/or family life, can help you slow down and prayerfully ponder the gift of the Incarnation, the Son of God made flesh. Take time daily to relax, meditate or pray.

  1. Do not add to the frenzy:

If you are a parent, try not to add to the craziness of this season by being frantic yourself about last minute shopping, entertaining or decorating.

  1. Do not forget your Bibles:

What Bible passages point to Advent themes of preparation, promise, hope, expectancy, God’s enduring faithfulness, the time when God’s kingdom will be fulfilled? Advent is an excellent time of the year to familiarize yourself again with the Bible’s stories that lead up to the birth of Jesus.

  1. Do not try to be perfect for the Holidays:

Believe it or not, it’s not the end of the world if the Christmas tree has a bare spot on one side, if a bulb in one of the window candles is burnt out, or if you cannot find just the perfect gift for Uncle Bob. The holiday season can be stressful enough without allowing the drive for perfection to overwhelm you.

  1. Do not over do your schedule:

Learn to say “no” to some of the demands or events that may beg for your presence, however enjoyable or good they may be. Know your limits. As the saying goes, “Too much of a good thing is still too much.”

  1. Do not overdo gifts:

I recently heard of a study that indicates children on average receive 60% more for Christmas than they expect. Very good news for parents, right? But it also indicates that while parents need to be very clear with their children about expectations, ever more important is that they themselves need to be consistent with these expectations in their own gift giving. Remember, the focus is Jesus, God’s supreme gift to us, not our gifts to others.

  1. Do not go into additional debt:

Perhaps this is easier said than done. However, it is important to remember that the gift-giving of Christmas is supposed to spring from and be a sign of our gratitude to God for his gift-giving of Jesus. Rather than large grandiose, expensive gifts, consider giving smaller, more thoughtful items.

  1. Do not expect the culture to follow your lead:

A truly Christian approach to the month of December will inevitably be counter-cultural. If you embrace much of this list, have faith in what you are doing. Christmas is not about Martha Stewart-quality centerpiece, the gourmet Christmas feast, or getting the “hot toy of the year.” Our spiritual health depends on our resisting the cultural message that we need to get out and “shop till we drop.” Jesus came into the world to die for a different reason.

  1. Do not forget the less fortunate:

Remember that the real Christmas story is not set in a warm and cozy house, tastefully decorated and filled with more gifts than can fit under the tree, however wonderful that all may be. The real Christmas story is set amidst those who know enduring poverty and danger. What more loving witness could you offer than to seek out some holiday opportunity to identify with the poor and downtrodden as God does?

  1. Do not wait until Christmas Eve to come to Church!

Avoid the holiday rush and join us for worship in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Worship in the church is beautiful this time of year, with beautiful and powerful Advent hymns. Join us for Advent worship and allow it to bring you back to a sense of expectancy and alertness for the coming of God into our world, into your very life.

Hands holding beautiful gift box

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8, NRSV)

In May, we started our journey of learning more about becoming disciples through the 6 marks of discipleship in Power Surge by Michael Foss

This month is about Giving. All of us have been blessed beyond measure. Not financially, but giving is not just about money. When we hear giving in the church we automatically hide our wallets and think the pastor is going to ask for more money. But that is not what giving and/or stewardship is really all about.

We give of ourselves, our time and our possessions.

We give of ourselves when we do things for others that we can do, but they may not be able to do on their own. We use the talents we have been given to build up the lives of others. We give of our talents to do things for others to feed them, or help them learn, or do something for them that they would not or could not otherwise do or get done.

We give of our time, by giving of ourselves, and by being there to do things. Some of us volunteer at schools to be a classroom helper, or set up special activities for the kids, or to do things for the teachers. This takes time. Time is a precious commodity to all of us, as we all know there never seems to be enough of it. Giving your time to someone is a huge gift!

We give of our possessions by letting others use our things, or giving money to places. We give of our treasure and by doing that we are even more richly rewarded.

“The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.”— Albert Einstein

So give of yourself, your time and your treasure, and allow God to abundantly bless you as you bless others.

160819Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25, NRSV)

In May, we started our journey of learning more about becoming disciples through the 6 marks of discipleship in Power Surge by Michael Foss

This month is about Relationships. That is really what is at the heart of following Christ, living in relationships with others. We are called to meet people where they are and journey with them through life. Showing them the love that Christ first showed us. Not expecting people to be perfect but helping them move forward in the life Christ has called us all to.

You see by walking in relationships with others, not only will we show the love of Christ, we will also receive the love of Christ from others.

It is what Martin Luther referred to as the mutual care and consolation of the saints. We are called to live in relationships with one another to care and lift each other up. We gather together, not for our own edification alone, but to be present for others. To build others up. To show others the love Christ has for them.

So do not neglect gathering together with others, and being in relationships. By doing this we are building up the body of Christ and making Him known in the world!

160901-NLFor by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.  (Ephesians 2:8-10, NRSV)

In May, we started our journey of learning more about becoming disciples through the 6 marks of discipleship in Power Surge by Michael Foss

This month is about Serve. We are called to serve inside and outside of the congregation we are a part of. This is instilled into the confirmation students by having service times inside and outside the congregation. The confirmation students are required to do service outside of the congregation, that they are not paid for, or is not a part of something they are doing for another group. Because that is what we were made for.

As Lutherans, it is easy for us to get hung up on not doing things because we are saved by grace through faith so that we cannot boast. It is God’s doing. But my Roman Catholic friend always points out to me we forget about verse 10 of Ephesians 2. We cannot do anything to earn our salvation, this is most certainly true, but that gift is given to us with another gift. The gift of good deeds.

You see verse 10 says, “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” We are saved to do good things for others. We are released from having to worry about obtaining our salvation by being good enough, to doing good works for others, and serving in the name of God to show the love God has for all of creation.

So remember to serve, here, there, and everywhere! Not because you have to to earn anything, but because you are freed to, to show everyone God’s love!