Lenten Devotional for Families

In this time of distance and ample time with our families, First Lutheran would like to offer you a Lenten Devotional that is specifically adapted for families with grade-school children (though believers of all ages are welcome to explore their faith in a new creative way through this resource).

As you seek to fill your time with arts and crafts, home schooling and screen time, we hope you can also add in some faith formation. The Lenten Devotional was written to carry you week-by-week through the Lenten season with special devotions for Holy Week, but please adapt it to your own family’s needs. The devotional is thematic rather than tied to the lectionary readings each Sunday, so if there is a particular story that interests you, go there first! This devotional was never intended to be overwhelming, but rather expansive to allow for free choice and flexibility.

We pray your family finds a meaningful Lenten journey within these pages and we look forward to the day when we can once again return to worship and learn together.  

It can be downloaded directly to your computer or device by clicking here.

Blessings, Michaela Eskew 

The Lord is with you Mighty Warriors

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Gideon starting in Judges chapter 6. The beginning of the story gets my attention today. The nation has been overrun by the Midianites and all of Israel is in hiding. Gideon is hiding in his wine press, trying to thresh wheat in there to keep it from the enemy. Basically, he’s working from home 😊. An angel of the Lord comes to him and says, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon’s response is classic, and maybe something we’re all thinking. Gideon says to the angel. “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? But now the Lord has cast us of and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Gideon is honest. He’s fearful and feeling unsafe and he’s wondering where God is. Where is God while he’s trying to thresh wheat in a wine press? Where’s God when we’re trying to be work from home? Where’s God when the schools are closed? Where’s God when jobs are lost and the money we had to live on disappears? Where’s God when the church can’t even gather to worship? Gideon’s question “Why has all this happened to us?” is on the lips of so many these days.

We don’t know why the coronavirus has happened to us, not ultimately. We can trace it back to a strange animal in an unclean market in a foreign country, but that doesn’t answer our questions. What we really want to know is why are we suffering, how long will it last, how bad will it get, and why doesn’t God do something about it.

I can’t answer all those questions, but the angel’s greeting to Gideon is a good place to start. First of all, the Lord is with us in this. I’ve seen so much evidence of this, it’s mind blowing. Our first online worship service received over 1000 views as people shared with friends and family. People who haven’t been able to attend church in years, or stopped coming for other reasons expressed great appreciation for hearing God’s word. Those who have volunteered to make phone calls to fellow members to check in are sharing amazing serendipitous moments of connection. The Lord is with and will be throughout the entirety of this experience.

I also like the angel’s declaration to Gideon who is hiding in the wine press. The Lord is with you MIGHTY WARRIOR. I’m sure Gideon didn’t feel mighty and he certainly wasn’t much of a warrior. But God believed in him, saw in him something He didn’t see in himself. I believe the church is a mighty warrior too, and each of you are part of that. Our battle is against invisible enemies. A virus. But also against fear, despair, selfishness, and isolation. There are more things that will come against us in the weeks to come, but God is with us and is stronger than anything that threatens us.

Read the rest of the story of Gideon and see how the Lord teaches him to trust in God. May we learn the same trust and reliance during our hour of need.

The Lord is with you mighty warriors,

Pastor Travis

May we Pray for You?

Now that we are attending church online, our usual way of submitting prayer requests has changed. You may now email your requests to flc@flccs.net. Names are generally kept on the list for 2 weeks. If you need them on for a longer period of time, please include this in your email. Our prayer list will continue to be published weekly in the Ekklesia so your church family can support you and your loved ones through prayer.

“Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” -Ezekiel 37: 3

This story of the dry bones begins with the Lord bringing a man out to sit amidst the dry bones and asking him if the dry bones can live. The man tells him “O Lord God, you know.” I think this parallels our own faith in so many ways. We are called to listen to the Lord, for he knows. When we are listening to the Lord he works in us, his breath enters into us and we know that he is the Lord. Sometimes our faith can feel like dry bones, scattered and piled high, sunk down in the bottom of a valley, lifeless. God sees those dry bones and encourages us to hear us words, to trust in him and that just as the dry bones were restored, so will be our faith. I like this story because it is filled with hope, that God brings new life, both to our dry bones, when they are weary and scattered and at the end of the passage reminding us that he brings new life from the grave. We continue to live in the promise of hope in the resurrection knowing that it is God who breathes new life into us so we may believe that he is the Lord.

-Pastor Carrie

Prayer Practice Fridays – March 20, 2020

One of the things that I’ve been doing since we are no longer in the office and working from home is trying to figure out ways to keep folks connected. We are loaded with technology these days that keeps many of us in face to face conversation and allows for meeting one another online and in the cloud. But I’ve also been thinking of the ways that we can stay connected without technology, ways to stay grounded in caring for one another and engaging with the presence of God who is surely with us.

Each Friday for the foreseeable future I want to share with you a different resource for prayer practices and some ways to engage in them. Earlier this week I had also shared the hope that at 6:18 each evening you would take a moment, either as a family around the dinner table, or wherever you happen to be and offer a prayer. The 6:18 comes from Ephesians 6:18 which says: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” It’s my hope that during this time (and always) we can pray for one another, keeping us connected as the body of Christ, knowing that as you are praying for someone, another is praying for you.

This week I want to share with you “Intercession.” This is the kind of prayer that leads us to pray for others. So I invite you to spend some time thinking about, remembering, and praying for the people who benefit from the gifts and strengths that you offer. You might make a list of those closest to you and see what other names and faces come to mind. You may find yourself surprised. In some cases you will have a strong sense of what to pray for others, in other cases their situations might be far beyond your reach of knowing. In either case pray for them, and when you don’t have the words, simply know that God does. That God understands far beyond our own understanding and he intercedes for us when the words simply don’t come.

I want to commend to you one of my favorite new prayer books. It is simply titled “Prayer Forty Days of Practice” and it’s by Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson, I ordered mine on Amazon. It includes a short prayer and a sketch to go with it and outlines some prayer practices too. The prayer from this book that I am praying on in these days is this: “May I find freedom in limitation—to fully give myself to what I can do rather than worry about what I cannot.”

Thanks for walking with us as community in this time of separation. I continue to pray for each of you and hope that you are well. Many blessings friends, many blessings.

-Pastor Carrie

Working From Home

Working from home is definitely a new experience. I hardly ever sit at my piano at home and now I am playing through choir anthems! I feel like it keeps me in touch with the choir and worship. I told the choir I would send out the words each week for the anthem we would have been singing in worship in hopes it would keep us all connected.

I am also learning more than I want to know about technology such as being in a zoom meeting or communicating with staff on Microsoft teams. They say as you get older you should keep learning new things. I can check that box! Actually I am very thankful for technology. It gives us a way to be together in our separation.

Praying for all of you during this time as we wait for the day when we will be joining our voices in song in worship.

-Deacon Joan

Blessings in Our Midst

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. -1 Peter 3:8

This morning I went to Sam’s Club when it opened. I stood outside looking at about 150+ other people and started to turn around and head back to my car. But then I stopped, and I thought to myself, “you’re already here, just go in.” So, in I went expecting the worst and on a mission for eggs. What I found was probably more surprising than anything (and I don’t mean the TP or the eggs.) There seemed to be genuine care and concern for one another, and people went about their business of getting what they came for.

I always wonder why it takes crisis to so often bring out the best in people. I’m sure there is some psychological reason behind it, but really shouldn’t we always be on the lookout for the least of us, the vulnerable and the sick. Right now, it seems the best way to do this is to stay home, to check in on each other, and to offer love and grace. It is amazing how much life can change in a week’s time, I can’t even remember the things that I was concerned about or worried about last week. They have been replaced with concern for the ways we can care for one another in the weeks to come. I like the verse above from Peter, he speaks to all of us with instruction on how to treat one another and reminds us in the following verses that we should not repay evil with evil but with blessing. We should remember that while even in suffering as Christ did on the cross, we live in hope through the promise of the resurrection.

So this week, let’s look for the blessings that are surely lurking in the midst of what is evil. Let’s be gentle to one another and to yourself. Know that your pastors and church staff are praying for you. If you find yourself in need of prayer or conversation or anything else, reach out to us, to a friend, to a neighbor. Let’s remember in this time to love one another, be compassionate and humble.

-Pastor Carrie

“For God so loved the world”John 3-16

For some reason the idea that God loves this world strikes me as strange. There is so much about this world that is really, really awful. This Coronavirus and the ones before it and the ones after it. The way people hoard things. The panic and fear. The uneven response of governments. But when God looks at this world he looks at it with love. And not just a mediocre love, but a love that compelled him to make the greatest sacrifice. We are part of the world that God loves. We are loved. I hope we can begin to look at the world with the same love that God has. Certainly this time of crisis is an opportunity to love in a way that goes beyond what we normally do. May He teach us what it means to love the world!

-Pastor Travis

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