Why does living faithfully seem so complicated sometimes?

When I hear this question, it is usually in the context of other Christian traditions who make faith seem easy – just follow the rules!  There’s only one problem… we are supposed to be under grace, not law.  We teach that Scripture is the Living Word… it moves and breathes and speaks to each moment with God’s power.  A list of rules, however ‘good’ they may be, restrict God’s movement. The standard we are held to is even higher… to align ourselves and live out of God’s love in the world will challenge and transform us.

How can I become more aware of the Holy Spirit in my life?

Becoming more aware of God’s presence in our lives is a goal Christians have been striving towards since Christians have been a thing! Many monks, ministers, and lay people have found ways to practice being aware of the Holy Spirit through prayer, meditation, journaling, art, music, nature, etc. Those practices are called Spiritual Practices. One of the practices that I do often is Practicing the Presence of God, where I imagine that Jesus is sitting beside me as I go through my daily routine. Spiritual Practices can do more than just help us to be aware of God’s presence, they give us an opportunity to rest and can have mental and physical health benefits too. There are many websites and books (and a group called Women in the Middle at GLC) that can help you to find spiritual practices you enjoy. The book “Just Begin” by Dann E. Winger or the website and book “Praying in Color” by Sybil MacBeth are great places to start. Happy searching! ~ Vicar Sharai Jacob

 If we die to sin in baptism, why do we still keep making mistakes and sinning?

The word translated as ‘sin’- hamartia- means missing the mark.  We can all agree that we miss the mark daily.  We fail to see all the ways God is at work in our lives, to care for others in need, to navigate tests and temptations.  The proclamation about dying to sin in baptism is about our relationship with our failures and mistakes.  Do we face them honestly and work to reconcile things that are broken or damaged when we miss the mark?  Or do we get defensive and angry?  Wallowing in our failures and shame are other ways that our mistakes can continue to have power in our lives.  It is not about never making a mistake again, it is about how we move forward from our mistakes, trusting that the work of God in the resurrection of Jesus gives us hope and strength to handle it and continue to grow in our faith and trust.

I want change but not catastrophe…

After spending a week in an area devastated by flooding and the evidence that life can be swept away in a moment, I’ve been thinking about how we resist and invite change.  The folks we served with last week didn’t have a choice.  They are grieving the loss, dealing with trauma, and trying to rebuild.  Which made me think about how to detach from my ideas about what really gives security. Then this came to my devotions this week- I share it with you to provoke your thoughts, too:  “Lord, I confess I want the clarity of catastrophe but not the catastrophe. / Like everyone else, I want a storm I can dance in. / I want an excuse to change my life.” – Franny Choi, “Catastrophe is next to Godliness”  ~ Pastor Trudy Stoffel

what if I can’t go on a mission trip? 

First, don’t count yourself out. Mission trips come in all shapes and sizes! But if you know with great certainty that you can’t, maybe you can support mission trippers by making a donation to the mission trip fund which can help others go on the trips or to CAP which allows their work to continue. If that’s not an option, hold it all in prayer. We know that poverty exists beyond Eastern Kentucky and natural disasters are persistent (we are doing a lot of post flood work). In that way you are encouraging good work – in Jesus’ name! – Pastor Trudy Stoffel

Where does evil in the world come from?

There are a lot of possible answers here. Someone could say that all evil comes from the Devil. But this creates the opportunity for us to refuse to take responsibility for our actions by blaming everything on the Devil. Others might think that people were just created evil. I think that God created people with a huge capacity for good! But that we also have the free-will to choose evil. Whether evil originally came from the devil or is human made, Jesus points us to God’s Grace, which helps us to choose good and let go of evil. – Vicar Sharai

 from a council member…What is the communion of saints?

Lutherans believe that we are connected to all of the saints; those who have gone before, those who are in other places in the world, and those who will come.  Hebrews 12:1 proclaims that we receive encouragement from the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who help us to run the race with perseverance.  That is a powerful image indeed…to be encouraged by our ancestors in faith, from those in the global church and from those who will inherit the faith from us and our descendants.  And we encourage others.  Let’s get to work. ~ Pastor Trudy

Is it wrong to doubt?

I certainly hope not! If we were absolutely certain of everything we believed or were able to provide irrefutable evidence that what we believe is correct, then we wouldn’t need to have faith. We would just know. Even the disciples doubted, including Thomas (who is famous for his doubt), and they literally walked with Jesus! I think that wrestling with doubt can actually be a good way to grow in faith. Doubt can push us to dig deeper into what faith really means to us and what we really believe about who God is. – Vicar Sharai