Tag Archives: lutheran via de cristo

What Am I Here For?

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The very first talk on a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend is called “Ideal.”  The premise of the talk is that everyone has an ideal in life;  a goal they are aiming toward.  It’s this goal that gives life meaning.

Now, we can have a good ideal (living to serve others) or a bad one (the one who dies with the most expensive “toys” wins).  We can have a realistic ideal (owning our own home or business) or an unrealistic ideal (becoming the queen of England). We can devote ourselves to a false ideal (such as a political party or candidate) and be devastated when it proves to be disappointing.  The big problem is we often fool ourselves and fail to recognize and admit what our ideal really is.  For example, I may tell myself I am working 60 hours a week in order to support my family (a laudable goal) when what I actually desire is just more money to spend on luxuries, or the admiration of others.

The talk ends with some practical advice I’m going to share with you.  Examine your checkbook and your calendar.  Look hard at how you are spending your money and your time.  Remember, we all find the money and the time to do the things we really want to do.  So, does your stewardship of these things reveal an ideal worthy of a disciple of Christ?  Or does it show you something else?  What is your true ideal?

 

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Instructed by the Spirit

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On Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat weekends, we pray this prayer for enlightenment before each talk given.  

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created.  And you shall renew the face of the earth.

O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructs the hearts of the faithful, grant, that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolations.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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Examining Our Relationships

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After a Via de Cristo retreat, participants are encouraged to periodically examine their conscience.  This means to think carefully over their recent words, thoughts and deeds in order to understand how they have failed and confess.  Some suggestions for doing this are provided in the VDC Pilgrim’s Guide.  I’m listing here just the questions pertaining to our relationships.

In Regard to Others have I:

  • Loved others selfishly;  wanted to monopolize other’s affections, been jealous
  • Considered no one but myself.  Never felt real anguish for the misery of others
  • Passed by, indifferent to others’ troubles
  • Had habitual contempt for others;  less educated people, people of different racial, national or economic groups
  • In any way stifled the personal development of another
  • Sought to be respected without respecting others
  • Often kept others waiting
  • Not paid entire attention to a person speaking to me
  • Talked too much of myself, and not given others a chance to express themselves
  • Failed to try to understand others
  • Out of selfishness or pride, expected to be served
  • Failed to help a person in distress
  • Seen only those whose friendship might prove profitable
  • Abandoned my friends in their difficulties
  • Said hurtful things
  • Done harm, by remarks (false or true) that blacken another’s character
  • Betrayed a trust;  violated a confidence
  • Given scandal by the split between the life I lead and the principles I advertise as mine

How do you feel after reading through this list?  I am humbled and contrite.  I fall down so much more than I want to admit, many times I sin against others and don’t even notice!

“For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:22-25

Reunion Group Relationships

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If you attend a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend, you will be encouraged to continue growing in Christ by participating in what’s called a reunion group.  This is a small group that meets on a regular basis (monthly, weekly, whatever you choose) to talk about how things are going in the spiritual life of the members.

I have been in a reunion group on and off for over twenty years.  The groups change, of course, as people move or their life changes.  The group I am in now meets at our church once a month, and each month we discuss an aspect of our Christian walk:  piety (this covers things like prayer, worship and moments of closeness to Christ), study or action.  Each of us has an opportunity to tell how we’ve been doing in that area and what our plans are for the coming month.  We encourage one another and hold each other accountable.  We pray together and we pray for each other.

Over time being in such a group together fosters strong bonds.  It was my first group that taught me being quiet and shy didn’t mean I couldn’t be a leader and influence others for Christ.  The group I am in now started this blog!!  My reunion group sisters are the kind of friends who will support me, encourage me and jump in to help if I take on a commitment!  They hear my confessions and keep my confidences.  Through the years in reunion groups I have helped to plan congregational activities, organized small group Bible studies, participated in “crafty” projects (that one is a real stretch for me), and had fun in the process.  Rightly lived, a reunion group becomes a Christian community affecting the world.

If you’re not in a group like this, don’t put it off, it’s too important.  You don’t have to go on a Via de Cristo weekend;  you don’t have to call it a reunion group;  you don’t have to do things exactly as we do.  The point is to find a group of others who want to direct their lives to Christ and grow in faith.  Meet regularly, pray together, encourage one another, work together for Christ and hold each other accountable.  In years to come you’ll look back and be amazed at what God has done through you and how you have grown in faith together.

I hope our readers and my sister bloggers will join in by discussing this further.  Have you been in a reunion group (or a similar accountability group)?  How did it impact your spiritual growth?  I want to hear your stories.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us knot give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the day approaching.”  Hebrews 10: 24-25

 

 

 

Spend Your Time on Today

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This is not something I wrote, but something I was given on my original Via de Cristo retreat weekend and kept. It seems appropriate for our theme of “spending time.” The author is unknown:

There are two days in the week upon which and about which I never worry–two carefree days kept sacredly free from fear and apprehension.  One of these days is Yesterday.  Yesterday with its cares and frets and pains and aches, all its faults, its mistakes and blunders, has passed forever beyond my recall.  It was mine:  now it is God’s.

The other day that I do not worry about is Tomorrow.  Tomorrow, with all its possible adversities, its burdens, its perils, its large promise and performance, its failures and mistakes, is as far beyond my mastery as its dead sister, Yesterday.  Tomorrow is God’s day:  it will be mine.

It isn’t the experience of Today that drives us mad.  It is the remorse of what happened Yesterday and fear of what Tomorrow might bring.  These are God’s Days–Leave them to Him.

A Prayer in Remembrance of Baptism

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Lord God, I am your child.  I call you Father because you are my Father.  You named me with your own holy name even before I could speak.  You made me your own before I could move a hand to help or prevent you.  You insisted on having me even though you knew the end of my life as well as its beginning, its shame as well as its glory, its failures as well as its achievements, its bad as well as its good.

Why, Father, should I persist in resisting you?  Why should I insist on my own way instead of knowing your way of grace and love?  Why should I obey my own whims instead of letting your grace in baptism have its way with me?

Forgive me, Father, for so often wandering into a far country away from you, your forgiveness, your joy, your promises, your love in Jesus Christ.  Help me to live in the freedom of my baptism, by the faith you have given me, in the life which you daily renew by your gracious forgiveness.

I am baptized.  I belong to you, God.  Amen

Taken from the Lutheran Via de Cristo Pilgrim’s Guide

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Remembering God’s Grace

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I actually wrote this years ago as part of a devotional given out to participants on a Via de Cristo retreat weekend.  It seems appropriate to share this month.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”  2 Corinthians 4:8-10

You’ve all seen the bumper sticker reminding us that bad things happen in our lives, things we can’t control and don’t expect.  I may not approve of the language, but I’m not immune to the feelings behind the sentiment.  It seems only too true.  Bad things happen to good people.  Bad things happen to me.  And I don’t like it.  It doesn’t seem fair.  There are days when I feel like Elijah, sitting under his broom tree, begging God to take his life.  I’ve had enough of this life, too.  I want to give up.  I can’t see through the dark curtain of despair the world has cast around me.

But recently I spotted a car sporting a Christian alternative to that worldly message of doom and gloom.  It read simply, “Grace Happens.”  That was a moment close to Christ for me, a powerful reminder that in the midst of disease, death, divorce, discouragement and all the other unpleasant facts of life, God is there.  His grace happens to me over and over.  It happened on my Via de Cristo weekend.  It happens every time I gather with my wonderful church family.  It happens when I feel the love of my husband and children.  It happens on the job when the Holy Spirit prompts me to encourage someone through my Christian beliefs.

Life hasn’t changed.  It was difficult for Elijah, confronting the prophets of Baal;  it was difficult for Jesus, facing death on the cross;  it’s hard for me, too.  But grace happens.  It happened then and it’s happening now.  I need to remember that.

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Remembering to be Humble

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“So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men.”  Genesis 24:59

“Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse died and was buried under the oak below Bethel.  So it was named Allon Bacuth (oak of weeping).”  Genesis 35:8

I was quite excited on the first full day of the Via de Cristo weekend I attended many years ago, to be assigned to sit at the table of Deborah.  After all, everyone has heard of Deborah, right?  Deborah, the judge;  Deborah, the warrior;  Deborah, the woman who was famous as a leader in a patriarchal society.  What a role model!  Who wouldn’t be honored to sit at a table named after her?

But my bubble burst when I read the card on the center of the table closely.  I discovered that I was not sitting at the table of Deborah the Judge–I was sitting at the table of Deborah the nursemaid.  You probably don’t know who she is — I sure didn’t.  She is only mentioned twice in the Bible (see the verses above), and only once by name.  Frankly, I was disappointed.  I resolved that secretly, I would continue to think of my table as the table of the “famous” Deborah.

In the years since that weekend retreat, I’ve come to rethink that position.  I’ve read the two references to “my” Deborah and what comes between them.  Do you realize that Deborah served Rebekah and her family for over eighty years?  She must have been greatly loved and greatly mourned for her death to be noted at all.  She was buried with honor under a venerable oak, symbol of long life.

If I am honest, I must admit that I’m a lot more like Deborah the nursemaid than Deborah the judge–in fact most of us are.  We may not be the star of the story, but we can be humble, faithful servants to the people around us.

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Remembering My Via De Cristo Weekend

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As I write this post, a Women’s Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend is beginning.  The retreat starts on Thursday evening and ends on Sunday afternoon.  When you think “retreat” you may imagine lots of free time, reading the Bible and praying alone, maybe communing with nature.  Via de Cristo is not like that!  It is a weekend jam-packed with singing, fellowship, worship, talks by laypeople and clergy on spiritual topics, discussion and (what Lutherans love best of all) plenty of coffee and good food.

The weekend is designed for Christians who want to grow in their faith, and the amazing thing is, everyone experiences it differently.  For many it is a real mountaintop high;  for some a time to cast off burdens; others experience the love and presence of Christ in a special way;  still others find it a time of refreshment and renewal.  On a weekend, you will meet Christ where you are, and receive something special that He has planned just for you.

When I went on my weekend, over 25 years ago, I didn’t hear anything new or startling–but it put all the pieces together for me.  Suddenly I could see my faith journey as a whole and it has been a big help in keeping my focus in the right place.  On my weekend, I made friends, found a way to go closer to the Christian friends I already had at church, and learned to see myself as a leader in the Christian community.  It changed my life.  Not in a lightening flash, but gradually, over time, as the message of the weekend was absorbed and incorporated in my daily life (hmmm…reminds me of the leaven in the bread thought).

So readers, this weekend, please pray for the ladies on retreat, and consider going on a Via de Crist weekend yourself (by the way, you don’t have to be a Lutheran to do this and there are weekends for men as well).  If you would like to learn more, contact the Lutheran ladies for more information, we will be happy to help.

For those authors and readers who have made a weekend, I hope you will post and comment.  And remember, God loves you and so do I!

 

 

And All God’s People Say Amen

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This poem was written for me by a dear friend on a very special weekend:  it was the Via De Cristo Women’s retreat that was held just a few days after 9/11.  I think it’s appropriate to our theme of change and also the Easter season.  Changes can be frightening and unsettling.  They don’t always seem to be good or even understandable;  but God is in control and He has the last word.  Many thanks to Martha Moore, the writer, who has also agreed to become one of the Lutheran lady bloggers.  I hope we’ll be hearing more from her.

In ancient times, at a horn’s blast

The walls of the city of Jericho

Shattered into shards,

And God’s people rejoiced.

In more recent times, in the hands of a jubilant mob

The wall dividing Berlin

Crumbled into rubble,

And God’s people rejoiced.

Today we are haunted by the vision

Of the disintegration of walls

Raining chaos on an incredulous earth,

And God’s people are weeping.

But we believe in the one who said,

“Destroy this temple and I will raise it up”—

The one who died to prove it,

Out of the dust we shall arise–

Out of the dust of our disasters, national and personal,

Out of the dust of our lost desires,

Out of the dust from which we were formed—-

Resurrection comes.  Amen.