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March 2017


Greetings friends,


My 14-month-old niece, Alexa, amazes me every day by the new things she learns. She may not say many words yet, but she understands so many things.  Recently, my sister taught her to follow the command, “put your hands out.”  When you say that to Alexa, she puts her hands together and holds them in front of her waiting to be given something, most of the time food.  The most recent video I received showed her with her hands out in front of her, her eyes closed, and a big giggle of anticipation as she waited.  She didn’t know what was going to come her way, but she was excited, none the less.  She had her hands out, her eyes closed, and her heart ready to receive whatever my sister was going to give to her.


In January, I had the opportunity to travel to the holy lands for a class through my seminary.  Everyone told me how wonderful the trip was going to be and how great it was that I got to walk where Jesus walked.  Now, you probably all know this about me already, but I tend to be a bit of a skeptic, so I did not get all caught up in the hype of walking where Jesus walked, as if that provided me some sort of special connection.  Sure, I was excited to see some of the places mentioned in the Bible, but I was not expecting this to be much of a spiritual journey.  It was exciting to see the sites, but I would not categorize the trip as a spiritual one, especially not compared to spending time in the woods.


One of the days we spent in Jerusalem, we walked the Stations of the Cross.  This is where it all changed.  I was prepared, I had my hands out in front of me and I was ready to catch all the info that Khalil was going to throw at us that day.  On our journey that day we went into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and stood where the crucifixion of Jesus is marked to have happened.  In front of me, there was an altar and people were lined in front of it looking down.  As hard as I tried, I could not see what they were looking at.  I never did see what they were looking at because I eventually gave up trying to get through all the people.  Just as I did that, I looked upward and there in front of me was a sculpture of Jesus on the cross.  It caught me off guard.  I was prepared to receive information about Jesus’ crucifixion, I was not prepared to experience it.  Needless to say, I didn’t hear anything Khalil said about that station; I simply was present with Jesus on the cross.


The season of Lent has never really been my favorite season (hopefully I can say that out loud and still be your Intern).  First, it is so somber and serious, second, as a child I never understood the ashes on the forehead and therefore thought it crossed a cleanliness line I wasn’t willing to cross and third, I never did catch on to the whole give something up for Lent trend.  I think I have the tendency to get all caught up in the hype of Lent and what I am “supposed” to be doing (ashes, remembering my sins, focusing on God) that I forget to just be present.  It is easy for me to try to follow those in front of me, even though I can’t see what they are seeing.  I forget to put my hands out, close my eyes, laugh, and be ready to receive what God has prepared for me.  I forget to be present with God, the God who created me from the dust of the earth.


So, as we enter this season of Lent, whether you are a Lent enthusiast or a bit of a Lenten Scrooge like me, I urge you to put your hands out, close your eyes, laugh a few times and be present with God.  Your way of doing this may not look just like that, but find a way to engage, a way to be present in the world that is spinning us around and urging us to continuously jump from one thing to the next.  My prayer is that we can all be present with God in the little things, whether it is learning to play catch, singing morning prayer, helping someone or analyzing all the shapes of Wheaties flakes in your bowl of breakfast cereal as we prepare for and experience Jesus’ journey to the cross and ultimately his resurrection.


Vicar Karyn Kost




Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110        412-466-7773