Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sunday, December 28, 2014

4th Day of Christmas - Christmas for Grown-Ups

Tom Harbold pointed out an excellent sermon by Fleming Rutledge regarding the Nicene Creed and its appearance in a variety of places in both the liturgy and music today that led to a discussion on the nature of Christ.
From the sermon:  "The council of Nicaea in the year 325 determined that Jesus Christ was “God of God, Light of light, begotten not created” ... The Council of Nicaea taught us that Jesus was not just “like” God; he was God. He was “begotten, not created.” That is the one and only way that Jesus is not like us. He became one of us, and he was like us in every respect but this one: He was not “created” like us. He was “begotten” of the Father “before all worlds” and therefore “of one substance with the Father.”"
With just this information, the questions arise:   "God from God... begotten, not made." So was Mary simply a surrogate - carrying a child not of her body? Is this the reason that Mary is so revered by Catholics, that God provided only half of what begat Christ, and Mary provided the human half? If, as the Nicene Creed would indicate, Christ is begotten, He would not actually have been considered "human" per se, but rather went through the human experience without actually being human.

And yet, we know that Jesus was both fully human and fully God.  Fortunately, these questions were answered long ago.  Tom pointed out:  the Definition of Chalcedon (451) comes in, to answer just those sorts of questions that were raised in the post-Nicene years:  – as God the Holy Trinity is one divine Nature in three distinct Persons, so Christ is one Person in two Natures, fully human and fully God:
"truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance (homoousios) with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos); one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence."
The Definition was adopted in response to two extreme positions: the Docetist position, which was that Christ was basically an avatar, not really human but only seeming to be; and the Adoptionist position, that Christ was in fact a human being "adopted" by God to be His Son. Chalcedon affirmed that, no, he really is both fully human and fully God; the two natures, Divine and human, subsisting within one Person without division or confusion: because he was fully man, he truly lived and died as one of us, yet without sin; because he was also fully God, he sanctified and redeemed that humanness that he experienced – including death, but, again, excluding sin.

For us, accepting the Trinity on faith will also allow us to accept the duality of the nature of Christ in the same manner.  This is likely why Rutledge explained that this is Christmas for grown-ups, but if we used the universal language of math, it's equally as easy to explain to a child:  multiplication shows that 1x1x1=1.  Three separate numbers, yet only one whole.  Or in science, the states of being of H2O - steam, water and ice - three states, one substance.  The duality of Christ can be exemplified in the same way - and what can be such a complex and never ending exploration into the nature of God - can also be simplified so that even a child can comprehend.

Well, Merry Christmas, indeed!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Happy St. Stephen's Day and Other Miscellany

While the daily blogging for Advent is over, I've found myself used to creating a blog, so I thought I'd share a couple of things for today.

First, it is St. Stephen's Day, and the collect is:  "GRANT, O Lord, that, in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may steadfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succor all those who suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

Next, I ran across a blog that was posted on the Diocese of Montana's Facebook page that is a wonderful collection of "letters" that Mary might have written to her Aunt Elizabeth.  I highly recommend it.

Today is also Boxing Day in Great Britain.  This tradition dating back to the 17th Century is for gratuities to be paid to those who have provided you services throughout the year - they would receive a "Christmas Box" - although these days, it tends to be more monetary than items.  Think about saying "Thank you" to those who provide you services throughout the year.  Although we should always do this, something extra special would not go amiss.

And finally, there is an interesting story associated with St. Stephen's Day and hunting the wren.  Rather a gruesome tradition.

May today bless you with insights and clarity as you begin planning your projects for next year.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Jesus - 26th Day of Advent

Joy to the World!
The Lord Is Come!

Not quite the version you're likely used to, but finally one that truly expresses the JOY that Christ has come to this Earth.  

Merry Christmas to everyone!  We have finally reached the reason for Advent - both the first, and the present, although the latter continues as we are careful to be awake and ware, proclaiming to all who have the capacity to hear, that the long-awaited Messiah is coming.

Take all that you've learned this season, and apply every single day, for our present Advent continues, and we have a job to do - to make sure that each and every person knows it, and is prepared.

Almighty God, who hast given us thine only begotten Son to take our nature upon him and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that we, being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Birth - 25th Day of Advent

Birth - If you type in "Birth of" in Google, you get quite a few concepts - Nations, Ideas, Beauty, Venus, Baby and Jesus.  Obviously, with the first Advent, they were anticipating the birth of the Christ child.  Our current Advent is slightly different - we're awaiting a birthday, so that we can celebrate that first Christmas today; we're also anticipating Christ's return.  Interestingly, only Matthew talks about the "birth" of Christ in Chapter 1:18:  "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this way: When His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost."

With the birth of Christ we also see the birth of nations and ideas.  The whole world changed because of this birth, so in the celebration of this momentous occasion, acknowledging just how huge an event it is would likely help you to find the presence of the Lord we talked about yesterday.  Put it into perspective - first, of a Jew of the time:  this was the long-awaited Messiah!  Think about how long since this birth that we have been waiting, and at least double the amount of time that they waited for His appearance.  Is it any wonder that He wasn't recognized by so many?

And now look at it from the perspective of knowing how the Earth has changed since Christ was here last; how many things are as a direct result of one man walking the Earth.  What else will we see change before the next Advent is finished?

Activity for the Day:  Sit down and make a list of all the things you can think of that are a result of God being born in the form of a little child.  Talk about it with someone else.  Share it here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Presence - 24th Day of Advent

I'm going to paraphrase and take an idea from Darrell Elmer Rodgers, who has posted about the concept of Christmas Presence a couple of times.  There are times when you see the absolute beauty around you, and know that you are in the presence of God.  The challenge here is to know you are in the Presence of God in the not so beautiful - in the stable (not known for their cleanliness) where a little baby was born, in the feet of a homeless man, in the oncology ward of the hospital - in the places where you don't think to even look for God.  It is that presence that we feel now through the Holy Spirit that first came to us with Christ's birth.  

When people get so involved in the Christmas presents and the wrappings and the things of Christmas, it's up to us, as Christians, to help people remember the truly important Christmas Presence - we are being given the chance at eternal life and through Christ, we are adopted into the holy family of God.  

So today's challenge is both a moving meditation, and the Activity of the Day.  Go to visit a homeless shelter, and just talk to people - both the homeless themselves, and those who work with them.  Or go visit at the hospital - ask for someone who doesn't get a lot or any visitors, that you might sit and read to them, or just sit and get to know them.  Or go to a mortuary - talk to a mortician - find out why they do their job, and if they feel the Presence of God in what they do, providing final closure for families, respecting the last physical aspect of a body, knowing that God has already got the important parts taken care of.  

Find the Christmas Presence in unexpected places.  And thank God for His presence, everywhere.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Fearless - 23rd Day of Advent

While "fearless" does not actually appear in some of the more common translations of the Bible, it describes the state of being of those told "Fear not" or "Be not afraid."  In each instance, the person is told "The Lord is with you."  And because of that, they should hopefully understand that they have nothing to fear.  

This is the case when the angel appeared to Mary to let her know that her life was about to be completely changed.  For a teenager, particularly a girl living in the times and culture she lived in, that had to be a particularly hard challenge.

The 23rd Psalm is likely another Biblical passage that comes to mind with the word "fearless", as would the story of Daniel in the lion's den.  

Think about times you have been afraid.  Have you turned to God to ask Him to be with you, so that you may not be afraid?  If not, why not?  Think about what it means to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that there is no room for fear to abide with you.

Activity for the Day:  Invite a friend over to watch a Christmas movie.  Have popcorn and hot chocolate.  Share the joy of the Advent season!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Angel - 22nd Day of Advent

This fourth Sunday of Advent, we hear the story of how the Angel Gabriel came to give the message to Mary that she was to be the mother of God's Son.  You can go back to the 9th Day of Advent for thoughts regarding the word "Messenger".

So focusing on today's meditative word, "Angel", several things come to mind.  The Bible mentions "Angel" 283 times, 175 of which are in the New Testament.  It makes you wonder - were the people of the Bible more apt to be visited by Angels than we are today?  Are there fewer personal messages from God for mankind?  Or do we no longer know how to listen for the voices of the Angels?  

If you type into Google, "Do you believe in Angels", there are over 51 million websites that come up.  That seems to be a fairly significant number, leading us to believe that there's probably quite a few who believe in Angels.  How about you?

Then we have the concept of guardian angels - those beings that watch over us and can hopefully prevent bad things from happening.  Sometimes you have to wonder if perhaps the "imaginary friends" our children see aren't their own guardians - and their minds are still open enough to see that as possible.  

Then there's a favored poem to Mothers to the right.

Have you ever been visited by an Angel?  Do you know someone who has been?  Is it something that you see, something that you hear?  And if it's the latter, how do you know the difference between a message from an Angel and a message from God?  Is there a difference?

Activity for the Day:  Be kind to others, all day.  Find something you might do to help them, even if it's just a hug.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Soul - 21st Day of Advent

There are many opinions on the subject of what exactly the Soul is.  We know it's important, but do we really know what it is?

Christ said, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.’”  (Luke 10:27)

I'll suggest that this separates our heart (emotional body), soul (essence of self?), strength (physical body) and mind (spiritual body) - which does seem to cover all the bases - to be utterly and totally devoted to God and God's creation.  

Long ago, someone described romantic love to me as loving in some to all of the ways suggested above.  And that if you had connections with any two of those levels, you'd probably have an okay relationship, but not one that would last.  And if you found someone with whom you felt connected on any of three levels, you would likely have a long-lasting relationship, but still would feel something missing.  And if you found someone who connected with you on all of the levels, you had found your soul mate.  Soul mates, of course, are an entirely separate topic, but still, deal with the soul.

In Mark 8:36-37 , Jesus said "For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"  

Obviously, the soul is of utmost importance for man.  It is implied that it will live after the death of the physical body.  Some find soul and spirit to be interchangeable.  

Interestingly, the Episcopal Cafe has a blog called Speaking to the Soul with many entries on what speaks to the part of us that doesn't die.  

When you meditate today, think about what the soul means to you.  What picture comes to mind?  What is the first thought that tips your brain?  

Activity for Today:  Today's a day to say "Thank you" to friends, family members, mentors, teachers - anyone for whom you are thankful for their place in your life - give them a well-meant "Thanks!"

Friday, December 19, 2014

Spirit - 20th Day of Advent

The Spirit of Christmas - the picture at the left exemplifies this perfectly.  Father Christmas, known for his loving, generous, giving spirit, kneeling next to the Baby that is the greatest gift of all time from our Father in Heaven.  So many forget in the hustle and bustle of the "holiday" that Christmas is a holy day.  It's also a celebration - a birthday.  There's a lovely story, Christmas at a Gas Station (tissue warnings) that talks about keeping the spirit of Christmas alive in your heart.

One of the things the Germans teach their children is the difference between the Weihnachtsmann (Christmas Man) or St. Nicholas and Christmas.  They are celebrated on two different days - St. Nicholas comes the 6th of December to fill good children's shoes with fruits, nuts, candies and small gifts, along with a piece of coal to remind them to be good.  At Christmas, gifts are exchanged among family and friends, acknowledging the Christ Spirit in each of us.  Germans are very fond of their holy days, as well as their holidays.  There's nothing under the tree from "Santa."

So what does Spirit mean in this time of Advent?  In the first Advent, there was the appearance of the star - people knew something was coming.  The wise men watched and waited for the right time to start their journey.  A spirit of anticipation was all around.  And in our Advent now, as we await Christ's return?  How can we hold that Christmas Spirit for more than a day?  While the season of Advent reminds us to be watchful and ready, our Advent is much, much longer than the 25 days before the celebration of Christ's birthday.  It's holding that spirit inside us, always - never knowing if the homeless man, the cop, the robber, the new mom, the frantic dad (from the story above) is really a test for us.  Do you hold the spirit inside you?  Are you ready?

Activity for the Day:  Today, look for something to compliment each person you meet - it has to be something true, something real.  Then *say something* - actually give the compliment, don't just think it.  You have no idea how many people's days you may brighten with a simple, sincere compliment.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Peace - 19th Day of Advent

Yes, we're still in the season of Advent, and today's word is Peace.  We're also in a time where the world seems to know very little peace, and Malala Yousafzai is now a well-known face, as a 17-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner.  In response, terrorists attacked a school and killed 126 children yesterday.  Malala's statement regarding this was clear:  "I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters – but we will never be defeated." 

I think Malala fits the verse from Matthew 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."  

The definitions of Peace surprised me, in that only two of the definitions are stated from a positive perspective.  All others define peace in comparison to a non-peaceful state.  It makes it quite clear that we would have a hard time defining something without the duality of its opposite (a rather Taoist viewpoint, but true, nonetheless).  

God's peace, however, seems to be defined as something wholly separate.  From John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."   

And it is the peace of God that is the question here.  We know that Christ often said "Go in peace."  We also know that He said, Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:" (Luke 12:51-52)  This sermon from St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Virginia explains the seeming contradiction really well.

So in your meditations about Peace today, think about what peace means to you.  Have you felt/experienced God's peace?  Do you live in an area that's peaceful?  What makes it so?  And if it's not peaceful, how could it be helped to become so?

Activity for  the day:  In accordance with the concept of "finding Peace", think about someone who has made you angry or upset.  Forgive them to find peace in your heart.  Know that this may not get rid of the issues that need to be addressed, and corrected, but by letting go of the negative emotion surrounding it, you may see it more clearly.  The peace in your heart will spread as you address things calmly and reach conclusions that both of you can live with.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rejoice - 18th Day of Advent

"Rejoice" and "exceeding(ly) glad (or joyful)" are paired a few times in the Bible.  It appears that Rejoice is the verb, and requires an action on your part.  Feel especially glad or joyful - this is what you should be feeling as you rejoice.

How many of you look forward to singing "Joy to the World" on Christmas morning?  And how many of you get a lump in your throat as you think about how huge the news is, how overwhelmingly joyful?  I've never been able to make it through the song on Christmas morning itself without having to stop and clear that lump out.

The entire world rejoices in celebration of the birth of the Christ child.  Now let's put it into the context that while we are celebrating a birthday, we are also celebrating the Advent leading up to the second coming.  We rejoice in the past - how will we rejoice in the future?  Listen to the song below, and think about it.

Activity for the Day:  Keep an eye open for litter around you.  Did someone miss the trashcan?  Help them out!  No trashcan in sight - carry a bag with you for the day that you can collect it in.  You could make it a competition among the neighborhood kids - who can find the most litter?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Testify - Day 17 of Advent

Testify - to bear witness; make a solemn declaration; to declare, profess or acknowledge openly.

As John 15:26-27 says:  26 “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth who proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me.  27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning."

The video below talks about the fact that every corner of the Earth testifies to the glory of God.

We know that John the Baptist testified about the coming of One whose sandal he was not fit to carry.

So in your meditation, consider what your life, your words, your actions testify to.  Is it what you mean to say?

Activity for the Day:  Today, pause and think before you speak.
T - is it True?
H - is it Helpful?
I - is it Inspiring?
N - is it Necessary?
K - is it Kind?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Stir - 16th Day of Advent

Stir - to move, or cause to move slightly.

Isaiah 64 goes into rather a bit of detail as to where humanity got off track with God, and asks that God forgive us, and remember that He is the potter and we are the clay.  The first Advent here was possibly God's response to the prayer.  And if we look at our society today, we'll likely find that we are equally, if not more, off the track that God set us on - and again, we celebrate this Advent, knowing that God will send His Son to us again.

Then when we look at 2 Timothy 1:6, "Therefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee through the putting on of my hands."  Perhaps we forget that God is within us, and maybe a little stirring is needed to remind us of our path; to remember that as the Christians we choose to be, it is God's will we most want to follow.

And because God works in and through each of us, we never know when we will be called upon to speak God's words to another - to make a difference in their lives, their thinking, their hearts - to stir them to actions that will be pleasing in the sight of God.

Stir, while it can be used as a noun, is here a verb; an action to be taken, and a change to be made.  At the same time, stirring can be a gentle action, beginning gradually and slowly speeding up, allowing for adjustments to be more easily accepted over time; or it can be a fast whirlpool, quickly begun and quickly ended.  Pray for guidance if you feel you need to stir someone up - God will let you know how fast to go, and the words to reach their hearts.

This song, while entitled Consuming Fire, ends with the words:  Stir it up in our hearts Lord, A passion for Your Name.

Activity for the Day:  Be a good neighbor!  Bake something and share.  Help out with chores (possibly shoveling a walk? walking a dog?).  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Light - 15th Day of Advent

Light - the very first thing created by God:
2 And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 2-4)
And later, in the New Testament, Jesus tells the Pharisees:   I am the Light of the world. He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

These days, we are aware that the spectrum of light provided by the sun gives mankind Vitamin D - a necessary element for our lives that is absorbed through the skin.

So, given that light was important enough to create first, that Jesus is the light of the world, and that light is necessary for our existence, "light" is a very good word to meditate upon.

And of course, if you get a group a singers together, "This Little Light of Mine" is one everybody knows and can sing several harmonies to, making it just fun to sing.

Activity for the Day:  This being the third Sunday in advent, the keyword representing the third candle is JOY.  Think about what makes you joyful - and go do it!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Beloved - 14th Day of Advent

Beloved - dearly loved.  While these words are often heard throughout the Bible, there are two that stand out most.  

The first is when God declares at the baptism of Jesus by John in the river, that "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."  From an interesting discussion, the author supposes that this was a test of Christ's resolve, and "At his baptism, Jesus chose to willingly identify with fallen humanity in order to 'fulfill all righteousness.'"  The beginning of His journey.  

One has to wonder at the tests that Christ experienced throughout His lifetime.  And what He might have been thinking as He met His cousin at the river, knowing that life as He knew it was about to change, in a very dramatic way.  

The second is one you will often find between couples who are married, a phrase from the Song of Songs 2:16: "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine."  Some friends of mine used the Hebrew version in their wedding rings (דּוֹדִי לִי וַאֲנִי לוֹ), always as a reminder to each other that they were "dearly loved."

So in your meditation today, I'm going to ask you to put yourself in the shoes (so to speak) of God as His Son begins a journey to redeem mankind.  Think about what Jesus was thinking as he stepped into the river to become the Christ.  And think about who in your own life is beloved.  

Activity for Today:  Be nice to someone you are not particularly fond of; pray for them and for yourself, that your heart may be open.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Baptize - 13th Day of Advent

The Baptismal Covenant is something that we, as Episcopalians renew periodically.  The question is - do you think about the response as much as you did the first time you did this voluntarily (generally at confirmation)?  Before you go to look at the answers, here's your meditation for today.  Answer these questions, in your own words - gut reaction - and then think about it:

1.  Do you believe in God the Father?

2.  Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

3.  Do you believe in God, the Holy Spirit?

4.  Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

5.  Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

6.  Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

7.  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

8.  Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

Activity for the Day:  Make a card for someone - could be a Christmas card, a Hanukkah card, a birthday card for a friend - or a birthday card for Jesus.   

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Prepare - 12th Day of Advent

Today's word, prepare, goes back to the "messenger" before.  John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ:
2 As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.”
3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’”  (Mark 1:2-3)
Apostles of Christ prepared the way for Christ's return.  And disciples of Christ continue to prepare the way.  There's a lot of work to be done, and many hands make light work, but all hands are needed.

The video below was the rather more tame video than the first one I looked at from Godspell.  However, it shows many ways that need to be prepared in order to make the path straight for Christ's return:

People need both their minds and their hearts engaged.  This is something the Episcopal Church could use some work in.  The liturgy is awesome - when you know the reasons behind it, the passion that went into it, the history and the tradition; and yet, like every good teacher, we have to find a way to get the students to engage in the process of learning those things, so they, too, can love it.

Every teacher can tell you, if the belly is empty, the mind cannot comprehend.  And yes, we, as a church must help to feed the souls of those who are spiritually hungry - but sometimes they are also physically hungry and are unable to hear you.  Jesus fed a crowd with fish and bread, knowing that He could go on speaking and all would listen, but many would not hear.  Volunteer your time, your resources, your excesses to help those who need to hear the message of Christ, and will hear better with fully bellies and warm bodies.

Always we have the need to pray - to know without doubt that God listens; that we're not just babbling out loud, but talking to God.  Part of this again, goes back to teaching - we have to teach others to look for God in the great and the small, in the beauty of the sunrise and the laugh of a child, in the intricacies of DNA and the simplicity of a single cell.  The wonder and awe of God should fill our hearts, even as our minds work at comprehending.  That wonder and awe lead to prayer; the need for understanding leads to prayer; the breakthroughs in knowledge lead to prayer - if that is your automatic response to the world around you.  Teach your children to pray.  If someone asks you to pray for them, to "add them to the prayer list", stop right then, take their hand and pray.  If, like me, you have difficulty with extemporaneous prayer, have a "go to" prayer that you've memorized, but remember to personalize it for the situation.  The Book of Common Prayer has a prayer for most situations.

The challenge today is to think about what needs to happen before the return of Christ.  We're now in advent, leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus (or as pointed out in the video below, Yeshua, the Hebrew pronunciation of Jesus' name).  But we're also in the advent of the time leading up to the return of Christ, and we need to invite people in - let them know that they're welcome, whether it's for service, or for fellowship at another event, or even just for coffee hour.  Small steps lead to questions, and we know God has the answers - they'll learn that too.

Activity for the Day:  Invite someone to join you for a family meal or coffee or in some of the weather around the country, hot chocolate.  Talk about your own upcoming celebrations, and find out what they're up to.  Invite them to join you, and if you're interested in their celebrations, ask if you could also attend.  Don't push - just prepare the way.  God will do the rest.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Proclaim - 11th Day of Advent

Oddly, two things come to mind first with the word "proclaim".

The first doesn't use the word proclaim, but rather exemplifies it, from Luke 2:9-11:
9 And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  11 For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
 This is a public proclamation of the arrival of our Lord.  And by definition, to proclaim is to declare something publicly.

So of course, the second thing that came to mind was how Christians found one another during times when it wasn't necessarily safe to proclaim their identity.  Both the anchor and the fish symbols were common methods of visual identification for Christians during the Roman persecution.  Most scholars believe that after a time, Christians didn't have to hide, and the anchor fell into disuse to be replaced by the cross.  The anchor was based on the Greek and other "scholars ... think the anchor slipped from use because the 'symbol' was actually a word play in Greek—ankura resembling en kurio, or "in the Lord"—which disappeared as Christians chose Latin over Greek as their primary language."  This, of course, would not explain the lasting use of the Icthys or fish, which also used Greek:  "As early as the first century, Christians made an acrostic from this word: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, i.e. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior."  This symbol would have half of it drawn by one person, and the idea was that only another Christian would know to draw the other half of the symbol.  Otherwise, someone was just considered doodling?

So today, ponder the word "proclaim".  Think of how it's been used in history and what proclamations have had the most historic significance.

Activity of the Day:  Drop off a new toy at Toys for Tots.  If you're not able to do that, take some of the gently used toys that are in good condition, to your local Goodwill or Thrift Store.  And maybe a trip to the Library to read the story of "The Velveteen Rabbit" might be in order, just to give you ideas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Prophet - 10th Day of Advent

The word "prophet" appears over 450 times in the Bible.  Interestingly, the related words of "prophecy" and "prophecies" only occur a total of 23.  

So part of the question for today's meditation:  what is the difference between a prophet and a messenger?  How do you know that a prophet is true?

Most of what is out there on prophecy is that you need to have a regular practice of prayer, and actually listening to the Holy Spirit - that voice that guides us along the right path, rather than the wrong one (and we do know the difference...).  If we listen to that still, small voice (or the loud one that you've been ignoring for too long, and when you do finally listen, it's as if you finally understand that God's been trying to get your attention), then we have an awareness of what's true and what's false.  And if you're still not sure, pray some more, and ask for assistance.  God's pretty generous in His teaching us.

There's an interesting sermon (by Eleanor Wellford at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Virginia) on modern day prophecy that should hopefully make you think.

Activity for the Day:  Visit a nursing home, a shut-in or an elderly neighbor.  Take along something to read to them, something you baked yourself, or even a stuffed toy.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Messenger - 9th Day of Advent

Messenger is a word that brings to mind so many things - the numerous angels who acted as messengers to men:  the angel who came to Mary to let her know she was chosen to be the mother of God; the angel who visited Joseph in a dream to let him know that Mary had not broken her bond with him, but had been chosen - as had he - to parent the Son of God.  Another Messenger in less angelic form would be John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Christ's arrival.  That's what Mark talks about at the beginning of his Gospel:
1 The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.”
3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’”

The image here is when Mary and Elizabeth meet, and John first moves in Elizabeth's womb at the presence of the Lord.  The joy in that moment is certainly one worth celebrating.

Going back to the reflection mentioned at the end of yesterday's blog, the first Advent, and the second Advent, and many subsequent Advents have passed each year, as God waits for as many people as possible to know the way of the Lord.  John the Baptist isn't here anymore to provide the message, but we are.  We may not have a lot of wilderness to cry out in, but we have many places to share the joy of our Faith, to invite people to come and celebrate with us as we await the coming of Christ.

Are you ready to be a Messenger of Advent?

Activity for the Day:  Choose three people - older, younger, same age - doesn't matter - and invite them to attend the Third Sunday of Advent with you.  It's okay if they say no - but they don't have the opportunity to say no if they're never asked, do they?  Be that Messenger, and make straight the path before them, so they too can experience the joys of Advent.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Repentance - 8th Day of Advent

Today's word, to my way of thinking, is related to yesterday's journey. Repentance is a part of a journey.

Jesus was eating with the "undesirables" of society and the Pharisees questioned him.  His response was in Mark 2:17:  When Jesus heard it, He said unto them, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

I recently read a short story that had a line that stayed with me:  "No one knows better the true value of virtue without being acquainted, at least once, with vice."

Repentance is a journey, because it requires change.  Change in attitude, change in behavior, change in how you proceed forward in life.  There's a great article on the 5 Steps of Repentance that talks about how Psalm 32 has the answer to, how do I repent?  The 5 steps are:

  1. Be honest about your need for repentance.
  2. Acknowledge the danger of sin and the damage of guilt.
  3. Fully confess your sin.
  4. Hide in God
  5. Seize the hope.
None of us are perfect - we follow the One who was.  We all have habits, directions, choices that we make and take that we are well aware are sins.  The thing about repentance is that you have to be willing to make a change - to cease doing the sin - for repentance to be real.  Each week, we participate in a congregational confession of sin, a very generalized record that can fit every need - but I would challenge you to be more specific in your heart and mind.  When you confess your sins, be honest and make a decision on whether you're merely confessing, or if you're repenting also.  The latter will require more action on your part.

Activity for the Day:  Today, we light the second candle in the Advent wreath for Joy.  Your task today is to smile at everyone you meet and brighten their day with the joy that shines from your own heart!

And because today's Reflection is completely awesome, and talks about repentance in a concrete manner, I thought I'd share it too.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Journey - 7th Day of Advent

33 “Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is. 34 For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch.  35 Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh — at evening, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning —  Mark 13:33-35
So we're reviewing a lot today of being awake, being ware, and coming.  But today's word focuses on journey.  Specifically in the message above, the Son of Man is taking a far journey, but we, too, as we wait for His return, are on our own journey.  Where is yours taking you?

Activity for the Day:  Make a homemade gift for someone - a card, a scarf, any sort of gift, and find someone special to gift it to.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Shaken - 6th Day of Advent

Many things come to mind with the word "shaken", but for our purposes here, the Bible tells us that the world, even the very heavens must be shaken before the Son of Man appears in the clouds.*  Shaken appears to be synonymous with "change", and change can be good or bad, but many eminent psychologists and philosophers believe that no change can occur without a significant emotional event.  Events that touch our hearts, minds and spirits would likely qualify - but here, we're actually looking for events that change not just one person, but the whole world.

In this time of Advent, we know what event we anticipate, but have you ever really thought about how the birth of one child really did change the course of the world?  This wasn't a world connected by the Internet and telephones or even the Pony Express.  It was a world of disparate places and peoples - and yet Christianity, over 2000 years later reaches to every corner of the world, is the most widespread and populous religion on the planet.  The child we are waiting for changed the world, which is an absolutely huge thing to contemplate.

So for today's meditation, think about how that child, born two millennium past, has changed or shaken your world.  And how much more might your world change if you decided to be part of the change that shakes up the world?

Activity for the Day:   Gather up loose change around your house (doing laundry always helps me in that task), and donate it to the Salvation Army, local Food Bank or ERD.  Think about the alternative meaning for "change" as you do so - and how this might be helping to change someone else's world for the better.

*Matthew 24:28-30; Mark 13:24-26; Luke 21:25-27

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Grace - 5th Day of Advent

Today's word for meditation is Grace.

And the video below may help you with your meditation today.

Activity for Today:  Let someone in line get in front of you.  Yes, your time is valuable, but sometimes, you really need to slow down, appreciate the day and SMILE at the people around you.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Restore - 4th Day of Advent

Psalm 23 is a favorite of many people, and while it talks about knowing that God is with you through everything, it also talks about the restoration of the soul.  In some ways, it's a promise of the coming of Christ, to restore the souls of all mankind:
He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  - Psalm 23:3
Throughout the Gospels, we watch as Christ physically restores health to those who are ill, sight to the blind, strength to the lame, food to the hungry - but it is humbling to know that it takes His very life to restore the soul of humanity to the condition where we might walk the paths of righteousness once again.

And later in this liturgical year, we see God's love also restore life to Christ once again.  

Restoration in our personal lives can be reflected in restoring a house to cleanliness, a beat-up old piece of furniture to its original beauty, an owie of a child finds the skin restored and pain removed with the kiss of his mother, even polishing a candlestick or silverware to restore the original shine - as a symbol of what Christ restores to us, it's a great place to begin your working meditation today.  Choose something to restore - and think about all that God restores in your own life, as you give a new look to something that also needs restored.

Activity for the Day:  Clean out and donate to Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity,  or whatever your favorite charity is today!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Beware - 3rd Day of Advent

And on the 3rd day of Advent, our word is "Beware."  Interestingly, it is not a contraction for "be aware", but rather comes from the Old English verb "warian", which means "to take heed of, to guard against, protect, defend."  So we're once again referred back to being "awake" so that we can be ware of what's "coming."

The Bible actually refers in several places that we should beware, but since this is Advent, we're going to focus on two of the Gospel verses that talk about being on guard against the falsity of men:

Matthew 7:15: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."

Matthew 10:17: "But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues,"

There are many other areas in the Bible that use the word "beware" - Bible Gateway is a great place to look things up, and it's very easy to use.

So in your meditation, think about what and whom you need to beware; think of how you will guard against it; think of how prayer might be worked into it.

Activity for the Day:  Take food to a food bank.  If you're unable to do that, volunteer some of your time to help them out.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Coming - 2nd Day of Advent

Today's word is "Coming", and when you look that up, three phrases stand out most broadly - "coming soon", "coming home" and "coming out."  For now, we'll focus on the first.

From Matthew 24:27 and 30, we know:
For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. ...
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. 
So we know from Christ, Himself, that His coming to Earth will be visible to all.  It's not something that will be hidden - but we must be "awake".  From Matthew 19:15-16, "Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.  But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear."

Something else to consider - if God (and therefore Christ) is outside of time, "soon" doesn't really have a meaning - it's something that implies linear time.  Something to wonder about is how the perception of God changes between the Father and the Son, since the Son actually experienced linear time, and the Father is the one who set it up, but lives outside of it.  Mysteries of faith - they do always give us things to meditate upon.  And that's what this exercise is for - to meditate; to allow your mind and spirit to take you on a journey that will hopefully lead to broader understanding.

Activity for the Day:
Our second task - Meet someone for lunch (or maybe have leftovers from Thanksgiving and invite someone in - or take leftovers to someone shut in and spend some time in fellowship with them).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Awake - 1st Day of Advent

Good morning!  (Or if you're industrious and checking the blog when I finish, good evening!)

Today's word is actually "awake", but in looking for pictures of that word that might be inspiring, I discovered there's a movie by that name, and as I want to focus on the verb form, I added the N. :)  I'd like to thank the Awaken Church in Wenatchee, WA for the loan of their logo - they're a non-denominational Bible Church, and they've got great taste in logos and messages. :)

SSJE (Society of St. John the Evangelist) has a great sermon with many thoughts on which one can meditate regarding being "awake", discussing Matthew 24:37-44.  One portion of it says:
Some of you here today may need to wake up. There may be events in your life right now – very full events or very vacuous events – that God is using to speak to you or lead you. Wake up to it! For others of you, the invitation that God may be giving you now is from another side of Jesus’ personality and another side of his teaching: an invitation to rest in the peace of Christ, to savor the sampling of food that shall last forever, to drink deeply from life, to relax, to abide, to enjoy, to reincorporate the word “leisure” into your soul.
Keep those things in mind as you go through your day - awake to the possibilities within yourself!

Activity for the Day:  Call a friend or family member that you have not talked with in a while.  Maybe you can mention how excited you are that this is the first day of Advent!  Ask what they're going to be doing to get ready for their own holy days - or if they're non-religious, ask what their plans for the holidays are.  Find a way to re-awaken your connection (C'mon, it's my job to make everything come full circle - you had to expect it).  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Preparing for Advent

Well, it's been a while since I've updated on here, but it's again coming up on Advent, one of the two times of the year when I post daily.

First, to catch everyone up on the happenings among the Episcopal community in our little corner of Northwest Montana:

  • Holy Trinity is still seeking a part-time priest for the small, but faithful, community of Troy, Montana.  Interested people should contact the Bishop.
  • We grieve with the believers in Libby, MT for the desanctification and closing of our sister-church, St. Luke's.  They now meet in each others' homes, much like the believers in the early Church.  Please pray for them.
  • The prayer shawl ministry continues strong and vibrant, making shawls, blankets, hats and scarves for the community at large.
Next, this Advent Season, we're going to focus on two things - both of which require your participation!  The first is the Photo Meditation on a word from the Formation and Vocation Offices of the Episcopal Church.  Find a photo that describes the word that will be posted, and share the photo, or share a link where we can find the photo in the comments for the day.

The second is a challenge called "Taking it to the Streets" - practical, every day challenges on what you can do to make Advent special and focused for you and for others you interact with during the season.  Challenge others to do the same.  Create your own methods and things to do.  Educate others in the Episcopal methods of celebrating the Advent season - and remember to listen to others as they educate you on their own traditions.  We're not so different - sometimes we just have different practices or traditions that lead to the multitude of Holy Days in this time of year.  We want others to respect our celebrations, and the best way to do that is to respect theirs - and learn something new in the meantime!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

World Humanitarian Day - August 19, 2014

Prayer for the Human Family.
Ebola Outbreaks
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infects our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in the bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on the earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Khadair Refugees
Gaza Families
- The Book of Common Prayer, p.815

Missouri Riots

Syrian Refugees

Unaccompanied Minors

Friday, April 4, 2014


The last video on collaboration this week deals with something that everyone experiences at some point in their lives - loneliness.  The brother in the video talks about identifying the feeling, and asking God to alleviate it in some way, to take away the pain of feeling alone.

Just the fact that you think to pray is an instant reminder that you're actually not alone, that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are constantly around, and all you need to do is reach out.  And sometimes even that is beyond us - but God's still there and finds ways to reach out to you - from a pet who comes to comfort you to a friend who calls and drags you out of your pit of misery into the light where you can remember, once again, to pray.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Collaboration of Forgiveness

Today's video addresses a topic that's often times tough for us to face:  how do we find it in ourselves to forgive, especially when you see no evidence of remorse on the part of the one you're thinking about?  And how do we truly ask for forgiveness if we're so busy judging the actions of another?

Both of the answers may lie within the concept that the only person we can change is ourselves.  Someone said, there can be no change without a significant emotional event.  That might depend on your definition of significant, and how motivated you are to change.  Perhaps you don't like feeling anger, and that's motivation enough to find another way of looking at a situation, and allowing yourself to give both your anger and your other feelings about the situation to God, where He might find the proper justice, balance and lessons for everyone involved.  That collaboration, of looking at what you can do to provide the attitude adjustment (preferably before God does) to yourself, and requesting Divine intervention for the rest - and then letting go of whatever was preventing you from forgiving or allowing yourself to receive forgiveness, can be a very productive and soul-lightening journey. 

So today, pick a conflict in which you're involved - it can be with a family, friend, neighbor, coworker - and focus on your part in that conflict.  What have you done to further the conflict, or make it worse?  What could you have done differently?  Can you envision another outcome or another direction if you had chosen to do something differently?  Move your pride out of the way and look at the whole situation.  What would the best outcome be from where you are now?  Can you take responsibility for your part of the conflict?  (Taking responsibility for someone else's part in a conflict does not do you or the other person any good, and can in the long-run do a disservice to the person who needs to deal with their own responsibilities - but that's their issue, and not for you to deal with.  You can assist them, if they ask.)  Can you ask for forgiveness, honestly, from the person for those things you have done wrong? 

Has your thinking about the conflict changed how you think about the situation?  (It may; it may not.)  Can you ask for God's help in resolving or showing a way to resolve the conflict?  Are you open to the conflict ending, or have you tied so much of your own anger and hurt into it that you actually don't want to end the conflict?

Soul-searching - not an easy process, but definitely one worth doing.