Monday, November 2, 2015

The Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement

From a message from our new Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry:

God came among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to show us the way.  He came to show us the way to life.  The way to love.  He came to show us the way beyond what often can be the nightmares of our own devisings and into the dream of God intending.  That's why when Jesus called his first followers, He did it with the simple words, "Follow me."  Follow me, He said, and I will make you fish for people.  Follow me, and love will show you how to become more than you ever dreamed you could be.  Follow me, and I will help you change the world from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends.  Jesus came and started a movement, and
We are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement.
Near the end of Matthew's Gospel, the story of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, when Mary Magdalene and some of the women go to the tomb, to anoint his body.  When they get there, they find that the tomb is empty, the stone has been rolled away, and there is no body there.  Then they see and hear an angel, who says to them, this Jesus of Nazareth whom you seek, He is not here.  He has been raised, as He said He would be, and He has now gone ahead of you to Galilee.  There, you will see him.  It is in Galilee that the risen Lord will be found and seen, for He has gone ahead of us.  Galilee - which is a way of talking about the world.  Galilee - in the streets of the city.  Galilee - in our rural communities.  (Hey, that's us!!)  Galilee in our hospitals.  Galilee in our office places.  Galilee where God's children live and dwell.  There in Galilee, you will meet the Living Christ for He has already gone ahead of you.

A few years ago, I was in a coffee shop in Raleigh, North Carolina, just a few blocks away from our diocesan house there.  And while in line, I started a conversation with a gentleman who turned out to to be a Mennonite pastor.  He had been sent to Raleigh to organize a church in the community on the streets, without walls.  As we were talking over our coffee, he said something to me that I have not forgotten.  He said the Mennonite community asked him to do this because they believed that in this environment in which we live, the church can no longer wait for its congregation to come to it.  The church must go where the congregation is.  Now is our time to go:  to go into the world to share the Good News of God and Jesus Christ.  To go into the world and help to be agents and instruments of God's reconciliation.  To go into the world, and let the world know that there is a God who loves us, a God who will not let us go, and that that love, can set us all free.  This is the Jesus Movement, and we are the Episcopal Church, the Episcopal branch of Jesus' Movement in this world.  God bless you, and keep the faith.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Final Interview with Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori

We appreciate the reflections of the final day of Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori on the last nine years.  She has presided over quite a lot of changes within the Episcopal Church, and is eloquent in her discussion of the nature of humanity.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Eucharist

You know, we will be truly blessed to have the Rev. Michael Curry as our Presiding Bishop.  This is a great view of just what the Eucharist is from the Episcopal perspective.  

Friday, October 16, 2015

Upcoming Events

Holy Trinity will have a time of meditation/prayer prior to the service, beginning at 8:40.  All are welcome to attend both the meditation and the service beginning at 9:00.

The Troy Ministerial Alliance will be holding their All-Church Sing at Faith Christian Center (25 Amber Rd) on Sunday, October 18 at 6:00 p.m.  This tends to be more modern Christian music, but it's a lot of fun worshiping with the community at large.

Holy Trinity will be having their monthly movie night on Saturday, October 24 at 7:00 p.m.  This month's movie is the first in a trilogy:  Revelation Road.  We'll provide popcorn and coffee/tea - if you want anything else, feel free to bring it.  This is open to anybody, so bring a date, a friend, a neighbor, etc.  We've also had people bring pillows or more comfortable chairs, so those are fine too. :)

Hope to see everyone there!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Remarks by the Presiding Bishop Elect

Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry answered some questions in a Q&A at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Charlotte, NC.  His interview can be found here.  What is most interesting to me is this statement: "Evangelism," Curry said, "isn’t about converting people – “that’s God’s job, not ours” – but is about helping them “find their way to God.”


This video above is a bit longer and informative.

In the meantime, Montana's Diocese just had their state convention.  Bishop Brookhart's address was quite informative and directly in line with the plans of the National Convention.

Most interesting for our parish was the talk given by Canon Roberts, with handouts being found here, here and here.  What Holy Trinity is looking at is being a place to help people find their way to God, and getting our own foundation down right, we'll be able to do that.

Feel free to comment - we'd be interested in what you have to say.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Movie Night Reminder

Just a reminder that we will be having movie night this Saturday, 9/26 at 7:00 pm at Holy Trinity.  The movie will be "One Night With the King", the story of Esther.  





We provide popcorn, tea, coffee and water, but you're welcome to bring anything else you'd like - including friends!

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Perception, Intent and Reality

Teachers live for the "aha!" moments.  Their student's eyes light up and you can almost see the lightbulb above their head as they finally get it.  The problem is, sometimes what they're getting isn't what you're teaching.  And that can only be discovered if you take things a little bit further.

Stranger danger is a lesson many parents provide to their children, repeatedly, going through "what if" scenarios, and hoping against hope that their child will get it right, so that if the moment ever comes, they'll make the right choices.  One mother explained that she asked her young son what he'd do if a stranger approached him and asked him to help find a missing puppy.  She was happy to hear her son respond, "I wouldn't help him, Mom."  Fortunately, she took it a step further.  "What if he needed help finding a missing kitten?"  Her son responded, "Well, I'd have to help, 'cause kittens are littler than puppies, so that would be okay."

What we have to remember is that each person's perception is their reality – and that's the place they act from.  In the little boy's experience, kittens were smaller and therefore should be protected; his reality dictated his thoughts and actions.

So undoubtedly, when Jesus was asking the questions in today's Gospel, questioning who others thought he was, the disciples were glad to provide him answers.  Then Jesus asked the tough question:  "who do you think I am?"  Peter, bless his heart, got his own aha! moment, and came up with the answer of "the Messiah."  And Jesus was pleased with the answer.  

Jesus went on and explained what he would have to go through, but this didn't fit with Peter's reality of who the Messiah was, so he really didn't pay attention at that point.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

In Peter's reality, the mashiach or Messiah, obviously had the following qualities and plans:  he would be a great political leader descended from King David, according to Jeremiah 23:5.  He will be well-versed in Jewish law, and observant of its commandments according to Isaiah 11:2-5.  He will be a charismatic leader, inspiring others to follow his example. He will be a great military leader, who will win battles for Israel. He will be a great judge, who makes righteous decisions according to Jeremiah 33:15. 

But above all, he will be a human being, not a god, demi-god or other supernatural being.  God is Eternal, above time. He is Infinite, beyond space. He cannot be born, and cannot die. Saying that God assumes human form makes God small, diminishing both His unity and His divinity. As the Torah says: “God is not a mortal” (Numbers 23:19).

Now, in Jesus' defense, He did give the disciples the particulars of God's plan.  But to them, the one word – Messiah – said it all, and apparently, they stopped listening.  And as the saying goes, "that's when the fight started."

Words can have such different meanings, depending on where your reality is; and that reality colors every perception you have.  But, then again, so can cultural differences.  It doesn't necessarily take words to insult your dinner guests and compare them to farm animals, as my mother discovered when I was little and living in Germany.  Like any good mid-west city girl, she served corn with dinner, not realizing that in Germany, corn was food reserved for livestock.  

So while Peter and Jesus' backgrounds seemed similar, as two Jewish men, we forget that Christ has the spiritual background as well as the human, and those may as well be two very different cultures.  The spiritual culture, we assume from our human perspective, looks at more than the big picture – it looks at the whole picture, at how events have occurred in the past, how they happen now, and how they will happen in the future, all with a sense of timelessness.  It looks at human life here as the blink of an eye, but at the everlasting life of souls.  

Peter's rebuke of Jesus teaching about the things he must suffer and experience, dying and rising again show the stark difference in the two cultures.  Christ's use of the word "Satan" here doesn't mean the devil, but one who is adversarial to God's plan.  His continuation, "For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men" states plainly that we've got a significant cultural communication problem happening.

Those who have had the opportunity, or misfortune, to discuss something with me about which I am passionate know that I can, at times, get loud in defense of my position.  The way I grew up, arguments and debates were absolutely the stuff of life, and passion was a necessary component to defending your position.  Fights, on the other hand, were to be avoided, as they were unpleasant, personal and led to everyone feeling bad.  I love debating, but have learned that people who have more experience with fighting only hear the loud, and skip, what to me, is the fun part.  

Since at least half of communicating what you intend to say is ensuring that the other person's perception is at least close to what you intend, you have to be aware of how your words are going to be perceived.  If you know someone you're speaking with is not going to react well to a loud voice, even if you know you're not yelling but simply speaking passionately, then you need to alter your tone.  The only person you can change is yourself, and if you want clearer communication, you have to be willing to make that change.

Now let's take things a bit further – our communication with God.  Like most people, we pray to God, we talk to God – and how much listening do we do?  How much are we willing to put aside our perceptions of what we need or want, in order to hear and understand what God believes we need?  

Long ago, a friend of mine was having all sorts of problems with her 4-year-old.  So, she prayed to God for patience.  She expected that God would provide her with more patience.  What God gave her was more and varied opportunities to practice patience.  Two rather different realities there.  She finally learned to stop praying for patience, and discovered that she had more than she started with – or, her reality had changed.

Are we, like Peter, only listening with ears that are tuned into our own reality?  Or do we attempt to cross that cultural barrier into the spiritual realm?  

In the Lord's prayer, which Christ taught to us, we literally state, Thy Will be done.  Are you ready to put aside what you want for the Will of God?  For His timing and His concept of what is best for you?  

It's not just Peter who has to reevaluate his perception of reality.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Substance Over Form

          [Make the sign of the cross]  In the name of the Father – oh Lord, did I turn the coffee on –  and the Son – speaking of whom, he hasn't called lately - and the Holy Spirit – that is a really pretty dress.  Amen.  Amen.

          The Trinity is at the very foundation of our faith.  The question is, what goes through your mind when you hear it or say it?  Do you quickly catch up to the movement of crossing yourself?  Do you think, okay, now it's time for the next thing to begin? 

          When was the last time that you thought about the actual meaning of the words and gesture? 

          Bert Ghezzi, author of "Sign of the Cross:  Recovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer" says The sign of the cross is: a confession of faith … a mini-version of the Creed in which you are professing your belief in the Trinity.

          It's a renewal of baptism … that which linked you to the body of Christ, and when you make the sign of the cross, you remember joining to the body with Christ as the head.

          It's a mark of discipleship … Jesus says in Luke 9:23, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."  It declares that "I belong to Christ."

          In making the sign of the cross, you're saying to the Lord, 'I want to obey you; I belong to you.  I choose to be obedient to God's law and Christ's teachings.

          One of the main teachings of the early Church Fathers is that the sign of the cross is a declaration of defense against the devil. When you sign yourself, you declare to the devil, "Hands off. I belong to Christ; He is my protection." It's both an offensive and defensive tool.

          The sign of the cross can help you avoid self-indulgence –  the problems we have, the stubborn things we can't get rid of. If you are angry, full of lust, fearful, emotional or grappling with problems, make the sign when tempted and it will help dispel the problem.  You're no longer alone in your struggle.  Well, you weren't to begin with, but you needed the reminder.

          So looking at the actual gesture made:  the use of three fingers together became popular in the 9th century. The thumb and first two fingers are held together to symbolize the Trinity, while the remaining two fingers are folded to signify Christ's two natures.

          The Sign of the Cross is primarily a blessing. We use it to call God's blessing upon us. Laypersons as well as clergy can use it to bless others. Parents, for example, may use the Sign of the Cross to bless their children.

          The routine before the reading of the Gospel where we made the sign of the cross on our foreheads, lips, and chest also has meaning. In doing this, we acknowledge, at our forehead, our belief in the Word of God, at our mouth, our commitment to spread God's Word in our daily lives, and at our chest, our awareness of God's presence in our hearts.

          So let's look at another routine phrase we say, not quite as often in a Eucharist service, but generally at least 2 or 3 times in Morning Prayer.  We've all got it memorized.  And we likely occasionally have the thought wander through our heads, "why are we saying this again?"

          The Gloria Patri, also known as the Lesser Doxology.  You all know what it is, but what I'd like you to do is close your eyes, and focus on the words as I say them:

          Glory to the Father,
          And to the Son,
          And to the Holy Spirit;
          As it was in the beginning,
          Is now,
          And will be forever.  Amen.

          This is not only a statement of doctrine, faith and belief in the covenant between God and man, these are fighting words as the full defense of Christianity.  And the word that makes it so – Amen, so be it.  In that statement, you are stating that you believe that God, in the form of the Trinity, not only existed from the beginning of time, but continues to exist now, and will exist long after you're gone.  This is the foundation upon which not only our faith is based, but our understanding of the universe.

          So, knowing that just those two pieces of the liturgy are so full of meaning, prayer, devotion and statement of what we believe – do you think the rest of our liturgy is any less meaningful?  The question is – when was the last time you thought about the meaning, instead of just reciting the words?

          In our Old Testament reading, Moses tells the Israelites, "You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you." 

          And our Gospel reading today talks about form over substance.  If we say the words, but don't mean them – don't even think about meaning them – we insult God.  It's not what's outside of us – in this case, the liturgy – that insults God; just as it wasn't the traditions the Pharisees practiced.  So it is the way we practice the traditions that matter.  If they contradict God's teachings; if the form becomes more important than the substance; if they harm the very people Christ came to save – then we are as guilty as the Pharisees of hypocrisy.  If our actions don't reflect our words, if we haven't taken the words to heart and mind – then we are hypocrites and as James says in the New Testament reading, our religion is worthless.

          When I was little, it was a goal to be able to say the service by heart.  Notice that I didn't say by memory or by rote.  My father made it very clear that if you catch yourself saying the liturgy by rote – get out.  You have just insulted God, and you need to make yourself right with Him before you try again.  Harsh words, but a good lesson – because it was never my intention to insult God. 

          When I finish here, we'll be saying the Nicene Creed.  Your challenge is to think about the words you say:

          Do you believe them?  What is it you're saying?  What does it mean? 

          And you're probably going to want to explore various phrases and sentences a bit more later.  I'd be surprised if you don't find things in there that make you curious.  At least, I hope it does.  Amen.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Movie Night at Holy Trinity

We will be having

MOVIE NIGHT
Saturday, August 22nd 
at 7:00 p.m. 

Normally, this will be a monthly event on the 3rd Saturday of the month, but many of you know that we've been having some renovations at Holy Trinity of late, and we didn't want anyone overwhelmed with the smell of carpet glue last week.

This has been a very rough week for a lot of people with the fires, and we're all praying that the rains today will bring some relief.  So come relax with us for a couple hours if you have the chance.

We'll provide popcorn, tea and water (coffee if it's cool enough). Feel free to bring something else if you'd like. All are welcome.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Manna/Living Word/Bread of Life

The Gospel this week comes from John 6, but there are two other passages to look at in conjunction with this:  Exodus 16 and John 1:14.

Christ, being the bread of life, is what's going to allow us to live forever.  While some tend to look at the Bible literally, in the Gospel lesson, we're going to go ahead and assume Christ was not referring to cannibalism.  In fact, we're going to refer back to John 1, and remember that in the beginning was the Word ... and the Word became flesh.

So let's go back to Exodus, when God provided both Manna and quail for the Israelites to eat in the desert.  This had to be eaten the day it was made, as saving it only made it go bad.  This food provided for the physical needs of the body.  But as it did not provide the daily needs for the spirit, all of those people eventually died, in their own time.

Today, we're promised eternal life through Christ, so in the same way, we are given the need to read (eat) the Bible (the Word) daily for our own eternal salvation.

There's a great app being developed called the First5.  And if you're like me, and your phone doesn't accommodate such things as "apps", make a reminder for yourself - set your own alarm - use an egg timer.  And spend the first five minutes each day with God.  All you really need is your Bible.  Get your daily bread...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Time Change

We are fortunate to have the Rev. Karen King visiting us for the next couple of months, and as a result, we will be changing the time of our normal service to 10:00 a.m.  This is to accommodate both the believers in Libby, MT and those who wish to visit from St. Mary's in Bonner's Ferry, ID.

This also means that through the end of August (and possibly part of September), we will be having a Eucharist service as well.

Reminders - participation is highly welcome, even if it's just making sure you say "Amen" (or So Be It) loud enough to be heard.

We look forward to seeing you!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Memorial Service for Helene Newland


We will be gathering at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Troy, MT on Saturday, June 13, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. to commemorate the life of a long-time resident in Troy, Helene Newland.  Helene celebrated her birth into the Kingdom of God on February 3 of this year.  All are welcome to attend and share stories of Helene with those of us who may not have known her as well.  We miss her company.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Nearer My God


Something this beautiful should be shared.  Interestingly, "Nearer My God to Thee" was written by a Unitarian actress, Sarah Flower Adams, with the music written by her sister Eliza.  The history of the song can be found here.  However, it wasn't until the words were paired with a tune by Lowell Mason that it gained popularity.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lent - Day 15: Gratitude

STOP!!  First thing that comes to mind - what are you grateful for, right now?

I would recommend with today's video that you not read along with the text, as it's not quite accurate.  But the video is interesting.

From Kat Hurley - Transformational Coach who focuses on an Attitude of Gratitude with her clients
How many times throughout the day do you find yourself saying a "Thank you, God" out loud, or under your breath, or even just in your thoughts - just a quick acknowledgment of Divine blessings?  And what would happen if you would stop, and take all of those moments to create something like the picture above?

Try this - keep a notebook with you and as you find things to be grateful for, write it down.  Then creating such a picture of your own will be easy.  And the notebook will help you keep focused on the attitude of gratitude - even if sometimes, what we have to be grateful for is the opportunity to practice patience with your 2-year-old who is discovering the world around him - in the most dangerous and mess-causing ways.  Find the positive in each experience, and, remembering to say thanks at the time, know that you'll create a thing of beauty from the gratitude of the day.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lent - Day 14: Intercession

Intercessory prayer - today's video puts it into an interesting perspective.  How many times have you been asked, would you pray for me?  or please pray for my friend [fill in the blank here]?

So often between the liturgical churches and the evangelical churches, there is controversy regarding "intercessory" prayer, because so often in liturgical churches (often Catholic, but also Episcopal or Lutheran), we request the saints who have gone before us to offer prayers on our behalf.  Perhaps we're hoping they might have the ear of God and can make our prayers better heard.

Another difference often seen is the presence of a "prayer list" - where when it is time to pray, we have a list of people for whom we offer intercessory prayer - and they're all those people who have asked for prayer or who others have asked on behalf of friends or family.  Often in evangelical churches, if you ask someone to pray for you, you're going to find that everything stops, right then and there, and the person literally offers up prayer, with you right there.

The concept of an "arrow prayer" - that quick, please God, watch over so and so on their journey or, thank you, God for the thing that has made my life easier at the moment, or the prayer of a parent - Lord God, please watch over my kid and give him a brai... er, wisdom -- these are the ongoing, little prayers we send on a regular basis to God, perhaps to ensure that we don't forget an intercessory prayer later, or to ensure that we don't forget to thank God for His blessings.  These are no less heartfelt than those prayers offered in a more formal manner, following "ACTS" as discussed previously - they're just different.

And perhaps we can each appreciate the differences people have in how intercessory prayer is offered - they are all heart-felt and sincere.  And whether it's our own intercession, or the intercession of one who's already on the other side - they're all prayers.  And that's the important part.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lent - Day 13: Places to Pray

Today's video talks about where you pray, and the Brother speaks of going to a labyrinth for a walking meditation-type prayer.  Labyrinths can be something complex like the picture at the left, or something as simple as garden stones you've arranged in your backyard for your own use, like the one below.  This site has a good explanation for how to use a labyrinth in prayer.

For those in this area, there is a labyrinth behind the old Episcopal church in Libby, at St. Luke's.

Do you have other places outside that you like to pray, or as I often put it - talk with God?  What do you find different about praying outside as opposed to inside?  Do you find you have a preference?


Lent - Day 12: Praying

The video for today follows a reflection on prayer that can really make you think.

How do you pray?  Do you have different times for different types of prayer?  Do you have times for meditation?  What do you meditate on?

Do you feel that your life is just far to busy to fit in time to pray?  Here's an exercise for you:  Set a timer for 30 seconds.  For that 30 seconds, talk with God.

Stuck on how to start?  Think ACTS - Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication - or praise for whatever you feel like praising God about, confessing sins that come immediately to mind, thanking God for your blessings, and asking for something - healing, watching over loved ones, opportunities.

So try the 30-second exercise again - how'd that go?  Think you could do that three times a day?

Lent - Day 10: Contentment

Today's video talks about contentment, and the sufficiency of what we have now - fully appreciating what we have at the present time, and abiding in that thankfulness in contentment.

How often do you practice being fully present where you are?  In a conversation, do you truly listen to what the other person is saying, or is part of your brain planning out what you're going to say when it's your turn to talk?

As you're listening to the sermon at church, are you also planning your afternoon activities?

How often do you find yourself multi-tasking - not really putting your whole attention into any one activity, but dividing it among several?  Does that lead to the best results?

When was the last time you felt content?


Lent - Day 11: Observation and Consequences

The video for today reminds us that the sabbath rest is not only for those who observe the Jewish traditions, but for anyone visiting, servants and animals.  And I can hear the non-Christians, agnostics and atheists now - I don't care what you do, but don't shove your religion down my throat!

So here you have a bit of a dilemma.  We do attempt to respect each person's path, but at the same time, God couldn't have made the fourth commandment more clear:
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work;
10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Emphasis added.)
 This would seem to imply that perhaps our "socializing" on this day should be with others who believe as we do, or with those who also want to rest and don't mind that while it's a commandment for us, it's a break for them.

The author the Brother mentions, Marva Dawn, wrote a book called Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, that gives some helpful hints on how to help workaholics, worriers, overachievers, etc. to fully and wholly embrace this Commandment.

How do you keep the Sabbath holy/wholly?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lent - Day 9: Follow Your Heart

Today's video is much about stopping enough to enjoy the love of God, and to remember to send love back to Him.  In this time of weird weather, where crocuses think February's a good time to bloom (in Montana!), while we stop and enjoy the fragrance and beauty that manifest as gifts from God, we also need to remember to send thanks and love to God (and maybe a prayer that they'll survive the snow we know isn't finished for the year).

So as we take the time this Lenten season has been asking us to do, and stop, listening for the voice of God - where do you find yourself drawn?  Stop again.  Look at the path you're on (metaphorically speaking, not physically), and see if you're going in the direction God's drawing you to.  If not, why not? Is there a way to change that, so that you can bring your present path in line with where you're drawn?  Do you want to?  (We always have free will - we don't have to move the direction God would like us to go - just remember that all choices have consequences, good and bad.)

And the last question, if you'd comment below - what makes you feel the love of God immediately?

Our friends at SSJE have shared with us an extra sermon by Brother David Vryhof, specifically addressing this week's theme of Stop, and offers some insights and useful examples of how "we might reorder our relationship with time, so that it may be the gift God intended it to be in our lives."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lent - Day 8: Being

Oh, as your friendly, neighborhood workaholic, today's video is going to take me an entire day (or more) to figure out.  For others of you who have difficulty "being" - how 'bout we take a baby step and start with an hour.  Comments are open below for suggestions...

I'll likely be adding to this as the day goes on.  There's an excellent article by Joan Childs about how the age of technology is turning more of us into "human doings" rather than human beings.  Her way of putting things is more along the lines of things we've been talking about on here - living life aware.

This blog post by Scott Eblin, author of Overworked and Overwhelmed, gives a suggestion of five things you can try in search of being a human being, rather than a human doing.

Probably one of the most popular songs is all about "being":

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lent - Day 7: Meaningful Work

"Work is meant to be meaningful, it’s meant to be an integrated part of life."  This portion of today's video caught my attention.

There's the dichotomy here of jobs and careers - where hopefully, the latter actually does provide you with meaningful work that enriches your life.  But sometimes, you have to balance out the need for money to support your family and the lack of meaningful work that is available around you - so you take a job, that allows the other parts of your life to be enriched.  It's a means to an end.

But even knowing how to balance work and the rest of life, we don't get to that "meaningful" work until we find something we enjoy, something we're good at, and something that people will pay us to do.  Then, finding that perfect career for ourselves, we still have to remember to balance life and work.  We still have to remember to stop, and remember to keep the sabbath holy.

So if you're currently in a job or you have a demanding career, make a list of all the things you truly enjoy - both in work and in life.  For those in a job who would enjoy having a career, mark those you're particularly good at with a *, and mark those that you think people would pay you for with a +.  Do any of those coincide?  Those in a demanding career - what are those things you enjoy that you haven't had or made time to do of late?  Stop.  No excuses on this project being due, or that deadline.  Just make the list.

So, what can you do to make the sabbath holy?  What can you do to balance your life better?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lent - Days 5 & 6: Stop and Creating an Invitation

In making the assumption that this year's SSJE Lent project would be like last year's, I hadn't anticipated that there would be a new video on Sunday, so today's blog is combined for Days 5 and 6.

We start this week with the video entitled simply "Stop", and the concept here is to emulate God in the first thing He called "holy" - He stopped his creation, and made the Sabbath, the resting period.  The concept behind stop is literally to stop working, stop planning, stop thinking of all the things you need to get done - and remember that holy time of rest.

For some of us workaholics, this is an extremely difficult task.  But something to consider is that you use a great deal of energy and focus to accomplish your tasks, your multi-tasks, your planning and thinking.  Does God not deserve the focus of your whole attention?  Can you take the challenge of that video and sit in silence, focused only on God, for five minutes?

The video for today talks about creating the invitation to stop - the reminder to yourself not only that it's time to work, but the reminder that it's time to stop working.  How many of us work over our allotted hours - oh, I just need another 10 minutes to get this finished; or I don't really need lunch today - I'll eat something later? Having done that myself more times than I can count, I know it's not an easy task.

So, today's challenge - create accountability for yourself for this entire week for times to stop.  Whether that's a computer alarm or a real alarm clock or get a friend to call you - to remind you to get up, stop working, go breathe some fresh air, get out into God's creation, call your mother - do something that's not working, for the period you set aside.

At the end of the week, answer the question from the first video - how do you feel?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Water

Water holds a uniquely important position in our lives.  In all of today's readings, water is mentioned and featured.

Approximately 70% of our planet is covered in water, with approximately 97% of that being salt water (and you can refer back to this entry on salt's importance).  

When humans are born, infants are typically 75-78% water, with that percentage dropping to about 65% by the time they turn 1 year of age.  Adults average 57-60% water content, but the range can be anywhere from 50-70%, depending on your fitness level (the more fit you are, the higher the percentage of water).

So, just by volume alone (yes, the pun was intended), water is obviously very important.  So now let's look at both the mundane and symbolic aspects of water.  On a daily basis, we need to drink a certain amount of water, or risk becoming dehydrated - a condition that can lead to some very serious medical problems.  We use water for bathing, washing dishes and clothes, pets, growing plants, swimming and playing in.

The cleansing aspect of water can encompass a wide variety of things.  It can mean destruction, as in the flood God sent to cleanse the Earth of all who had turned from Him, only to be born anew.  It can be a simple rain shower to water the plants, wash the dirt from the air, gather water for drinking and refilling the rivers and streams.  It can become a holy act, to allow the water in your shower to wash away the dirt and negativity collected during the day, to drain away and leave you clean again.

It can be the water of baptism, provided by John the Baptist or more recently, the leaders of our churches, or in emergencies, anyone can baptize another (if they're an adult, it's best to let them make that decision). Baptism by water was important enough that even Jesus was baptized, and pleased His Father in so doing.

Even Christ refers to Himself in terms of water to the woman at the well.  In John 4:10:  "Jesus answered and said unto her, “If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, ‘Give Me to drink,’ thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.”"

So again, our focus here is on one of awareness, and making conscious choices in how we look at things.  Drinking water can become replenishing that which God gave you.  Washing can be not only making things clean, but ensuring health for your family.  Bathing can be a reminder of our own baptism, washing away those sins, negative attitudes (and dirt) that have accumulated through the day, leaving us much more positive.  

Given how much emphasis God put on water, in the Earth's creation, in our creation, in the mundane and the spiritual, perhaps paying a bit more attention where water is involved isn't a bad idea.

Lent - Day 4: Daily Practice of Joy

Today's video is all about choosing to live life intentionally.  Throughout our day, we have things that we do to avoid a task - smoking, getting tea or coffee, checking in with a friend, reading the news, checking Facebook - there are any number of things that we do that help us to avoid the task that's before us.  Consciously, we are aware of our task, but we'll spend 5 minutes here, 2 minutes there, 10 minutes elsewhere before actually buckling down to get the task done.

So here's an exercise for you:  keep track of your time for 2 hours in the middle of your day.  Each time you do something, put it on a list (use abbreviations - we don't want this to become one of the major distractions of your day).  Don't change anything you would normally do - just write it down.  Be aware of how you're spending your time.

Now take that 2-hour period and multiply each of those things by 8 (we'll go ahead and assume you get approximately 8 hours sleep, because you're being conscious of the whole "rest as holy time" we've been discussing).  Subtract out the time where you actually stayed on task.  How much of your time might have been better spent?

The question SSJE asks us is what daily practices spark joy in your life?  Do you give yourself the opportunity to actually enjoy them, or are you stealing time away from some other task, to clandestinely indulge, with a bit of a guilty feeling at the same time?  (If I sound like I know what I'm talking about, I do.  I'm a champion time waster.)

This is not to say that you shouldn't have some "down time" to socialize, catch up with the world, your kids, your spouse - that's part of the "play" in this series from SSJE.  The purpose here is to be aware, and to purposefully choose how you're going to spend your time.  Live life on purpose!


Friday, February 20, 2015

Lent - Day 3: Sabbath

Today's video asks the question - What will you call Sabbath? - and yet, the discussion again is about time and presence.

Interestingly, while Sabbath, with a capital S, refers to a specific day meant for rest after a week of labor, and can mean Saturday or Sunday, or whatever day your religion has set aside for a day of rest - with a small "s", sabbath simply means a period of rest.

So, let's put this into an interesting framework:  remember your commandments?  There's one in there about "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy."  When was the last time that you thought about making a period of rest a holy activity?  And yet, if you think about it - it's one of the commandments!  Puts a bit of a different twist on this whole concept that "time" is "holy", doesn't it?

Also interesting is that the capital letter actually depends upon the translation you use.  Hebrew, the language in which the Commandments were initially written, doesn't differentiate between capitals and small letters - proper nouns are dependent upon context.  There isn't anything that indicates the word should be capitalized or lowercase.

So, assuming that you just experienced the same "oops" or "aha" moment I did, what are you going to do about it?  This is Lent - the time for reflection and repentance (and if you actually follow the blog, we had something on what exactly is encompassed in repentance during Advent).  How are you going to think of time differently?  How will you take the Sabbath or the sabbath, and make it holy?


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lent-Day 2: Setting Priorities

Today's video from the SSJE talks about five categories with regard to setting priorities:
In the first week we’ll just talk about stopping. There are certain times when we’re called to stop what we’re doing, to rest or to reflect. We’ll also talk about prayer. How does prayer fit into our lives, and where do we find the time to pray and stay connected with God? We want to talk about work, because many of us have a disordered relationship to time and work, and work drives us and consumes our time in ways that we experience as unhealthy and unwholesome. We want to talk about play, because very few of us take time to play, and play is actually very important in – has an important role to play in the balance of our life. Then we want to talk about taking time to love, taking time to listen to others, time to be with others, time to live into the fullness of our relationships.
Yesterday's reflection at Holy Trinity's Ash Wednesday service set the categories in prayer, fasting and almsgiving, where prayer is your relationship with God; fasting is not allowing something that "wastes" our time (i.e., television, shopping, food or alcohol) to fill up every empty space, leaving no room for the Divine life God can give to us in abundance - as long as there's room; and almsgiving is giving something we have to someone who would otherwise go without - acknowledging that we are trustees of our possessions, our time, our lives - not owners of it.  All of these advised that the answer lies in the question - who runs the world?

So stopping to rest and reflect allows you to see where things need to be prioritized in your life, lets you set goals, and lets you remember that as trustees - we're here to do God's will.  And we won't know what that is if we don't stop and listen.

So today, pick two things that you do too much of, that take away time and energy, but don't really give anything back.  For the period of Lent, can you cut your time by half, and use that time to listen and reflect?  Set your priorities.  Choose your goals, and what you want to leave as your legacy to the next trustees of God's creation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lent - Day 1: First Holy Thing

Today being Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten study through the Society of St. John the Evangelist, with the first video, on Time.

One of the statements that struck me, and that I'd never actually considered, was that it was the day of rest which was sanctified or hallowed by God (Genesis 2), making that day the first holy thing declared by God.

The great question set forth by the SSJE asks, what is your relationship with time?  Do you, like so many, rush about, trying to stuff as many activities and accomplishments into your available time?  When was the last time you actually thought about Time being a holy gift?  And if you've never thought about it, can you schedule just 10 minutes to think about it today?

From the Sisters of St. Agnes:  "Perhaps we need an attitude adjustment--to look at Lent, not as a time of giving up and sacrificing, but rather as a time to receive."

Then, of course, the question is - can you slow down enough to be still, silent and open to receiving?  Can this holy gift of Time be something that you value enough to adjust your own attitude toward Time?

I'll challenge all of us today to spend 10 minutes meditating on time, and to keep count of how many times you reference time today in the negative sense (of being busy, not having enough time, having more projects that you have time for, etc.).  Perhaps it's time to remember the holiness of Time and adjust our attitudes.

Monday, February 16, 2015

This Week and Lent at Holy Trinity

In this week, the season of Epiphany is ending, and the season of Lent begins.

For those who have never learned about Shrove Tuesday, this is a great link to a history of traditions and explanations.  For myself, growing up in Germany, we celebrated Fasching, which went from November 11 at 11:11 until Ash Wednesday - the first and last weeks being the most celebratory of the season.  In honor of this historical celebratory time - do something special just for yourself or with your family on Tuesday.

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday.  According to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan.  Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter. Every Sunday was seen as a commemoration of the Sunday of Christ's resurrection and so as a feast day on which fasting was inappropriate. Accordingly, Christians fasted from Monday to Saturday (6 days) during 6 weeks and from Wednesday to Saturday (4 days) in the preceding week, thus making up the number of 40 days.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year's Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants to the accompaniment of the words "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return".

Holy Trinity will be having an Ash Wednesday service at 6:00 p.m. - all are welcome.  Other services in town and in Libby will be:  Libby, Christ Lutheran's service is at 6:30 p.m.; Immaculate Conception Catholic Church will be having their Ash Wednesday service at 10:00 a.m. in Troy; and the Methodist Church will have their service at 6:30 p.m. in Troy.

During Lent, we will be doing the program sponsored by the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE), watching the daily videos they provide for contemplation and discussing them at coffee hours on Sundays - or here on this blog.  Please do feel free to comment on here.

In support of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD), we will be following their Coupon Book written mainly by the Lake Missoula Clericus, the Episcopal clergy serving the parishes of western Montana and produced in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.

We will also be meeting Tuesdays at Noon at Holy Trinity to do the course from The Great Courses called "The New Testament."  All are welcome to join us - it's brown bag, so bring something to eat while we go through the course/video lectures and discussions.  This will begin on February 24th.

And lastly, beginning on Ash Wednesday, and continuing throughout the year, we will have daily Morning Prayer Monday through Saturday by conference call at 7:30 a.m., with the Compline being recorded daily and available anytime after 7:30 p.m.  Details on this can be found here.

From explorefaith.org:

May the Wind of God drive away impurity
and bring fresh and vigorous possibility to your soul.
May the freeing Spirit unbind those places within
held captive by hopelessness, anxious thoughts and internal discord.
And may you find a middle place of awareness,
between the blowing and the stillness,o feel and watch the movement from old to new.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Blinded by "Common" Sense

How many times are we told "pay attention" in the Bible?  Stay awake, be aware, open your eyes - so many times we're instructed to do that, and yet, we are blinded by our "common" sense.

That is completely out of the ordinary, doesn't fit our comfortable world view, and therefore, isn't real. How many times does the mild-mannered alter-ego of the superhero completely surprise us when unmasked, even when it's painfully obvious later?

Today's readings all deal with various forms of blindness - and interestingly, the only person not "blind" from the beginning was the "blind beggar" of the Gospel who "saw" Jesus of Nazareth and "knew" that he could be healed.  While his eyes could not see, his other senses and his heart led him to the one person who could make him whole again - the very manifestation of God on Earth.  There was no doubt in his heart, and as Jesus told him - "Your faith has made you well."

Today, many studies are done on the types of "blindness" suffered by Elisha, and the apostles in turn.  Paul and Timothy point out the blindness caused by God to those who do not believe:
2 Corinthians 4:3-4:  "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them."
Expectations are often contributory to situational blindness.   We don't expect things to change right in front of us, so if/when they do, we may not actually see it.  The above video actually has 21 changes that take place through the video, and you may have caught one or two, but been astounded at just how much changed of which you were unaware - you were "expecting" a change or two, simply because of the subject of this blog, but 21?  Not so much.

Many have seen the video of people passing a basketball back and forth.  They are instructed to count how many times the people in white shirts pass the ball.  And as a result, they completely miss the guy in a gorilla suit walking through the middle of them.  Crime shows have emphasized situational blindness in their rush to solve crimes that have occurred right under the noses of people, and no one was even aware of it happening.

More seriously, we're often unaware of prejudices that surround us, or that we, ourselves, perpetrate.  And whether that's religious prejudice or cultural prejudice or racial prejudice or economic prejudice - it's something that can't be changed until we first recognize it, so that we can change it.  There's an excellent video on just how one can start.  Removing the veils from our eyes is just the beginning.

Christ had been preaching, performing miraculous healings, turned water into wine - and yet, the Apostles with him are completely astounded at his appearance on the Mount when he meets with Elijah and Moses, and completely in awe when God's voice speaks, identifying His Son, and commanding them to "Hear Him!" They've listened to Jesus, but their eyes are finally opened to the Christ at this point.  Jesus really is the Son of God!  

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Distractions

Do you have a purpose in your life?  A direction that you choose to go? Is there one over-arching goal, or are you currently pursuing other goals that will eventually lead you to where you want to be?

Sit for a moment, and think about your purpose or your current goal.  When did you first discover it or decide on it?  Did you set up a plan to pursue it?  What was your first week like in that pursuit?

What was the first major distraction from your purpose?  Were there others involved in assisting in distracting you?  Were there any there to help you refocus on your task?  How did you handle it?

Paul's focus in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9:16-23) is, in his words, to be "all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."  In this, he is indicating that he emulates the characteristics of the people he's preaching to, that they may be able to identify with him, and hear the truth of the Gospel.  He has to know where they're coming from before he can help guide them to salvation.  His words could easily be taken as hubris and arrogant pride, but that goes against what we know about Paul, the man.  He wants to be able to reach the widest audience possible, and to do that, he has to expand his own wisdom, knowledge and abilities so that he can start people off in a comfortable, familiar place.

So going back to the Old Testament reading (Isaiah 40:21-31) and the Psalm (147:1-11, 20c), we are reminded, repeatedly, of the strength of God, that all things come from God, that we can rely on God - that
"they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."  Perhaps this is where Christ's mind went after His day at Simon and Andrew's house.

Hour after hour of healing the sick, driving out demons, performing miracle after miracle - and seeing his purpose on Earth being driven further and further away.
35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.  36 And Simon and those who were with Him followed after Him.  37 And when they had found Him, they said unto Him, “All men seek for Thee.”  38 And He said unto them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also; for therefore came I forth.”  (Mark 1)
Long ago, I lived in Hawai'i, and for the first month or so, I was enchanted by the fact that we would see at least one rainbow a day, and a double rainbow about once a week.  The sign of God's covenant in the sky was a blessing.  After a while, though, it became commonplace, not so special anymore - just another day and more than that - normal.  I didn't have any idea that I was taking that sign for granted, and didn't think about the meaning of the rainbow as something holy, a gift from God.

It wasn't until I moved back to the mainland and didn't see them every day, that I noticed a rainbow in the sky - and traffic slowed down to appreciate its beauty - perhaps even to remember the covenant sign promised by God to His children.  And here in Montana, I was startled one day to hear a knock at the door - my neighbor was telling me to come out and see the very clear double rainbow in the sky.  All the neighbors came out of their houses to watch and appreciate the truly unusual occurrence.  It was actually the main topic of conversation in town for a couple of days.

Performing miracles on a daily basis was a distraction from Christ's true purpose.  Christ made His purpose on Earth very clear in John 6:38-40:
" For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; 39 and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
And while miracles are certainly tools that can help convince people of the truth of God and constant signs provided tangible proof while Christ was here - they would do nothing to help lead those who later found the truth of God through faith.  "Everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him" means more than just those who physically saw Christ.  Christianity would not be where it is today if that were the case.

Christ knew that the miracles would become legend in time, but His preaching, His Word would live eternally.  

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Time and Faith

One of the brothers from SSJE had a conversation with one of the members of the Society of Ordained Scientists regarding Time.  Brother Geoffrey Tristam and Rt. Rev. Nick Knisely, Bishop of Rhode Island, sat down to discuss time, relativity, space, mathematics and possibilities.  That fascinating discussion can be found here.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Speaking With Authority

Today's Gospel reading from Mark talks about the "new" authority with which Christ speaks.

The thing is, while Christ spoke with authority, as we learn in a later chapter of Mark (Chapter 4) "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And He said unto them, “Take heed what ye hear. With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you; and unto you that hear shall more be given."

We also know from Chapter 29 in Deuteronomy, "Yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear unto this day."

Interestingly in Mark, all heard what Christ had to say in the temple - but they heard it in different ways.  The demon driven out recognized Christ's authority and fled in fear.  Many of the Pharisees heard and feared for the challenge to their own authority and more importantly - the challenge to their power.

And then those that had ears - and perhaps the heart - to hear, heard the authority in Christ's words and voice, and recognized that God had indeed sent them the Messiah.

In today's world, we are often taught that we should "question authority", and our society does so, sometimes to their own detriment.  However, what so many don't recognize in those who walk the talk of the Christian Faith is that we have chosen to submit our will to that of God's, and the authority with which Christ spoke is heard by the ear, and felt in the heart, even today.

Authority is only effective when those who hear the voice of authority choose to submit.  And certainly, there are consequences to making other choices - we simply have to decide what authority is worthy of our respect, admiration and love.  That choice should be conscious, every single time - but in case you've fallen into a bit of a rut, each time you say the Lord's Prayer, emphasize the word "thy".  It's interesting how much more aware we are of our choice - and the actions that should reflect it.

Songs for the Book of Luke lists "The Authority of Christ" as the first song that's quite worth listening to.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Selah

Today's Psalm uses the word "Selah."  Apparently, no one really knows what it means, but by the best guess, it means to pause and praise, to give value.  This is apparently one of the root words in Hebrew (and it’s not like there are a lot – 323 at last count) that scholars disagree about.  However, it being in the Psalms 71 times and in Habakkuk 3 times, means that it is something relatively important.

So then the question becomes, when you’re reading those passages in the Bible and you come to the word “Selah”, do you actually say Selah, or should you say something in praise of what you have just heard?  Or should we pause and think about what we’ve heard, giving it the respect and careful consideration it apparently deserves?

So look at Psalm 62:8:
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah
Is this a time to exemplify what you just read?


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Moving Forward in the New Year


Holy Trinity has had its annual meeting, and we're in for quite a bit of work, change and growth.

The Bishop requested that we raise up a member of the congregation to attend seminary and serve as our priest.  We now have a candidate for that, and the discernment process will be moving forward.

We'll be getting a bit of a face lift with new carpets and repairs being made under the altar.

The Prayer Shawl Ministry is contacting all the churches in the area to enlist the assistance of knitters, crocheters, organizers and hoarders of unused yarn - as well as names of people who need prayer shawls, caring covers, hats, scarves, etc. so that we can serve the broader community.

We have many ideas for utilizing the space in Parish Hall, from movie nights to game nights to seminars on a variety of topics to help the community.  We're also working with the other churches in Troy with the assistance of the ERD on setting up a workshop for Pastors and Disasters to organize the spiritual community in Troy for dealing with disasters from small to large.

So, keeping this (Philippians 3:13-14)in mind:
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended it, but this one thing I do: forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
We move forward...