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 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.


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


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.