Tuesday, December 27, 2016

St. John the Evangelist Day - December 27

Hi guys! Because of the lovely weather we're having, I'm afraid I won't be at the church this evening for the Compline service at 7. Please do celebrate at home - if you don't have a prayer book, you can find it online at http://www.bcponline.org/, just go to Daily Offices, and Compline. In the alternative, you can find a variety of daily office services from Nashotah House (they sing better than I do!) here: https://www.nashotah.edu/daily-offices. Take care, and I'll see you Saturday!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Advent 23

Today's advice is to watch the sunrise, but since I'm a bit late posting today's blog, I'll suggest doing it tomorrow morning - we're getting closest to the shortest day of the year - it's not too much of a hardship to get up in time to watch the sunrise.  For people in Montana, that's about 8:30 a.m.

The Biblical guidance for today doesn't actually exist, so, while listening/watching the attached, take your Bible out, open it to any page and read the first four verses that catch your eye.  What's the message?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Advent 22

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah  (Matthew 1:18-25)

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

This is the fourth Sunday in Advent.  Hope, Peace, Love and Joy are the candles lit today.  Let that be your filter in how you look at things today.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Advent 21

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those 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.

Today's message:  Feel energy!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Advent 20

From John 1:35-42:  "The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter)."

Interestingly here, Simon Peter recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, but it will not be for another three chapters before Jesus confirms that that is, indeed who He is, to the Samaritan woman at the well.

The advice from the Advent calendar today says to contact an old friend.  Do it before it's too late.  So while this plays, contemplate who you're going to contact, how, and what you'll say:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Advent 19

A little over a week ago, we were asked to make a happy (or joyful) noise.  Today, we're asked to sing a new song.  Psalm 98 says:

Praise the Judge of the World
A Psalm.

1 O sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
    have gotten him victory.
2 The Lord has made known his victory;
    he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
    to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
    the victory of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn
    make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    the world and those who live in it.
8 Let the floods clap their hands;
    let the hills sing together for joy
9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
    to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with equity.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advent 18

The advice for today is, "Do something new!"

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer.  Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come."  (2 Cor. 5:16-17)

So there's your challenge - do something new, something different.  We are being renewed in Christ - show the world!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Advent 17

Today's goal is to look to the light in the heavens, and appreciate all that God has given us.  Contemplate the Psalm as you watch this visual meditation:

Psalm 8
1     O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is thy name in all the earth!
Thou whose glory above the heavens is chanted
2     by the mouth of babes and infants,
thou hast founded a bulwark because of thy foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
    the moon and the stars which thou hast established;
4 what is man that thou art mindful of him,
    and the son of man that thou dost care for him?
5 Yet thou hast made him little less than God,
    and dost crown him with glory and honor.
6 Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands;
    thou hast put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is thy name in all the earth!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Advent 16

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."  (Heb. 13:2)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent 15

Matthew 11:2-6
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”

Today, we light three candles on the third Sunday in Advent - The theme of the day expresses the joy of anticipation at the approach of the Christmas celebration. This theme reflects a lightening of the tone of the traditional Advent observance. This Sunday was also known as "Rose Sunday." This custom is reflected by the practice of including a pink or rose-colored candle among the four candles of an Advent wreath.

So, there are two weeks left - are you ready for the Messiah?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Advent 13

Today seems to be a good time to "reach out", as our Advent Calendar reminds us.  While the Bible verse at Genesis 31:49(b) states, "The Lord watch between you and me, when we are absent one from the other", it's definitely not said between friends or people who want to ensure your safety.  This is said between Laban and Jacob, and basically drew the line in the sand between them - they made an agreement, and then parted, hoping to never see one another again, but requesting that the Lord ensure the agreement would stand the test of time. 

So, the advice to "reach out" here may be indicating it's time to put aside grudges, forgive someone, let God heal old hurts and reach out a hand.  Think about it.  And don't take the quote out of context as so many do to be something positive - it wasn't positive when it was said.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Advent 12

The advice today is to Listen Carefully.  We're always told the story of Jesus around this time of year.  Today, I want you to focus on the one who came to make straight the path:

Today, read the story of the announcement to Zechariah...

Dedication to Theophilus
From the Book of Luke, Chapter 1
1 Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Advent 11

A Psalm of Thanksgiving.

1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he that made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5 For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

So today, make a joyful noise!  Here's an example:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Advent 10

Today's message is to "Give in Secret", with the hint found in Proverbs 19:6:  "Many seek the favor of the generous, and everyone is a friend to a giver of gifts."

Think about what a gift is - maybe we can look at the greatest Giver of Gifts:

Monday, December 5, 2016

Advent 9

"Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (Romans 13:11-14)

Today's advice is to "Get Up Early".  So, whenever you get up, make a plan for the day, and ask yourself, "Are you ready for the Messiah?"  I had someone ask me that, as opposed to the rather more common, "Are you ready for Christmas?"  I really like the change the one word can make in your whole attitude.  I plan to adopt the question for my own.

Are you ready for the Messiah?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent 8

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  (John 1:6-9)

Today's reflection at church had some interesting questions for us to think about:

What are the edges of your life that need your attention to really start growing?

What are the parts of you that feel unfinished and vulnerable, that you are afraid to let out into the light?

Did you ever think that you might need the fierce storms of your life?

We are told by John the Baptist to “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” What does that mean to you? 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Advent 7

Matthew 25:35 says, "[F]or I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me."

Andy  Grammar is a young man I've watched grow up - his dad, Red Grammar, shared his love of music with his son, along with his love for the world and God's people.  So, the challenge today is to figure out how you can help feed those in your community who are hungry, following Christ's statement a few verses after, in Matthew 25:40:  "‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[g] you did it to me.’"

In Troy, we have the Food Pantry, and plenty of  other opportunities in local food co-ops, and Bountiful Baskets allows you to donate baskets of vegetables and fruit for $19.50.  Join together with friends, and see how you can help.  Wherever you are, take a look for local food pantries, co-ops and programs that help us feed the hungry.  Our sister church in Eureka, St. Michael's and All Angels, has a soup kitchen once a week, with homemade bread made by Rev. Pattiann Bennett.  See if any of the churches in your town need some help with cooking or serving or baking bread.

Don't forget that nothing stops you from inviting people home for dinner as well.

And let's not forget, feeding the hungry can also mean helping to feed their souls - invite them to church with you!  If they enjoy singing, Troy has an All-Church sing once a month - help them get filled with the Spirit.

Feed the Hungry.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Advent 6

Today's thoughts come from 1 Samuel 3:1-10:

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Today's task is to "hear" the spirit.  But just as our First Amendment rights from the Constitution define freedom of "speech", it has come to mean freedom of expression.  So in hearing the spirit, pay attention around you.  Is there something in particular out of place?  Has God give you a sign, and you have merely to listen to get the message?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent 5

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." (Deut. 30:19-20)

We always have a choice - free will, God calls it.  We don't have to choose God and His gifts, but we do have to be aware of the consequences of not doing so.  Deuteronomy lays it out pretty clearly:  life and blessings versus death and curses.  Now to some of us, that may seem like rather a no-brainer.  But others look at what's involved in choosing life, in agreeing to obey God.  There's responsibility involved in choosing life.

What's your choice going to be?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Advent 4

Meditation time:  Think about the following:  "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Really contemplate how Jesus loved.  And while his willingness to die for each of us is certainly the most dramatic expression of love, what I want you to contemplate is how he loved.  Look at his interactions with his disciples, with strangers, with people who looked to him for answers, with people who looked to discredit him.

"Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another."  Can you do that?

"By this everyone will know, that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  Will someone know you're His disciple?  And if not, how do you intend to change that?

Remember the Presiding Bishop's words:  "We are the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement."  What are you doing to make sure people know that?

Before speaking, think.  Before acting, think.  Before judging, think.  Are you reflecting Jesus' love?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Advent 3

Today's "task" is to climb a mountain.  We're reminded of Isaiah: 2:1-5:

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2 In days to come
    the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3     Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war any more.
Judgment Pronounced on Arrogance
5 O house of Jacob,
    come, let us walk
    in the light of the Lord!

What mountains do you need to climb?  What ways of the Lord would you like to learn first?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent 2

Advent 1

Today's task was to light one candle.  This candle represents hope.  And while the song below by Peter, Paul and Mary is for peace, I think it works for hope as well:

The verse for today:  Matthew 24:42:

 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Advent 2016

This year, on advice, we are going outside the church to the front lawn during Advent.  Each Saturday (beginning on November 26), we will be holding a brief Advent lighting ceremony at 6:45 p.m.  Please dress warmly, and come hear why the liturgical churches celebrate Advent formally at this time of year.  There is a Compline service that follows - everyone is welcome to attend a very short service before heading out to Christmas parties and events.

The word Advent means “coming.” It is a time to slow down, be quiet and meditate about the real meaning of Christmas. These four weeks before Christmas are a time to prepare our hearts and our lives as we wait for the coming of Jesus. We focus on the promise that God made to his people and how that promise was fulfilled in Jesus. Advent is also the beginning of the liturgical year. The season begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (and we're starting the day at sundown Saturday night) and ends on the day before Christmas. It may be a time for new beginning for us as Christians.

In addition, we'd like to encourage everyone to be consciously *aware* during Advent.  You can watch this blog for things to contemplate each day.  You can take a look at this Advent calendar.  You can make your own traditions and celebrations

Think about what this time of year means.  Slow down from your shopping, and see if you can help others remember what this time is for.  The King is coming...

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Updates and Happenings

Well, with the publishing of the Montana Diocese Newsletter, this seems like a good time to update September happenings for Holy Trinity.

First, we will have visiting priest Karen King here during September and October.  We haven't yet finalized our schedule, but she will be presiding over Eucharist services most Sundays in September and October, with the time of the service being 10:00 a.m. to accommodate those who are out of town to get here on time.

Our Compline services will continue on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 7:00 p.m.

Next, the first full week in September begins two regular Bible studies:

Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m. will be The Great Courses "Old Testament".  At the link will be more details about the course.

Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., we will meet at 'R' Place on Hwy. 2 in Troy for those who would like to listen to the Bible out loud.  We'll be starting in Genesis.  It's your regular, old-fashioned, let's talk about the verses, what they mean to us, where they fit in history, etc. type of study.

Rev. Karen King has also offered to do a short study on the Book of Ruth while she's here.  Details on that will follow, but if you're interested, please let Angel know.

Please take some time to read the Diocese newsletter - it's full of news on upcoming events throughout the fall.  And let us know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions!  We look forward to seeing you all!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Compline Services

Beginning August 9, and continuing every Tuesday and Saturday thereafter, there will be a Compline service at 7:00 p.m.

The Compline is the last of the four services in the Daily Office.  It comes from the night prayers said before bed at the end of the monastic round of daily prayer. Compline is a simple office including a confession of sins, one or more psalms, a short reading from scripture, versicles and responses, the Lord's Prayer, collects which ask for God's protection during the night to come, and the canticle Nunc dimittis. A hymn for the evening may follow the short reading from scripture. The collects may be followed by a time of silence, along with free intercessions and thanksgivings.

Below is a Compline service done at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle, Washington.  It's a bit longer than most Compline services because they have a men's choir devoted to performing the prayers and songs sung.  So, if you can't attend an evening, please enjoy the podcast, and end your day with praise to the Father.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Growth and Events

Our little town of Troy has about 960 people in it, and 10 Christian churches.

Now, strictly on the basis of math, if we use the 70.6% of people in the US claiming Christianity (2014 surveys), that would indicate approximately 677 people in our town would also claim Christianity.

Making the wild (and likely horribly wrong) assumption that each of those people attend church,  Episcopalians have a national percentage of 1.5% (including Anglicans) of people who espouse Christianity.

Therefore, Holy Trinity should have an average of 10 plus a little, and we actually do have that, on paper.  Our attendance is a little lower, given snow birds and illnesses.

So, in an effort to improve our averages, and have Troy be above the national average, we are planning events and outreach to help the people of Troy learn about the Episcopal Church and hopefully, improve our numbers.  As our Presiding Bishop has said, we are the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.  Our job is to reach out and provide services that the community needs, to build up hearts and hands, to build community.  And we can do that in a variety of ways - service, education and fellowship.

We'll have more information as the dates get closer, but:

Holy Trinity has a sanctuary that is open 24/7.  We all watched the movie "War Room" (and if you haven't seen it, it's worth a watch!), and thought about the fact that many people don't have a spare closet or space that they may be able to devote to their prayer life.  So, we would like to offer the sanctuary as a Community Prayer Room to anyone who would like a quiet space for prayers and talking with God.  We'll have Bibles, pencils and scrap paper available for you.  Any prayers that you'd like to have some help praying for, you're welcome to pin to the board and people using the prayer room are asked to pray for those concerns if they feel so moved.  We do ask that you stay in the sanctuary itself, as there are groups that use the church in the meeting hall side at various times of day, and we would appreciate that they not be disturbed.

On August 27, 2016, at 1:00 p.m., we will have a workshop on Kitchen Medicine - what you can use in your cabinets, refrigerator and freezer (along with potentially your yard) to help with fairly typical household ailments/emergency treatment until you can get to a doctor.  If you have particular problems, diseases, etc. you'd like to discuss, just send us an email.  We'll be sure to include something.

On September 17, 2016, at 1:00 p.m., we will be having an Unbirthday Party, complete with odd hats, scarves, dress up, etc. for the kids, a showing of Disney's Alice in Wonderland, and a high tea - replete with a variety of types of tea, and finger foods.

Closer to Christmas, we will probably have some craft station workshops, with a variety of things that can be made and used or given as gifts.

God willing, our little Episcopal Church will grow over time.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday - Message from the Presiding Bishop

While I'm still working on getting the Lent blogs caught up, time does continue to march on, so we're sharing the Presiding Bishop's message for this Easter.  May it be a blessing to you!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lent: Relationship With God's Creation - Soil

The worksheet for this section of the program talks about your relationship with God's creation.  We'll begin with the first video which talks about what's in the soil, both in a literal and metaphorical sense.

So, print out the worksheet twice, and fill in what you have currently.  Then fill in what your idea is, and figure out a rule to get you there.  What type of soil do you want in your heart?

Lent: Love or Attachment

The video on this topic is probably one of the more deeply philosophical concepts the Brothers at SSJE have addressed, so it may take you a time or two through it to determine where this might fit in your life.

Usually, we hear about love as being a specific type or another, generally reverting back to the various Greek words for love:
Agape, or love for everyone
Eros, or sexual passion
Philia, or deep friendship
Ludus, or playful love
Pragma, or longstanding love
Philautia, or love of the self
This discussion today, however, posits that all love comes from God, and that we should focus on that, so that we don't form an attachment to the love we might individually generate, thereby diminishing the connection that could otherwise be full with the presence of God.  Is this a monastic idea or one that we need to seriously consider for ourselves?  And where might it fit into your rule of life?  Take a look. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lent: Getting to Yes

Saying that two letter word can be so tough at times.  Br. Luke hits it directly on the head in this video.  How many times do we agree to do things, because, as people know, if you need something done, ask a busy person.  And often behind every busy person is an inability to say "no."

However, this exercise is about building a Rule of Life, about finding things that are good for us, healthy for us, that make us better able to serve God and serve others.  And sometimes, saying "no" will allow us to be in a better frame of mind, in better health, and in a better spiritual place to then be able to say "yes".

Setting boundaries, learning that you don't have to try to please everyone all the time - these are very difficult lessons for some people.  Here's a collection of articles that might be able to help.

Look at your schedule.  Look at some of the things you already know are good for you - are some of the things in your schedule interfering with your ability to do the things that are good for you?  Things like exercise, preparing healthy meals, getting enough sleep, etc.  Where do you need to say no?  And what do you need to clear away so that you can say a health "yes" to?

Lent: Thriving

Br. Nicholas expressed an excellent point in this video - which can be summed up in the KISS principle.  We'll go with the nicer version, and say that it means Keep It Short and Simple.  And the short and simple of it is, what works?  Do that.

In looking at our relationships and our interactions with others, look at what has worked best for you in the past, what has made you feel good and achieved what you want to achieve.  In most instances, it's a fairly simple solution.

I have a friend whose very first response to absolutely everything is "No."  I'm not sure if that's her method of keeping things simple, but it has led to no small amount of frustration on my part, because sometimes, what I'm asking is - at least to me - a very easy, logical, simple request.  But, I have learned that if I accept her no, and then give her a day, she thinks about it, processes it through both her brain and her huge heart, within a day, she's altered her answer.  Now, the answer may still be no, but this time, she'll have a logical argument against whatever it is.  More times than not, however, the answer is either an unqualified yes, or a qualified yes, and again, she'll have very logical and sound reasoning.  So the lesson for me in this KISS process is, don't get frustrated, just wait a day.

Part of this can also be explained through personality "types".  The one I learned is called PACE, and essentially they divide how people think and react into colors:  red (big picture, bottom line, very dynamic), blue (emotional, heart motivated), yellow (all the details, down to the very last one, very organized), and green (everything is about why).  Now, the world needs all of those colors, but in learning about someone, you learn how to communicate.  If you have a yellow person who has to talk to a red person, they're going to get really frustrated, really fast - particularly if they don't know how the other communicates.  If the yellow person is aware they're talking to a red person, they have to bite their tongue about all the details, and give an overview and the expected result - then stop.  Really hard to do, but the red person then has as much information as they need and want - because they actually trust that the yellow person knows and has done their job in all the details that they can't stand - to make a decision.

Think about your relationships with others.  What makes you thrive?  What feeds your soul?  What nurtures you and helps you grow?

Do that.

Lent: Conflict Resolution

In today's world, the opinions expressed by Br. John in the video are not uncommon.  Conflict, differences of opinion, holding viewpoints that contrast with our own - these are reasons to end relationships, not learn from them.

When I was growing up, my father, the social historian, taught us both history and rhetoric as dinner table conversation.  He would bring up a particular conflict in history, and we would have to be able to argue either side of that conflict from the point of view assigned to us.  This required that we get to know the why people had various opinions and positions.  And in learning this, we learned that in arguments there are always at least two sides to things, often more.  So for me, every argument was an excellent opportunity to learn about people, and particularly about the person I was arguing with.  It was fun.  And both sides gained from the experience.  Unfortunately, most people tend to view conflicts as what I call a fight.  And I will avoid fights as much as possible, because they're never fun, and generally, both sides lose, not just the particular conflict, but respect for one another, and feelings get hurt.

So let's put this back into the religious forum, into the creation of your Rule of Life.  There are certainly some instances where a fight is definitely an instance where something is wrong and needs to be corrected.  A friend posted the meme here at the side, and we can see that Christ, one of the most peace-loving, willing to explain and teach and talk about anything kind of people, was willing to fight to right a wrong.

But also think about His normal mode of being.  He didn't exactly hang out with people who likely shared His points of view.  But he didn't get into conflicts with them either.  He talked, He taught, He listened and learned what was important to them, and where they were coming from, so that He knew how to teach them what they needed to know.

Looking at the chart you've been working on regarding relationships and where they need to be strengthened and nurtured, go ahead and ask yourself the question, WWJD, and see if you can emulate our greatest teacher in the process.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lent: Unconditional Love

This video deals with a subject that pretty much all of us deal with at one point or another.  And usually, we approach the concept of "unconditional love" from the point that, Jesus gave His love unconditionally, and we must strive to emulate that.  Certainly, that is true, and WWJD (What would Jesus Do?) is absolutely something to consider in all aspects of your life.

But!  For today, I want you to think about people in your own life - parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, teachers, mentors, etc. - and figure out who has provided you with what felt to you like unconditional love and acceptance, support and belonging?  Think back on times with them, and how you felt.  What did they do differently than other people?  What did you do differently that allowed you to accept that love from them?

Because Br. Robert is correct - we are often our own worst enemy when it comes to being able to accept unconditional love.

So now take it the next step.  Have you accepted the unconditional love that Christ brings to you?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lent: Connections

In this phase of the Lenten study with SSJE, we are once again given a worksheet to do in conjunction with the video.   Go ahead and borrow your kids' crayons, or take out your colored pencils, and think about this, work on the worksheet, and figure out your own connections, good, bad, indifferent - healthy, needing improvement, needing a start.

In some ways, we can be reminded of the statement at the end of the tablet on the Statue of Liberty:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

And while we, as Americans, welcome these people in, we, as Christians, must welcome them with the love of Christ.  How many of us, legitimately worried about the safety of our country and shores, have forgotten that Christian duty - the commandment of Christ - to love?

So think about your connections, and where you haven't built connections yet.  Honestly look at how you can expand your circles just a little bit further to fulfill the commandment.  And write it down.

Lent: "Dis-ing"

This video talks about organizing your own life, and to ensure that you maintain a healthy balance, to appreciate those things that our senses remind us of.

The rule about no disrespecting a creation of God, no focusing on disadvantages, not being disagreeable just for the sake of doing so, sowing discord - those are good things.  If you must focus on dis words, try being a disciple, practicing the discipline it takes to create good habits, and discovering how to find that healthy balance to be as God intended us.

Lent: Whole Self

This video reminds us that life includes body, mind and spirit - just because we're looking at the spirit in this aspect of developing a Rule of Life, we shouldn't forget that God gave us a physical life, a mind, and a spirit.

We've focused a whole lot on questions dealing with the spirit, so let's look at some of the questions dealing with the mind and the body.

What do you do for fun?

What excites your passions and heads you off to pursue some thing or another?

What catches your attention, and makes you decide to explore a topic further?

What gets your blood pumping and your body moving (minds out of the gutter please, this is a church blog *grin*), and makes you want to move some more?

What's going to contribute to the wellness of your whole self?

Lent: Through God's Eyes

Wow!  This video provides a really awesome exercise, to map yourself, your body, inside and out - through the eyes of God, the eyes of a parent who loves you unconditionally.

So, if it's a bit chilly outside, here's a focus for you to sit and meditate (You can allow the music to play or mute it, your preference).  Do the exercise - it won't take too long - just as long as it takes.

Now, how do you feel?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lent: Creativity

This video talks about inspiration, and how that can be expressed through prayer that may come out in creative ways - through song or art or arranging your room differently.  Creativity doesn't have to be something others might appreciate, but rather what has inspired you to do something different, to express yourself in a new way.

Think about the creativity involved in God's creation of the world.  There's a wide variety of beauty; but then there's also the science and intricacies involved in life, the biological mechanisms and how things work; there are puzzles to figure out; hidden places to explore; planetary bodies that share their light with us in a myriad of ways; cycles of life around us everywhere.  In everything there is creativity in the creation and in the discovery.

So today, what has inspired you?  And what did you *do* with that inspiration?

Lent: Blessings in Frailties

This video brings to mind a lesson that I was blessed to learn a couple decades ago.  This blog will be a little more personal, but in it, I'd like you to think about your own weaknesses or frailties that you can turn around into blessings in your own life.

Many years ago, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  And initially, it wasn't too bad - just something I needed to watch and occasionally take medication for, take things a little bit easier.  But as time passed, my hands became deformed, I had to cut my waist-length hair, 'cause I couldn't hold a brush long enough to brush it out, I had to get up earlier so I had time to get the same things done in the mornings that needed to be done.  And I found myself taking a whole lot of medicine, and needing a whole lot of help.  I began to worry that I would have to change jobs, because typing hurt and writing was impossible.

As anyone with chronic pain knows, we are not pleasant people to be around.  We snap or react sharply simply because we're in pain - not because we are angry at the person being snapped at.

Fortunately, I had some really good friends and family, and I learned how to ask for help, and how to graciously accept it (there was the hard part).  I learned that I couldn't do it all, and that as much as I did for others in the past, they now had the opportunity to do things to help me - I was their blessing!  And I learned that RA can be as a result of judging oneself too harshly - not accepting who you are as being worthy.  Now that took a lot of work, but eventually, my hands straightened out, I took less and less medication, and learned to accept that I was okay, just as who I was, and that God loved me as that person.  I let my hair grow back out (can you tell I missed it?), and eventually, got back to "normal".

But things had changed.  I had been blessed with lessons in asking for and accepting help, with learning to like myself as I was, with an appreciation for the life that God gave me.  I no longer take medication (unless I forget all those lessons and completely over-do what I'm capable of), and I remember those lessons and am grateful, every day.

So what blessings do you have in your life?

Lent: Your Body

This video discusses how to, as the desert fathers advised, "descend from our heads into our hearts and to live in our bodies."  There is so much emphasis on appearance in our media these days.  But this isn't what Br. Nicholas is talking about.

Many people have heard the phrase that "your body is a temple," but do you know the origin of the whole quote?
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.  - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
 So we actually have a spiritual reason to be taking care of our bodies.  Part of that includes eating the proper foods - not junk food.  Part of that is finding an exercise (or several) you enjoy, to exercise the body you've been given.  And if you have difficulty with doing those things, perhaps making note that the body we have is just a loaner, and we need to turn it in, in good condition when we're done, may help you do that.

There was an interesting experiment that a high school student did.  It's worth a watch.  Some of the language can be a bit objectionable, but think about how teenagers can occasionally react to things.  And how we ourselves react at times.

Lent: Loving Yourself

We're going to play catch-up here for a little bit, so there may be several blogs posted in a day.  Both SSJE and I have been having technical difficulties.

In cooperating with God's love, we learn that important lesson on how to love yourself - and how others can help you accomplish that.  There are so many times that we have allowed those weeds in our souls to flourish, and to occasionally drown out the voice of God that we are "precious and honored" in God's sight.  So this is to help you learn to listen for the voice of God, and do some weeding.

SSJE is doing this work in Phases, and we have entered Phase 3.  Your homework comes all on one worksheet, but it's going to require thought and prayer and maybe even some meditation.  Be honest with yourself - don't say what you think the world wants to hear, but rather what you actually believe.  Take a look at the Phase 3 Exercise, print yourself out a copy and work on it through this week.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


I recently had a talk with a man who considers himself an agnostic.  His reasoning is that he cannot and will not believe in a God who allows such horrible things to happen to children, to the world at large, to people far and near.  And of course, as with all really good conversations, the best argument I have in opposition didn't occur to me until well after we'd finished talking.

Contrary to popular belief, God's not Santa Claus.  He's not keeping track of who's naughty and nice in some book so that presents and coal are properly distributed to the people on Earth.  And if you're going to blame God for every bad deed that happens to people, conversely, you have to credit him for every good act that happens to people. 

In our Old Testament reading, we note what God says to Moses:  "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows."  It doesn't sound like He arranged for them to live in sorrow and subjugation to the Egyptians.  It sounds more like He watches His creation and what they do to one another, and knows their sorrows, because how could any parent be happy that their children are miserable?  And at this point, He steps in, to put His people back onto the path He laid for them by making Moses a leader.

As our New Testament reading points out, He gave them experiences in common, binding them together as a people.  The journey they took, the food they ate, water they drank, the metaphorical baptism they all experienced upon escaping the Egyptians – God provided all of these to them to strengthen them as a people, to give bonds on which they could rely in times of temptation.  Even to today, we reaffirm those gifts, just as they were reaffirmed by Christ.

During Lent, we address the uncomfortable aspect of our often "feel-good" religion:  we look at our sins, and we look at our reactions to sins, our attempts to explain them, to hide them from sight, and the really hard part – to truly repent of them and change our ways.  Saying we're sorry but doing nothing different doesn't actually indicate repenting; it represents lip service, and means nothing. 

Each week, in our confession of sin, we confess that we have sinned, by what we have done, and by what we have failed to do.  I was talking with my son about this sermon, and he pointed out that in each case, we often do the exact same thing that Christ talked about in the Gospel lesson – well, yes, we've sinned, but look at these horrible people over here and how heinous their sins are.  Why, by comparison, we're nearly faultless.  And Christ points out, no, we're not.  Not only have we sinned, but we have failed to act in defense of the defenseless.  We have failed to protect others, not only from those who would persecute them, but in allowing that persecution to continue.  All too often, we fail to act for a variety of reasons – the problem's too big, there's no way for me to make a difference, let someone else handle it, or the general response – why does God allow this to happen?  I think in many instances, it's the basic fear that if we did something, we'd have to actually address our own sins, and that's what Lent reminds us to do.

Sometimes, it's looking at the totality of the task involved that makes us hesitate to even begin.  As someone once advised on how to eat an elephant, the wise reply was, get out your knife and fork, and begin, one bite at a time.

There's a story about some missionaries to Indians in the Amazonian region of Ecuador, particularly the Huaorani tribe.  This tribe was exceedingly savage, killing anyone who wasn't part of their tribe with spears and knives, and sometimes killing just because they could, like people who annoyed them, including their own children.  The missionaries were saddened by the lives of people who hadn't been touched by the word of God.  They were, however, warned away by other missionaries and people who had experience with trying to deal with the tribe, advising them not to even try, for they would surely die in the effort.  The missionaries began making regular flights over Huaorani settlements in September 1955, dropping gifts, which were accepted and reciprocated.  They were able to communicate with a few members of the tribe on several occasions.  After several months of exchanging gifts, on January 3, 1956, the missionaries established a camp at "Palm Beach", a sandbar along the Curaray River, a few kilometers from Huaorani settlements.  They finally felt that they were ready to meet with the rest of the tribe as a whole.  Their efforts came to an end on January 8, 1956, when all five—Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian—were attacked and speared by a group of Huaorani warriors.  The five missionaries had guns with them in their camp, but they did not use them to save their own lives.  They were trying to teach about a peaceful and beneficent God.  To shoot their attackers would mean the Huaorani would not have the opportunity to hear about Christ.  So they chose to let themselves be killed, to be an example of Christian love, and let the tribe have another chance to hear the word of God.  Several years after the death of the men, the widow of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth, and the sister of Nate Saint, Rachel, returned to Ecuador as missionaries with the Summer Institute of Linguistics to live among the Huaorani. This eventually led to the conversion of many, including some of those involved in the killing. While largely eliminating tribal violence, their efforts exposed the tribe to increased influence from the outside.  Which, of course, led to both good and bad results.

Five men didn't just agree with other missionaries and the advice to leave the tribe to their savagery.  They did something about it.  And their deaths ended up having meaning to the Huaorani, because they showed trust in God and faced their deaths with faith and courage, rather than fear. 

The parable of the fig tree in Luke, as opposed to how it is told in Mark and Matthew, is giving us one last chance to truly repent.  Now, while spreading manure may not seem like a particularly desirable change for people – if we do look at the allegorical meaning, we realize that we need to change the situation somehow – to do something different, to nourish our roots, feed our souls, and nurture the faith that allows us to face our sins, repent of them and move forward.  We have time to make a difference.  We still have time before the final judgment comes.  But since we don't have knowledge of just how much time that is, we need to do it now.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Lent: Prayer

Creating space for prayer is at the root of today's video from SSJE.  As Br. Geoffrey points out, when our lives get busy and hectic, often, it's prayer that gets the short end of the stick - we take away time usually set aside for praying, for meditation, for taking care of the body God provided to us, to fit in time for more busy-ness.  How important is your relationship with God?  And if, like many people, you put God at the head of the line in order of importance for your relationships - then shouldn't you make time with God a priority?

So today's task - find a definite space for time with God in your daily schedule.  And put that time into the schedule in pen.  Any additional time you spend with God is great, but make sure that your scheduled time has a prominent space in your schedule.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Lent: Spiritual Practices

There's a sermon (by Br. Tristam) that goes with today's video (by Br. Keith) - two separate pieces of input on developing spiritual rules and practices to help us grow into the people we feel God wants us to be.  Both are well worth listening to, and might answer some questions you have about developing a Rule of Life.

The question today asks what spiritual practice will help you grow.  It's asking you to choose one to put into practice now.  How do you choose?

As Br. Tristam says, first, you need a goal - what do you want to achieve?  Then you can ask the question about which practice will lead you further down the path to that goal.  The church has plenty of resources for you, but one rather comprehensive site for such practices can be found at Credo.  Take a look at the categories they have there, and see what appeals to you, what will help you in the path you've set.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Lent: Rule of Life

The Brothers from St. John the Evangelist are allowing the calendar to catch up with their postings, so today, we're sharing this video from the first portion, or pre-Lent thoughts about the Rule of Life.

We gave you a lot to think about and do yesterday, so today's only question is, how would a Rule of Life be helpful to you now?  Listen to Br. Curtis, and think about that.  It may affect how you look at what we're trying to achieve this Lent.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lent: Cultivation

In today's video from SSJE, we are reminded that reflection can be a very good tool in the cultivation of your life.  Using our dictionary.com site again, to cultivate means:
1.  to prepare and work on (land) in order to raise crops; till.
2.  to use a cultivator on.
3.  to promote or improve the growth of (a plant, crop, etc.) by labor and attention.
4.  to produce by culture:
5.  to develop or improve by education or training; train; refine:
6.  to promote the growth or development of (an art, science, etc.); foster.
7.  to devote oneself to (an art, science, etc.).
The seeds that God has planted within us (I wonder if that's in the DNA...), that make us unique, provide us with the opportunity to pursue anything we set our minds to.  So today's task is going to be a lot of reflection, and then some contemplation and prayer:

Reflect on:
Twenty years ago, where were you?
What did you do with your time?
What did you learn about?
What did you dream of doing?
What sort of goals did you have?

And 10 years ago?
Did you pursue any of the dreams?  How?
If not, what did you do instead?

And 5 years ago?
What have you accomplished?
Are you where you thought you'd be?
How did you get where you were?

Contemplation and Prayer
Write down the answers to the questions.

From the Book of Common Prayer:  O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

What seeds planted by God long ago have sprouted?
What have you accomplished in those areas?
What else would you like to accomplish?
Have you felt drawn further down the same path?  Are you pursuing that?  Why or why not?
Have you felt drawn in a different direction?  (Perhaps there's a different area of the garden to tend.)
Are you doing anything to further the growth of those seeds?
Have you been praying about it?

Write down two areas you'd like to see grow.

Under each area, write down small, definitive steps towards achieving those goals.  Begin each one with prayer.

Give yourself a schedule to accomplish the smaller tasks or steps.  Remember to include in the schedule regular times to repeat this process, evaluate what you've achieved, and if a smaller task needs to be further broken down to see progress.

Decide who you're going to share your decision with, or how you're going to keep yourself accountable for pursuing these goals.  God is a perfect accountability partner, if you're willing to listen.

Feel free to share here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lent: God's Time

Patience, the boon of parents everywhere, is the subject of today's video from SSJE.  God's time is rarely our time - we think that things should happen within our scope of understanding, not quite understanding that God's timing is perfect.  As Br. Luke expounds, what he's expecting in a month, God may be granting in ten years - so, knowing that God's timing is perfect, our responsibility then is to change our expectations.

There's actually a "joke" that fits perfectly with this theme.  But it leads back to the parable about the man who gave each of his servants a number of talents, and what they did with them.  Looking at talents in the modern meaning (rather than the coin), what talents has God planted in you?  And what have you done with them?  How will you answer when God calls you forward?

God has provided you with the seeds, and as yesterday's message indicated, we have to be the best soil possible for those seeds to grow.  In His time, he will come to see the harvest and the fruit you bear, all the while nurturing you, providing you water and sunshine.  

So today, make a list of your blessings - the seeds God planted in you or gave you at Baptism.  And then on another column, list what you have done to develop those seeds.  Does it have to be written down?  No, but seeing it in black and white sets your responsibility directly before your eyes, where you can't ignore it, or perhaps set it aside for another day.  We're here to become part of the beautiful garden of humanity - where are you in your growth cycle?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Lent: Growth

Getting more into the concept of seeds and how they're planted, today's video talks about the process of growth over which we really have no control, but God does.  The best that we can do is provide the best soil possible for that seed to grow.

In this very cute animation about the Parable of the Sower, where we see the different types of ground on which seeds can be planted.

We know that God's Word are the seeds, but what we need to figure out is how to make the soil of our hearts the best atmosphere in which they can grow.  Letting our hearts be hardened like stone from our experiences will likely make it very difficult for God's Word to take root.  Being sandy and unfirm will ensure that God's Word takes shallow root and the growth is rapid, but dies quickly.  Having vices which can overpower God's Word in our hearts is like choking it with weeds.

But if our body is the Temple for God's Word, then we take care of it; we nurture it, and give it light, room to grow, prayers, and God's plan for us will grow to be what God intends for us.  Even if it may not be what we have in mind for ourselves to start with.

So what sort of "rules" might you think of for being a good Temple, for being good soil?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Lent: Awareness and Intention

Today's video reminds me of a wonderful young man by the name of Luke Nothaft.  Yesterday, Luke's family celebrated the fourth anniversary of his second birthday at home with God.  The way they celebrated was to ask his friends and family to celebrate with them this way:  "Luke loved a lot of things. He loved them in the full-throated, unimpeachable way of someone drunk with the possibilities of life. So, we'd like to ask you to do one act of love this week. One act that puts others or the world above yourself."

When Luke was born, he had a couple of organs outside his body.  Between all the surgeries and hospitalizations, the doctors told Luke's parents he only had a 3% chance to live at all, and would likely never see 5.  Then they decided, he'd never live to get to high school, let alone be able to comprehend enough for school.  God, however, had different plans, and Luke lived until he was 16, and like most of his family, spoke both English and Spanish.  He made a huge difference in people's lives during the short time he was here, affecting family and community alike.  As his sister pointed out today when she and her family set out to feed the homeless, Luke never met a stranger - just a friend he didn't know the name of yet.  Luke's goal was to be a film-maker just like his big brother.  You can actually see some of the videos he and his family did on YouTube.

Luke epitomized what Br. Mark talks about in today's video - the awareness of the love of God in others, and intentionally displaying the love of God to others.  To continue the garden analogy the Brothers of SSJE have been using, this is the food you're choosing to feed your plants, or your life, and the fruit you're choosing to produce.  What sort of things do you want to surround yourself with?  And what kind of things will you be giving back?  

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lent: Observations

Pick something in God’s creation to “consider” today. Today's video from SSJE asks you to do homework again.  And to use the original meaning of the word "consider" - don't just think about it, but look at it closely, and observe what lessons it might have for you.  What did you notice or observe?

Richard Migliore Photography
As Br. Geoffrey points out, Christ often asked us to consider small things in nature - lilies (Matthew 6:28, Luke 12:27), ravens (Luke 12:24), the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31, 17:20; Mark 4:31; Luke 13:19, 17:6).  Is it a coincidence that the smaller it gets, the more it's mentioned?

So let's consider a subject of Romans 1:20:  "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead" or DNA.  The article linked there is the subject of study all over the world, and there's no doubt that this was not an accident of evolution, but a design of the Creator.

We won't ask you to study something as small (and complex) as DNA, but we will ask you to pick something out of creation today and consider it.  What did you find?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Lent: Meaningful Connections

When you connect with nature, what makes it meaningful?  That's the focus of today's video, but you're going to have to reach for the answer - it's not spoon fed to you through Br. John's words.

In answering that question, consider the definitions of "Nature" (as per dictionary.com)
1.  the material world, especially as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities.
2.  the natural world as it exists without human beings or civilization
3.  the elements of the natural world, as mountains, trees, animals, or rivers.
4.  natural scenery
5.  the universe, with all its phenomena
6.  the sum total of the forces at work throughout the universe.
7.  reality, as distinguished from any effect of art.
So we're not just talking about connecting to elements outside of humanity, but also including humanity.  We're talking about how we connect with reality itself.  So what makes the connection to any of it meaningful?

If you become so inspired, you could go to The Center for Humans & Nature to write an essay on the topic.  Much of what they discuss concerns ethics, and as such, it fits in well with our study here.  The discussion of creating a rule, and why we would want to do such a thing is an important step in understanding why we choose to worship in the way we do.  Some feel drawn to it; some want the structure that rules provide; some want to help others when they seem lost - to give them a code by which to live. And we often realize that Christ gave us that code, reiterating commands given by God so long ago - in broad strokes:  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  (Deuteronomy 6:5)  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)"  (Matthew 22:37-39)

Some of us know and love the concept, but even as the Jews had difficulty accomplishing it still by the time Christ came, we have difficulty in actually carrying them out today, and so we create additional or "sub-rules" that help us to fulfill those two great Commandments.

So, what makes your connections meaningful to you?