Sunday, December 27, 2015

12 Days of Christmas, Drummer Boys, Myrrh and New Year's Resolutions...Music for the Epiphany

Hello St. Francis.
I hope this message finds you winding down from an amazing Christmas celebration and possibly preparing for New Year's and/or Feast of the Three Kings celebrations this week.  It does go fast, huh? Prepare the house, the gifts, Advent, wait, wait, wait and then BOOM!!! it has come and gone.  Even as I sit here writing this blog, I feel as though the passion with which I prepared for Christmas as well as the prayerfulness with which I made a concerted effort to kick up a notch has already been attacked by the NEXT BIG THING.  So, here I am, a little chunkier (Italian Food), a little poorer (two kids) and ready to start 2016 with a bang or a thud...can't make up my mind.
Now, I know that the whole New Year's Resolution thing is written about over and over again so I am not going to give you the full proof way to keep that promise to lose 20 lbs. or exercise more or call your parents or your brother once a week.  We've all been there and done that.  I really would be barking up a dead tree if I concentrated on the whole "Keep the Christmas Spirit alive the whole year round" thing because I think that would just make me want to smack myself with the leftover Lasagna noodles from Christmas.  So, what wisdom can I impart on you this week?  Not much.
What I can say is that as I go through my social media and posts, I have been seeing a lot of funny things.  Simple yet profound.  One of my favorites: "If you want the world to be a better place than stop being a butthead".  I laugh because I am a boy and boys laugh every time someone says the word butt.  Now that I think about it, maybe these posts are on to something.  Let's analyze.

1.  I am treating others a little bit nicer - That can check off the Christmas all year round thing.
2.  I need to be more selfless and caring - That could count as exercise...for the heart.
3.  I will forgive and stop sweating the small stuff - That could be losing the 20 lbs of  negativity I build up each year by not being that way.

Maybe we're on to something.  So as we celebrate the New Year and The Three Kings and we hug and kiss those in our life who we love, maybe we can share a gift like the Magi did.  Maybe we can start a trend to change hearts, keep the Christmas spirit around all year long and make a New Year's Resolution to be a little kinder.  So, Happy New Year to my extended Church Community.  I wish you happiness and health for you and your family this year and...I ask us to consider making this promise to ourselves:

In 2016, I will make the world a better place by not being a BUTTHEAD!!!


Music for the Epiphany...Big Day...Let's Sing Away!!!

Processional - We Three Kings -

Psalm 72 -

Offertory - Behold the Star -

Communion - What Child Is This -

Recessional - Joy To The World -

Monday, December 14, 2015

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town!!! - Music for the Weekend of December 19 and 20

Hello St. Francis,
I hope this message finds you stress free and spiritually prepared for the coming of Christ at Christmas!!!  Yup, me neither.  Still running around like my hair is on fire trying to make all of the last minute preparations.  As a Music Minister, this time of the year takes on a whole new set of stresses, but I would be naive to think that my stresses are more stressful than yours.  As a matter of fact, have you found yourself in that conversation yet?  Two people facing off to see who has the most to do!!!  "I have 73 people coming and I don't know where my tree topper is and I have to wait in a 14 hour line at the store and then it closed and....."  "You think that is bad well...blah...blah...blah..."  You know what, it's a tie!!! Everyone is stressed!!!  The good news is that regardless of whether you cook the very best Christmas roast of all time, or whether you remembered to send all 14,000 Christmas Cards or whether the neighbor has better lights than you do, in just a few days, Good Ol' Santa will be moseying his extra large bag of toys into town.  Thank God!!!  It's over.  

Not to sound judgmental but I don't understand how people can dislike Christmas or this time of year.  Is it busy?  Yes.  Does it drive you nuts?  You bet it does.  Are people who dislike this time of year afraid that they are on Santa's naughty list?  What would the big guy from the North Pole tell you?  Ho! Ho! Ho! Yes, I think he would laugh at our stress.  Does that statement make you hot enough to melt Frosty?  So let me give you this disclaimer before the following statement...No one cares how perfectly your packages are wrapped or whether your Christmas shindig is the best of ALL TIME!!!  So, why do we place our Christmas spirit in those things?  Shouldn't it just be...I don't know, FUN!!!!!

Our Jolly Old St. Nick may have the answer...indulge me here.

S stands for solidarity.  Stand together to serve others and appreciate the traditions of your family and faith.
A stands for appreciate.  More appreciation = Less scepticism
N stands for neighbor.  Tell them that you love them (or at least fake it till you make it)
T stands for Tears.  Let yourself be open to the true emotion of this time
A stands for adaptable.  Don't sweat the small stuff.

In the end, Santa Claus is coming to town and he won't leave coal in our stocking if his cookies are a little burnt or if those stockings aren't perfectly matched.  The only coal in our stocking are the pieces that we put in ourself.  Loosen up!!! Santa Claus Is Coming To Town!!!


Recessional - Ready The Way -

Monday, December 7, 2015

My Participation at My Parish....Music for December 12-13

Hello St. Francis,

Today, a little basic Catholic philosophical education.
Have you ever wondered or even been a little bit confused or angry when someone may say something like "I am saved because I have taken Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior." and then you see them living a life that isn't necessarily "without blemish".  Don't get me wrong, everybody messes up and most of us mess up the same things over and over again...but we feel "Saved" don't we?  This begs a question.  If I am already saved then why do I bother living a life of selflessness, prayer or even common good deeds when I could be spending all of my time looking out for #1?  If I am "Saved"  regardless of anything I do (and we know that we can not save ourselves) why don't we just throw the big guy upstairs a fist bump and then live anyway we want.

Well, here is the philosophy behind all of us being saved.  I am called to love God, to serve God and others and to worship God NOT because "my salvation" rests in the balance or because we have to accumulate a certain number of points to punch my ticket to eternal happiness.  Instead, understanding that I have already been saved, I love, serve and worship God as well as serve my neighbor because it is my delight...not my duty.

You see, there are three big misconceptions about our salvation.
1.  There is nothing I can do to earn my salvation.
2.  Because our salvation has been won for us, we owe God some indescribable debt that should lead us to a life of misery and sacrifice, without joy or any sort of happiness.
3.  Because God has saved us, I can live any kind of life I choose and it will not matter because I am Saved!!!

None of these comes close to the reality.  Look at it this way.  If someone gives you a gift that you know you will never be able to repay, would your admiration and appreciation for that gift cause you to use it in the very best way possible?  If that gift solved "all of life's problems" would you forget about the person who gave it to you?  If you could perform some small act or say some small words to that person to express your gratitude and show them your appreciation?  Of course.  It makes sense.  We use our gift to the best of our ability not because we can ever repay it but because...and here is the big one...we will never be asked to repay it.  A gift, freely given with no if's, and's or but's about it.  That is what it means to be "Saved".  To know you have been given this gift  means that you use your salvation to love, serve and worship God because it's what people do who appreciate a gift.

Now, how does this effect the title of this blog 'My Participation at My Parish".  Think about this...
If you love your parish community and know that regardless of the baggage you carry, the difficulties that you bring or the commitment that you make, your parish will always welcome you, inspire you and invite you to a fuller relationship with God and with each other, that is a gift that you can not repay.  If we choose not to come to church or to give of our time, talent and treasure to our church because we know that the church will welcome us and inspire us anyway, aren't we in a small way just like that person who says "I'm saved" and lives a selfish life.

I think that we some times take our salvation, our parish and our parish community for granted.  We think they will always be there and we place much greater expectations on our church than we do on ourselves.  Here is the truth.  I need you to be at church.   need you to pray with me and for me.  I need you to sing the songs, I need you to shake my hand and I need you to give of yourself to our community.  St. Francis or any other parish family you choose to share yourself with is not the same place without you.  You are that important to me, to us.  You see, I can't repay my debt to God either.  I struggle to be the person God asks me to be the same way that you do.  I am a better person, a better parishioner and a better Christian with you in my life.

During this Advent season, make a promise to me, to your parish and to your God that you will make a commitment to recognizing the profound impact you have on the good of our community and commit to make the community a real priority in your life.  We miss you when you are not here.  So be grateful for the gift of your parish.
Thanks for listening.

Music for December 12-13

Processional - Emmanuel -

Psalm - Cry Out With Joy -

Offertory - I've Got That Joy -

Communion - Sacred Silence -

Recessional - Soon and Very Soon -


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Keeping Christ In Christmas - Music for December 5th and 6th

Hello St. Francis,
I am excited to tell you that my home is officially decorated for the Christmas season.  Lights, wreathes, Christmas stuffed animals and a big tree right in the middle of my living room.  When I first got married, both of my grandmothers gave us as a wedding gift beautiful Christmas Manger scenes.  One, is crystal and quite frankly I am afraid of breaking it every time I open up the box ( I can be a bull in a china shop) and the other is a children's set with plastic and durable figures.  I appreciated these because as I grew up there was always a manger in just about every room.  I also felt like the "kids" set was a little premature as we had just gotten married and it was July.  To this very day, my grandparent amaze me with their wisdom.  The lesson that they were trying to give to me is one that I am just beginning to realize.

This year, as my kids were helping us decorate the tree, we got to those manger sets and my daughter began to talk about how she was learning about how much Jesus loved her because He came to earth to be friends with us.  My son asked me who was Jesus' mommy and daddy? And, who were all these other figures that we were putting near them?  And so, the conversation began.  It wasn't a conversation about what they wanted Santa to bring them or which decoration should go where, or, whose stocking got hung in the most conspicuous place.  It even wasn't about "Lucy", our personal "Elf on the Shelf".  The conversation was about Jesus.  As young as they are I felt as though they began to understand something about God and about Christmas.  They are still looking forward to Kris Kringle's annual visit but this year, they want to not just leave cookies and milk (and carrots for the reindeer) by the tree.  This year, they want to also leave a present for Jesus.  I told them that just by remembering how much Jesus loved them, they are giving Him the only gift He wants.  They were amazed!!!  All they have to do is love Jesus and that makes him happy?  I said, "That's it".  My son said "Do we love him the way we love you and mom?"  I said, "That's Right".  "So, I am going to love Jesus as much as I can"  he said.  Then my daughter said "and we should probably try to be nice to other people too since Jesus asks us to do that".

Maybe it was my grandmother's wisdom or maybe it was just the fact that the manger sits right next to our Christmas Tree just like they did at my grandparents house and as it always did at my parents house but I'm sure glad I got that gift.  Maybe, when my kids are all grown up and their grandmother's give them a manger they will remember this conversation that they had with their parents and teach their kids about how much Jesus loves them too.


Recessional - Ready The Way -