Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Some Philosophies Never Go Out Of Style

Hello St. Francis,
I was perusing my social media this week and happened upon an article written about Mr. Rodgers, you know from Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood.  It brought me back to my youth but also reaffirmed something that I have always believed.  Mr. Rodgers was a brilliant man who really understood what it meant to live your Christian vocation.  If you have not read any of his books, do yourself a favor and get one...any one.  They are filled with such incredible wisdom.  So, this week, I leave my reflection in the good hands of Mr. Rodgers.

Have a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Music for the 4th Sunday of Lent
Processional - Shine On Me
Psalm 23
Offertory - Leaning On The Everlasting Arm
Communion - In This Place
Recessional - I Know The Lord Laid His Hands On Me

What We Can Still Learn From Mister Rogers as Adults
6 gems from the late, great PBS star to celebrate his birthday
By Shayla Stern
Editorial Director, Next Avenue
Hi Neighbor.
You cannot say those words, even many years since Fred Rogers last created new TV shows, without knowing that they’re from Fred Rogers. That gentle voice with the slight drawl soothed even the most restless spirits.
I remember coming home from preschool and having my babysitter turn on Channel 12 – my local PBS channel – to calm me before “rest time.” But it doesn’t matter if you were a child in the decades that Mister Rogers was on TV. Rogers, who died in 2003, created nearly 900 episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood — and in the process, cultivated life lessons to last the rest of our lives. And so much of his wisdom applies to us in our many stages of adulthood.
To celebrate Mister Rogers’ birthday (he would have been 89 on March 20), here are six of those gems:

1. Routine and responsibility are the bedrock of your day. Every day, Mister Rogers entered the home on his show and did the same things — sang a peppy song, put on his cardigan and changed out of his dress shoes, fed the fish and had a warm conversation with us. Routines are comforting to children, but maintaining a daily routine and something that brings you care and comfort can get you through hard times no matter your age. A sense of responsibility for ourselves and others — another side of many of our daily routines — can do the same. Feed your pets, call or text lonely friends, offer a ride to a neighbor, hug your families. As Rogers sang, “It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive.”
2. It feels good to make something, even if you aren’t very good at it. In one episode, Rogers used crayons to make a quick picture and illustrate a point, saying a little off-handedly, “I’m not very good at it, but it doesn’t matter. It feels good to have made something.” That’s true — from coloring to roasting a turkey to rewiring a lamp to knitting a scarf to putting together an IKEA dresser (OK, the last one might be a stretch, since your blood pressure may have risen from all the anger and frustration).

3. Put on your sneakers. It always helps to change into your comfortable play clothes at the end of the day. My kids crack up when I come home from the office and tell them I need to change from my work clothes to my play clothes. Even if I wore jeans to work that day, I make a point of changing. It really does add a sense of separation between work and home.

4. The Land of Make-Believe is still there for you. We know a lot about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, even if — to paraphrase Mister Rogers – you aren’t very good at it. But what about quietly using your imagination to drift and think about how you might make the world better and more magical? Create your own Land of Make Believe. Whether you create characters and a story or just close your eyes and imagine the world in a different light, playing make believe can be good for the soul. Or maybe you’ll brew up an idea that goes from Make Believe to Reality. You don’t even have to take a trolley.
5. Look for the helpers. In recent years, the Fred Rogers Company has published a nice body of parent resources, including an interview with Rogers in which he talked about how to help children get through tragic events. Here’s one quote from it: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” When something terrible happens in your life, do the same. So many people around you are willing to help if they know that you need help. And better yet, now that you’re grown up, you can be one of the helpers for others in times of need.

6. Finally, just be a good neighbor. From Lady Elaine to Henrietta Pussycat to King Friday, Mister Rogers’ friends from the Land of Make Believe often enacted lessons about how to treat each other through times of misunderstanding and hurt feelings. We now live in a time where misunderstanding and hurt feelings abound in real life. Remember, everybody’s going through something they probably aren’t telling you about. Maybe they cannot even articulate it themselves. Rogers demonstrated on his show and in real life that empathy and grace are the most important foundations to being a good neighbor. His birthday seems like a great time to remind ourselves of this particular life lesson and to take a moment and figure out how to go out and be a good neighbor to someone who needs one.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Themes on Hope

Hello St. Francis,
So, this week there is a lot to take in, but I want to focus this reflection on the themes of HOPE.

What is Hope?
In everyday speech we say: ‘I hope it doesn’t rain today’ or ‘I hope my bus comes soon’.
Christian hope is more than wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is often an avoidance of reality.
 It is passive in nature. It expresses a belief – or doubt – in the hand of fickle fate. It tends to have a fixed understanding of what the desired outcome is and how it will be achieved.

Christian hope begins with what ‘is’, facing this reality. Hope sees not just what is, but what can be; it is not blind to obstacles; it takes them seriously and is practical in addressing them.
Hope is active, flowing from the activity of the Spirit within us.  Hope is an expression of God who
is enduringly creative and resourceful within what is. Hope flows from belief in God who is ever incarnate in what ‘is’. In Christ God continually enters our broken, suffering and disunited world and by his living, dying and rising makes all things new. Hope is a work of the Spirit within, drawing all that is dead into being, and leading all that is divided into unity. Hope is not only about what we
believe but what we live. Hope is the overflow of the Spirit engaging us in bringing about a new creation in Christ.  Hope moves us into God’s vision for ourselves, our church and our community.

Hope is a cooperation with the Spirit.  Hope expresses the willingness to work in partnership with God. In our lives and in our work we seek to understand what the Spirit is doing and to co-operate with this work.  Hope involves waiting, we wait actively...working, and searching, for life is in our hands. It is the one who seeks who finds, and the one who asks who receives, and the one who knocks who will find the door opened. And yet we also wait passively – for the right time to come, for growth to take its course, and to receive by gift what cannot be ours by effort alone.

Hope leads us to act purposefully in the present as we anticipate the work of Love in the future through drawing on the memory of love received in the past.

As we continue with our Lenten prayer, may I suggest this reflection as a way to further recognize what hope is and how it is an indispensable part of our Christian lives.

Living in Hope:  Prayer and Reflection Exercises

1. Witnesses to hope
Read through some bible passages about hope in a prayerfully reflective way – in God’s company. You might want to take one each day and reflect on it. As you begin, ask God to deepen your ability to see and act in hope.  Consider what they say and how this speaks to you – share with God
thoughts and questions that emerge. Then read the passage again and let it lead you into a time of simply resting in God’s presence.

2. The hope we carry
Look back with God on your life and faith journey. As you reflect on your experience of life and the goodness of God what is the message of hope you have to share with others?

3. Waiting and working
Hope involves waiting and working. Gardening symbolically expresses this partnership in hope. We sow seeds and nurture them as they grow, but the growth itself is a work of wonder.
Identify a hope that you sense God has planted within you. It might be to do with your own life and growth or about others whom you labor and care for. Sow seed in a seed tray or small pot, following any instructions supplied with them. When the seeds are big enough plant them out in your garden or in a larger container.

4. The light of hope
Bring an area of your work before God in prayer. Imagine hope to be a light. Where are the darkest corners in need of this light? Move the light of hope so it shines into these dark places – into every deep recess where light has been absent. What hope do you begin to see revealed?

5. Acting in hope
Hope is an action more than a feeling. We remember the works of God in the past and so anticipate the work of God in the future, leading us to act purposefully in the present. We recognize that we are invited to cooperate with what God desires to bring into being. Read one or more of the biblical stories about acting in hope – for example Jeremiah buying a field in a besieged city. Ask God to
show you an action you can take as an expression of hope, whether this in relation to your own circumstances, or someone you care for or the community or the church you are part of.

I hope these exercises can lead you to place of renewed and strengthened hope in God and in others. May your today be filled with hope-filled expectation of all of the amazing things God has in store for you.


Music for the 3rd Sunday of Lent

Processional: Somebody's Knockin' at My Door

Psalm 95

Offertory - Let The Church Say Amen

Communion - We Come To Your Feast

Meditation - Hiding Place

Recessional - Oh How He Loves You and Me

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Our Special Transformation

Hello St. Francis,

I don't know about you, but, every once in a while I fin myself wishing and praying for something to change in my life.  It could be as simple as praying the pain goes away when I stub my toe or it could e a big moment like when you find out a loved one is ill or the company is going to be laying you off.  What I hope for along with the erasing of the difficulty is a moment of profound meaning like the apostles got when they saw Jesus transfigured.  I sometimes get discouraged that these moments don't occur so often and that from time to time I feel as though "Jesus is NOT my copilot".  Like most, I guess, discouragement can happen most intensely when I feel like I am alone.  It's not that Jesus leaves my side or that He is not listening to my prayers, it's just that when moments of profound faith, grace and love envelop me, I sometimes wonder why that feeling couldn't have happened when I "REALLY NEEDED IT"  I mean, it is so much easier to live in the way I know I have been called to I seem to be catching every break.  When I think about it, I don't really question my faith or my intentions, I just felt like I need something to embrace me and help me, even if just for a few minutes to relieve me of something (and to be honest, I don't even know what it was that I needed relieved). 

For a time, I felt almost guilty of having this unrealistic expectation that God was just going to infuse me with some sort of special grace.  Maybe I was asking God for too much in needing the profound moment, maybe God was busy carrying the cross of someone whose burden is much greater than mine.  Who was I to want something more, something special?  And then I heard the word...HOPE. In that moment I did not receive a special grace, what I did realize in that moment is that just like we ask for profound moments from God, God also gives us the opportunity to be profound in our faith.  He allows us to tap into our hope and when we do this, I'd like to think that we give God a profound moment.  We show him that whether we are the center of attention, deeply faith filled, or questioning everything, we still follow. 

Peter was right.  If I were him I'd want to build a tent and live in that profound moment forever.  Why?  Because faith and even life is easy when we are surrounded by the profound grace and wisdom of God.  Something interesting happened then. The words I needed were given to someone else.  These were the words. "If our hope is centered in God's Love and if our hope is centered in the Resurrection than our hope must also be centered on the cross." 

So my friends, I have come to this conclusion.  Our hope, our life, our love and our faith can only be made profound if we truly embrace those times we feel alone, just like Jesus must have when He carried His cross.  When we seek a moment of grace and don't feel like we have it within us, it is then that we truly surrender ourselves to God and it is in that surrender that we find that profound moment. I was empty.  I felt alone.  And then at the cross I found Him.  But you know what, I think He was there all along.  That's pretty profound.