Monthly Archives: January 2018

A Thursday Reflection 1.25.18

On Sunday, a few of you commented that you never received last week’s “Reflection.”  I know it was written and set up to be sent.  Many of you might have received it on Monday.  For reasons we don’t quite understand, the program believed that the reflection should go into the “draft – unfinished” folder rather than the “to be sent” folder – in spite of the fact that every usual and normal procedure was followed.  Our technology “hiccupped.”

We 21st century folk tend to put so much trust in our technology – dare I say that we all too often put “faith” in our technology.  In an era that scoffs at any faith in God, we put so much  faith in our iphones, our computers, the net, social media, all our technological advances in medicine, science, law and, of course, weaponry.

We trust our systems and yet over a week ago, pressing one wrong button (switch, lever, keystroke – does it really matter?) could have brought us all into World War III – a false report of an inbound missile.   We make our plans concerning winter driving safety based on the accuracy of forecasts – but how often this winter have those forecasts been fuzzy and iffy – leaving us virtually unprepared for what is to come.    Because we are so busy, we tend to communicate via texts and emails – which often go unread because we have hundreds of them clogging our in-box. Therefore, instantaneous non-communication is the basis for our staying in touch.  Don’t even get me started how it has been demonstrated too many times that people tend to say harsher, nastier or more untrue things in a text or tweet than they would face-to-face.  Nor does a written text always convey the tone (light vs. serious; ironic vs. literal) of what is being said.

Now look: I marvel at the things we humans can accomplish and create when such is for the good.  I wish I were more tech savvy.  But the creative work of human hands does not always lead to fulfillment or happiness.  The Book of Genesis teaches a story intended to be both humorous and serious.  A bunch of powerful creative guys (and yes, this time “men” means “men” so you women are off the hook!) were basking in their testosterone and essentially declared:  we’re great!  Let’s show all humanity and history how great we are.  Let’s build a huge city and center it with a tower that touches the very face of god in the heavens.  Even god(s) will know how much we can do on our own.   Go back and read “the rest of the story.”  How well did that turn out for them?  Be careful in whom or what you put your faith!!!!!

Fr. Joe

A Thursday Reflection 1.18.18

The last week or so has not been pleasant.    Hard necessary decisions for this parish were made by those in authority that always prove to be less than popular and whose consequences are still unknown.  On a personal note, while given a clean bill of health from my cardiologist (there is always a “yes, but.. ”), I have been instructed to begin a physical therapy regime which, while perhaps a bit intimidating for a man in the twilight of his “middle age,” also raises the specter that in terms of health, I will never return to that person I was “when I wore a younger man’s clothes” to quote the great Billy Joel.
While I haven’t ever even seen any of the “traditional”  (“Housewives of ___”) reality TV programs, I have found a few scripted “reality” programs that are at times uplifting and at times heart wrenching.  Two summers ago, a program entitled A Vet’s Life began to unfold the lives of three African-American (classmates) veterinarians who opened a clinic in Houston.  There have been the usual array of stories of life and death: animal lives saved and lost.  You cheer.  You feel badly for those who have lost a beloved pet.
This new season dramatically began with the struggles to reopen their clinic in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey from last summer!  Do you remember the first of the apocalyptic storms that hammered us last year?
For one hour, I was mesmerized at the close-up, cell phone, non-scripted images as well as professionally shot footage of the destructive power of wind, rain and water that caused so much death, heartbreak and destruction.  I watched a clinic staff try to reconnect lost animals with owners, treat sick, scared and confused pets (and their owners as well) while dealing with loss of power, loss of potable water, lack of medicine, lack of dry “anything,” washed out (just .. gone!) roads, houses flooded, houses washed away (and just gone), all the while also and primarily trying to help out their human community members in need.  Their story was inspiring.  I watched the staff of a clinic seek out each other to make sure they had all survived – with all the attention and perseverance that one should expect from a family.
In effect I was reminded that we who were really spared from the intensity of last summer’s storms have so much to be grateful about, and need to be aware that so, so many are still without life’s basics.  Whenever I am emotionally down about the conditions of life for us here in this region and this parish under the circumstances we live, I need to remind myself of just how fortunate we are.  “There but for the grace of God go I” – as the prayer states.
Feelings aside, even the feelings of regret and sadness, we remain as a community yet untouched by some of the harshest treatment that life in its unpredictability can impact upon us.  Our prayer ought to be first and foremost one of gratitude.  Then secondly our prayer should be for those who suffer – those distant victims of war, disease and natural disaster, but also those in our own community who sometimes endure pain and sadness that we simply do not know.  Finally it impels us as a church to reach out to each other and to those outside our orbit to be the instruments of caring and hope.   If you can do something, then do something.  Don’t wait to be told or to receive approval.   Any life you can impact positively, even if in the slightest way, please do so.  “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers, you did to me.”

–  Fr. Joe


A Thursday Reflection 1.11.18

I’ve often made use of Abby, our border collie, as a teacher.  I think we had another one of those moments this morning.  A border collie, driven by instinct and force of will, seems to have within this unquenchable fire to find herself a flock and herd them.  As we have so many deer, foxes or feral cats who seem to run through our yard (and leave imprints in the snow),  Abby naturally has been sniffing her way up one side or down the other of most of the trails and embankments around the clergy residence trying to find those whom she should herd and protect!

But this morning, I guided her away from the normal paths (trod upon by the “usual suspects”) and guess what?  She went flying through the fresh untouched snow with only the desire to find a new path, seek out fresh scents to sniff and boldly go where no dog has gone before!

As you begin 2018, take a few moments from your regular routine.  Instead of centering on (and complaining about) the bitter cold, the freezing rain or the perpetually gray skies, seek out some untouched path – not necessarily literally but symbolically!   Where can you “go” or explore or “do” that you have never gone, explored or done before?   Christian mystics might phrase it this way: sometimes God calls you to walk in new directions and seek God in different places.  So as we enter a new year, is there a new direction you might consider?  Is there a new project you might begin?  Is there a change in your life’s direction that might be ahead of you?

I can tell you that from watching Abby, it is such an important thing to do from time to time.

– Fr. Joe

A Thursday Reflection 1.4.18

We’ve finally left 2017 behind us, and now we approach, with hope, a new span of time – a new year – to mark our journey.  With more than one major life-changing medical procedure, the sadness of witnessing two of our family members deal with serious marriage issues, the (at least) inconvenience of moving the residence, the moving away of a few parish members who will truly be missed, the constant influx of anger-filled news (real or fake – I guess that depends on whose truth you choose to believe) as well as the realization that “truth” itself is no longer an objective reality but depends upon one’s choice of political philosophy, the reality that the Korean “police action” of the early 1950’s may be heading for renewal, and this time with the possibility of nuclear weapons, the reopening of so many wounds fed by subtle (or at times not-so-subtle) racism, the uncomfortable realities that the “me too” movement has brought to the surface (and before anyone challenges the utility of 40+ year old memories, please ask yourself if  you would not listen to any woman accuser if she were your daughter, your sister or your mom?) – O yeah 2017 was a year I am ever so glad to see the back of.

So what do I hope for in 2018?  I hope for a nation whose leaders might re-learn how to listen to rather than talk at each other.  I would love to see a culture where the “social” in social media was truly indicative of our willingness to communicate with, share and even uplift each other rather than an exercise is narcissism and cowardly name-calling and shaming.  I would love to see us as a church community truly live as persons of faith and commitment.  We are supposed to be members in a “Jesus movement” that began 2000 years ago.  We’ve a long way to go if we truly want to be persons who love, give and forgive as Jesus does!  I long for the sentiments expressed in our Christmas carols to become a reality each and every day of 2018.  May your New Year’s wishes also be granted!!

Fr. Joe