Monthly Archives: January 2019

Thursday Reflection 1.31.19

Thursday Reflection
Thursday, January 31, 2019
“What is God Calling me to do?”
  Even though the 2 year old Program does not meet in the church office today and this should be (in theory) a “quiet” day, I am struck by the amount of noise and “anticipation”: that is in the air.
           A quiet day without little ones on the other side of the wall means that I can bring Abby to the office where her biologically driven instinct (to both protect and round up in a circle) the toddlers won’t have to kick in. We can have some quiet time. But I let her play and run about madly in the hour before anyone arrived on this property, and so now she is exhausted, sleeping on the rug, and snoring so loudly that I might consider using earplugs.
           However, the reverberating crunches of tree cutting / trimming going on in the area are semi-deafening as well. All this in anticipation for another winter storm we’ve been promised for later.
           But this is mere background noise compared to the chatter of semi-frozen moms standing in the parking lot having dropped off their 3 and 4 year olds at the ELC and are now anticipating (loudly enough to be hear in my office over the tree cutting and the dog snoring) the upcoming storm and all their relative “alternate plan B’s” for the rest of the day.
           Add a truck engine of the vehicle picking up clothing from the clothing bin and a sprinkling of horns honking (someone on Rt. 35 must not be turning on to Spring St. rapidly enough), and so called “life in the country” can clearly hold its own against any urban racket assaulting the ears.
           To be honest, I think we have become a culture that worships noise. Talk Radio can generate neither income nor ratings unless there is mutual antagonism and shouting over the airwaves. A Championship Football game will be played on Sunday, but one would think that civilization as we know it will depend on its outcome – so much is the hype and the boasts and the wishing of evil unto mine enemies! (which for any New Yorker, I guess that means any team in any sport that calls New England its home base!). I have watched with fascination how reporters / journalists (allegedly professional listeners and learners) shout over each other and keep re-asking the same questions because they aren’t paying attention to what has been said – they seem only interested in formulating their own noise!
           Speaking as one who owns more than his fair share of guilt in this matter, I hope (another New Year’s resolution – perhaps) we might learn to take time to find some QUIET so that heads can be cleared, eyes can be opened, and we can be insulated (for a moment at least) from all the noise about us. Maybe when there is some quiet, then some listening to what really matters might start taking place. Maybe people can then begin to talk rather than text each other as their primary means of communication because this speech (and sound) is important. And maybe we all can learn to not be so afraid of the silence. Helps with thinking (rather than emoting – and that has got to be a good thing.  Now will someone please wake up this dog before her snoring shatters a window!!!!!!!
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 1.24.19

Thursday Reflection
Thursday, January 24, 2019
“What is God Calling me to do?”
          Let me give you an example of something which, while majestic to witness, is a sign of things-not-good.  You who are caretakers of dogs know that no matter the weather, you must take care of your charge and provide opportunity for him or her to respond to the “call of nature.” So Abby and I had our share of slip sliding and trekking over the frozen snow and ice these past few bitterly cold mornings/evening. And then we saw it:
At the back of the yard usually runs a waterfall type stream (referred to as “babbling brook” in the real estate literature). However in response to subzero wind chills, that entire water display (from over the hill way beyond our back yard down to road beyond the front of the house) had frozen solid.  It is a river of ice – suspended in time and space. Any creature unlucky enough to have been in it is now solidly embedded within its mass (kind of like Harrison Ford’s character “Hans Solo” in the concluding scene of Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back).
There is a seductive attraction to the frozen river. It is beautiful to behold! It is awesome and cool to witness a wall of water now frozen where it used to flow rapidly. But it’s wrong! This is so wrong! That water was intended to move, to vivify the life forms within it, and to gracefully inspire us to passage with it into future movement. But it’s motionless and solid, going nowhere, and taking up space without purpose.
One of my concerns for our parish (as a symbol for my church in general or even our nation) is the fear that we become so fixated on ourselves, that we never consider change or growth or the input of anything or anyone new, and we remain “frozen.”  When I was investigating this deep and rich Anglican tradition of Christianity, one of the factors I had to overcome was how some few people (with smirk but also with a kind of off putting pride) advised me that “we are God’s frozen chosen.”  Now I don’t hear that phrase uttered aloud much anymore, but I certainly still experience the effects of those who choose to believe this.
While I do not believe in shedding all traditions or always taking a contrarian approach simply because I can (that’s such 9th grade thinking, is it not?), I am very concerned by those who desperately want to hold on to structures, people, ideas or material things which no longer serve their original purpose. In any organization, a parish included, if the buildings, just as an example, become a drain or an eyesore because one cannot properly and responsibly care for them, then holding on to them makes little sense. If people choose to move on and find their own way to God by another path, rather than condemn them or desperately try to hold on to them with self-denigrating apologies, let them go. Honor their choice. Be faithful to what you believe is the right choice for you. If new people do enter our community, they need to be loved and embraced and listened to – and not merely talked at and made to feel that they should be grateful we let them in the door. Just because things were done in a certain way for years, decades or even centuries does not, of itself, tell us that this is the way things should be done now. We need to discern, judge, examine, pray for wisdom, and then act to bring about, with God’s grace, life we share and will share, and not just muse that our better days are behind us.
I believe in movement. I believe in growth. I believe that “God calling us” means we must move towards God – and “move” is the operative word. I don’t want history to judge us as the group that chose to remain frozen. Looking at the frozen waterfall, I am afraid it has lost its beauty as far as I am concerned. Just saying!
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 1.17.19

Thursday Reflection
Thursday, January 17, 2019
“What is God Calling me to do?”
         I think I’ll leave Abby out of this week’s musings! (She is starting to “want a piece of the action,” and I don’t feel like sharing any portion of the “millions” I make in bonus money for writing this column)!
         How well do any of you tune out the “noise” around us? As a kid who found it impossible to study if TV or radio were on, it is surprising that as much work gets done at the church office on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. For those who are unaware, on those days, our Early Learning Center’s Two Year Old’s Program takes place in the “classroom” next to my office.
There are many many little two year old humans reacting with joy, sadness, glee, terror and crankiness at the thought of being dropped off by mom (or dad). If you are looking for peace and quiet, time for prayerful meditation, or the pacific journey into some mystical experience, then TRUST ME, you do not want to be near this office on those days. Play time is loud time. Learning time is loud time. I’m sad because mommy is leaving me is very loud time. It is the wonder filled stuff of childhood, and as a priest and grandpa, I marvel at the beauty of what goes down in that room.
But I am also moderately proud of myself for having learned to “tune out” all the action background noise seeping through thin walls. I am learning to laser focus on what needs to be written / read or the person with whom I am speaking. (Spoiler alert: on Friday the Bishop’s assistant [“point person”] who is coming up from NYC to set up the details for the Bishop’s Pastoral Visitation in a few weeks is going to be meeting with me, in this office, with this joyful noise. This is what we call a “teachable moment” – what life is like in the real world)!
But this is all an introduction for me to question: are we still able to tune out the noise that so dominates 21st century USA life? Can you focus on what is important in the midst of the shouting, the anger, the fear, the false assumptions, the lies, the pain that all conspire to distract us from what our life’s journey is really about. “Talk” radio has become “screeching” radio and whether the object is sports or politics, all we hear is noise. Can we tune the racket out and focus on solutions and not scream and blame for the problems.
And, speaking as one who needs the “quiet” (and is the stone thrower living in the glass house), can we make more time to make quiet around us. I think the lyrics of the song went: “all we need is love”  and not “all we need is noise.” I know this comes as a shock to many, but not everyone needs to hear my voice or read my thoughts at every moment of every day. There really is need for quiet time – and then maybe some one-to-one conversation. Who knows? Maybe we start to become reflective and gentler in our dealings with the other, and maybe if the background noise that infests life is managed, there will be less need for columns like this. (And then Abby says I can spend more time writing about her).
Fr. Joe

Thursday Reflection 1.10.19

Thursday Reflection                                                                                                    

Inspired to make a difference” 

January 10, 2019

I long ago had stopped making New Year’s resolutions since I tend to break them so easily.  I think this year, I am proposing one for myself and anyone else who has the courage to take the challenge.  As often happens in my unusual life as an adoptive Border collie parent, this resolution is born from a conversation we had during one of our cold wet early morning “bathroom” – and – exercise walks!

Dodging rain drops, Abby asked me what “zero sum” means as it refers to politics or economics.  Now what I know about either discipline would fit into a thimble, but this I do know: the phrase assumes that there is only a finite and limited about of “x” in the world (and “x” can be food, powermoney, love or anything for that matter.   Whatever I possess will take away from you.  There is no middle ground.  If I win, you must lose!  If I have authority, you must submit.  If they “love” me, they must “hate” you.    (I know this is a bit simplistic, and it makes life sound like the one-and-done format of the NFL playoffs, but like I told you, I am no political or economic theorist)

As I tried explaining what I barely understand and do not believe in to my far-too-inquisitive border collie, her theological acuity kicked in.  She wanted to know if I believed that God was so limited, eg, if God infinitely loves me, then God must love someone else less.  I explained that, to me, that’s what the theory would hold, but I can’t buy that.  She then asked me, does this kind of thinking undergird all our politics today:  one must never compromise.  One must win and this means one must destroy the other.  I told her that political practitioners might not express their thoughts so crassly, but it is hard to not see this being played out day after day in the public arena.

Although I am tugging at her to come in out of the rain, she digs in her paws and asks:  so is that why some people leave their respective groups (be that group a “family,” a “church” a “club,” etc?  If I can’t get my way all the time, then I quit.  Again, I tried to explain that this is a rather simplistic way of viewing things, but to be honest, for some, this is exactly why they move on.  Others may have tried and tired of compromise.  Some must never do so as they deem themselves always right all the time.

So here is my resolution for 2019:  I am going to religiously try to avoid “zero sum” thinking!  If I do not get my own way, I will be at peace with the final decisions of others.  I will not treat my opponent as my enemy.  I will try to imitate our beloved Master who wishes us to love others, even our enemies, with the same steadfast love that God always has for us.  Now I do have one advantage as I hope to live out this resolution: I know who will be watching me each morning and asking if I am keeping my resolution.   Of course, then she’ll more than likely ask me to slip her more food for breakfast as long as mommy doesn’t find out.

Fr. Joe

 

Thursday Reflection 1.3.19

Thursday Reflection
Thursday January 3, 2019
“What is God Calling me to do?”
           In spite of the rain on New Year’s Eve, I have just come off the most wonderful few days away – visiting children and grandchildren.   It was the first time in months where I have spent days in utter relaxation and not bothered with emails, writing sermons, following up with insurance companies or reviewing work contracts. I have just had some time with the pure of joy of being irresponsible and silly and eating all sorts of things that I dare not put in print lest either my beloved wife or my cardiologist read this and explode at me!
           However, it was still time for prayerful reflections. Abby and I took long walks on unfamiliar turf (the local high school football field and the various tree filled streets behind it) where we raced from (I guess?) smell to smell in spite of cold.  Of course being a year away from a heart procedure, I can do far more than I could a year ago, but still I am coming to face an undeniable truth – my body no longer allows me to pretend to be 25 (or even 65), and each step with a racing border collie reminds me that the finish line of my journey is now that much closer.
           I walked by unfamiliar and large village church buildings that seemed to me to be filled with as few (maybe fewer) than those who join us in worship each weekend here.   Christianity as we know it is changing in terms of those who wish to commit themselves to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I think we will be a much smaller but hopefully more dedicated communion.
           I have now seen at family / friendly gatherings that there are now topics (politics / politicians, religion v. spirituality, beliefs about culture and custom that are just so volatile that the topics for intellectual conversation have been reduced to watching the next funky reality based TV cooking show!  I am sensing that that the voices of discord and anger are getting so loud that one may not even utter a musing thought without fear of reprimand (or threat of reprisal). And I pray with hope that this coming year the volume gets turned down and we try to listen a bit more – it can’t get worse – but that’s what I was hoping for a year ago! How did that work out?
           So I am ready to throw myself back into the “battles” of life. 2019 is here. Let’s not just wistfully hope but truly work at committing ourselves to improving our own lives and the lives of others in 2019.  Let us be instruments of peace. Let us make this coming year a year to remember for all the right reasons as we remain open to be vessels of God’s grace to a broken and dark world. Happy New Year!
Fr. Joe