Ash Wednesday 3-6-2019

March 5th, 2019

Throughout our life’s journey, we turn:
We turn left or right.
We turn to see who is talking to us, we turn to see what that noise was that startled us.
We watch the leaves turn color, the skies turn dark, our hair turn gray.
We turn over a new leaf, we turn the corner, we turn things over in our minds, and we turn the house upside down to find something we’ve lost.
We turn the pages, we turn on the light, and we turn on the juice.
Throughout our lives, we are constantly seeking, waiting and watching when, where and how to turn.
Lent is the season to turn. These 40 days call us to repentance and conversion – in Hebrew, the word for repentance is to turn, like the turning of the earth around the sun, like the turning of the soil before planting. May this Lent be a season for our turning: our turning away from what is evil and harmful toward what is good and life-giving; our turning away from ourselves toward the love that embraces all; our turning away from the pressures and demands of this world toward the ways of God.
May each of us make a small effort to turn to God with all our hearts – we will be overjoyed with all God will give us in return.

Get Ready! Here Comes Lent! 3-3-2019

March 3rd, 2019

Let’s Be Nosey and Eavesdrop on a Conversation….
Emily looked at the calendar and sighed “Oh, no!” she moaned. It’s that time of year again. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6th.
“Lent,” I declared optimistically, “is a marvelous opportunity, a wonderful gift, a gracious invitation and God’s blessing of good news.”
“Bah!” Emily responded like an unrepentant Scrooge! And in rapid order, she ticked off her objections to Lent.
“Too restricting! A down-time! Old hat! Sad, dark, depressing…”
“Ooohh,” I said to myself. “Here’s a clear case of gloom and doom rather than an outlook of positive possibilities. I had better call the Spiritual Medics at 911…
Rather than a forbidding fence [holding one back] the 911 spiritual medics said, “Lent is an open door for personal growth.
+It is not a depressing down-time, but God’s gracious invitation to use one’s time for things that really count.
+This Lent is not a “been there, done that” but a clean slate for a new start.
+Not a sad, dark, or bothersome season, but one to move oneself forward for a fuller friendship with God, with self, and with others.
+Lent is a gift to realize who we are and where we are in God’s sight. It is a chance to change; it is a time to recharge our spiritual energies. It is an opportunity for new life.
+Lent is a call to make use of the time before us—it’s not so much something we’ve “got to do” as what we “get to do.”

For Lent to come alive—this year—we need to be specific in our intentions and actions. We cannot vaguely say, “this lent will be different” or “I’m going to be a better Christian. Such intentions sound good, but often they tend to evaporate like a puddle of water beneath a hot sun.
To help us with this, I have a challenge for you—the challenge is to remember this number: 144. In a 24-hour period there are 144 ten-minute slots of time.
For Lent this year, take TWO 10-minute slots of time per day and devote these two ten-minute slots to the things of God.
Let me toss out a few practical suggestions:
Begin each day with a prayerful and thoughtful sign of the cross.
Take time each day to be quiet in God’s presence.
Read a paragraph from scripture. Sit with it—break it open in our daily life.
Get rid of put downs, especially in our family.
Shed false images of yourself. Be honest!
Fast from prejudices, resentment, destructive gossip, unhealthy addictions.
Give up possessiveness of things or of people.
Stop being imprisoned by memories of past injuries.
Stop comparing yourself to others. Be yourself!
Communicate with a friend.
Remember a grace received—give thanks.
Laugh for 10 minutes a day: especially at yourself!
Begin fresh each day.
Appreciate your God-given gifts.
Use your gifts to help someone each day of Lent.
Be a caring and forgiving presence in your family.
Practice loving concern for poor people.
Share God’s love by random acts of kindness.
Care for the earth—recycle!
Turn off the TV! Talk more. (By the age of 50, most Americans have watched over 9 years of TV!)
There are so many more concrete and practical ways to be about the things of God this Lent.
It is time to recharge our spiritual energies.
To have an opportunity for new life—a fuller friendship with God.

A commitment to TWO 10-minute slots a day can change our lives!

A Difficult Challenge! 2-24-2019

February 21st, 2019

I find this Gospel very difficult. I say to myself – what a difficult challenge! What helped me were these two stories. Listen.
When Abraham Lincoln was campaigning for the presidency, one of his arch-enemies was a man named Edwin Stanton. For some reason Stanton hated Lincoln. He used every ounce of his energy to degrade Lincoln in the eyes of the public. So deep rooted was Stanton’s hate for Lincoln that he uttered unkind words about his physical appearance and sought to embarrass him at every point. But, in spite of this, Lincoln was elected the sixteenth president of the United States.
Then came the period when Lincoln had to select his cabinet, which would consist of persons who would be his most intimate associates in implementing his programs. He started choosing men here and there for the various positions.
The day finally came for Lincoln to select the all-important post of Secretary of War. Can you imagine who Lincoln chose to fill this post? None other than the man named Stanton. There was an immediate uproar in the president’s inner circle when the news began to spread. Advisor after advisor was heard saying, “Mr. President, you are making a mistake. Do you know this man Stanton? Are you familiar with all the ugly things he said about you? He is your enemy. He will seek to sabotage your programs. Have you thought this through, Mr. President?”
Mr. Lincoln’s answer was terse and to the point: “Yes, I know Mr. Stanton. I am aware of all the terrible things he said about me. But after looking over the nation, I find he is the best man for the job.” So Stanton became Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War and rendered an invaluable service to his nation and his president.
Not many years later Lincoln was assassinated. Many laudable things were said about him. But of all the great statements made about Abraham Lincoln, the words of Stanton remain among the greatest. Standing near the dead body of the man he once hated, Stanton referred to him as one of the greatest men who ever lived and said, “He now belongs to the ages.”
If Lincoln had hated Stanton both men would have gone to their graves as bitter enemies. But through the power of forgiveness Lincoln transformed an enemy into a friend. One simple act of forgiveness can change people’s lives. Are there any Stanton’s in your life right now?
Some years ago, a pastor in Boston was being harassed by a woman in his congregation. She started false rumors about him. She wrote vicious letters about him to his bishop and others. She initiated petitions to have him removed. After several months of this, the woman moved to another city and not long afterward was converted to Christ. Part of the process of her conversion was to realize the terrible wrong she had done and all the pain and suffering she had inflicted on her pastor in Boston. Consequently, she wrote him a long letter explaining what had happened to her and how deeply she regretted what she had done to him. The pastor immediately sent her a telegram with three words on it: “Forgiven, forgotten, forever!”
Is there someone we/you/me need to say those words to and mean them? Forgiven, Forgotten, Forever or do we want to live life like the trapped rattlesnake filled with resentment and bitterness and bite ourselves to death! I hope not. Lord help us!