Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Guarding the Tomb...

of the Unknown Soldier. Even during a hurricane.

 The tomb was erected following WWI and honors the memory of unidentified soldiers killed in any war. The 3rd US Infantry Regiment consider it a duty of honor to continuously guarded the tomb and have done so since the beginning.

The picture above was taken today while Hurricane Sandy blew in, it needs to be noted that they don't necessarily walk the guard during extreme weather. They do, however, stay on site in a more protected area.

Bravo to those who refuse to allow even the weather to keep them from their sacred duty. 

It is sad that there are more than a few that feel this is fruitless and a waste of time and money. To me it sends a message from a grateful nation..."To those who have served, and those who still do, we will never leave or forsake you. We will never forget that you have paid the ultimate sacrifice, for us." 

Ancient Halloween

Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III (731–741) later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1. By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It is widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Loving the church...

Loving the Church does not require romantic emotions.  It requires the will to see the living Christ among his people and to love them as we want to love Christ himself.   This is true not only for the "little" people - the poor, the oppressed, the forgotten - but also for the "big" people who exercise authority in the Church.

To love the Church means to be willing to meet Jesus wherever we go in the Church.  This love doesn't mean agreeing with or approving of everyone's ideas or behavior.  On the contrary, it can call us to confront those who hide Christ from us.  But whether we confront or affirm, criticize or praise, we can only become fruitful when our words and actions come from hearts that love the Church.                             Henri Nouwen

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Time to check your password.

Password management company SplashData has analyzed millions of passwords released online by hackers to compile its list of the most used passwords of 2012. 
Once again, "password," "123456" and "12345678" were the top three most common passwords. 

But there were some interesting new additions to the list. "Jesus" and "Welcome" were new. So were "ninja," "mustang" and, intriguingly, "password1."

Our favorite password on the list, "trustno1," fell three spots from last year, making it only the 12th most common password. "Shadow" moved up one spot to No. 18 from No. 19. And "monkey" remained unchanged at No. 6.

SplashData recommends that if you use one of the passwords on this list, you change it immediately.

"Even though each year hacking tools get more sophisticated, thieves still tend to prefer easy targets," said Morgan Slain, SplashData's chief executive, said in a statement. "Just a little bit more effort in choosing better passwords will go a long way toward making you more secure online."  LA Times

To see the entire list, check the link above. If your password is listed, you might think of changing it, or modifying it at least. I'm glad to say mine (I use more than one) are not
listed...but that doesn't mean I'm safe from hacking...just a little harder to get to.

If you...

In other words, we are blessed...and with these blessings should come gratefulness and generosity! "To whom much is given, much is expected..." Luke 12:48

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Take a moment...

I know everyone has done a "flash mob"...but don't turn away. Give yourself a small gift today and listen to this refreshingly lovely rendition of Beethoven's Ode to JoyBe sure and watch the delightful reaction of the children. I can't help but think Beethoven would be pleased... 

Considering the acoustics, it is magnificent!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Joy is not something that just "happens" to us. Joy is a choice we must make, every day. It should be based on the knowledge that NO matter what happens, we belong to God.

In Him we have found our refuge, our safety and our strength. There is NOTHING, not even death, that can take Him away from us. 


Monday, October 22, 2012


by Asbo Jesus


There is a very loud, consistent and powerful message, coming to us from our world, that leads us to believe that we must prove our belovedness...by how we look, what we have, what we can accomplish, etc. It is unfortunate that we are so very slow to grasp the liberating truth of our origins. 

Life is a gift. We are each unique, we are known by name and are loved by the very One who fashioned us. Why is it we allow the "voice" of our world to drown out the "still, small Voice" of the One who loves us best?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


For all of you Dads out there who are wrapped around the little finger of your "princess"  daughter, you are not alone!

Just in case you don't recognize the song...Arial sings it in "The Little Mermaid" a perennial "princess" favorite!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


As I have noted on this blog before, it saddens me that the Space Shuttle program has been scuttled. Growing up when I did, getting up in the middle of the night to watch the first lunar landing, each launch of a shuttle was a marvel to behold. 

One can only imagine what the people who put their blood, sweat, tears and even lives into our space program feel about it. Each time the shuttle sailed into space was a testament to man's ingenuity and hard work. 

But alas, I was not consulted when the decision was made. Perhaps I am too sentimental...perhaps the dollars and cents required to keep them flying was to high. I shall never understand the why of it...

Endeavour was finally lodged at its retirement home Monday following a slow weekend parade through city streets that turned out to be a logistical headache. After a 12-mile weave past trees and utility poles that included thousands of adoring onlookers, flashing cameras and even the filming of a TV commercial, Endeavour arrived at the California Science Center Sunday.

Endeavour's arrival in Los Angeles was a homecoming. It may have zipped around the Earth nearly 4,700 times, but its roots are solidly grounded in California. Its main engines were fashioned in the San Fernando Valley. The heat tiles were invented in Silicon Valley. Its "fly-by-wire" technology was developed in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey. In 1991, it rolled off the assembly line in the Mojave Desert to replace Challenger, which blew up during liftoff in 1986.


The spiritual life is the life of the Spirit of Christ in us, a life that sets us free to be strong while weak, to be free while captive, to be joyful while in pain, to be rich while poor, to be on the downward way of salvation while living in the midst of an upwardly mobile society.  Henri Nouwen


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Out of Egypt

The USPS has unveiled their Christmas stamp for 2012:

This is a change from the traditional stamp depicting the Madonna and Child that has been used for almost 60 years. A member of the Postal Service Board of Governors stated, "The primary reason for Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ." 

The Postal Service chose a dramatic rendering from the Matthew 2:13 - 15--- 13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

This started me thinking of one of my favorite Advent paintings:

It's called "Rest on the Flight to Egypt" by Luc-Oliver Merson. 
Spend a few moments just looking...can you not feel the exhaustion? Joseph sleeping on the desert floor while Mary cradles the Child. Traveling through the desert is not easy even in the best of times...but knowing that death could be following close on your heels adds mental fatigue as well.

Notice that the Christ Child is the only source of light in the painting. He was homeless from birth. He was a refugee, an immigrant, a stranger in a strange land.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Faith and Hope

Last spring the Youth Bible Study was focused on the "7 Deadly Sins". In order to bring it full circle, this fall (until Advent), we are studying the comparable "Virtues". Last night's lesson was about Faith and Hope, two of the three theological virtues that are qualities of Christian character. 

I knew there had to be a verse or two that would sum up the idea of faith and hope and as I prepared the lesson I read and re-read each of the verses noted. While each dealt with one or the other, none actually encompassed both...at least not as far as my mind and heart could agree. 

And, as often happens, just before lesson time, I hit upon one of my absolute favorites:

Romans 8:38-39
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am thankful that God finds a way to get His word through my sometimes scattered brain. For He, and only He, knows just what to say. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of it's heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.
                                                           Helen Keller


Monday, October 8, 2012


In light of yesterday's "What's Next?" meeting at church, I felt this was most timely (emphasis mine):

 The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity.  It makes us into one body.  The apostle Paul writes:  "As there is one loaf, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one loaf" (1 Corinthians 10:17).

The Eucharist is much more than a place where we celebrate our unity in Christ.  The Eucharist creates this unity.  By eating from the same bread and drinking from the same cup, we become the body of Christ present in the world.  Just as Christ becomes really present to us in the breaking of the bread, we become really present to one another as brothers and sisters of Christ, members of the same body.  Thus the Eucharist not only signifies unity but also creates it.                                 Henri Nouwen

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The good old days...

I'm not one of those that feels that everything is better the way we "used" to do it...but then again, it's a shame that some of these will never be learned...

Such as

Reading a Map
If you ever took a road trip as a child, you may have fond memories of sitting in the backseat with a map spread across your knees, tracing the highways, and measuring the distance by the smallest digit of your little finger, which was a perfect match in size for the scale provided on the corner of each page. These days children watch a car-shaped icon navigate a digital road on our GPS system. These fancy gadgets have even put an end to the classic childhood question "Are we there yet?"


For our generation, writing a research paper meant spending a lot of time copying, by hand, the necessary information from heavy, leather bound volumes of an encyclopedia. The information was limited, static, and they required regular (and costly) replacement to stay current. These days kids need only power up the computer to instantly access a wealth of up-to-the-minute information on an endless variety of subjects. It certainly renders us less sympathetic when they complain about having to do 'research' for their school projects. 

And also, 

Playing Outdoors
 The final thing we enjoyed regularly as children that our kids may not is the simple act of playing outside. As the world we live in becomes increasingly tech-crazed, kids are more likely to play a video game, surf the web, or check out what’s on one the hundreds of channels that cable television now has to offer than to step outside. Still, running through the sprinklers, tree climbing, bike riding, and firefly catching — there is no App for that.

Like I said, not all of them are great, but it's a shame to loose some of them. Check the rest of the list  here...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mega Church

Which we are not...thankfully. This article was posted by one of my Facebook friends...I read a lot of truth there...

 The solution is to stop focusing on strategies meant to help a church become the next big thing, and simply be the church in your neighborhood in whatever form that takes. In the end, the age-old parish model, or neighborhood church is still the healthiest option. Tensions are present, but close proximity requires the fidelity which is essential to a healthy church. Small churches celebrate diversity. They no longer copy the mega-churches, because they don't have the resources to replicate their programs anyway. The small church doesn't ask, "What program can we create for single mothers," but rather, "What do we do for Sara? She's raising her kids all by herself." The result is a wonderfully diverse response to the challenges of communal life. When the solution to each local issue is not a program, but a relationship, then it is sustainable over time, and is free to grow without artificial means.

Take a moment to read the rest...

Small youth groups

I had the privilege of teaching a workshop during Warmth in Winter (our local conference winter retreat for youth) a couple of years ago. It was geared toward adult leaders and was a "new" experience for me! The title was "Single Digit YouthMinistries". My first statement was "If you came to this workshop to have me tell youhow to take a small youth group and build it into a large one, you're in the wrong place!" I'm glad to say that no one walked out! If you think about it, in large churches, the first thing they do in Youth ministry is to divide the young people into "small" groups based on age, grade or other criteria. Our small group is ready made.

Although the congregation of most every church would love to have a Youth group with 50 or 100 young people, my passion is for smaller gatherings. Having a group our size allows me (and the other adults) to be in relationship with all the young people...no one gets lost in the shuffle. We can know about what happens in their lives, what is important to them, what scares or hurts them...and we're in a place to help them address it.

There have been times in the past that I would fret about not reaching a larger group and questioned if I was the right person for the job. But then I realized, this is NOT a job to me, it's a mission, it's my way of reaching out and I am blessed to be in relationship with these people. It's our desire to reach the ones we have rather than be concerned about the ones we don't. Besides, when Jesus called His disciples, He only called 12!

Do you think numerical growth is the only indicator of a healthy Youth ministry? Numbers can be an indicator but it's not a decisive one. "Fun" youth group meetings can attract larger numbers but ministry is not all about games. It must include spiritual growth and spiritual growth is solely a work of the Holy Spirit in a person's life. If a healthy group is not growing, could it be because God's plan for us right now is to be diligent in focusing on the students who are already here? Perhaps there are ways He wants us to grow that would not be possible in a group where we can't truly know each one by name.

There is nothing we can do to force a young person to grow. The best we can do is pray like their lives depend on it (because they do) and seek the Lord's wisdom in creating environments that encourage their spiritual growth. Beyond that, we must remain open for the Lord to use us however possible in communicating His Truth and let Him be the one that makes the Truth penetrate their hearts and souls.

"We" means the entire adult congregation, not just the youth workers. Won't you add your prayers or pass along an idea to help us nurture them? We are blessed because this is a ministry that needs all of us.


Friday, October 5, 2012

OK Ladies...

You know we all love to have our pictures made standing (or sitting) next to the man in our lives...but you have to admit, once in a great while, it would be fun to pose like this:

 You gotta love Will Smith!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Francis of Assisi

Most people think of Francis of Assisi as a sweet, simple kind of guy who picked flowers and talked with animals. He was much more than that. As a young man he willingly went to war, and eventually was imprisoned. Once while on the way to a battle, Francis heard a divine voice inviting him to start serving the master rather than the servant. It was then he decided to live for God alone.
Decision by decision he stripped himself of attachments, to be more like Jesus. In his early twenties, Francis decided to become like the poor he met in Assisi's back streets. One day, while praying, he heard a voice say, "Go and repair my church." Thinking that he was to fix the dilapidated church of St. Damian, he set to work. This infuriated his father, who took him to the bishop's court, demanding that his son repay the money he had spent on repairs. Francis then stripped naked, returning his clothes to his father as a sign that he was letting go of his family and his inheritance. He spent the rest of his life until his death in 1226 preaching and healing, attracting followers by his unflagging devotion to Christ.

 Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis, who was born Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone in 1182 and later founded the Franciscan Order and Women’s Order of St. Clare. Thousands come to worship in Assisi's magnificent churches, and to pray to Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of Italy affectionately called Il Poverello because he lived and preached a life of simplicity and poverty. Famous for its spectacular Basilica di San Francesco, built in the 13th century, Assisi is worth visiting even without the churches, extraordinary frescoes and associations with St Francis. Founded by the Umbrians, Assisi was prominent during the Roman era but achieved its greatest fame and importance during the Middle ages.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Explaining what some believe is unexplainable...

Although these 3 paragraphs come at the end of the article...I would suggest reading the whole thing. An interesting take on explaining Christianity to the Atheist...

And this, finally, is the answer Christianity gives to suffering. Since Christ became all sin, and suffering is the result of sin, Christ took upon himself all suffering. Since his act was for all earthly time, this includes our current suffering. If this is true, no suffering is apart from the suffering of Christ. All is his. I am a Christian because I can acknowledge the reality that my suffering is in fact the suffering of Christ, and thereby “offer it up” with him, giving it meaning and the most glorious of purposes: The end of all suffering.

As Paul says: “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Our suffering, because it is Christ’s, saves the world.

This changes everything: To see the child with leukemia is to see Christ suffering in that child, suffering to bring the world back to Perfection. To experience agony is to cry out with the strain of lifting this fallen world to Paradise. We are called to recognize this, and to actualize this. This is why I am a Christian.

Most popular...

surnames that is. Interesting...mine is not shown!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


The closer we get to November 7th, the more contentious the rhetoric seems to get. The question is, do you believe that pastors should endorse a candidate from the pulpit? The IRS Tax Code is set up to deny pastors that right...but is it truly a "right"?

This is a most interesting survey...

Meanwhile, in many mainline churches, the curious thing this Oct. 7 will not be Pulpit Freedom Sunday, but World Communion Sunday. In these churches, the day’s worship will not be centered on one man (because it is almost always a man who enjoy freedom to speak in a pulpit in most churches) at the podium, but on the body of Christ around the world feasting at a communal table.

The difference in how this Sunday will be marked seems instructive, symbolic even. In one, the focus rests on the importance of freedom and of an individual speaking out, fist pounding with righteous fury about a fleeting moment in one country’s political history. In the other, the focus will be on men, women, children, rich, poor, gays, lesbians, Africans, Asians, Australians, Europeans, and Americans, coming to a shared table with thanksgiving and solidarity, palms outstretched receiving a piece of bread, a sip of wine, eternal life. 

Read the rest...

Equipping Parents

 Spiritual formation begins in the home.  Well, that’s at least according to the way Susannah Wesley raised her children.  I believe that many of our U.M. Churches have relinquished this responsibility in equipping, encouraging and preparing parents to intentionally pass on spirituality and the language of the Christian faith to their children.  That’s not to say that there aren’t some churches have done a phenomenal job at equipping parents to pass on the faith, however, not enough leaders in the church are taking this very important responsibility seriously.

The article quoted above is called  Equipping Parents,  but I would propose that the title should include "and the Church". It should be an important read for each and every member of a congregation.

To make it easier, here is the link to the Spiritual Generativity Essay noted.

The work by Kendra Creasy Dean referenced in this article is "Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church". I have a copy of this book if anyone in the congregation would like to read it.