Category Archives: Pastoral messages

Lent – A season of Reflection

Dear Friends in Christ,

Lent is a season of reflection. It comes from an old English word meaning “a lengthening.” And as the days become longer, we watch for signs of spring when nature sings a song of renewed life, energy and growth. This year I wonder if spring will ever come. But I know the season will turn and we see new signs of life.

Lenten_crossLent can also be a dangerous time. People come to the church looking for discipline and a new way to live, they come to be challenged and prepared for the despair and joy of the cross to come. The problem with Lent, however is we contain it to six weeks of doing good rather than creating a Lent that becomes a life. This year I would ask you to look at Lent with a life-giving lens and consider new ways to serve, give, and live that give life and joy not just for yourself but for others.

Let’s turn Lent upside down. Let’s be a little crazy. What if we gave up giving up and gave away faith: life-giving faith to those around us? How about a season of Lent that gives life? What if we woke up our faith…or stirred up our faith…and gave away our faith? What if we didn’t contain this to just the season of Lent but extended this beyond Easter? How about extending this for the rest of our lives! What if what we did for Lent became our life?

This year for the Season of Lent I will be focusing on the preface for LeJesusnt that we say at the Eucharist… that is “Let us prepare with joy for the Paschal feast”. Maybe that seems narrow to some. But I would like us to do just that, prepare with joy and build a Lent that feeds; to build a Lent that leads to life.

Our Wednesday evenings in Lent will be a night of food, conversation and prayer. Each week you will have a choice of four prayers to pray for the week. Over dinner we will share in the Eucharist and have conversation of how the prayer we prayed came to life in the week past. The program will begin at 6:00 pm and conclude by 7:30 pm.

I ask you begin to prepare for the season of Lent with this prayer from Stephen Charleston’s book Cloud Walking:

I pray a holy season for you, a season of answered prayer. I know there must be a longing in your heart, a hope you carry close. It may be a sudden change, a deep desire, even an older wish made long ago by a well of memory you believe may have gone dry. I will turn my own spirit toward you. I will join you in the stillness or the sorrow. I will lift my voice beside you. I will be the echo of your call. And while we wait together, to hear the reply, to see the result, I will share this season with you, the season of answered prayer.    Cloud Walking, Stephen Charleston, © 2013 Red Moon Publishing p. 31.

With my deepest gratitude for all that you do
and all that you are, I am…

Yours in Christ,
Rev. Carol+

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Welcome to the season of Epiphany!

Dear Friends in Christ,

Happy New Year! Welcome to the season of Epiphany!

I hope that the preparations made in Advent have brought you closer to Christ. As we enter into this New Year I pray that your relationship with Jesus is foremost in your life.

As we gather together for the annual meeting January 19th we will reflect upon the year past and look ahead to the year to come. May we look with eyes of faith that we will remain steadfast in our service to those in our community. May we look with eyes of hope and holy anticipation that we might see new ways to serve those around us. May we also look to the year ahead with excitement and holy expectation: What might this year bring to St. John of the Cross? What does God call us to be this coming year? How might we live into that calling?

May we look to the future with hope, faith and trust that God will lead the way.

With my deepest gratitude for all that you do and all that you are, I am..

Yours in Christ,
Carol+

I leave you with prayer – a thought for a New Year.

“All marks of time are an illusion, but even illusions have their place, so I step over this threshold, with a reminder of God’s timeless grace. May the days ahead bring you the challenge to be who you are called to be. May they offer you a warm hand of healing when you hurt, strength in every struggle, the sheer joy of new discovery. May you know the peace that passes understanding, the hope that lifts your spirit to new horizons. May you know love. May your talent be tested. And may the paths you follow, the causes you embrace, the truths you tell, bring you closer to the meaning of your tomorrow.”

“Cloud Walking A Spiritual Diary” The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston. RedMoon Publications, Oklahoma City OK 2013

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The gift of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love

Gloria in excelsis Deo

The Christmas story is filled with spectacular moments. Crowds surge into Bethlehem. Shepherds look into the sky, witness the angelic hosts, and hear heavenly voices in song: “Glory to God!” But it is the blessed Virgin, in her silent worship, who recognizes most powerfully that God has done something utterly extraordinary.

God breaks in… “The Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14). And we have seen the glory of Christ, full of grace and truth.”

God’s answer to hardened hearts is utterly unexpected. God doesn’t thunder at us from afar. No great announcement… no loud bang…. no grand entrance… just a mother, a father, a child born in manger. He could have been born in a palace fit for a king… but chose more humble surroundings.

During this Christmas season let us reflect how we celebrate the wonderful truth of Jesus Christ through metaphor, story, and poetry, and how our special Christian language enlivens a vision for our community and challenges us to find common language to share our experience of God with others. What child is this? It is the Christ child who is brought to us for our salvation. Let us remember, in our fast paced world of high technology, the simple story of the messengers, the manger and the Christ child.

May the true gifts of this season be yours:
The gift of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love
that is found in One born in Bethlehem,
Christ Jesus our Lord.

With my deepest gratitude for all that you do and all that you are, I am…
Yours in Christ,
Carol+

 

 

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Mirror Time

My friends in Christ,

There are times when I sit on the dock and look out at on the water and it is very still.  This typically happens late in the day and when the reflections are stunning.   I call it ‘mirror time’.   The reflection truly looks like a mirror image of the landscape.  For this to take place, the sun has to be just right and the water as still as can be.  It doesn’t happen every night… but when it occurs it takes my breath away.

Mirror time – when the reflections are just as brilliant on the water as it is looking at the actual houses and trees.  It is the way the sun reflects off the windows as well as the way it lights up the colors on the trees.  Beautiful images are always difficult to put into words, and one way I can sum up all that beauty is: Mirror time.

That is when I realize that not every moment in my life is an absolute 100% reflection of God’s love and grace.  If it were, I wouldn’t be human.  But as often as possible I try to reflect the love that God has shown and given to me.  To be that reflection of God’s love is being aware of our time, treasures and talents.  When we look at things in that reflective mindset, we can see that all we have is really God’s.  It isn’t given to us because of our achievements or what we do or who we are, but rather it is given out of God’s love and grace.  There is a story written by Bishop Greg Rickel that reminds me about God’s generosity in this newsletter, please take a moment to read it.

All that we have God has given us.  For the ministry to continue in Bristol, Indiana, through the parish of St. John of the Cross Episcopal Church, it will take all of us.  Each and every one of us… We must work on our invitation. We must always provide hospitality.  We must be willing to share our faith with others.  This year I ask that you consider your giving, your pledge, your stewardship, remembering that all you have been given is by the grace of God.  As you prayerfully consider your pledge this year I pray that it will be a mirror image of God’s gift to you.  Amen.

With my gratitude for all that you are and for all that you do, I am

Your servant in Christ,
Carol+

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I found this prayer and it spoke to me.  I use it often for centering prayer.  It settles deep into my bones. I leave you it with you as a prayer for the summer.  May it speak to your heart.

With my gratitude for all that you are and for all that you do, I am Your servant in Christ.  Rev. Carol+
 

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God
that you are exactly
where you are meant to be.

May you not forget
the infinite possibilities
that are born of faith.

 May you use those gifts
that you have received
and pass on the love
that has been given to you.

 May you be content
knowing you are a child of God.

 Let this presence settle
into your bones and
allow your soul the freedom
to sing, dance, praise, and love.

 It is there for each and every one of us.
Be still and be aware of God’s
presence within you and all around you.

May there be peace within.

 Teresa of Avila

 

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Easter Season

Dear Friends in Christ,

Most of us are familiar with the forty days of Lent and the twelve days of Christmas, but beyond Easter Sunday, how familiar are we with the Great Fifty Days of Easter?  Easter isn’t just a day, it is a season.   It is also a season of great joy.  Because Christ is risen, the fasting of Lent gives way to the feasting of the Easter season and the celebration of new life.

The Easter season begins on Easter Day by celebrating Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  Each of the Gospels gives an account of the resurrection: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20.  And yet, that is just the beginning. From the gospel stories of the empty tomb, we move through the rest of Eastertide hearing of the various accounts of the risen Christ appearing to the disciples: while in a room with the doors locked, on the road to Emmaus, while fishing on the Sea of Galilee, and more.

According to the Acts of the Apostles 1:3, Jesus made appearances to the disciples over the course of forty days.  On the fortieth day, he ascended into heaven, which we call “Ascension Day” (forty days after Easter Day).  Just before he ascended, however, Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem, and that the Holy Spirit would soon come upon them with power, and they would become his witnesses “in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).

So, they stayed in Jerusalem, gathered in an upper room in prayer over the next several days.  Then, on the tenth day (the fiftieth day after Easter Day) the Holy Spirit came upon them on the Jewish feast of Pentecost.  Traditionally, Pentecost was both an agricultural festival and a celebration of when Moses received the Torah.  Holding these two events side-by-side, we might say that just as the Spirit of God delivered life to the ancient Hebrews through the gift of the Torah, so the gift of the Spirit is given to bring life to all humanity.

For Christians, the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost marks the gift of the abiding and indwelling presence of God in all believers; the Spirit that is given to help us to be mature in our faith and guide us into all truth.  The Spirit of God is given to forgive, strengthen, heal, teach, and be our constant companion on the journey of life.

All of this is to say that the mystery of Easter is profound.  It is the story of a God who embraces our poverty, so that we may embrace the richness of God.  It speaks to us of death, birth, growth, change, and transformation. It is a mystery to which we shall return again and again during our lifetime, and each time we do, its mystery will only grow.  So you see, Easter really is much more than a day.  May God richly bless and keep you this Easter season and always.

With my deepest gratitude for all that you do
and all that you are, I am…

Yours in Christ
Rev. Carol+

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Dear Friends in Christ,

Lent is a season of reflection. It comes from an old English word meaning “a lengthening.” And as the days become longer, we watch for signs of spring when nature sings a song of renewed life, energy and growth.

During lent we are called upon to reflect together as a community of faith on the final weeks of Christ’s ministry. We remember His betrayal, arrest, and suffering upon the cross. And we look to Easter Sunday with hope.

Lent is a time for us to reflect individually on our own discipleship. Perhaps you have taken on a new devotion or discipline for this time. You may have chosen to give up something.

Whatever your Lenten practice is this year I pray that it will deepen your relationship with Christ. With Christ as our compass on this Lenten journey may we pick up our crosses and follow Him and walk these 40 days with the assurance of Christ’s love and with the hope of renewal.

With my deepest gratitude for all that you do and all that you are,
I am… Yours in Christ Rev. Carol+

Arthur Lichtenberger, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church from 1958-1964:

Fast from criticism, and Feast on praise;
Fast from self-pity, and Feast on joy;
Fast from ill temper, and Feast on peace;
Fast from resentment, and Feast on contentment;
Fast from jealousy, and Feast on humility;
Fast from pride, and Feast on love;
Fast from selfishness, and Feast on service;
Fast from fear, and Feast on faith.

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The Blessing of the Animals

Dear friends in Christ,

The Blessing of the Animals at LoveWay Inc. was a great day. Yes it was hectic. Yes it was different. The people at LoveWay were so appreciative of our coming.  St. John of the Cross was paid the highest compliment by the Cadets of Howe as they requested to do this again next year.  They appreciated the hospitality of our hosts and of the parish. Thank you!  I heard from many of you how impressed you were with the Cadets. Let’s continue to explore ways to be a part of the lives of these cadets.

Our next opportunity to worship together is December 19th at The Chapel of St. James for the annual Advent Festival of Lessons and Carols. The time for this is 11:40 am. Our choir has been asked to sing and we will also have the choir from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sturgis.  I hope that you all will come.

Our latest offering for study will begin Wednesday evenings this month.  We will be offering Part I in Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus.  The meeting dates/times will be Nov 7, 14, 28 and Dec 5 beginning at 6:30 – 7:30 pm. We will resume with Part II of the study during Lent.  Steve Streeter and Cyd Sunday will be our leaders. The books are in and the cost is $13.50.  We will not have the Wednesday Morning Bible during this time.

The colors of the season have just about run their course.  The leaves have been spectacular:  Bold splashes of color on the landscape.  I never tire of the colors of autumn.  The changing of the seasons marks another season for us.  May we be that bold splash of color in our communities serving those around us.  May we be thankful for work we do together and may we be bold to explore new ways of reaching out.

For all that you do and all that you are,

I am,
Yours in Christ,

Carol+

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Dear Friends in Christ,

Is it just me or does the end of the month seem to come earlier and earlier each month? It has been a busy September. Howe School is in full swing and our Wednesday Bible study has resumed. We had a great ladies luncheon at Olive Garden. We received new members, Michael and Cyd Sunday this past month. Thank you for those who helped with the reception for Bishop Little and our new members. It is always a good time to be with our Bishop.

Bishop Little and I were colleagues in California. He was part of my discernment process in the Diocese of San Joaquin. It was by Bishop Little’s invitation that I came to the Diocese to Northern Indiana. So I am always inspired by his message and his witness to Christ in his life and grateful for his friendship.

October looks like an even busier month. I will be traveling to The National Cathedral for the Acolyte Festival October 6th. The Archdeacon George Douglass will be our presider. We will celebrate St. Francis – The blessings of the animals on Sunday October 14th at LoveWay Therapeutic Riding Stables. We will hold a joint service with the Cadets from Howe. Bring your pets for a blessing. And the cadets will lead the service that day… as readers and choir. I have asked the Cadets to split and leave a few seats at each table for ‘parish folks’. We have students from all over the world. Enjoy some lively conversation!

Thank you for all those who traveled to Donaldson, for the Art Show. I hope you enjoyed the colors of fall along the way. I hope you enjoyed the exhibit.

Having an art exhibit has been an interesting learning experience. I arrived at the Gallery Tuesday evening and unpacked the van. After a light supper, Sr. Mary took me to the studio and I began to lay out the carvings. I had envisioned where I thought things might go. She told me, that Wednesday Sr. Nancy would help me with the layout. Once everything was laid out I went over to the residence and went to bed. In the morning, Nancy had already been hard at work arranging. She met me with… “now don’t be upset we moved a few things”. A few things…they moved everything! I told her all was fine… as I have never set up an art show. By mid-afternoon I was beginning to see her vision. I really could see how… the pieces were coming together. And that sometimes …less is more and more …well it is just more. We didn’t use all the pieces and that really did make sense.

At three o’clock we stopped. In fact the community stops for 30 minutes. Sr. Nancy leads centering prayer at the residence. Though we still had a lot left to do and I only had that day to set up, I stopped. I will tell you I was torn between continuing to set up and taking time to be still.

Centering prayer is 30 minutes of silence. We let our minds empty out and be still. It takes practice as the mind tends to bounce from thought to thought but eventually you can get into the silence and feel God’s presence. My first thoughts were mostly anxious about getting everything done (and hopefully before midnight). The 30 minutes felt like eternity. Eventually I relaxed and became enveloped in the prayer of silence.

It was amazing how energized we were when we finished. The rest of the pieces came together; I had my videotaped interview, the labels posted on the wall. Everything came together just as it was supposed to and I was driving home as evening fell.There’s a lesson in all that. Just when we think we don’t have time to stop and pray… stop and pray! We all have experienced those times when we don’t think we have time—not even time to pray. Yet it was just the respite this priest needed in the course of a hectic day. May we find time to be still and know…,

Grateful for all that you are and all that you do,

I am

Yours in Christ,

Carol+

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The Church calls this Ordinary Time.

Dear friends in Christ,

Summer time… the Church calls this Ordinary Time.You know, ordinary doesn’t seem so ordinary when you see God in the ordinary.

How will you spend this summer of ordinary time? For some people, summer is a busy time. For others it’s a time to slow down and recharge the batteries. I suppose I am still on the school schedule especially now that I also serve The Howe School. When I was a teacher I appreciated the time off. I still do. My clock winds down in summer. I will try to recharge my batteries. I will spend the time reading, writing, playing guitar, carving, and turning. I will reflect on our past year together at St. John of the Cross and dream, wonder, and explore ways to renew our life of ministry together.

During this Ordinary Time stop, look, but also listen. Listen to and reflect on what Jesus asks of You. Where does He call you to go? As part of our baptismal covenant we are called to be ministers in His Name. What is your ministry? What are your spiritual gifts? Where do you see yourself in the life of St. John of the Cross? You are an essential part of the church. Where you are, young or not so young, new member or longstanding member – you are essential to life and mission of this parish.

Each of us has been given gifts. How will you use your gifts in this parish this fall? Lead a Bible or a book study, sing in the choir, serve on the Altar Guild, serve as a Eucharistic Minister, an acolyte, usher or Lector. These are just a few of the many opportunities to serve your parish. I look forward to seeing where the Lord will take us.

There is a collect in Morning Prayer that touched my heart for this ordinary of times. It is the collect for the Renewal of Life. It reads: O God, the King eternal, who divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep Your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done Your will with cheerfulness while it was day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give You thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What struck me were the words: having done Your will with cheerfulness. It caused me to take stock. Do I always do His will with cheerfulness? There is such a joy that comes with serving our Lord, Jesus. I pray that His joy is always evident. Now as we enter into the season of Ordinary Time may we too experience the renewal of life in Jesus Christ. May we share His joy with others as we do His will with cheerfulness.

With my deepest gratitude for all that you do and all that you are, I am…

Yours in Christ
Carol+

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