Monday, January 7, 2019

Celebrating the Epiphany

My mom asked me, “What’s the Epiphany MEAN?”... really? We go through this every year, and I must admit that I often like to tell people that we are still celebrating as we don’t take the decorations down till AFTER the Epiphany, which falls in the first week of the new year. It gives us extra time not only to take in the holidays and enjoy them, but it’s also a good cushion to give us breathing time before the hard work of undoing begins.

It’s always a bit sad to take the decorations down, but the Epiphany window is one we use as our excuse. So, when my Mom asked me to look it up online, I did and as I suspected, it was associated with the three wise men and their visit to the Christ Child. It’s what I had always thought-that when the three kings visited the Christ child, it was called the Epiphany. The revealing of the child to the gentile world was the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God.

Of course, the epiphany is also defined as some moment of revelation in our lives, where everything is illuminated for us. That is a rare occurrence and shouldn’t happen on a yearly basis for most of us. But if it does, and when it does, it should be a life-changing event.

I’ve had a few epiphanies in my life. At the time, you don’t always know you’ve had this revelation. It reveals itself to you sometimes instantly, but often as you grow to learn and understand what has been revealed to you.

There was a time I was explaining to a trusted friend who was a pastor, about a family argument years ago, and she just casually asked if there had been any drinking in our family history. I just laughed because we had this Black Irish larger than life background and yes, of course there was a lot of drinking in my family history! My first thought was ...Doesn’t everybody have this in their past? There’s usually SOME skeleton hanging over us all...Isn’t there?

So that was an Epiphany and started a journey for me of exploring and reflecting and learning. I’ve had some work epiphanies, and life epiphanies, and some were great and wondrous, others were dark and prompted me to rethink my life and my goals. But all of them served a great purpose and I’m convinced that there is divine intervention in everything, as we hear even of the fall of the sparrow being part of the plan in God’s kingdom.

And so I have great renewed respect for the celebration of the Epiphany in our lives. We need to celebrate the coming of the New Year, the birth of Christ celebrated throughout the globe and also the purpose of an epiphany and the cause for celebration within the humble confines of our lives.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Blessings Book

The Blessings Book is designed to invite you & your family to begin the holidays with a blessing. We have so much to be thankful for in our lives, and the blessings we cherish in our lives remind us of the many diverse ways we express our thankfulness. We are thankful to God for family and for the love of friends and the inclusion of his light in our lives. Blessings to you and yours throughout this holiday season; and may the Blessings Book find a place in the coming year for the comfort that it may bring as well as the strength to help us in times of need. Click here to share the PDF for The Blessings Book today...

From The Blessings Book...

A Blessings Sampler

Here is a sampling for those who may not have a “blessing” as a part of their

family heritage (and maybe for some who want to add a new one):

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe, for you give us food to sustain our lives and make our hearts glad. Amen.

Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts which we are about to receive from your goodness, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all God’s love. Amen.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.

For health and strength and daily food, we praise your name, O Lord. Amen.

Give us grateful hearts, O God, for all your mercies, and make us mindful of the needs of others; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God is great and good.

From Pastor John DeBevoise, PCPC
Prayers reprinted from Book of Common Worship

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Non Profit News: Top 10 items for today...

Non Profit News

Here is our bi-monthly listing of news items that comprise more than one article or topic in Non Profit News-the online magazine about some of the most pressing issues that face us all. The Sustainable Development Goals from the United Nations are a sub-category consisting of 17 separate goals. 
And here in the United States, we have our own set of pressing problems separate and apart from the global issues we all face as residents of Planet Earth. Here's a list of ten items found in Non Profit News online, to be updated every other month, as we discuss each and ask for feedback and comments to keep the conversation going...! Till next time-NPN

1.How to help inmates heal after the trauma of prison- US & Mass Incarceration- This is one of the most pressing problems we face and one that has not been addressed after receiving so much attention in the last's the type of problem that tells us  we need to work to solve problems together, in a bi-partisan way in the U.S.

2.Do our Political Parties only represent Corporations? Ending Dark Money in Politics-this issue also received a lot of attention during the 2016 Presidential election, but seems to go unaddressed as we see so much dark money and influence of lobbyists and big donors influencing political parties.

3.Nuns Denounce abuse by priests- Systemic abuse within big organizations/Catholic Church & Organized religion - Again, this issue is one that continues to pop up as we see large churches and mainstream religious organizations dealing with rampant abuse and cover-ups within their power structures.

4.GDP grows...but workers wages are stagnant- Income Inequality - This is perhaps the greatest problem we are dealing with globally. It is one that is being addressed, but here in the U.S, we still have more income inequality than less affluent nations as our workers pay more for health care and receive less care.

5.Africa; the Epicenter of Modern Day Slavery- Child Trafficking and modern slave trade-This is a problem that is connected with women's equality and income inequality also. Those of us who live in more affluent nations need to continue to speak out for the people who cannot speak for themselves; children and those who are enslaved in this modern age, not only in Africa, but globally and yes....right here in the United States!

6.Mister Rogers and the Power of Kindness- working to help others and having empathy - This is a problem that we need to combat; the rise of cynicism and disbelief in our institutions, for all the reasons we listed above. But we also need to remember that there are plenty of good people still willing to help others, as evidenced by  role models such as Anne Frank and Fred Rogers.

7.SDG: Sustainability Development Goals from UN; the 17 Goals listed include Clean water; Clean air, Education and sustainable farming techniques as well as the empowerment of women...The good news is that we are making progress in eradicating extreme poverty, which is one of the goals listed...but you will see that we have a way to go...and the date is set for 2030 to achieve many of these worthy objectives.

8.Reducing Food Waste and working to help small farmers succeed globally to end hunger...check out the goals to see more about this...

9.Ending Child Marriage and helping girls to succeed; working to empower women globally; again, see above link for more on this.

10.Environmental issues/and Poverty/Clean Water and a sustainable environmental policy for the planet that combats global warming; these are all top issues that are found in Non Profit News magazine and are part of the 17 Sustainable goals for the United Nations global efforts.

Learn more about these issues at Non Profit News magazine, and we will keep posting information on some of the top issues found in Non Profit News each month....Till next time...Stay well and never give up!-ML

Saturday, August 11, 2018

PCPC Blessing of the Backpacks

Today in our services, Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church will bestow a blessing on the many school children that begin their year of learning and growth. Here is the PCPC Blessing of the Backpacks

God of all knowledge and wisdom, these students and backpacks remind us that a new school year is upon us.  We pray your blessing on each of them and upon all students, young and old, as they carry the tools they need this year.  Help them discover and develop the gifts you have given them.  On some days, so much stuff will fill these backpacks the student may find it difficult to walk.  Other days, they will be light and nearly empty.  On each and every day, may these blessings and the prayers that dangle from them, be a reminder that your love and the love of this congregation surround them wherever they go. 

As the students grow in knowledge, help them also grow in kindness and compassion, learning respect for themselves and for others.  We pray too for parents, teachers, school staff, and all those who care for them, to be sustained by you.  Strengthen them with encouragement, support, and love.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The things which cannot be seen

Martin Sattler photo

2 Corinthians; 4; 16-5:1; We do not lose heart. Our OUTER nature may be wasting away..but our inner nature is being renewed day by day

Again with 2 Corinthians Jesus speaks of the things which cannot be seen. As mentioned in scripture in Romans 8, we spoke not long ago of the hope that cannot be seen. It is this hope that is our saving grace.

And so it goes that with all things in Christ none of our material possessions matter as much as the things which cannot be seen. Faith, hope, love and devotion are those things we cannot touch and are gifts we may give but cannot be bought at any price. The things that are priceless, as they say in commercials, are part of this unseen but vital world that Jesus knew and taught us to aspire to live in and strive towards. Which is why it is important not to lose heart, as the scripture tells us.

The outer world is the temporary vision of the world that Christ taught us about. And the things which cannot be seen are the things that cause us to take heart. Inspiration and perseverance, faith and devotion are the better parts of our nature. We often hear of a parents’ love for their child, of a military soldier fighting to the last breath of their life out of devotion. We hear about love of country and perseverance in the face of great sadness or chaos.

None of these things are qualities that can be boxed and sold. It is all a part of the greater world that is found only in one’s inner nature. That is why we strive, as Christians, in the face at times of long odds or overwhelming obstacles, to become better parents and teachers, workers and siblings, spouses and children, as we are taught by Christ. We fail as humans, and we are forgiven. So we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and we try again. That is the nature of our lives as Christians. We will always strive to find those things deep inside of us, those most valuable parts of our lives which are eternal. These are the things which cannot be seen.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Mr Rogers was a man on a mission

There has been a renaissance surrounding Mr Rogers of late. Tom Hanks is going to play Mr Rogers in the feature film, “You Are My Friend.” The documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” also opens this week. 

Mr Rogers was not only an enduring, and well recognized children’s advocate, but also a man of faith who believed in his message, a rarity in this age of instant celebrity. One remarkable fact is that Rogers made a point of answering the almost 1 million pieces of mail personally that was sent to him. There was much more to Fred Rogers than a simple television personality. Not only was he an ordained Presbyterian Minister, Rogers was also a student of world religions and spoke Greek and Hebrew.

The man who used to ask, “Won’t you be my neighbor?" in each episode really did believe in his mission. He was a believer in being a good neighbor and he pulled from the biblical teachings where Jesus spoke of the type of neighbor that Christians should become. It also speaks to the larger questions in society, and the humanistic beliefs that extol us to look out for one another and care deeply about our neighbors, regardless of skin color or religion or political beliefs. |The widow of Rogers told the documentary makers not to make him ‘into a saint.’ She went on to add that ‘his mission was to tell us that we all struggle, and he doesn’t exist on another plane. He labored incredibly hard to fight for grace.”

Rogers story is even more powerful as we delve into his prescient vision about the power of media and the influence television had on children. According to his documentarian, Rogers envisioned television as a great tool for helping to build community, but he was also appalled by the exploitation he found in children’s programming. In this new in-depth look at Rogers’, his friend, Reverend George Wirth, also explained how Rogers was able to convey the message of Christian values without using the accepted language used in sermons.

We see and hear Rogers dealing with the difficult subjects through his show, and talking to children in voices they could understand. He talked about the Vietnam War on TV, and after the assassination of Robert Kennedy, he used the voice of a puppet to help children understand the tough subject, even going so far as defining the word “assassination.’

Rogers is a needed voice from the past that was able to understand the power of images and media, and how they powerfully affect children and invade the lives of children and adults. And yet he spoke optimistically, before Congress, about television giving us ‘the chance to make a real community out of the entire country’ This is something that has become even more of a remarkable wish rather than a prediction in the age of the internet that consumes us in the 21stCentury.

There are critics of Rogers who talked of the oft-repeated phrase he used, “I like you just the way you are.” Rogers addressed that once in a commencement speech, telling the audience that “What that means ultimately is you don’t ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you.” This is something that Christians, and all people of faith may interpret as the idea of God’s grace at work in our lives.

One of the most prescient and forward -thinking points of Rogers’ contribution to not only children’s programming, but to the idea of using media to bring people together, comes from his own words as he tells viewers to ‘think of someone who has helped you.’ If you look for the helpers, you will see they outnumber those who are intent on doing bad things. That is sadly, a much- needed lesson that begs to be relayed time and again in an age of violence in schools and throughout the normally placid areas of our life that have become ‘soft targets’ for those intent on doing harm.

Fred Rogers was a man out of time, whose lessons are still reaching out to help us heal some of the broken places that we see in our own lives. Look for the documentary on PBS, as well as the feature film starring Tom Hanks as they portray this extraordinary, humble and quiet man of faith we knew as Mr Rogers.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Marketing Team Jesus in the 21st Century

Team Jesus

We’ve all heard that sometimes the simplest of messages are the easiest to read and the hardest to follow. Such as the reminder from 2 Corinthians 4:5, that we do not work to proclaim the glory of ourselves, but the glory of Christ and therefore, as his followers, we work for his sake. It’s probably a telling tale that we need to put this in perspective in ways that most of us who live in the 21st Century will understand. We work for Team Jesus, and on that team, we are all working together to promote his message and branding. The message? A simple one: Love others as you would your own family and tribe and protect each of us as we would protect ourselves. The Brand? Team Jesus: I am the way and the truth and the light. We are working for his sake, and working on the brand that is larger than the largest of corporations, and a brand that transcends time. 

It is Team Jesus that we need to remind ourselves again and again that we are working for. We need to learn to love our fellow man, and to trust in the Lord. The simplest of messages are easy to read, and the hardest ones to follow. We need to beware of any one brand or message or ‘tribe’ that we ascribe to. All of those who seem to talk about returning to their own tribe, be it political or religious or corporate, need to realize that the whole of our being is reflected not just in who we follow, but in the message that we are following. Team Jesus transcends the tribal elements of the 21st Century. Love your neighbor with all your heart, and follow the word of the Lord. A simple enough message with a timeless brand.