Turns out Piglet is something of a shape shifter. Who knew? He also seems to like apples as well as tomatoes (and raspberries, and beans, and squash, and tomatoes, and flowers, and... well, it's a good thing I put a fence up, isn't it?!)
I talked to a friend recently who told me that he had started visiting hospitals. Knowing that he has a very good job that keeps him plenty busy, I asked him if he was doing this to give back. "No," he said, "adding hospital visits to my regular hours is the best money I've ever made. With hospital visits included, I had 77 billable hours last week. But I also made $11,000."
Laughing, I commented "I visit hospitals too, but they don't pay me like that!"
"You're giving back," he said, laughing in return.
"I guess so," I responded. "I just never knew how much!"
We laughed some more, but I knew that wasn't really accurate. I often feel I get every bit as much as I give when visiting people in hospitals--sometimes more. Seeing their faith, their courage, and their ability to think of others when they could be worrying only about themselves both blesses and inspires me.
We may not make the big bucks, but I gotta tell you--being a priest really is a pretty darn good deal all in all!
As he has done on my birthday pretty much every year for the past 30+ years, a good friend called me this morning to say "Happy Birthday". The older I get the more I appreciate what a precious gift this is, and that is because I realize what a precious friend he is. While true friendship is always a treasure whenver and wherever it is found, those long term friendships in which we manage to maintain a deep connection over the years and the miles add substance to our souls and our lives in a way that I don't think anything else can.
It is a particular blessing when such a friendship grows with one's spouse. Due to our own self- admitted immaturity, rigidity, and yes, self-centeredness, it was not a foregone conclusion that Linda and I would develop such a relationship. But I'd like to think we've grown as individuals in the past 25 years, and out of that growth just such a friendship has blossomed. At 53 years of age, I do not think there is anything in my life of which I am more proud, or frankly, which brings me greater pleasure.
It has been said that of all the things granted us by wisdom, none is greater or better than friendship. I believe this to be true. It is for this reason that I am particularly thankful for all who have remembered me on my birthday. I may not have a Ferrarri, but I do have friends--and as the old saying goes, there is no doubt which makes one a richer man.
Just over a year ago, I posted a picture of small yellow bird which I could not identify. (You can find that post here.) There were a wide variety of opinions as to exactly what it was, and I don't know that we ever actually solved the mystery of its identity.
I think we may now have some help in the matter. Earlier in the year I saw the bird above. It's a bird I've never seen before, and it was quite striking. I'm guessing this is the male counterpart of the rather drab female I posted before. (Why is it that with birds the males are striking but the females are drab when in humans it is so clearly the other way around?!)
I'm thinking this bird is distinctive enough that we ought to be able to definitively identify it. So... what is it?
Personally, though I seem to be in an ever increasing minority in our culture today, I think every Sunday at church is an absolutely FANTASTIC day. I mean, first of all: God is there. I know he's everywhere, but the point is, everywhere else we're usually too busy doing a hundred other things to give Him the focused, intentional, singular attention He deserves. Sure, I can worship God on a trout stream. But I don't. I'm thinking about fish instead.
Second of all, great people are there. All the lonely people, where do they all come from? Pretty much everywhere, I think. Again, we're usually just too busy to fit quality relational time into our already over stuffed lives. Church asks us to rethink that. Every week it reminds us to slow down and love each other, and it gives us an important opportunity to do just that. Is it any wonder that churches are full of people who have developed life long, life giving friendships with one another?
Third, somewhere alone the line, there is usually some nugget of wisdom tucked in there that helps us live a better life in the week to come. I don't know about you, but I need constant reminders of what and who is most important to me. It's just too easy to be co-opted by the culture around us, to be distracted, or just to drift. That's why I find the weekly reminders to realign myself with my highest priorities so tremendously helpful.
There are lots and lots of other reasons, like the music. Or the donuts. Whatever--to my mind (and I guess you'd expect a priest to say this, wouldn't you?!) on Sunday morning, church is THE place to be!
But as great as every Sunday morning is, we think that this Sunday at St. Matthew's is going to be a particularly special day. As we celebrate all God has done for us in this past year in the blessing of our new buildings and all he is doing right now in the lives of those being baptized and confirmed, we think it's going to be a day to touch the heart and inspire the soul that we will all long remember.
And we hope that if you live in the area, you'll join us and be a part of it!
I happen to be one of those who believe that heaven is not so much a place far, far away to which we go when we die, but a place we do our part in creating right here on earth (and I think if you read the Bible carefully, you'll see it supports that view as well). And though I believe it goes on for eternity, I believe heaven can actually start right now when we love like Jesus loved and do the work God has given us to do. (Alternatively, when we choose to live self-centered little lives, doing only "our thing" whatever our thing may be, unaware of the needs of others and unwilling to do our part to help, we can bring hell to earth as well. But that's another subject!)
This Sunday, in fact, I believe we'll be enjoying a little bit of heaven at St. Matthew's as we celebrate the completion of our new buildings. Of course, we celebrate our new facilities not so much for what they are, but what they let us do: LOVE PEOPLE. Whether it is AA meetings or Sunday School , English classes or Bible studies, marriage enrichment seminars or wedding receptions, making breakfast for our Men's Group or making a Thanksgiving Meal for poor and the needy, our "Making Space to Share Campaign" has always first and foremost been about loving others like God loves us. And that's why it's so exciting to us!
And that's why we so hope that you will join us if you are at all able to do so. Yes, our new facilities are everything we hoped they'd be and more. But what really matters to us is the way they help us serve you. Which is another way of saying simply this: What really matters to us is YOU. As great as our new facilities are, it is your presence with us that will make our joy complete!
Tuesday night just before going into a meeting my Office Manager alerted me to a very important Facebook post. It seemed there was a parishioner who found a cute li'l snake in their house and was wondering what it was and what to do with it.
The long and short of it was that I swang by the parishioner's house after the meeting and picked the snake up. It's a baby black rat snake; as it matures, the pattern will disappear and the snake will take on a beautiful deep black sheen. Black rats are generally docile snakes, and are great to have around in terms of pest control.
Before letting it go I let it take a drink out of the bird bath. It drank deeply for a moment, and then went its merry way, glad to be back out in the wild.
New to the garden this year are dahlias. This one is called "Wheels", and it pretty much seems to be the favorite of all who see it. But people aren't the only one who love it--the hummers love it too!