Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you’re age 40 or older, join the millions of women who get mammograms on a regular basis. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month educates women about the importance of early detection. More and more women are getting mammograms to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. As a result, breast cancer deaths are on the decline. Encourage the women in your life to get mammograms on a regular basis. Since the program began in 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women age 50 and older and breast cancer deaths have declined.
This is exciting progress, but there are still women who do not take advantage of early detection at all and others who do not get screening mammograms and clinical breast exams at regular intervals.
According to the experts, if all women age 40 and older took advantage of early detection methods – mammography plus clinical breast exam – breast cancer death rates would drop much further, up to 30 percent. The key to mammography screening is that it be done routinely – once is not enough. So if you are a woman age 40 or over, get tested, and if you are not, tell them women in your life that it is important.

September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance

The September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance is the culmination of efforts originally launched in 2002 by the 9/11 nonprofit MyGoodDeed with wide support by the 9/11 community and leading national service organizations. This effort first established the inspiring tradition of engaging in charitable service on 9/11 as an annual and forward-looking tribute to the 9/11 victims, survivors, and those who rose up in service in response to the attacks.
In 2009, Congress designated September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance under bipartisan federal law, and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with helping to support this effort across the country.
On the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Americans will unite in service in the same remarkable way that so many came together following the attacks.
As in years past, it is anticipated that there will be service and remembrance activities in all 50 states, at which there will be opportunities for hundreds of thousands of volunteers to paint and refurbish homes, run food drives, spruce up schools, reclaim neighborhoods, and support and honor veterans, soldiers, military families, and first responders.
I would encourage you to make time to give of your self in service to others on 9/11 and remember those who perished that day. And then in the spirit of faithfulness and humility, make selfless service a year-round habit, as we seek to follow in Christ’s steps.

Blessings,
Karen

Make time to Connect and Communicate

Life can be hectic, and we can become distracted by many things – including those very things that are designed to “simply” our lives, i.e. electronic devices. Despite the fact that society has advanced, making time to communicate with others is still as essential now as it was 2,000 years ago. As summer winds down and children are heading back to school, and families get back to routines, it is important to make maintaining good communication a priority. With slight wording modifications, these questions can work with children of all ages, and with some adaptation, can also be appropriate for conversation with a spouse or another adult family member.

1.    Tell me about a moment today when you felt excited about what you were learning.
2.    Think about what you learned and did in school today. What’s something you’d like to know more about? What’s a question you have that came from your learning today?
3.    Were there any times today when you felt disrespected by anyone? Tell me about those moments.
4.    Were there times today when you felt that one of your classmates demonstrated care for you?
5.    Were there any moments today when you felt proud of yourself?
6.    Tell me about a conversation you had with a classmate or friend that you enjoyed.
7.    What was challenging about your day?
8.    What do you appreciate about your day?
9.    What did you learn about yourself today?
10.    What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
11.    Is there a question you wish I’d ask you about your day?
Take time to turn off electronic devices and have a conversation with those around you. It will be good for you (& them). It is a great opportunity to learn something about your family and friends, and about yourself. And remember to talk with God as well. God is listening and wants to offer each of us hope, joy and peace.

July Pastor Article

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
The Fourth of July—also known as Independence Day or July 4th—has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.
On July 4 we celebrate our independence as a nation. We make a point to remember and let others know that we celebrate our freedom. The passage from Galatians reminds us of our freedom in Christ. No longer slaves to the law, but free in the Spirit.
The apostle Paul reminds us that we are no longer slaves but children of God because of Jesus Christ. A child is a word that describes the relationship. We are in a free relationship with Christ. We are heirs to the inheritance of God’s kingdom. We are on the receiving end, not the taking end. This is the good news of the gospel. Eugene Peterson writes: “Receive is a freedom word. Take is not. To receive is to accept what the divine provides for us. To take is to plunder whatever is not nailed down. To receive is to do what children do in the family. To take is to do what pirates do on the high seas … The difference between receiving and taking is deeply interior. It has to do with disposition of spirit, an act of faith, an openness to God. Outwardly similar, even identical, physical actions constitute both taking and receiving … But the similarities are all on the surface; by observing context and continuities we can easily distinguish taking, with all its ambitious assertion and prideful aggrandizement, from receiving, with all its grateful acceptance and humble receptivity.”
Let us celebrate this month our independence as a nation, but more importantly, may we receive the freedom and grace given to us by God. May we use our freedom wisely to promote the well-being of all God’s children, and to be good stewards of God’s creation.
Happy Independence,
Karen

Plan Time for R & R

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” – Genesis 2: 2-3
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” -Mark 6: 30-32 We can find several examples in scripture where God has sanctioned recreation; there is no need to feel guilty for times focused on enjoyment—this is part of God’s plan. (Yay!) And besides being part of a divine plan, recreation/vacation/ relaxation is good for your health! It has been reported that chronic stress takes its toll in part on our body’s ability to resist infection, maintain vital functions, and even ability to avoid injury. When you’re stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill, your arteries take a beating, and you’re more likely to have an accident. Your sleep will suffer, you won’t digest your food as well, and even the genetic material in the cells of your body may start to become altered in a bad way. Mentally, not only do you become more irritable, depressed, and anxious, but your memory will become worse and you’ll make poorer decisions. You’ll also be less fun to be with, causing you to become more isolated, lonely, and depressed. So, each of us needs a constructive, positive way to deal with stress, whether it be exercise, a hobby, or just some “R & R.” In addition to having some routine way to deal with stress, vacations have the potential to break into the stress cycle. We emerge from a “successful” vacation (not the National Lampoon style vacation) feeling ready to take on the world again. We gain perspective on our problems, get to relax with our families and friends, and get a break from our usual routines. Even if you don’t have the time or resources to go on a trip, a “staycation” where you don’t venture further than your state, town or city, or even neighborhood, can also be relaxing and rejuvenating if it helps you to “take a break” from your normal routine and get a new perspective. So, as we enjoy the summer days of more sunshine and breaks from school and routines, make sure to plan opportunities for fun, relaxation and recreation. You will be glad you did.

Enjoying fun in the sun,

Karen

Celebrating Life’s Heroes

The traditional definition of a “hero” is someone who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Many of the people listed below have been “frontline workers” during the pandemic and definitely warrant our admiration and appreciation. We are grateful for their service, compassion and care.

 

During the month of May there are “Appreciation Days” that have been set aside to celebrate, give thanks and recognition to these individuals.

  • National Police Week & Police Officers’ Memorial Day
  • National Nurses Day
  • National Teachers’ Day
  • School Nurses Day
  • Military Spouse’s Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • Armed Forces Day
  • National Waiters and Waitresses Day
  • Memorial Day

 

If we use this list as a starting point for showing appreciation to these various people that we know and encounter, then we are on our way to being more appreciative. An “attitude of gratitude” can brighten the day for those we thank, and it changes our outlook on life as well. Make a point to say thank you to these “superstars” and show your appreciation to those who have made a positive difference in our lives. And, while you are at it, be sure to give thanks to God for all that God has done.

Following God’s Map with Patience & Perseverance

The irate employee stomps into the payroll office and shouts, “There’s been a terrible mistake! My paycheck is a dollar short this week! I demand to know why, and what you’re going to do about it!” The payroll employee looks up from his ledger and says calmly, “I see here that we paid you a surplus of a dollar last week. I don’t recall you complaining about the mistake we made then.” The employee says, “Well, an occasional mistake I can overlook, but not TWO in a row!” The Lenten season is a time to reflect that we have all made mistakes, and we are fortunate that God has forgiven us for two, three, 203, etc…….through confession and repentance we can receive that love and grace that has the power to renew and sustain. A grace so amazing that it can be difficult to comprehend.
The old fable imagines a handful of blind men positioned around an elephant. After taking a moment to explore with their hands the beast before them, each is asked to describe the elephant. Since one has the trunk, another has the tail, another a tusk, and so on, however, they come up with very different descriptions of what an elephant is like.

The fable may be used for all sorts of mischief, of course, but it does provide a helpful image: namely, that some truths are larger and more complex than any one person can fully understand or adequately describe. So it is with God’s love. While it may be overwhelming, God loves each of us where we are at in life, who we are right now, and wants to work with each of us to be the best we can be. The Lenten season provides us the opportunity for reflection, renewal and re-directing our lives to be in tune with God’s mission and purpose. As we approach Holy Week and Easter morning, take the time to draw closer to God and to get headed in the right direction.

On the Lenten journey,
Karen

Keeping a Holy Lent

The word “Lent” comes from a word meaning “spring” and “long,” an apparent reference to the lengthening of the days of spring. Lent is the season preceding Easter, a season for self-discipline and renewal. Its tradition goes back to the early days of the Christian church, beginning in the first century as an observance lasting forty hours, roughly the amount of time Jesus was believed to have laid in the tomb. In later years, the duration of the season was extended to six days called Holy Week. A custom arose about that time among those able to visit Jerusalem of visiting various sites associated with the life and ministry of Jesus. It was to be a time of fasting and self-denial, symbolic of Jesus own suffering and death. This visiting of significant sites also led to the Stations of the Cross for the Roman Catholic Church.  In later centuries, the duration of Lent was again extended, this time to 36 days, apparently a tithing of the number of days in the year. Still later, four more days were added, the numeral four being significant as symbolic of the number forty, that number often symbolizing a long time, or even endless time. It especially calls to mind the forty days and nights that Jesus is said to have spent in the wilderness, a time of testing and temptation prior to the start of his ministry. Sundays are not included in the numbering of the days of Lent, because Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and Lent recognizes the events leading up to the resurrection. For this reason we refer to the Sundays in Lent rather than the Sundays of Lent. Currently, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday in most Western churches, though the Eastern Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches begin Lent on Monday.

As our world faces many challenges, including hunger, homelessness, drug addiction, war, political divisiveness, disease and overall despair, make an extra effort this Lenten season to spend time in prayer and reflection. Be disciplined in offering prayers for those around you, those across the globe, those your encounter in your daily activities. When and where you can, be generous with your time and resources. In all things, be thankful for God’s grace and goodness.

Lenten Practices

Things to give up during Lent:

1.    Fear of Failure – You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fail forward.
2.    Feelings of Unworthiness – You are fearfully and wonderfully made by God.
3.    Impatience – Count to 10 and extend grace.
4.    Blame – Tell yourself, “I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.”
5.    Guilt – Remember, you are loved by God and forgiven. Today is a new day and the past is behind.
6.    Over commitment – Do less better and accomplish more.
7.    Entitlement – The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.
8.    Apathy – Life is too short not to care.
9.    Hatred – Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
10.    Complaining/ Bitterness- Put aside negative thoughts. Work to minimize contact with people who are negative and toxic. Instead of contributing to the problem, be the solution.
11.    Destructive Speech – Encourage one another.
12.    Worry – God is in control and worrying will not help.
13.    Resistance to Change – Change is certain. It is not if we will change, but how we will change.
14.    Ungratefulness – You have been blessed in a way greater than you realize. Give thanks.
15.     Reduce the Use of Electronics– Spend more time making direct contact with others and less time utilizing electronics (i.e. instead of sending that text or email, pick up the phone and call).

Things to start doing for Lent:
1.    Give away something every single day, be it time, money, or something you own. Clean out closets and drawers. Donate, recycle, and get rid of 40 things in 40 days.
2.    Make a list of 40 people who have touched your life and write one each day with a letter of appreciation.
3.    Plan to read the Sunday scriptures before you go to church. In the same way that reading up on football players, opposing teams, and coaching strategies will help you experience a game more fully, familiarizing yourself with the readings ahead of time will help you experience them in a deeper way on Sunday.
4.    Plan 40 acts of kindness, and/or 40 phone calls to the important people in your life.
5.    Read the entire Gospel of Mark in one sitting. As the shortest Gospel, it is the most concise story of Jesus’ life.
6.    Unplug from your iPhone or turn off your car radio on your commute. The silence may be jarring at first, but you may find that you are able to concentrate better and will be more observant of your surroundings.
7.    Plan to volunteer at least one weekend or evening during Lent. Serve a meal at your local soup kitchen. Visit the elderly or those who are ill. Stock shelves at a food pantry; pick up litter; volunteer at church, etc.
8.    Pray for someone. As you’re walking the streets, driving the highways, or sitting in your cubicle at work, pick out a person who appears to be in need and pray for that person.
9.    Get to know your neighbors. Introduce yourself, plan a dinner, or bring food to an older person on your block.

Show Love

When we think of the month of February, we often think of Valentine’s Day and think of hearts, roses and candy. According to historical sources, the roots of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is unclear, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.
Regardless of what February 14 signifies for you, I would encourage you to go beyond the “Hallmark” marketing to find ways every day to show love, kindness, compassion and encouragement to those around you. What are you doing to show love as Paul wrote about it to the Corinthians? A love that is patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not proud, not self-seeking, slow to anger, keeps no record of wrongs, love that protects, hopes and perseveres. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 again, and read it not as a romantic vow, but as a Christian mandate for our every day lives. Go forth and show love in all that you say and do.