Saturday, April 9, 2011

El Hogar

Last summer, I went down to Honduras with 10 youth and 2 other adults from St. Timothy's.  We were there on a mission trip to El Hogar de Amor y Esperanza (The Home of Love and Hope).  El Hogar is a mission of the Episcopal Church in Honduras that is committed "to provide a loving home and education in a Christian environment for abandoned, orphaned and hopelessly poor children, enabling them to fulfill their ultimate potential as productive human beings in Honduras." (El Hogar Website)  Our group stayed there for a week, learning more about El Hogar and working directly with the kids there.  I cannot begin to describe how important El Hogar is in providing these kids with a healthy, loving alternative to the gang life that is so prevalent in Honduras.  Today, I'm writing about El Hogar because there are a number of different ways that we can all do something to assist them in their mission, even if we are not able to actually spend time there. 

First, on May 1 at 6:30pm, St. Timothy's will be hosting One Voice for El Hogar, an evening devoted to celebrating the life-changing ministry of El Hogar.  Money raised from the ticket sales to this event will be used to assist with funding the teachers and programs at El Hogar.  If you will be in Cincinnati that evening, please consider purchasing tickets online or at one of the participating churches.

Another way you can do something to help El Hogar is to purchase items from Amazon.  Any purchase you make from Amazon after clicking on this link will automatically donate 4% of your total to El Hogar.  Amazon pays this donation and will not charge you any extra

Additionally, there are many churches that are planning mission trips to El Hogar.  You could either participate in one of these church trips (though there's often limited availability) or donate items for the mission teams to take with them when they go.

There are many ways you can give assistance to El Hogar.  Please consider doing something to help out with their mission.  I'm sure that the 250 children currently at the school will be very appreciative of even the tiniest help you can provide.

Friday, April 8, 2011


I have always felt that it was a shame that we tend to spend so little time focusing on the psalms.  The entire range of human emotion can be found in them, and I think reading them and studying them more often can really open us up and allow us to really bring every part of our selves to God.  If nothing else, there is so much beautiful language there that can help us put words to how we are feeling.

Psalm 23 is probably one of the most familiar psalms to us.  This is the psalm we typically read at funerals and hear "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."  These words are a comfort to us in a time of need, but there is so much more inside.  Every month at St. Timothy's, we invite a 5th or 6th grader to speak in front of the congregation about their experience in church school.  For one young boy, he only needed to get 5 words into Psalm 23 to find meaning.  "'The Lord is my shepherd.'  What more do I need to know?"  I remember hearing him say this and thinking to myself, "Wow.  Here's a kid who really gets it."

The psalms, however, provide more than just comforting words.  They can put a voice to our anger and frustration.  Take the first verse of Psalm 22: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?"  Much of the time, we can convince ourselves that crying out to God and expressing our frustration means that we don't have enough faith.  We end up believing that expressing our anger in this way is something we shouldn't do as "good" Christians.  These psalms legitimize our deepest, rawest emotions.  Even Jesus cries out with these words from the cross.

There is so much more that can be found in the psalms.  Take some time to honestly read through them.  Don't be afraid to take some of the words you find there to express your joys and sorrows, love and anger, happiness and frustration.  Let the psalms be a prayer book for you, allowing to fully bring yourself before God.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Walking Humbly

I don't know about you, but I spend a lot of time trying to figure out everything I have to do.  Yes, I have a calendar and a to-do list here and there with my responsibilities on them, but keeping them updated and prioritizing them can be a real hassle, especially when immediate tasks arise that throw off my schedule.  Then, there's always the possibility that my electronic calendars don't sync as fast as I think they do, and I end up accidentally scheduling myself to be in multiple places at once.  How fortunate I am that, in the midst of all of this worry about what is required of me, I should come across this passage:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
   and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God?
                     -Micah 6:8
I may not get every minute detail of my schedule done every day, but I can definitely make sure that, whatever I'm doing, it is falls into at least one of these three categories.

Do Justice
I admit that there are many different perceptions of what justice means out there.  I think, however, that the heart of this matter is to deal with ourselves and others as fairly as possible.  To do this, we must learn to see more than just action and consequence.  Also, we must learn to accept that, ultimately, God's justice is the only justice that really matters.

Love Kindnes
The word kindness here should not be confused with phrases like "be kind, rewind."  This is not about being nice.  The word used here is the same word that is used to express God's loving kindness to us.  Loving kindness is about honoring this relationship that we all have with God, knowing that every relationship is different.

Walk Humbly
This last requirement is about our egos.  It is all too easy to get to a certain point in our lives and start expecting that we deserve, or have earned, everything that we have.  Sometimes, we can even feel that we should have more.  The truth is, we can never earn God's love.  There is no point in our lives in which we will deserve God's love outside of God's desire to love us.

Today, and every day, I invite you to live out these requirements.  Do justice.  Love kindness.  Walk humbly with your God.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Today is the Day

Of the memories I have from seminary, there are a few that really stand out.  One of them is from the first three weeks.  I was sitting down at breakfast, making sure to get enough brain food to get me through my Hebrew class that morning.  In walks Samuel in a really nice suit.  As far as I knew, there was nothing special going on in our Hebrew class that day and there were no events planned at the seminary, so I asked Samuel why he was so dressed up.  He responded with, "Oh Christopher!  Today is the day that the Lord has made!"  That was it.  He decided to put on a suit and tie to come to breakfast and learn Hebrew all because it was a day the Lord had made.

Samuel was, of course, quoting the first half of Psalm 118:24.  The second half reads, "let us rejoice and be glad in it."  Many of us have heard time and again how being dressed up helps lift one's spirit.  There have certainly been days in my life where I've dressed up just to have that extra boost of confidence throughout the day.  I must say that it is definitely easier to rejoice when you are feeling good about yourself.

When is the last time that you dressed up just for the sake of dressing up?  I do not mean dressing up because you were going somewhere special or you have to follow some dress code.  I mean dressing up just to grab some breakfast and catch up with friends.  To be clear, I am not suggesting that you where a tux or prom-style dress to eat at First Watch.  I am merely inviting you to put on an outfit that is a cut above your normal "casual" attire and see if that adds a little boost to your day.  Whatever you do, remember that each day is a day made by the Lord.  Find some way to rejoice and be glad in them all.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What's In A Name?

Over the past few years, I have picked up a few nick names.  Many of my classmates in seminary liked to call me C-Rich.  When I was ordained, some of my nephews started referring to me as Father Uncle Christopher.  More recently, I obtained the moniker Diesel Jesus over the course of a couple diocesan youth events.  Being known as Diesel Jesus became confusing as soon as someone shortened it to DJ (for those not in the know, DJ is my brother).  While I have welcomed all of these different names, DJ aside, I still prefer to go mainly by Christopher (don't worry if you've slipped and called me Chris).  Names are a large part of our identity.  In some ways, our names define us.  There have been a number of studies that suggest names given at birth can have an effect on how people develop and are perceived well into adulthood. 

Why am I spending all this time talking about names? Beyond the connotations that we currently associate with names, every name has an inherent meaning.  My name, for example, means Christ bearer.  This seems especially appropriate given my current vocation.  The same is true for names found in the Bible.  In fact, biblical names are often important to the particular stories in which they can be found.  In the beginning of the book of Ruth, we are introduced to a family.  This family has two sons, Mahlon and Chilion.  These names don't mean anything to us, but, if we were ancient Israelites hearing this story, we would hear Mahlon and Chillion as (roughly translated) Sickly Little Guy and Weakening Little Guy.  Sure enough, they both die just three verses after they're introduced.  Not only are they characters in the story, their names give them their role in the story as well.  Biblical names are not always as morbid. 

I Samuel begins with an account of a woman who becomes so upset over the fact that she cannot bear children that she weeps is unable to eat.  She prays and prays for God to grant her a child.  Eventually, she conceives and gives birth to a son whom she names Samuel (which means God hears).  Not only is Samuel the result of God hearing his mother's prayers, Samuel goes on to be a prophet, or one who hears God.

We all have a role in the story of our lives.  If you are struggling to figure out what your role in life is, perhaps you can find some direction in your name.  I just hope you have a better name than Mahlon or Chilion.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Free At Last

43 years ago today, a man was shot and killed for preaching a message across America that many did not want to hear.  He was preaching a message of resisting oppression through non-violent means and sought for equality among all peoples.  When he won the Nobel Peace Price 4 years prior, he stated that he refused "to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality."  He believed that, one day, we would truly be living out that passage from Isaiah wherein the wolf will live with the lamb.  This man, of course, is the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Today, April 4, we honor his memory and recognize him as a martyr.

I don't need to tell you how important Martin Luther King, Jr.'s work was to the Civil Rights Movement.  You most likely have heard his speech in which he proclaims his dream for the future of America (if not, please click here).  Therefore, I am not going to try and give you some nugget of information I think you may be lacking.  I'm not going to try and provide some previously unattained epiphany on MLK's life and witness.  Instead, I ask you to pray with me.  

I ask you to pray that, one day, our nation's present will be the future he dreamed of.  Pray that, one day, our world will no longer know violence and oppression.  Pray that our world will know a time when justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.  Pray with me the prayer that people all across the Church are praying today:

Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last; Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.