May 252018

Life can be hard

life

Life can be hard. At times it seems like no matter how hard we try, things remain difficult. As a clergy person, I experience people at the worst moments in their lives. And sometimes that occurs when I am dealing with a difficult time myself.

God did not promise that life would be easy. In fact, we see story after story in scripture about how difficult life can be. Matter of fact, the entire book of Job is one long story about how difficult life is. Job was a man that worked hard to follow God. And still he suffered from some very sad and disturbing things. He lost his family, his money, his possessions, and then his health.

Despite it all, he did not give up. Yes, he felt upset, angry, and even depressed. But he never walked away from God. He trusted that God would bring him through all these sorrows to a better day.

We are called on to stand firm on our faith even in the darkest moments of our lives. You are not alone in your struggles. Too often, people think that they are alone and that no one understand what they are going through. But that is wrong. So many people struggle everyday too. We must not isolate ourselves, but instead, we need to reach out to those around us for encouragement and strength in these difficult times.

And the church can be an outlet to help you through those times. We are not perfect people, which means that we have been through similar things to what you have been through. It is our hope that we can be there to help you through your struggles too.

And together we can work toward a brighter day!

Mar 162018

Forgiveness and forgetting?

forgiveness

Forgiveness has been on my mind lately. I have been faced with several situations where I have had to choose between being angry and hurt or forgive the person.

In the letter to the Colossians, Saint Paul says, “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13. NRSV)

It does not say that we should forgive or to forgive if we feel like it. No, it says we must forgive. It is a command. And for our own health and the health of others, we must forgive. Forgiveness is a healing force just like an antibiotic. It kills anger, hurt, and bitterness, things that can rot and destroy your soul and spirit.

Jesus makes it clear that there are consequences to not forgiving others: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15. NRSV)

If we choose to refuse forgiveness to those who hurt us, then our Heavenly Father will not forgive us. I, for one, need forgiveness as I am far from sin-free! So, I have to forgive others.

Many people say that we have to forgive and forget. I believe that we have to let go of the pain, anger, and bitterness when we forgive others. However, when the damaged caused by someone we trusted is so great, I believe that it is wholly appropriate to remember that a person damaged us. I believe Jesus addresses this when he says, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16. NRSV)

We are called to be wise and sometimes wisdom says that we do not need to put ourselves in situations where we know we will be hurt or damaged again by toxic people. Thus, we must forgive, but not necessarily forget.

 

Feb 092018

Compete and win

Compete

I just love the Winter Olympics! I love to watch the skiing, the figure skating, and the curling. For me the Winter Olympics is an art form. To see people compete in such an artistic way or using such nuanced skill is delightful.

However, it is still a competition. These athletes train hard and strive toward the chance to win a Gold, Silver, or Bronze medal. Some of them have trained their whole lives for this one moment at greatness! They have struggled, sacrificed, and suffered to get where they are today.

Saint Paul speaks of our Christian life in terms most athletes can relate to: “Do you not know that, of those who run in a race, all of them, certainly, are runners, but only one achieves the prize. Similarly, you must run, so that you may achieve. And one who competes in a contest abstains from all things. And they do this, of course, so that they may achieve a corruptible crown. But we do this, so that we may achieve what is incorruptible. And so I run, but not with uncertainty. And so I fight, but not by flailing in the air. Instead, I chastise my body, so as to redirect it into servitude. Otherwise, I might preach to others, but become myself an outcast.” (I Corinthians 9:24-27 CPDV)

Paul urges us to continue running the race toward a goal that never corrupts or looses value. That goal is an eternity with God! Paul also reminds us that this race will involve sacrifice and require endurance in the face of adversity. However, the reward is worth every bit of what we must do to attain it!

Saint Paul also warned Saint Timothy that we must compete according to the rules as well. “Then, too, whoever strives in a competition is not crowned, unless he has competed lawfully.” (2 Timothy 2:5 CPDV) We cannot cheat our way into heaven. Our spiritual life is a process and through that process we learn about who we are and what God expects of us. We have to be willing to submit to God’s plan for our lives in order to find true peace and happiness.

And even though the process may be difficult and the race long, we are not left alone to run. “Furthermore, since we also have so great a cloud of witnesses over us, let us set aside every burden and sin which may surround us, and advance, through patience, to the struggle offered to us.” (Hebrews 12:1 CPDV)

We have the great knowledge that all those who ran the race before us are there cheering us on! They are those who uniquely know the struggles we face and are there to help us with their example and prayers. This is the great Communion of Saints that we can turn to for help. We need only ask for their prayers and support and we have it!

So let us keep on keeping on! 

Jan 192018
learning

As I write this I am sitting at the Hope Center helping them create a computer lab for students who cannot afford the normal routes of higher education. This process has been a huge learning experience for me.

One of the major things I learned is that even something that appears old and obsolete can be quite useful. The computers we are working with are 15 or so years old. They are considered obsolete and useless. However, we installed Linux Mint and found that these laptops have a lot of life left in them. For someone with no computer and in need of computer skills, these laptops will be a lifesaver. The same is true with those around us. No one is obsolete. Everyone has value!

Another lesson has been how a common goal can make people overlook or forget their differences. People of various religious beliefs have come together to help the less fortunate in our community. We set aside our religious or theological squabbles to help others.

This has been the goal of Saint Francis for years. We have prayed for a day when we might be able to help others with our resources. And we are finally starting to do that.

We are also starting to grow! For years I have stood by the door of the church waiting for someone to show up to worship with us. Many times I stood there with tears in my eyes as no one came. But now, we are starting to see visitors and new members!

God has blessed us with growth and an increase of skills and talents. Rather than sit back and rejoice in our good fortune, we turn to the community and find ways to help the least, the lost, and the forgotten around us. It is our hope that we will become a resource for people who are marginalized and forgotten by churches and society.

It is also our prayer that you will come and be part of this exciting adventure.

Come and put your faith into action!

Jan 122018

How to join our Parish

join

Someone said to me this week, “How does one join your parish?” It is a simple question, but it led me to think about all the ways one can join Saint Francis Old Catholic Church.

  1. Attendance. One can join Saint Francis just by showing up regularly to Mass. That is the key though, you have to come regularly in order to be considered a member of the parish. It is like saying you are a member of a gym, but never actually going to the gym. You cannot expect to get fit and in shape if you don’t actually work out at the gym! The same is true with your spiritual life. You cannot participate fully in the life of the church and the sacraments if you never come to church!
  2. Registration. You can also join by registering as a member of the parish. This does not mean that you don’t have to go to Mass, it means that we now have an official record of your membership. This helps us to better know you and your family and to better serve the spiritual needs you may have. This is also a great way to express your desire to help the parish financially and with your time and talents.
  3. Covenant. Saint Francis has started offering the Saint Francis Covenant to those who wish to make a commitment to the parish. This is another way you can join the parish. The Covenant is an agreement between you and the parish as a whole. It says that you commit to being a fully participating member of the parish and that you will work to uplift the parish and its parishioners. If you want to take that route, you can review the Saint Francis Covenant here.

Also, supporting our parish financially or with your time and talents is something each parishioner should do. It is how we can grow and become a more vibrant parish. If you cannot support the parish financially, which many cannot, you can volunteer your time and talents to help make Saint Francis a better, more inviting parish! If you would like to offer your time or talents to help our parish, please take a moment to fill out the time and talent section of parish registration form, or contact Bishop Godsey.

As we begin to grow, I also want to thank everyone for all their hard work, dedication, and love. Saint Francis is a beacon of light in a world that can be so dark.

Come and join our family!

Jan 052018

Step out in faith

faith

I watched the Saint and the Sultan last week. One of the things that struck me was the willingness of Saint Francis to go against everyone in an effort to bring peace. His faith was monumental in the face of overwhelming odds.

Saint Francis was not worried about his own safety or well-being. He braved the battlefields to get to the Sultan and then risked not even getting a chance to speak to the Sultan. The soldiers could have killed Saint Francis before he even got to the camp.

Regardless, Saint Francis had faith that he was on a mission that was worthwhile. He wanted to see peace and to get the chance to show the Sultan the love of God. The Sultan in turn showed Saint Francis the love of God as well. Together, they discovered that they worshiped the same God. In that realization, they were able to find common ground and have productive dialog. This act by Francis may well have prevented thousands of deaths.

If Francis had listened to the voices of the naysayers, this transformative experience for him and the Sultan would have never occurred. War would have continued and would have been extremely brutal. Also, the vision that Francis had about the nativity of Christ, which led to our modern creche scene, would have never occurred. That vision happened on the way back to Assisi from Francis’ visit with the Sultan.

That is why we have to be willing to see beyond the negative messages around us. While others are predicting failure and bad things, we need to allow room for God to be God and to work miracles in our daily lives. Only then will we experience the great grace and love of God in the most unlikely places and situations.

Be willing to step out on faith. Take time to help those naysayers see the great power of God to overcome even the most outrageous of odds. And remember to give God all the glory when he works those miracles in your daily life.

Step out in faith and join us today to experience a different way to be Catholic!

Dec 232017

Birth and Rebirth

birth and rebirth

The birth of the Christ-Child is just a few days away! Our time of waiting and watching are just about over. Or are they?

As any parent will tell you, birth is only the beginning of a greater journey that last for decades. For Mary, the birth of Jesus was overshadowed by the knowledge of what she would face some day at the foot of the cross.

Birth begins the late night feedings, diaper changes, teething, colic, and various childhood illnesses. It also brings the joy of first steps, first words, first haircuts, and first pictures. Just like in the birth of a child, our waiting leads many of us to the childhood of our Christian Walk.

Being a new Christian can be just as painful and rewarding as being a newborn child. There are many lessons to be learned, many times that we will fall short, and the joys of overcoming our darker tendencies in favor of more holy ones. If you think being a Christian will be easy, I am here to tell you it will not.

However, we can rejoice in the fact that our reward will come one day. We will stand before Almighty God and his son Jesus one day and will give an accounting for our lives. The only question is, will we be proud of what we see or ashamed?

That is part of what the waiting means for those of us who have been Christians for a while. It is a time for us to prepare ourselves and to immerse ourselves in love and good works. We will one day face judgement for the ways we treated others.

As the Gospel reading told us a couple of weeks ago, there will be those who do everything they can to help others. Christ will welcome those into the Kingdom of God. Those who chose to take care of themselves only, they will face a worse fate. Which group will you fall into?

Come visit with us and enrich your Christian walk!

Dec 152017

Mary’s Loneliness

loneliness

I suffer from chronic depression. This leads to feelings of loneliness from time to time. Some of this is due to PTSS from trauma suffered as a child and young adult. Some of it is due to repeated sexual abuse by a cousin, a rape in my late teens and another rape as a young adult. This has also led to various trust issues as well.

My depression leads me to times when I would like to be a hermit, living alone in the middle of nowhere and spending every moment in prayer and reflection. Other times, I crave human interaction. Yesterday was one such day.

I sat in the Augusta Mall watching people go about their daily lives. Sometimes, just being around people helps. However, yesterday, I wanted so badly to scream that I needed someone to just sit and talk to me. I didn’t for fear they might lock me in a padded room!

It was one of those days of crushing loneliness. It was in that moment that an aspect of the story of Jesus birth sudden came to mind. We reflect often on MARY saying yes. We consider her journey to Bethlehem and the whole no room in the inn situation. But we forget one part of the story: Mary’s crushing loneliness.

Consider this, a young woman in Israel who suddenly comes up pregnant with a fancifully tale of Angels and a Virgin Birth. The towns people likely whispered behind her back, people in the market turned their backs, and the women at the well stopped talking to her and shunned her. It had to be a tremendously painful and lonely time for Mary.

I doubt it got any better after Jesus birth considering the stories told about his birth. She was likely labeled as a liar, or a nut job. Eventually, people likely warmed up to Mary, but I doubt it happened over night.

In some ways it is a comforting knowledge that our Blessed Mother understands our moments of pain and loneliness. She can bring some comfort to us in those moments if we only reach out to her. After all, she is our mother too!

If you struggle with depression and loneliness, know that you are not alone. Reach out for help and support, rather than carrying this burden alone. Call a friend, speak to a therapist. But do not try to walk this path alone. I am here walking this same path and I am happy to walk it with you!

Let us walk this path toward heaven together!

Dec 092017

Advent – A thankful time of waiting

waiting

As I sit here at Grace United Methodist Church in North Augusta, South Carolina, the realization of why we have this great waiting period of Advent comes vividly to mind. The beauty and majesty of the coming Christmas Day is a striking contrast to the subdued setting of Advent.

Advent = Waiting

Advent is not entirely a time of penance. While we should take some time to reflect on our shortcomings and work to make amends, this season is more about hopeful anticipation. We wait with baited breath the coming of the Christ-child. It is a great time to take inventory of those things we would like to change so that when we greet the newborn King of Kings, we can do so with hearts and minds ready.

This is also a good time of year to remember all those who helped form us into the people we are today. Some of those people taught us by their actions how not to act, or how not to treat people. In addition, some taught us the greatest lessons in how to be more like Christ by their word and deed. This time of year is a good time to thank all those people for making us who we are today. Without their influence, we would not be here today and we would not be the people we are.

As we wait and watch, we should also consider our own actions and relationships with others. Are we helping to make them better people in positive ways? Or do we treat the in ways no one would want to be treated? We have a chance in this Advent to learn from our mistakes. And we need to resolve to not make those same mistakes with others.

With this done, we are one more step closer to welcoming the Christ-Child into our world!

Nov 182017

Depression and walking on water

depression

I will admit that I allowed my depression to get the better of me this week. It is hard not to at this time of year. Reflecting on the past year has reminded me that 2017 has been a very difficult year. However, I know that I am not alone. So many others have it far worse than I do.

Saint Peter understood this tendency to focus on the wrong thing. When the disciples were in the boat on the Sea of Galilee and a storm came up, they found themselves worried that they might die. Jesus was not with them. Then they saw him walking on the water toward their boat! And Saint Peter, being the one always willing to put his foot in his mouth or show off his lack of humility, asked to walk on the water toward Jesus.

His first few steps were fine. He was doing it! He was walking on water! However, he allowed his human nature to get the best of him. He took his eyes off of Jesus and looked down at the water and immediately started to sink. Jesus grabbed his hand, pulled him up and helped him back into the boat.

For me, especially this week, I took my eyes off of Jesus and started looking at the world around me. I started looking at all the things I wanted to do, the things I wanted to get, the things that I thought should be done differently. And when I did, I got depressed. I took my eyes off what mattered most.

As we draw closer to the Christmas season, it becomes more and more of a challenge for those of us with chronic depression. However, we as Christians also have the great advantage that we can turn to Jesus and ask for his help. We can focus on him and find new purpose. He can guide us to those things that will help us battle our depression. Jesus may not take away our cross of depression, but focusing on him can help make it a little easier to carry.

So look to Jesus today and find the strength you need to keep walking on water!