It Takes A Village

lotte-meijer-225654.jpg

What do you want for your children? 

The first thing that comes to mind is, “I want them to be happy.”  (Of course if I am honest, I want them to be resilient, kind, respectful, hardworking, and giving too but sometimes that list seems a little unrealistic for an 8 and 5 year old, no?)   A few years ago I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and a light bulb that went off… THIS is what I need in my life. I underlined whole paragraphs, wrote lists, and convinced myself that this was the answer. I’ve heard Shawn Achor present his work, The Happiness Advantage, at three separate business meetings.  Harvard University’s most popular course is Positive Psychology… better known as the happiness class.  I've downloaded mindfulness apps, gratitude journals and worked my way through Cross Fit workouts and whole food revolutions (endorphins! serotonin!). But despite all those things am I always happy? Is anyone?  Is the "happiness revolution" happening all around us just meant to sugar coat the pain or stress present in our lives or even help us cope with mounting tragedies around our world.  

mi-pham-223464.jpg

Don’t get me wrong I would describe myself as a generally happy person.  I draw happiness from my family and friends, my work, the small moments and the big ones.  However, happiness is a thing derived at its most basic in pleasure and its best in gratitude, but in contrast joy – well now – that is another thing altogether.  Every morning when I walk the dog and I look at the sunrise I am reminded of the words of Psalm 30, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”  Pain and sorrow is a reality of being human, but to know that there is a light in the darkness, no matter how dim, is how we experience joy.  God does not expect a life without suffering for us (I’m looking at you Lamentations) but He does give us what we need to endure sorrow and the knowledge that joy that comes again.

thiago-cerqueira-191866.jpg

Like you, I would love to shield my children from every moment of pain so I suppose it makes sense that our wish is for them to be happy.  But that is not possible all the time.  Even God did not shield His own son from pain and death.  Perhaps upon further reflection when you ask me what I want for my children I would tell you that I want them to know joy, and to be able to comfortably lament the sorrow that will inevitably come in the certain hope that joy comes in the morning. 

So simple.  Right? 

Right....

Why do you bother taking your kids to Church?

Because joy, gratitude, & faith grow best in community

For all the teachable moments we get as parents, this is one I can't do alone. First of all, let’s just say I don’t have this perfected yet and I could use all the help I can get. Also, we are fighting an uphill battle against everything in our society that tells us and our kids that we are in control of joy, happiness and sorrow and these are inextricably linked to a can-do attitude, achievement and material things.  At church, my kids get the constant reinforcement of a community of adults, teachers, youth and pastors who remind them that they are welcome and loved—no exceptions.  They get to grapple with the hard questions and test and stretch their faith in ways they could never do alone or with me as their sole teacher. It is place for them to learn the fundamentals of faith and deep down I believe the example of faith set by the teachers is infinitely more valuable and will last them a lifetime. 

Parents, sitting through worship with young kids can be grueling but I assure you that more than once, when I thought my kids were too busy begging me for a snack or playing with toys to glean anything of value, they’ve come up with a surprising question or an insightful nugget.  There are so many things that vie for our time and attention 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  They sell happiness, fulfillment, fun –  trust me, my family is richly overscheduled like yours – I get it.  But… in this community, our families learn how to live in and through sorrow and know the hope and depth of true joy. And that my friends is so much more meaningful than happiness. 

 

Our Lord and our God,  grant us grace as we parent. Give us all that we need for this great task. Bless those around us who support us in our efforts and who show our children your love. May the roots of faith grow deep in all of our hearts.

 

Special thanks to our guest blogger, Meredith Moore. Meredith serves as the Councilor for Witness and has been a part of Saint Luke since 2010. 

The Whys of Worship: The Meal

last-supper-2610875_1920.jpg

As the observation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation draws nearer, we continue in our series of posts titled "The Whys of Worship." Throughout this series, we have been exploring the Worship form used for generations: Gathering, Word, Meal, and Sending. In our previous posts, we took a closer look at “Gathering” and at "The Word."

In this post, guest blogger, Jodi Donohue shares her thoughts on the subject of the Meal. 


communion-2110404_1920.jpg

Holy Communion is the greatest mystery of all mysteries.  The power worked on us in partaking of the body and blood of Christ renews us spiritually each time we come to the Lords table.  Here we receive Christ's body and blood and God's gifts of forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation to be received by faith for the strengthening of our faith.

Holy Communion is confusing to me.  As a ritual that is performed every week here at Saint Luke, with the same words spoken,  you would think that I would be completely comfortable with Holy Communion.  I’m not.  It forever keeps me on edge.  It’s so important, this simple ritual, but I feel at its heart, the questions and uneasiness that it provokes in me.

freely-10239.jpg

Perhaps it is because so many aspects of Holy Communion are so hotly contested.  It’s as if we, as humans, are trying to manage the unexplainable.  To control this mystery that we cannot fully understand by setting up rules and boundaries around it.

Who can partake of Communion? Christians only? Baptized Christians only? In some churches I visit, only members of that church?  What age must you be?  What level of instruction must you have received?  At these times we ask ourselves, who did Jesus include or exclude from his table? And why would we do any different? 

brooke-cagle-32426.jpg

What do we partake?  Bread, unleavened or leavened? Bread only? Wafer? Is it received in the hand or placed directly in the mouth? Bread and Wine? White or Red? Alcoholic or not? Or a Blessing in its place? Where do we commune?  Standing or kneeling at the rail? In a line in front of the altar? Seated in our pew? In our home, in the hospital or by a lake? How do we commune? Intinction, Bread, with common cup, or individual cups? When do we commune? Weekly? Monthly? Only special services? And what do I do with my hands? And do I cross myself? Or say something afterwards?  And what is that flat thingy that goes on top of the cup after it’s all done? Must I prepare myself?  By confession, or fasting and repentance?  If I didn’t prepare myself, am I doing it wrong? If I, a lifelong churchgoer, feels this much anxiety and confusion over communion, how might a visitor feel?  Would they ask, “Am I allowed? Not allowed? Will people judge me if I go?  Will they judge me if I don’t go?”

freely-30009.jpg

Every time I go to communion, I feel the uncertainty of “what if I do something wrong?” Like the time I ate my bread before dipping it the cup, and had nothing to dip.  I feel vulnerable, and exposed, and weak. When I approach the altar, and stand in front of the pastor, and look into their eyes, I get lightheaded.  Here is the body and blood of Jesus, given for me, where he died for me, nailed to a cross so that my sins are forgiven.  How can you not go weak in the knees? 

Even when I am the lay person offering up that cup, I feel a moment of panic in between each person, the full weight of what is in that cup and what it means, but the Spirit renews me with each new person, steadies my hands, gives me a voice and I see a kindred spirit in meeting each person’s gaze. 

josh-applegate-301321.jpg

Many find strength and comfort in this weekly ritual.  For others it is daunting.  Communion can be a great divider, which is not its intent or purpose.  Communion’s very meaning is intimate rapport and fellowship.  It is the one place in the worship service where an invitation to join is extended, and it is the most crucial part of the service where it is necessary to feeling accepted, but has the greatest propensity to divide.

In whatever manner, whatever time, whatever place, we are welcome. 

For some, it is hesitance in acceptance, or a discomfort that they will “do it wrong”.  It takes a certain amount of courage, a willingness to put yourself out there and be open to scrutiny in order to approach the Lord’s table.  For others, who have been to the table many times before, it can be too hurtful to lay yourself bare to the healing power that communion can bestow on you.  The overwhelming feeling of standing up and receiving God’s ultimate gift can feel like it will crush you if you already feel far away and unprepared to receive Him.  However, God never stops inviting us into communion with Him.  If we believe that this table was set for us, for the forgiveness of our sins, then we are prepared.  If we believe, we are worthy.  In whatever manner, whatever time, whatever place, we are welcome. 

last-supper-490921_1920.jpg

It is extremely gratifying to me that our pastors here at Saint Luke take time every week to try and alleviate our anxiety, expressing that everyone is welcome, wherever you are in your faith journey, NO EXCEPTIONS.  That this gift is for YOU and for ME, it is for ALL.  Because the moment that gift of the bread and wine is given to me, and I partake, all the anticipation, the anxiety, and the weakness in me disappears.  God renews me.  God gives me life and salvation.  I am calm, and I am strong.

It is simple. The bread, the body.  The wine, the blood.  Believe and you receive.  Sin makes us weak, forgiveness makes us strong.  Come, join us at the Lords table, where ALL are welome, NO exceptions.

 

May we come to the table because we are perpetually invited. May we come to the table celebrating the God comes near to us.

 

Jodi is a long time member of Saint Luke and currently serves as Councilor for Worship & Music. 

 

How to Savor the Summer with Kids

Parenting is an exhilarating, challenging, hilarious, exhausting, beautifully messy responsibility and honor. This can be especially true as the long summer days seem to start with the tiniest ray of sun creeping into our window and extend until the fireflies dance the moon to bed.  Whether your days as a parent are spent bandaging up boo-boos on toddling knees or laying awake listening for your baby to shuffle into the house at curfew with their adolescent grace, summer can feel both wonderfully and painfully infinite.

Yet, however long these summer days may feel, before you know it these short months of sweet summertime with be replaced with backpacks, books, and freshly sharpened number 2 pencils. 


The Ice-Cream Truck

food-truck-1662327_1920.jpg

In the summertime, there is something magical that occurs when a child is outdoors, playing with neighbors, soaking up the sunshine…. and then is struck temporarily motionless by the distant melody of the soon arriving ice-cream truck.  Quickly shaking out of their stuper, barefeet take off through the grass, burst into their homes and announce the imminent arrival of the ice-cream truck. They scrounge or plead for change, and if successful, just as quickly disappear, filled with hope and anticipation. 

The following moments are filled with smiles and laughter, as those children attempt to savor their ice-cream before the hot summer sun melts it away & even once those summer treats are long gone, the sticky fingers tell their story.

As parents, we can learn from these kids. We can be parents delightfully savoring summer before it slips away and creating “sticky” memories that last a lifetime.

Here are 5 ways to savor your summer and make some sticky memories…

1. Be Present in the Moment

ice-cream-1866469_1920.jpg

As a parent, life continues to go on, even in the summer time. There are projects at work, aging parents to care for, and bills to pay. It can be challenging to recognize a different pace in our children’s lives, when our pace has not changed. To better savor the summer, try to carve out some unhindered, unplugged time with your kids. Make your to-do list and then set it aside for some undivided memory-making time with your kids. The work will be there when you return. However, what will also be there is the love and value that you communicated to your child by showing them that they are a priority, worthy of your undivided attention.  

2. Try Something New Together

A great way to create a “sticky” memory with your kids is to do something new together.  You will always remember the first time they put their toes in the ocean, the first time they paddled a canoe, the first time they crossed the monkey bars, or the first time they explored the big city. There is a pretty good chance that they will too, and their memory will involve you!

3. Participate in Play

Whether it is pretending to be a pirate with your preschooler or shooting hoops with your middle schooler, “playing” can be a challenge for some parents. It can feel unnatural to be so uninhibited. We may feel more comfortable on the sidelines, cheering our child on or snapping a photo of their silly antics. However, play is the work of childhood. Try to step out of your comfort zone this summer, and join in this central part of their life.

4. Make the Most of the Mundane

Unfortunately, mundane tasks such as grocery shopping and yardwork do not take a summer vacation. Yet, kids can be invited into these daily chores during the summer time and can have a blast while doing so. Teach your child how to cook their favorite meal. Make a game out of cleaning. Grab some gardening gloves and make something grow together. 

5. Read Together

Over the summer, many children regress in their academic skills. You can make an effort to not only avoid this summer slide, but make some great memories this summer by reading together. Perhaps you establish the habit of reading together every night before bed for the remainder of summer. Maybe you read your teen’s favorite book and they read your favorite book from when you were their age. You could even grab a stack of books and a blanket, and have a little reading time outside under a tree, on a porch swing, or in a garden. Sometimes a change of scenery makes all the difference. 

Whatever you choose to do, savor what's left of summer. Soak it up, share some smiles, and make some “sticky” memories with your kids.  

 

May this be the summer that your children reflect back on and say with beaming smiles “Remember when we…”

The Whys of Worship: Word

In observation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we continue in our series of posts titled "The Whys of Worship," exploring the Worship form used for generations: Gathering, Word, Meal, and Sending. In our first post we focused on “Gathering.”

In this post, guest blogger, Roberta Menapace walks us through the role of the Word in our worship. 


As someone whose mind tends to convert ideas into songs, I’ve been humming the tune to Amy Grant’s “Thy Word” ever since I started considering this topic.  She sings: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”.  This simple statement captures the reason why we need to hear the Word every time we worship.  As Christians, we strive to live our lives according to God’s will.  We want to be disciples of Jesus by continuing the work He began during his brief time on Earth.  We pray that the Holy Spirit will fill us with the courage to go out into the world and love our neighbors as ourselves.  Yet, despite our best efforts, we always fall short.  Our humanity keeps us rooted where we are, comfortable among our many friends and possessions. 

When we come to worship, we gather with others who also desire to hear the Word.  Sitting among a community of believers, listening to the Word of God, is a powerful experience.  Yes, we can, and should, read the Bible on our own.  But hearing the Word during worship, singing the Word in songs and hymns, and delving deeper into the Word during the sermon, help us to really live the Word.  God’s Word becomes a lamp unto our feet as we venture out into the larger world. 

 

John begins his Gospel with this very idea: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:1-5

With these verses, John gives us the essence of the Gospel story and our reason to worship.  Simply put, the Word of God is life and light.  By not only hearing the Word but taking the Word to heart, we become the life and light of God.  We walk out into the larger community as stewards of Christ, shining the light of His love into the dark corners of the world.  We need the Word of God to lead us, encourage us, and sustain us every day. 

Increasingly, we seem to be bombarded with news of divisiveness, hatred, and violence.  It becomes harder and harder to be a light in the darkness.  It almost feels as if our own light is dimming.  Yet our mission as the Church is to be the light, the light of Christ’s love for the world.  When we worship together and hear the Word, we strengthen our love for Christ and each other.  Together our lights illuminate a path for us, and others, to follow out of the darkness.  Thanks be to God!

 

God, our light in the darkness, through Your Word we are put together. Shape us for the work ahead, that we may be a beacon of Your love and hope to the world around us.

 

Roberta Menapace has deep roots in the community of Saint Luke and currently resides in Toronto. 

THREE Reasons Why ONE Matters

Earlier this year, over 200 people traveled to Washington DC with a commitment in their hearts to helping people living in extreme poverty.  They joined with others from all walks of life: college students, faith leaders, full-time mothers, community activists, veterans and many more. As different as each individual was, they were united in their cause. They were convened by the ONE Campaign to meet with over 200 members of congress and their staff members with the goal of asking them to protect life-saving programs in the this year’s international affairs budget.

Similarly, just last week, nine volunteers from Saint Luke helped the ONE Campaign gather support from over 1,200 people attending a Philadelphia concert by the band U2. Concertgoers added their name to a letter insisting that life-saving programs for the world’s poorest people are not forgotten by our elected leaders.

Regardless of where people fall across the political spectrum, we can work together for change. As ONE co-founder (and leader singer of U2) Bono said during the concert, “We’ll find common ground by reaching for higher ground.”

Today's guest blogger, Pastor Matt Staniz, is one of the hundreds that has gathered with ONE Campaign. To him, such advocacy is a vital part of living out both Christian faith and civic duty as citizens. Here’s 3 reasons why...

1.     It’s the Right Thing to Do…and the Smart Thing, too!

Our faith insists that God is with the vulnerable and the poor. That simple truth gives shape to our sense of right and wrong. We are challenged every day to see the face of Jesus among “the least of these” and to respond with compassion and courage. Supporting work that saves the lives of the world’s poorest people from preventable diseases and the cycle of extreme poverty is demanded of us as people who seek to be followers of Jesus. It is also, however, a very smart strategy to stand behind: the work to end extreme poverty improves the global economy for everyone and is also vital to reducing the power of violent extremism. Most importantly is the simple fact that all of this is accomplished with less than one percent of the U.S. budget!

 

2.     So Much has Been Accomplished

Less than 20 years ago, it appeared that parts of Sub-Saharan Africa would never survive the crisis of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. Because the progress made since then, over 18 million people are receiving life-saving treatments, up from less than 1 million people. Equally dramatic decreases in deaths from malaria and tuberculosis have also occurred during this same time. Last year, a new global strategy was enacted that can virtually eliminate deaths from preventable disease by the year 2030 if the world remains committed to this life-saving work. This massive progress has opened new doors of opportunity in recent years that is focused less on responding to crisis and more on building a sustainable future. In 2016, we saw the passage of the Electrify Africa Act that will bring electricity to at least 50 million people for the first time. We also saw the passage of the Global Food Security Act that creates new avenues to make a sustainable response to hunger and childhood nutrition. Millions of lives have been saved, but we must remain committed to continuing this work until the cycle of extreme poverty is eliminated.

 

3.     This Work Empowers our Ministry in Africa

Like many faith communities, Saint Luke includes in our mission work the goal of extending the reach of God’s grace around the world. We are partnered with Mikanjuni Lutheran Parish in Tanga, Tanzania and our shared ministry is growing and thriving. The lives being saved are those of our sisters and brothers in Christ. The communities that are being transformed from death to life include people that we have a direct relationship with. As increased access to education becomes possible in Tanzania, our relationship with Mikanjuni has already resulted in the beginning of the Saint Luke Mikanjuni Nursery School and the creation of scholarships at various levels of education through the African Education Program. Members of Saint Luke have become direct sponsors for students in Tanzania. Such ministry will continue to show God’s grace and change the lives of people in Tanzania as well as here in Pennsylvania. All of it, however, remains dependent upon continued commitment to the fight against extreme poverty!

 

I invite you to join me in this ongoing work by visiting www.ONE.org and adding your voice to this important work. Your voice matters. I need your help as members of Saint Luke and churches around the world to be an advocate for the world’s poorest people. If you have read this far, you are the right person to be a leader in advocacy work. 

 

May God give you the courage to stand when no others will stand. May He give you boldness to raise your voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.  May He use your hands to bring His healing to this broken world. 

 

Special thanks to guest blogger, Matt Staniz. Matt Staniz is the Pastor of Youth, Family & service at Saint Luke. 

 

Made in the Image of God

It’s way above my pay grade to understand why the Creator made race in the first place.  I’m quite confident it was not to create conflict, stress, and general confusion.  We seem quite capable of all those maladies without race considerations.

How about if everyone was simply the same--tan? What would it be like with just the Tan Man or Woman?  There are examples albeit not perfect ones.   Just ask anyone who served in the military.  You don’t care about the race of the person who has your back – just that they are there and doing their job.  But perhaps a more perfect example is children.  I recently spoke to a Caucasian woman who had adopted an African American child who at 4 years old had come home very confused, wanting to know why someone had told her that her mother could not be white.  “Why not?” she innocently asked.

There is something more meaningful than race. Something more central and true to each identity. It is the Creator. He has created each person in His image and that truth should drastically change the way we see one another.

In the first example, someone learns that race is meaningless and in the second case someone has not yet learned that it is supposedly meaningful – striking in their juxtaposition. 

Genesis describes that God created man in His own image.  In letters of Paul, he says at the end of 1 Corinthians 13 that: “For now we see in a mirror darkly, but then we shall see face to face”.

When we look at the man or woman in the mirror (Michael Jackson where are you?) we see ourselves but we also see an image of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Maybe we don’t have to imagine too hard what it might be like if there were only Tan ones.  God’s world doesn’t have enough time for the frivolity.  Let’s look in the mirror and remember who we are.

 

Loving Creator, you have made us each with love and care, declaring us good. Remind our hearts of who we truly are. Give us glimpses of You in each person we encounter and teach us to we treat one another with the same value that You see in us.

 

Special thanks to guest blogger, Ken Daly for today’s post. Ken is a long time member of Saint Luke & has served in a variety of roles in the congregation including Council.

 

 

The Whys of Worship: Gathering

Worship is an ancient practice, and after Jesus' death and resurrection, believers gathered to remember and support one another.  They did not have a temple or synagogue as a place to come together but they understood from the beginning that gathering together was most important.

Worship form today echoes the form they came to use:  Gathering, Word, Meal, and Sending. 

In observation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, for the duration of the year, we will be featuring a series of posts titled "The Whys of Worship," covering these four areas. This first post is focused on “Gathering.”

milind-kaduskar-87654.jpg

Gathering begins as believers and seekers come together to experience God, to be met by God, in sacred space.  Worship is not about what we do but rather what God does, to us and for us.  We gather because we need to meet God in the company of others, to publically confess our sin and need for forgiveness.  We come seeking renewal by God’s grace as a community expecting God, active in our individual and in our communal lives.  We come not because we are prepared and perfect; in fact we come for the opposite reasons.  We gather as we are and as best we can to receive God’s promises declared in Worship. 

In Gathering, a prelude helps us focus on worship and prepare for sacred time as we confess, and hear forgiveness, (remembering our Baptism) we sing together, we greet one another in Jesus’ name, and we offer a prayer that collects the themes and images of the day’s lessons. 

 

As you prepare to GATHER at worship next Sunday, remember:

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 12.41.44 PM.png

“I am a part of something larger than myself”

As we gather, we are not only connecting with others in our local congregation but we are a part of the larger body of Christ gathering across the world. We also are grounded in rich tradition with roots of faith that span centuries. Take a moment to thank God for those you gather with, for our brothers and sisters gathering down the street or in countries far away, and for those that have paved the way, walking the path of faith before you.

 

“We grow best in community”

This is one of our values at Saint Luke.  Who has invested in your faith? Perhaps it was a Sunday School teacher that sang songs of Jesus’ love with you, a confirmation leader that patiently helped you navigate through your questions about God, or a neighbor that welcomed you into their life sharing with you their story of faith? It is a gift to grow together. Be on the look out for ways to nurture the faith of those around you this week. 

 

jacob-rockland-24142.jpg

“God is gathered with us”

With this great reality in mind, as you gather for worship consider these two simple questions:  “What is God doing?” Pay attention. Notice Him among you. Then, reflect and ask, “How do I respond?”

 

 

May you be awestruck by your place in a faith spanning centuries and continents. May your heart be enriched by those in your life and may you too enrich the lives of others. May you gather together knowing that God is with you and may His presence fill you with great joy.

 

Special thanks to Liz Harmon for her contributions to this post. Liz serves in a variety of ministries at Saint Luke, including Nifty Fifty and Needles & Pins.

A Beginners Guide to Labyrinths

IMG_0135.JPG

May 6th is World Labyrinth Day! For those that are not familiar with this holiday (or what a labyrinth is), it is a day in which the ancient tradition of walking a geometric pattern, known as a labyrinth, is practiced by many around the world across a variety of faith traditions. At first glance a labyrinth may appear like a maze. However, a labyrinth is not something that one needs to solve. There is no pressure to successfully navigate one’s way through winding twists or turns. Instead, it is an ancient symbol that reminds us of the simple reality that life is a journey and invites us to thoughtfully engage with God each step of the way. There is only one way in, one way out, and no dead ends. One simply follows the path and will eventually find their way to the center, and then follows it back out. Along the path, one can learn a great deal about how they travel through life and about God. 

Often times, labyrinths are explored as a contemplative exercise that can help create space for relaxation, meditation, spiritual reflection, and prayer. As one journeys through the curves of the labyrinth, the walk along the steady path may quiet a racing mind, help one find more balanced footing, and allow for us to more clearly hear direction from God, our guide.

There are many approaches to walking a labyrinth. One classic pattern is that of the 3 R’s— releasing, receiving and returning.

ashley-batz-1298.jpg

Releasing- As you enter the labyrinth, you simply let go. You allow for your anxious thoughts, cluttered to-do list, and the business of life to slip away. If they pop back up in your mind, you simply let them go again. 

bruno-nascimento-249211.jpg

Receiving- In the center, you wait and listen. What might God want you to hear today? What might He open your eyes to see? Perhaps a new idea, fresh feelings about a situation, or a gentle reminder of a truth your heart needs to hold on to. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 5.41.58 PM.png

Returning- As you walk the path back out, you quietly reflect on your experience. What does it mean for you to take that gift with you back into the world? Allow yourself to be full of gratefulness for the journey God took with you. 

Again, there are many ways and places to take your labyrinth journey. For those in the Devon area, Saint Luke has an outdoor labyrinth available for you to explore! You can also find labyrinths near you by checking out the World Wide Labyrinth Locator.  Some people's labyrinth journeys do not involve walking at all. Instead, they might use a printed or knit finger labyrinth, which they trace with their finger. Check out this ELCA fact sheet about labyrinths to learn more and to get printable patterns to use yourself!

Regardless of how you choose to travel, we encourage you to try out this ancient practice. Perhaps even consider joining us tomorrow at Saint Luke for a World Labyrinth Day Walk. You never know what you might discover along the way. 

Walk with us on this journey, Lord. Steady our legs when we wobble. Direct our feet when we seem to lose our way. With every step, remind our hearts of Your presence. You are our guide, our traveling companion. You are the Way. 

 

What No One Tells You About Hunger

Hunger is no stranger to many of us. We have felt our stomachs rumble and our mouths water, longing for something to satisfy our desire for our bellies to be full and contented. In our most desperate of moments, we may have claimed that we were “starving to death,” that our need was so ravenous that we were “hungry as a bear,” so desperate by our famishment that we could “eat a horse” or even “a house.”

Yet the reality about hunger that no one may have told you about—the truth that makes us quickly loose our appetites—is that at this very moment there are some so desperately hungry that they are indeed starving to death.  Some are so hungry in fact that out of pure desperation they would consume, not a house, but mud, sand, or stones. Many tonight go to sleep wondering when their next meal will come.

While statistics on starvation (not having enough calories to sustain life) are harder to come by, the only debate is to how many millions fall victim to malnutrition (not having enough of certain healthy nutrients like proteins). Yet, really does the exact number matter? I will spare you the statistics, because it seems that even just one would be troubling enough.

As I reflect on Jesus’ life, I cannot help but think that his reaction to the hunger situation of our world, even if it was just in fact one hungry, starving, or malnourished body, would be that “not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.

With that in mind, as we stare hunger in the face, we too must remember the one. While we may not be able to single handedly end world hunger, we can make a difference in the life of one person.

Here are a few places to start….

ekntrtmz-224106.jpg

Let your learning motivate action- Learn about hunger in your community, your region, your country, and the world. As you learn, your eyes will be opened to the tragedy both on the other side of the globe and in the neighborhood just down the road.  Don’t forget to include your little one’s in the learning. Find an age appropriate children’s book to help you explore the topic as a family.

Find your local food pantry or soup kitchen- It is likely that there is one not that far from your home. Discover where it is located. Contact them to see if there are any items in short supply and pick them up on your next shopping trip. Perhaps that means that you edit your menu to be more cost effective so that you can afford the extra purchases.  Volunteer to help sort donations, stock shelves, or serve meals.

Start a garden- Nothing creates an appreciation for food like growing it ourselves. As we work the land, we are reminded that food does not grow in a box on the grocery store shelf. Also, remember that eating healthy fruits and vegetables is often more expensive than processed foods. If you happen to have a green thumb and yield a plentiful harvest, one of the items often in short supply at food pantries is fresh produce. There will likely be someone very grateful for the healthy options.

Raise your voice with others- When we work together in a coordinated way we can accomplish so much more than if we simply decided to combat hunger alone.

12994534_1126773744041086_7967963293418743261_n.jpg

Feeding Thousands: Just a few short weeks ago, Saint Luke hosted Feeding Thousands, in which people from around the community worked together to raise funds and pack 70,464 meals that would supply the Chester County Food Bank! Plan to join us next time.

Social Ministry Food Drives: Throughout the year, Saint Luke’s Social Ministry hosts multiple food drives collecting needed items for the Great Valley Food Cupboard, located just one mile down the road from Saint Luke. Consider contributing or joining the Social Ministry team in their efforts.

ONE: Through campaigning and advocacy they are working to fight against extreme poverty.  You can join the efforts by ensuring that your senator and representative hears from constituents like you regarding funding & policy decisions that affect the world’s poorest. Check them out online or ask Pastor Matt about his experiences with ONE.

 

God, our sustainer, with you there is always enough. May we live with open hands, not grasping in fear of our stomachs or hearts running empty, but willing to share courageously with those in need. 

4 Tips on Parenting in the Mobile Age

Kids are spending over 2 hours per day on mobile devices and, according to the CNN Special Report #being13, some are checking their newsfeeds up to 100 times per day. Parenting is becoming increasingly tough and resources can be overwhelming.

In this blog, I hope to make parenting just slightly simpler with 4 basic tips and quick access to resources that can help along the way.

#1 Be Smarter Than They Are

In order to combat our kids’ digital savvy, we need to learn tips and tricks of our own. By gathering tools and resources, we can take the first step to actively managing the digital devices in our homes.

1. Become familiar with your child’s phone. Parental controls are available in settings on your iPhone or Android device.

2. Check out additional parental control tools to offer even more control. Here’s a 2017 PC Magazine review that can help you choose.

3. Consider additional paid services like AT&T Smart Limits and Microsoft Family that can send alerts and updates of your kid’s activity as it happens.

4. Think about adding one of the latest apps to control screen time. Here are a few screen time apps to consider and other  tools to try.

5. Stay on top of all of the latest social sites by seeking out blogs (for example, Social Networking Sites You Need to Know About in 2017) or following bloggers like the Cyber Safety Guru.

#2 Be Diligent

Now that you have resources, parenting is all about diligence and follow-through. As they say, half the battle is just showing up! Obviously you’ll want to watch over your kids online, just as you would in the “real” world, but the dangers are a bit different – making it even more important to be diligent.

1.    Make sure your kids’ social media accounts are set to “Private” and carefully consider allowing your child access to any site that that doesn’t offer a closed environment.  MacWorld put out a great article that can help you Protect your privacy: take control of social networking.

2.    Turn OFF geo-tagging features on your iPhone or Android device. These tags sit behind the photos you share and can allow strangers to locate your child’s common team and school hangouts.

3.    Watch over your kids’ accounts for common mistakes. Most children won’t think twice about including their name as part of a username, or sharing their birthdate or email address. And, often kids share their school or team affiliations in their public facing profile information. All of this information leaves your child vulnerable to predators.

4.    Use cloud-sharing tools to instantly see the photos your child is taking. Through Family Sharing, you can stream photos to be viewed from any device. This allows parents to quickly see when a child has taken a photo that may be inappropriate and intervene.

5.    Set alert features in your parental controls. Many of the tools referenced above allow you to set email and text alerts and updates. You can’t know what’s going on 24/7- no parent can! So, use these alerts and updates to make your life a bit easier.

#3 Open the Lines of Communication

No matter what parental controls and tools you choose, don’t keep them a secret. Be open and honest with your kids. Share your concerns with them and work as a team.

1.    Explain the dangers and collaborate on solutions.

When kids are aware of the dangers that are out there, and how their information could be misused, they are more likely to monitor their own behavior and take responsibility. Bring your kids in on the conversation, and they may just be more likely to bring you in when there is actual trouble.

neonbrand-211919.jpg

2.    Write a contract to set clear expectations and partner with your kids.

Giving a child a mobile device is a sign of maturity. Honor that milestone by partnering with your child to write up a contract. Outline what you both expect as far as access, behavior, limits and procedures; detail the tools and parental control resources that will be used to monitor those any limits; and then discuss natural consequences if any part of the agreement is broken. When expectations are set up front, and everyone knows the terms – cut and dry - the “consequences” for mistakes become less personal and more “matter of fact.”

tim-gouw-75989.jpg

3.    Hold your children accountable without shame around mistakes.

Technology is a privilege, not a right, so don’t forget to follow through. Once your contract is written, the consequences should be clear, straightforward, and non-emotional. There is no shame in making a mistake – the device is simply tied to terms that have been broken, so there is a natural consequence. You’ve both signed an agreement and, in the “real world,” terms are tied to responsibilities.

 

#4 Don’t Pile On

While it’s hard to parent in a Mobile age, remember that it’s also extremely hard to be a kid. Try not to pile on to the stress and anxiety that kids feel around this topic.

Kids Health.org recently cited a study of the effects of social media on kids, stating that “17% of teens say they've been contacted online by someone they didn't know in a way that made them feel scared or uncomfortable (and) 30% of teens say they’ve received online advertising that was inappropriate for their age.”

The CNN Special Report #being13 found an eye-open level of insecurity among teens, with children reporting a high level of dependence on social media to monitor their image, or even worse, create their self-image. “61% wanted to see how many likes and comments were on their latest post.  36% check if their friends are doing things without them (and) 21% monitor if other people are saying anything about them online.”

Our children are in over their heads. And, as parents, the last thing we want to do is alienate them even more.  We have a unique opportunity to help them through this in a way that will build bridges, versus barriers:

1.    Stay in tune to your kids. Kids emotions and reactions may be tied to digital and social interaction so stay “tuned in” to stay in tune.

2.    Listen more than you talk. It’s amazing what you’ll pick up just by being present and listening to your kids.

3.    Refrain from judgment. No matter what happens, your kids need to know that you are on their side and available to help.

4.    Guide them to act, versus taking action on their behalf. When you notice a situation that’s crossing the line - give your kids the tools, and space, to handle it themselves when possible (with your support of course), rather than intervening for them.

5.    And, listen… again. This one is worth repeating. If you’re there to listen… maybe your kids will even come to talk.

With the right tools, I’m hoping that we can keep our kids safe; maintain their self esteem; and maybe even prove that a positive, personal interaction with us can be more powerful than a negative, in-personal one on their device. 

God, as we aim to parent our children faithfully and in Your way, we ask for your strength, endurance, and peace. Let us learn from You, our own loving and wise parent.

Special thanks to our guest blogger, Julie Herbster Leighton. Julie leads the Children's Church program at Saint Luke. 

Thriving After Failure

IMG_0226.JPG

Bob Moul, a Philadelphia tech CEO with 35 years experience ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies (most notably former CEO at Artisan Mobile & Dell Boomi, and current CEO of Cloudamize) has looked failure square in the eyes and has lived to talk about it. His experience of facing failure is a tale of hubris, greed, betrayal, catastrophy, a broken conference room table, faith and healing. 

In 2015, Bob experienced the worst failure of his 35 year career in technology with the collapse of his startup company "Artisan Mobile." The failure was very public in the press and could easily have been the cause of huge professional embarrassment and even potentially career ending. As the dust from the battle for the scraps of his dreams & weighty existential questions danced through his head, Bob turned to Google as he searched for:

The Meaning of Life

Obviously, there are a bazillion different answers for such a complex question but as Bob searched Google and conversed with God, he realized that he had no choice but to make some fundamental changes in order to become the person he wanted to be and to live the life he desired. 

4 Fundamental Changes To Make After Failure:

StockSnap_OV26AOMUMI.jpg

1. Do the hard work to heal and forgive

Often in the wake of failure comes damage to ourselves and our relationships. In such a circumstance, it is easy to find ourselves caught in the traps of bitterness, resentment, and rage. However, as the saying goes, “Holding on to anger and harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Doing the work of healing and forgiving is indeed work. It may require speaking with a wise friend, working with a Stephen Minister here at Saint Luke, or meeting with a therapist. In some cases, the voice of wisdom can come through a book like Beverly Engel’s “Healing Your Emotional Self.”  Regardless of which path towards healing you take, be brave, explore the areas that you most want to shy away from, and remember to smile. Joy will come again. 

Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 7.47.43 PM.png

2. Commit yourself to living with purpose and intention

““The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.” -Mark Twain.  Finding your purpose is more than selecting a career path or deciding where to clock in your 9-5. It is discovering why you are alive! For Bob, exploring with God the reality that he was here to do God’s works was a powerful journey filled with listening, carefully noticing feelings, and imagining the future. Some helpful tools along the way were “The Psychology of Achievement” by Brian Tracy and “The Power of Intention” by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

ashley-batz-1298.jpg

3. Change your mindset

Perspective is everything. We don’t always get to choose what happens to us in life BUT we DO get to choose how we respond. As we leave a negative mindset where we are constantly lacking something, competing, beating ourselves up, or are easily offended, we can begin to see the world through different eyes. One way to help create the mental space needed to change a mindset is through prayer and meditation. A helpful free meditation app, known as Headspace, can be a huge help when trying cultivate more stillness, self-awareness, and compassion. 

StockSnap_NLOEI7VJP0.jpg

4. Change your scorecard

Something powerful happens when your “currency” changes. No longer is money the only desired commodity or the clearest representation of success. Instead, abundance in areas like family, friends, marriage, traditions, and experiences are seen as treasures that comes with a meaningful life. A recommended resource to explore this idea more is Clayton M. Christensen’s book, “How will you Measure Your Life?


God, our purpose and our hope, when we feel like any victory is out of reach, strengthen our hearts for the work of healing and the privilege of living out your will. Purify our intentions and perspectives, so that we may see the treasure in following and loving you. 

Special thanks to Bob Moul for his contributions to this post. 

An Open Letter to our Students on Confirmation Sunday

Dear Confirmation Students, 

On Sunday, you and a group of fellow 9th grade students will stand before our congregation and share about your faith on a day known as “Confirmation Sunday.” It is a day that many of us once participated in years ago, perhaps at Saint Luke or another congregation. Like you, we probably felt many of the same emotions. Excitement, nervousness, joy. And like you, we were surrounded by others that had walked the road before us, paving the way with wisdom, patience and love. 

Some of you have grown up in this very church. We have watched you as you were swayed and rocked in your momma’s arms during worship. We have watched you run down the halls excitedly towards your Sunday school classroom, snagging a donut from the lobby along the way. We have watched you grow taller and stronger, quickly no longer the little one we once knew, but instead a young adult facing the world with wide eyes and a brave heart. 

For others of you we did not have the privilege of witnessing quite as many steps along your journey, but we consider it an honor to have gotten to know you and to have gotten to experience your wit, thoughtfulness, integrity, courage, silliness, honesty, and hope, even for just one day. You truly are an incredible group of young people.

Perhaps most importantly of all, we have watched you consider, question, and explore your faith as adolescents in an increasingly complex world. On Confirmation Sunday, you each will share a faith statement about your journey. Yet, the wonderful thing about this day is that it is not the end, nor is it the beginning. Instead, it is a pause, providing both us-your church family- and you the moment to reflect, to remember, and to cherish. It is a special day and on it we want you to know a few things…

 

1.  This is now your faith journey.  You are in charge of what you make of it. However, it is not a journey you ever have to travel alone. You have had tremendous support along the way from your family, your teachers and the congregation.  That will never change, so don’t be afraid to reach out, no matter how long it has been or what the circumstances may be. Good times & bad, we are in your corner. You are loved. 

samilla-maioli-152056.jpg

2.  The journey thus far has led you to learn and realize amazing things about our faith and our experience. Savor that. Cherish the memories. Remember each step. Reflect on it. Take some time to pause and think about your journey. Isn’t it awesome to see what God has been up to in your life?  We think it is pretty incredible, too. 

3.  Enjoy being the center of attention on this special day. You are making this a special day for others, and they want to recognize and reward you with gratitude and support. It is a privilege and joy for the congregation, your friends, and family to mark this special day with you. The beauty of our faith is that it connects us with others. This is a special day for you, which means it is a special day for your church. 

 

Happy Confirmation Sunday!

 

May God strengthen you on your way, provide you with rest in moments when you question if you can continue, give you kind companions to share the load, and direct your steps along the hills and valleys of the journey. 

 

Please share in the comments below the top thing you hope they know on this special Sunday. 

Special thanks to Bill Baver for his contributions to this post. Bill serves not only as the President of Council here at Saint Luke, but also leads our confirmation program.

Setting the Thermostat to Peace

As a retired Major of the Pennsylvania State Police, Major Ben Brooks has seen and learned a lot about working with people. In a recent adult education forum at Saint Luke, Major Ben examined how we interact with each other and how we can overcome negative attitudes that limit performance and hinder our relationships. He asked forum attendees a simple question: 

Can you recall a time when you felt discriminated against? 

For some it may seem difficult to think of such an occurrence, yet the truth of the matter is that diversity, inclusion and bias impact us all.  It is not just about differences of race but any aspect that makes people different- age, gender, abilities, etc. It can take many different faces, but the result is almost always pain, brokenness, and conflict. 

We can model Christ-like behavior to affect the culture around us. Similar to Jesus, we live in a world with raising temperatures of division and conflict. Thankfully, we have the ability to set the thermostat to a place of peace, understanding, and inclusion. 

Here are a few ways to bring the temperature of a potentially explosive situation down a few degrees:

MMA-fighting-free-license-CC01.jpg

Look for the whyOften in conflict, we start with gloves on, full of anger, and ready to defend ourselves. Yet, to lower the temperature, we need to start with empathy. If we cannot understand where people are coming from, it is going to lead to continued problems. We must react to situations not based only on what we see, but we must look beyond the surface for the “why.” Often times, the reason for a person’s behavior will give you insight into the best solution. 

Check your baggage- Often times our opinions of people are based on past experience and these unconscious biases can affect behavior. Yes, you may have had a negative experience with “this or that type” of person before, but no two people are the same. Take some time to reflect on your experiences and heal. If you continue to find yourself in conflict being fueled by your baggage, consider talking to a wise friend or therapist. Do the work to check your baggage, you will be lighter. You’ll be glad you did.  

smile-191626_1920.jpg

Choose your words wisely- Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18). Inflammatory words can raise the temperature of conflict, inflicting pain, spreading judgement, and leaving wounds. Yet, when chosen wisely, words heal. We can use words to calm a hostile situation, words to encourage the insecure, and words to invite others into relationship. 

yfmjalh1s6s-matheus-ferrero.jpg

Reframe the goal- As we navigate conflict, we must remember that unlike other “fights” there are not two opponents. With the goal of setting the thermostat to peace, we also join hands with those on the other side. No longer are we battling against one another, but instead we are collaboratively working together for the benefit of both. With the goal of peace and of honoring the humanity of those we encounter, we find that strangers become friends and enemies become teammates.

May we all search past the surface, live with light hearts, medicate with our words, and find ourselves together, enjoying the temperature of peace.

 

Special thanks to Marcia Skoglund for her contributions to this post. Marcia helps coordinate and plan adult education at Saint Luke.  

 

3 Ways To Be More Like A Wheel & Less Like An Island

rdyme8kqav0-ivan-slade.jpg

Is your church congregation more like an island or a wheel?  Are you an isolated island who only connects with each other? Or are you a wheel with spokes reaching beyond your walls, expanding to your community?  All of us logically know we should be more like a wheel but at times this feels hard to accomplish.  We don’t even know where to start.

jlptm3klxva-sinisa-plevnik.jpg
4cuu6jfp1qy-juan-davila.jpg

We have all (hopefully) had experiences with gatherings of individuals who worship in a variety of different spaces, and in various ways, and walked away feeling graciously welcomed.  Sadly, this is not always the case and there are many who have been so hurt and disillusioned by religion that they would not even consider stepping foot in a church.  As church attendance across all denominations declines and we look for ways to connect with our community, we must realize how important it is to get out of the sanctuary and to try to connect with our community, in the community.  At Saint Luke you often hear our pastors emphasize  “All are welcome, No exceptions,” but maybe we need to say that to our broader community and not just on Sunday mornings to those in the building?

In a passage in the book of Matthew (28: 16-20), Jesus tells his disciples, “Go and make disciples.”  Jesus was known for being out and about in the community, talking to tax collectors, widows and Gentiles.  In fact, I believe most of his sermons were on a hillside or in someone’s home, not in a temple or a religious space.   He did not wait for them to join him in the building, but sought them in their unique spaces.

Here at Saint Luke we have decided to look for opportunities to connect with our community as a whole and individually.  We will try harder to get out of our “bubble” and to discover new ways to reconnect with our neighbors in their spaces.  

 

Here are 3 steps you can take to join in on this venture to be less like an island and more like a wheel…

1. Check out the article- "The Face of the Church is Changing” by Megan Brandsrud. Be inspired and start dreaming of leaving the island for more wheel like ways of living.

2. Be on the look out-  Pay attention to your natural connections in the community, not with the goal of just inviting them to come in, but with eyes to see ways that you can share God’s love with them right where they are at.  Remember, it’s not really about getting a welcoming message out about Saint Luke, but most importantly that with Jesus-“All are Welcome, No Exeptions.”

3.  Have open arms- Even a wheel has a center hub. Gathering together in religious settings does have value and a place. Yet, if the goal is for others in the community to be able to easily join in, we must be sure that we are ready to welcome them with open arms. Say hello to someone new at service. Offer a tour to a guest. Invite a visitor over for coffee.

Lord, mold and shape us. Round our rough edges and mend our brokenness. Transform us, individually and as a church, until we reflect your heart to the world around us. 

Special thanks to Jen Wright for her contributions to this post. Jen leads a Sunday morning adult group called, Table Talk. Table Talk is an adult discussion group about using our faith in everyday life.  

 

Director of Music Ministry

Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 6.00.16 PM.png
Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 5.58.21 PM.png
Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 5.58.55 PM.png

Meet John Rea, our new Director of Music Ministry. His love for music has taken him on an incredible journey, helping others experience worship through the beauty of the creative arts. At Saint Luke you will likely find him at the organ masterfully playing a lovely hymn, laughing along with our kids as he leads them in song (even in super speed with hand motions!), or giving creative guidance to the talented choirs and musicians at rehearsals.

John comes to Saint Luke with not only heart, but much experience and skill. He was trained classically on piano and organ, studied classical voice, and even started a Christian rock band while in college at Temple University. He has composed hymns, anthems and musicals for the church, and created a theatre partnership with a synagogue in Philadelphia. His hymn, 'God's Work, Our Hands' debuted in the 2014 SEPA Synod Assembly. 

John began his work as a church organist/choir director in 1986 at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Conshohocken, PA, where his father served as pastor. He also has served as Director of Music at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Audubon, PA, where he built the music program from one senior choir when he arrived to two junior children choirs, a senior choir, a summer series of vocal and instrumental soloists and an intergenerational bell choir. He also created three Christmas Pageants, as well as wrote and directed a musical based on the Christian fairy tale, The Three Trees. In The Three Trees, the intergenerational cast of 50 worked with Spiral Q Puppet Theatre from Philadelphia to create over 40 puppets that lived on 15 foot bamboo poles!

John not only has a passion for making music but inviting others into the process regardless of their skill or knowledge level. He has taught music and liturgy to children ages 2 – high school. He’s introduced percussion instruments into the fabric of worship, even directing a brass quintet for holiday services. He has experience directing vocal soloists and instrumentalists, both acoustic and electric, from beginner to expert. 

Outside of church, he is the Founder and Artistic Director of MacGuffin Theatre & Film Company, a nonprofit arts-based education program for young actors.  He is married to his best friend of 11 years, Stacey-Kyle. Stacey serves as Pastor for Youth and Family Ministry at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Phoenixville.


We thank you gracious God for all that care and nurture Your people. May You fill them with peace, ingenuity, determination and gladness. Fortify their hearts for the great work ahead.