Thoughts & Updates

News, perspectives and updates from Grace Episcopal Church

Epiphany Light and Capitol Violence

Three Wise Men

Epiphany, January 6th, is one of the greatest days in world history and now one of the worst in American. The magi, whose visit to the Christ child we celebrate on the 6th, take the news of Jesus’ birth out to the world. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation, the shining, of the light of Christ for all people.

January 6th will also now forever be remembered as the day rioters chanting “Four more years,” carrying Trump 2020 flags, overran the capitol. These individuals bear responsibility for their actions. President Trump also bears responsibility. Republican US Representative Liz Cheney, from Wyoming, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, told Fox News. “The president incited the mob. He lit the flame.” Five people are now dead, one from gunfire, three due to medical emergencies, and one from injuries. The halls of congress have been looted. Our democracy damaged. These actions must be condemned.

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God's Creative, Renewing Power

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The other day I was at Vom Fass, Julie Ginsler’s wonderful shop in Cary, talking about Christmas dinner. She and Bill are planning to have their famous crab dip appetizer, followed by roasted cauliflower prime rib, twice baked potato and Boston cream pie. Cindy is planning to make a delicious vegetarian lasagna for us! Many households today include other delicacies instead of or in addition to the traditional Christmas menu.

This past year has been hard. We have all struggled to varying degrees with wearing masks, social distancing, and the loss of our accustomed routines and ways of interacting with one another.

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Seeing the World and God

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Yesterday, birds were everywhere in the backyard. Ever since getting a few birdfeeders, I’ve noticed that shortly before a storm they disappear. They flock back, once it’s over. Without satellite imagery, radar or sophisticated computer modelling, birds know rain is coming.

Tiny birds have incredible abilities. They sense changes in barometric pressure and hear sound waves below the limits of human ability. They actually hear a large storm approaching. Many bird species also see ultraviolet light. Our eyes have three cones, enabling us to see red, green and blue. They have a fourth for UV.  Birds see the world in a way we can’t imagine.

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The Fire of God's Love

IMG_9213 Fall Colors 2020
 

 The fall colors were more vivid than usual this year. It was as if God, like an abstract expressionist painter, wildly threw reds, yellows and oranges all around. Or, perhaps, God simply revealed the colors that had been there all along.

Of course, there is a scientific explanation. The combination of warm days and cool nights produced brighter colors.

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A Weird but Holy Easter

The Empty Tomb

I’ve been thinking about Christmas. You might be wondering if I’m having an escapist fantasy, longing for a happy time without COVID-19. That might be part of it, but I’m thinking about Christmas, because every year whether or not I’m ready, Christmas arrives. It doesn’t matter how many or few Christmas cards I mailed, whether or not I found the perfect gift for Cindy, or if I’m feeling the spirit of the season.

Although we don’t think about it at Easter, since we’re not under the same pressure to buy gifts, decorate and mail cards, the same is true for it. Neither the birth of Jesus nor His resurrection depend us. They happened. Jesus was born! Christ has risen!

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Invitation to a holy Lent

Invitation to a holy Lent

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (The Book of Common Prayer 1979, 267).

These words from the Invitation to a holy Lent during the Ash Wednesday service always move me. Although softly uttered in the stillness of a dimly lit church, they reverberate through my soul, as if blasted from loud speakers at an outdoor heavy metal concert, calling me to refocus my life on Jesus, reminding me that in God alone is found real life, ultimate meaning and true purpose, nudging me to let go of my petty concerns about what people think of me, grades and other trivial matters that in the end will burn away in the Holy Spirit’s renewing fire.

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Your Best Year Ever

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The start of a new year is a hopeful time! The year ahead is full of possibility. Each of us wants to have a great year. Faith can show us how to have one, because God created each of us with unique gifts and abilities.

If you want to have a great year, perhaps, your  best ever, reflect on what you’ve enjoyed doing most in your life. These are your keys to a great year. Focus on doing more of them in 2020.

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Jesus Defines Christmas

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In a board room, a person defiantly states to the suits around the table that they should call their party a Christmas party instead of a Winter Gala. They should also give baskets to the homeless instead of spending money on food and drink because “giving defines Christmas.” The only problem with this movie scene, which I saw last night, is giving doesn’t define Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m all in favor of giving, especially to those in need! Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It’s simply that Christmas is about much more than giving. Giving at Christmas historically is a recent phenomenon.

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You ARE Special

You ARE Special Bode's Galaxy

“You are not special. Neither is the earth.” These are central assumptions of modern astronomy that have guided the discipline, since Copernicus concluded 400 years ago the sun, rather than the earth, was the center of our solar system.

Our faith teaches the opposite. You are amazingly special. God created you. You are "wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14)! You are so special that the Son of God comes into the world and gives His life on a cross for you. God loves you passionately. You are incredible!

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Red Barn Rescue Collection

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Many thanks to all who contributed to our annual collection for Red Barn Rescue, a no-kill dog shelter in Clayton. We raised $91 through the raffle, won by the Rev. Dr. Cathy Deats, who gave the $20 Petco gift card to Red Barn, for a total of $111. Many also gave dog food and other items for the dogs who have been rescued from kill shelters. We do this every year in honor of St. Francis, whose holy day is October 4th, and in thanksgiving for the gift of our pets and all of God's beautiful creation! 
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Women Meet this Sunday

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Last Sunday I met with the men of the church for breakfast at Bojangle’s. We joked around, talked about football, discussed a passage from the Gospel, and planned the brunch the men will offer between the two services Sunday November 3rd. All of that in less than an hour! We had a great time!

Groups are so important for the life of the church. We humans are social animals. Jesus formed the first church group when he called the Twelve. That doesn’t mean we always need to be surrounded by people. Jesus himself went away to a “lonely place” to pray. It simply means that our time together is an important part of who we are as followers of Jesus.

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Fall Cookout and Blessing of the Animals

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We had a great fall cookout and blessing of the animals in honor of St. Francis! Thanks to everyone who attended, brought food, cooked and got donations! It was one of our best ever!
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Join A Connect Group

Join A Connect Group

If I have a choice between self-checkout and a cashier, I go with the cashier, unless that line is too long. I like to talk to the checkout person. Of course, in our day and age, talking to a human is less common than in the past.

Automated menus greet us when we call a company. We buy more and more online! I just bought name tags for the church on Smile Amazon (remember to buy there and support Grace!) Even when we have the choice of talking to someone, we frequently text instead. I do it all the time. Sometimes that’s the fastest way to reach a person.

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Aftermath of a Hurricane in the Bahamas

Fr Franklyn

Fr. Franklyn Colebrooke, Sr., a Bahamian, shares his experience of the Bahamas after a hurricane. We are collecting funds for the relief of those affected by Dorian. My wife and I have contributed $100 and challenge others to match that gift. Checks may be made out to "Grace Episcopal Church" with "Dorian" in the memo and mailed to the church at PO Box 752, Clayton NC 27258. All donations go to help those in need.

John Gibson, Pastor

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New Sunday School Year

Sunday school

Yesterday, a fellow student in the astronomy class I’m taking at State, said, “I’m getting nervous about the exam Tuesday.” Tests, papers, and grades add up to stress and anxiety. At Grace, we remove the stress, allowing you to focus upon the joy of learning, and it is joyful.

 We naturally want to learn. It’s part of our DNA. Humanity wouldn’t have survived and thrived if we didn’t. People get excited when they learn something for the first time, when they have an aha moment. The process of learning opens up new worlds to us. Of course, at Grace, we’re not learning just for the sake of learning. We’re learning about the most mysterious and exciting reality in the universe: God.

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Help Our Bahamian Sisters and Brothers

Dorian Destruction Help Our Bahamian Sisters and Brothers

“It looks like everything went through a wood chipper,” said an NPR commentator about Abaco island after Dorian. The devastation of the two northern most islands in the Bahamas was epic. Abaco was hit by 220 mile an hour wind. Dorian parked over Grand Bahama pummeling it for more than 48 hours.

Although I have never been to the Bahamas, this tragedy feels personal. Fr. Franklyn and Jennifer are from the Bahamas. Franklyn messaged me, “Abaco is family, my ancestors….” Ivamae, who worships at Grace when she visits from the Bahamas, emailed, “The damages in those two islands is beyond comprehension. Can u imagine 65% of the homes and businesses demolished and the 35% compromised in Abaco.” Ivamae’s sister lives on Abaco. She’s not sure when she’ll go back. The death toll in the Bahamas has risen to forty-three. Thankfully, Fr. Franklyn, Jennifer’s and Ivamae’s family are safe.

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Planning for the End of Life

Bougainvillea

One of the most difficult tasks each of us needs to face is preparing for the end of our lives. Morrie Schwarz said, “Everybody knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.”

That applies to me. Cindy and I don’t have a will. We talk about making one, but we haven’t, yet, emphasis on “yet.”

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Step Boldly Like Neil Armstrong

image-9-900x506 Buzz Aldrin Salutes American Flag

Fifty years ago, Saturday, a human stepped on the moon for the first time. Neil Armstrong culminated a decade long American drive, costing billions of dollars and involving hundreds of thousands of workers. While the US reached the moon first, it started the race far behind.

After the Soviet Union had achieved a number of firsts, the United States shifted its space effort into high gear in 1961. President Kennedy rallied the nation the following year in a speech at Rice University’s football stadium, proclaiming,

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A Modern Good Samaritan

Collection for Venezuelan Children

Yesterday, when I got back to my car after my 8:00 a.m. class at NCSU, I looked for my driver’s license. When I couldn’t find it, I thought I’d misplaced it in my red backpack, or perhaps it had fallen down beside the driver’s seat, as happens sometimes. I became concerned when I got home and still couldn’t find it after looking again through my backpack and the car.

Later that morning, I got an email from Allen, a postdoc research scholar, who had found my license on campus. It had fallen out of my backpack while jogging to get to class on time. Allen had looked me up online, first, calling the church. When he didn’t get an answer, he searched for my email address. This morning, when Allen met me on campus, I thought about the Good Samaritan. He was mine.

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American Blessings and Challenges

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This summer I’m taking an 8:00 a.m. class at NCSU. As most of you know, I love to learn. I park on a street near State and walk to class.

On my way through the quiet campus, I’ve been thinking about the many blessings of our area. In addition to great colleges and universities, we have excellent medical care. When they go there, our members give Clayton’s hospital great reviews. We also have Clayton’s wonderful charm, the Triangle’s many amenities and an easy drive to North Carolina’s beautiful beaches and mountains. We are blessed to live in a great area in a great country!

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