The left hand column contain articles written by Dr. Frantz for the Miami Lakes Township local newspaper, "The Laker." This newspaper is published two times a month. Dr. Frantz writes a colunm entitled, "Echoes of the Heart." Below you will find an excerpt from each article. On the right hand colunm are articles published in the monthly Church's newsletter.
The articles are in PDF format. Please be patient, depending of your brouser, it might take a moment for the article to appear. If you do not have adobe acrobat, you can download it free by cliking on the the following link: free adobe acrobat reader.
Echoes of the heart
Februay 15, 2013 "Teamwork"
When we are looking out for one another, being vigilant to life around us, having each other's back, as we like to say, our life in community is exponentially enriched. All of which is to say that it is important to see ourselves in a communal sense, not just as isolated individuals, but as members of community. We are better off, individually, when we are more cohesive communally.
February 4, 2013 " Having the capacity for amazement"
Do you want to be inspired? To have the capacity to be inspired, or to be amazed, is an important quality in life. To be amazed is to have an experience, as if for the first time--an experience of being surprised, drawn in, and fully engaged that is out of the ordinary.
It's a sort of Did you see that? or Can you believe that? kind of experience. Like the birth of a child, for example. Is there anything like it? It is utter amazement. There is often a moment, soon after child birth, when the mother and father sort of look at each other and go: Wow, how did we do that? ... as they cast their eyes in amazement on the miracle of child birth that is before them.
January 18, 2013 "Taking the first step"
As the New Year breaks upon us, it is an exciting time. It is a time for new beginnings and a fresh start. What I like about the New Year is the reassuring sense that the future is wide open, that if we have the will, the determination--along with a modicum of wisdom--the New Year can be a time of transformation and new direction for our lives
January 4, 2013 "Of what will our children sing? "
As the New Year breaks upon us once again, in the aftermath of the horror of the massacre at Newtown, CT, with the recalcitrance of our national politics and the anxiety of the looming fiscal cliff, we cannot keep ourselves from wondering: what kind of a world are we passing on to our children and grandchildren? In other words, Of what will our children sing? Although we see positive signs that our economy is slowly picking up steam, still, the uncertainty in Europe, coupled with the upheaval ignited by the Arab spring, leaves us on more shaky ground than we would like for the New Year that is before us. In the big picture of life on planet earth, always, there is a lot going on and much at stake.
No Echoes for December 15, 2012
December 5, 2012 "Slow down and enjoy the season"
Well, friends, it is that time of year again--the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the time when we are all too busy, over scheduled, with seldom enough time to step back and enjoy the season. Somewhere, a voice sounds out from the heavens: slow down and enjoy the season. If we think about it, there is much to enjoy in this interlude period.
Family gatherings, joyful celebrations and the fun-packed sharing of our lives with those whom we most love. These festive days ought to be the best of times. The key is for us to stop and taste the fruits of the season and organize our lives accordingly.
November 15, 2012 "The day after.."
There are many lessons to be learned from "election 2012." To begin with, we have learned that, every day, America is a land of changing demographics. Every year, Anglo-Americans (white people) constitute a smaller percentage of the American population, as increasing numbers of Hispanics, Asians and others continue to migrate to our shores.
Along with our changing demographic comes the need to adapt to these new populations. As a country, we have to find ways of including these new faces at the table. Therefore, values such as being inclusive and appreciation of diversity take on greater importance.
November 1, 2012 "November 6th can't come too soon"
Often times, around election time, we hear people say things like, my vote won't really matter; we already know which candidate is going to win in our state anyway. While one candidate may be an overwhelming favorite in a particular state, still, it's important to vote because it's important to participate in the democratic process.
Moreover, if we do not vote, we forfeit our right to complain or protest. When we think about voting, it is helpful to consider German philosopher, Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative: that we (my interpretation) do that which--if every other human being would do the same thing--would be good for the human situation.
The more people vote, the more the will of the people is expressed. Our whole democratic system rests on our core belief that the will of the people becomes the rule of the day.
October 15, 2012 "I am what I am because of who we all are"
The larger point is that the particular success we have in life is due to more than the simple formula of talent, hard work and, yet, more hard work. It also has to do with context, with right time/right place. More than we might be inclined to think, it means that family and community matter. Life circumstances matter. Support of one another, nurturing one another, standing with one another along life’s roadway matter.
Again, each of us is what we are because of who we all are!
October 1, 2012 "Make today count! "
In our overly-competitive and consumerist culture, a disproportionate emphasis is placed in final outcomes. In the business or corporate world, it might be owning our own business or rising to CEO. In academia or social service, it might be becoming the principle, the president or the head of the department. In sports, it might be winning a championship ring. While these achievements are not to be diminished, the more important concern is what kind of a person did we become along the way? Making today count awakens us to the importance of the moment. It challenges us to pay attention today—right now—to be alive to the promises each day offers.
September 15, 2012 "Let go and move on! "
There are times when we have to do a spiritual house cleaning. We have to clean out all the cob webs, all the residue of our past that is holding us back and live toward the high ground.
The high ground is where love, compassion, forgiveness, generosity and peace with justice for all are the way of things. These are the values that lift us, that exalt us as human beings and give us hope for the future
September 1, 2012 "When all you’ve ever wanted isn’t enough"
As it turns out, happiness can be as elusive as a butterfly. The more we chase it, the more it flies away. But if we can stop chasing it and busy ourselves with simple acts of love, kindness, compassion and generosity of spirit, almost without noticing, the happiness we were pursuing begins to overflow in our spirit. Again, our lives are about the simple acts of love that connect us to each other.
In the Olympics, when the sun sets, there are those who medal and those who do no t. But if the athletes pursue the highest excellence that is in them, they are all champions, all worthy of our respect and admiration. We never know who we are in life until we jump in and give it a go.
Hats off to all of the 2012 Olympians from around the globe! Thanks for putting yourselves our there and going for it. May the Olympic spirit live on!
August 3, 2012 "The strangeness/ the sickness of the Aurora, Colorado tragedy"
When violence strikes against the innocent, as it did recently in Aurora, Colorado, at a midnight screening of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, we hardly know where to turn. With the tragic loss of life and the deep, psychological impact on the survivors and the families of the victims, it utterly numbs us. Always, we are caught off guard.
As the worlds of surreal fantasy and reality come together in a sick mind prone to violent impulses, how could we not be? Can people really be this wacko, this unhinged, this inhumane? Once again, tragically, apparently they ca
July 20, 2012 "Reflections on Life and Community Living Does everything happen for a reason?"
It is important to remember that, just as we human beings are created in freedom—freedom to choose—the universe, too, is created in freedom. Indeed, it is self-creating every moment. Most of the time, this self-creating results in the wonder and beauty of the natural world. Other times, however, it results in natural disasters such as earth quakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis.
Moreover, if we think about it, everything happens for a reason is bad theology. It sells short any notion of God we might hold. If what we mean is that everything that happens in our lives is part of some divine plan orchestrated by God, when bad things happen to us, what does that say about the character of God, to say nothing of God’s love? A loving God simply would not do all the things that happen to us.
July 7, 2012 "The Miami Heat and the pain that leads to triumph"
Winning in sports is not easy, particularly at the highest level. Ask Roger Federer! Ask Tiger Woods, both of whom are the greatest of champions in their sport. Ask Charles Barkley and Dan Marino (two of the greats of all-time who never won titles)! It takes incredible talent, focus, hard work, timing (i.e., right time, right place) and even luck to win at the highest level.
What the pain of defeat teaches us is how we don’t want to feel when the competition is over. It reminds us that we don’t want an off season of endless sleepless nights and regret, remembering—again and again—our failure to triumph. We don’t want to revisit—over and over—the harsh words of our critics, all the naysayers who delight in discrediting us and telling the world how we’re not good enough and not made of the stuff of champions
June 15, 2012 " Why do we do what we do? "
Beyond the will: turning to God. However, although our will is important in shaping our behaviors, in and of its self, it is not always enough. For example, we can’t simply will ourselves to rise above the dark elements in our spirit. Beyond the will, to be whole, healthy and well, we have to subordinate our lives to God, or to the Spirit, to something outside ourselves—something greater than ourselves.
June 1, 2012 "Forging new boundaries"Pushing back the boundaries of our lives is seldom a painless unfolding. And yet, in the process, it can be a wonderful blessing for us all. Forging new boundaries in family, nation and planet is increasingly important in a world that is everyday made smaller through advances in technology and science.
Clearly, the trajectory of the 21st century is towards a world of greater diversity. Our challenge is to find the will and the way to achieve a world of increasing unity amidst this diversity. Simply put, forging new boundaries, we have to find ways of living together
May 18, 2012 "Immediate gratification is killing us—literally"
Anticipating tomorrow. How can the future speak if we are unable to anticipate consequences? Thinking ahead enables us to do today what we need to do for our well-being tomorrow. Again, it’s called thinking long-term.
A question to ask ourselves: How will I feel tomorrow about what I’m getting ready to do today? Good counsel for any of us: Do, today, the things that will enable me to become the person I want to be five or ten years from now! If we want to be healthy, exercise and eat well today. If we want to be financially stable, spend within our limits today and put at least something away in savings for tomorrow.
Immediate gratification is a behavior trait of the moment. Unfortunately, it is also a symptom of the culture of poverty.
May 4, 2012 "We’re in this boat together: reflections on Earth Day"
In the big picture of things, the context for our Earth Day celebrations and concerns is the sacredness of life. As the Bible reminds us in Genesis 1: And God saw all that God had made and, indeed, it was very good. In other words, life is good; creation is good.
Part of our word to self, therefore, must be that as stewards of creation, we have a moral responsibility to preserve the sanctity of life that our Creator God has given us. When we violate the sanctity of life, unmistakably, we work against God’s ultimate purposes.
About all of this, we need a humble wisdom, a wisdom that sees beyond the ephemeral, the transitory—the short-term foolishness that fails to value the larger realities of the environment, realities that we must be concerned about for the long-term and for future generations of our children and grandchildren.
April 20, 2012 "Words matter –the Ozzie Guillen blunder"
When our words and actions hurt others, if we seek forgiveness—always—there is a price to pay for the offender. It’s about the sincerity of our confession. While the words of confession are important, in and of themselves, they are never enough.
To be truly forgiven, we have to be changed. How could it be any other way? Forgiveness is meaningless unless it brings about some transformation of the offender.
April 1, 2012 No Echoes
March 16, 2012 "Do you want to be inspired?"
To be inspired, we have to be alive to the promises of the spirit that pulsate with us. We have to be alive to the reaches of creativity that seek expression from within—alive to the wonder and magnificence of love and alive to the renewal and joy of a new way of seeing ourselves, leading to a new way of life.
Beyond our fears and insecurities, there is nothing holding us back from being alive to the best that is in us. When we listen to the deeper murmuring of our hearts, open ourselves to the reaches of the spirit—trusting in the process—good things happen; and, soon, almost without noticing, our inspiration becomes our reality.
March 1, 2012 "How did Jeremy Lin happen?"
No matter how well we think we know anybody, there’s always more. The Jeremy Lin story isn’t just a human-interest, sports story with global reach, it’s a wake-up call for all of us. With what eyes do we embrace our lives everyday? With what set of assumptions and stereotypes do we see people, even our own family members and friends?
Truth be told, we never know when the unexpressed gifts of any human being are bursting to be revealed. All the time, we have to ask ourselves, Are we seeing people—our own children, perhaps—only how we want to see them, blocking ourselves off from seeing them from a wider perspective that might more fully unveil who they are?
February 17, 2012 "Where prayer take us"
Prayer is relational. It is in this sense that prayer is relational. In fact, they have done tests which suggest that when we actually know the person we are praying for, it makes a difference in how the person responds—all of which makes sense, if we think about it, because God works through people, through our compassion and love for one another.
What all of this suggests about prayer is that, to be genuine and to make a difference, it takes effort. It takes energy. It takes a focused compassion and love.
February 1. 2012 "Raising kids and stuff"
When we come to view our children as spiritual beings and understand how, as human beings, each of us is intimately connected, it opens us to deeper levels of trust in the essential goodness of creation. In trusting the relationship, we place our trust in this fundamental goodness.
Let go and trust the spirit! Most of the time in life, the best we can do is work hard, strive for excellence and, trusting the spirit (the relationship), hope for the best. Always, there comes a point when we have to let go and trust the spirit, realizing we cannot control all the variables of our lives.
Self-belief also relates to hope. No matter what, as human beings, we must be a people of hope. We must believe that things can get better—that people can change, that we can change. We must believe that tomorrow can be a better day. For hope to be alive in our lives, we have to look for it—in every person and in every life-situation.
This isn’t always easy because life can be hard and people can be difficult. People with self-belief look for the positive in life. They embody a sense of hope about the future. For them, the glass is always half-full, never half-empty. In every situation, with all people, they look on the bright side and for the best that can emerge. What is important to understand in this is that—everyday—this is a choice we make. We choose our attitude
What these recent polls suggest is that we Americans expect a level playing field, an equal opportunity to achieve and a sense that our community and national lives are defined by fairness and justice for all. Let the voices cry out! Let the songs of hope and common fairness be sung! Let the passionate cry of the prophet echo across the land!
December 15. 2011---No articlereturn to the top
However, as expert after expert has pointed out in recent years, the overwhelming key to education is teachers. Microsoft’s Bill Gates has spent over 5 billion dollars in recent times trying to bring reform to American education. When asked what his top priority would be for every school district across our nation, his immediate response was: hire the best teachers.
Apparently, this is precisely what Finland has done. Even though Finnish students start a year later than most countries, emphasize creative work and shun tests for most of the year, they score near the top on international tests. What’s up with this? In a word, they hire only the best teachers who are paid well and accorded comparable respect to doctors and lawyers.
November 18, 2011 "The increasingly flat world we live in"
With the advent of globalization, coupled with the incredible advances in information technology (IT), from virtually any part of the planet—if you have a cell phone—you have access like never before. This access—to the global system of interconnected computer networks that is the internet and to the World Wide Web (a service that runs on the internet)—is leveling the playing field in dramatic fashion.
This new, flatter world is having a democratizing effect across the globe. Everywhere, increasing numbers of people can connect, compete and collaborate with more different people, from more places, for less money and with greater ease than ever before. It’s staggering, mind-boggling.
Assuming an acceptable level of income, surely, happiness starts with our relationships—relationships to spouse, children, parents, extended family and friends. However, to be truly happy, we also need our work—the mindful using of our talents and gifts towards some life purpose enabling us to provide for our families while, at the same time, contributing to our community.
Beyond this, happiness asks something of our soul and spirit. It asks for some form of life-commitment to ultimate meanings. These ultimate meanings are not limited to religion, yet religion is probably where they are likely to be sorted out and incorporated into our daily lives.
It takes courage to be the person our heart and intuition keep telling us we are. Courage, because it’s not always the easy road to go down. Courage, because it’s hard not to doubt yourself when other people keep wrapping you in their dogma and truth. And yet, there are great benefits from pursuing the courageous path. They’re called inner peace and a calming in the spirit. There is the palpable sense in life that the greatest thing we can do in our human journey is to live an authentic life.
These Commandments are about LIFE. They’re about honoring and respecting the sacredness of LIFE—apart from which our family and community lives become torn apart and drift easily into waywardness. These Commandment truths evolved over centuries, each of them having their own complexity, their own story in relation to culture and context. But again, obedience to Commandment (their function) served to sustain LIFE and to protect us from the destructive impulses of sin.
No matter how great our successes or how high our expectations, there will be times when we fail. How can we not? After all, we’re not robots; we’re human beings and things won’t always go our way. But there’s a huge difference between falling short of our goal, having given it our best and not realizing our goal because we never tried.
The content of our spirit as human beings (and our character) is more about the process of living than the final results that ensue. For it is in the process of living—of creating, giving, loving, working hard and persisting—that the deepest joys of life come our way.
The future is with those who are able to put the past behind them—the worn out tapes and memories—and risk an openness to the challenges and possibilities of tomorrow. Yesterday’s failures do not have to become tomorrow’s fate.
We can change. We can grow. We can dare to look at the world through fresh eyes. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who once said, Our chief want in life is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.
August 1, 2011
In our active and busy lives, it’s normal to be troubled by many things. Without blinking, easily, fear and anxiety creep into our minds and spirits.
Most of the time in life, there comes a point where all we can do is turn it over to God in trust and hope for the best. Trust is the key. But of course, trust has a context in any of our lives and that context has much to do with the hard work and preparation we invest in pursuit of our goals.
Confidence and hope build in our lives when we trust in the fruits of our hard work and dedication. I am reminded of the saying, The harder I work, the luckier I get.
July 1, 2011 "Don't hold back"
Going for it in life is a quest of the spirit. Only when we aim high in life is the best that is in us drawn out of us. Our lives are not about having a full trophy case (although, surely, trophies can be nice mementos).
Our lives are about the quest of our spirit—the extent to which we can dig deeply within ourselves and discover our best self. In this process, we do not settle; we live and commit so the best that is in us might be unveiled.
June 17, 2011 "Love is all there is; but it is enough"
Navigating the emotional realities of these two disparate worlds—uncontainable joy and unspeakable sadness and grief—takes a person to a deeper place where words fall hopelessly short of feelings but where a more keen awareness of the power of the life-force is all the more revealed. In these moments, we know—more than ever—that our lives are about love.
New life and new hope come in the realization of this truth—that love is not only all there is, but that it is enough. In trying to find ways of living again and sorting ourselves out (when we lose a loved one), the best thing we can do is live our lives in ways that honor the best that was in the spirit of the person who has died. For the sanctity of their memory and for God’s purposes in the world, honoring the life-force that was in them is what our lives need to be about.
June 3, 2011 "Suicide talk"
The worst thing that can happen to any human being is to have a child commit suicide. Losing a child is bad enough; but for our child to take his or her own life is the worst.
What happens in suicide is that, at the moment, the person contemplating suicide can’t imagine life beyond the pain and the darkness. Therefore, to make the pain stop, they act against their life. However, if we could only slow things down, these moments of darkness and pain never last forever. They are always ephemeral, transitory, short-lived.
One of the keys for prevention (again, particularly with younger people) is to challenge the suicidal person on the meaning of their feelings. For example, it’s useful to suggest something like: Your feelings of the moment are not going to last forever. Tomorrow, next week, next month—you’re not going to feel like you do now. You can make it through this.
May 20, 2011 "Trust and the Miami Heat"
Our growth and maturation as individuals, families, teams and groups take time. Sometimes, therefore, the best counsel we can give ourselves (or others) is to trust the process, remembering that the process takes time. Relationships in all realms of our lives take time to evolve and blossom. In all of this, it is important to have a sense that we have done our best, that we have done all we can do.
This also helps minimize any feelings we might have of regret. In both our lives and in the world—we can’t instantaneously simply fix everything that’s broken. The fixing (the resolution) takes time. Once more, we have to trust the process.
At the end of the day, hopefully, we all learn that our lives are about more than us as individuals; they are about us as family, as team and as community. And because we need each other—both to win in sports and to thrive in our relationships, trust is a key element to our health and well being.
May 6, 2011 "Is hell dead? "
Heaven and hell as metaphor. For me, heaven and hell have meaning as metaphors that describe the spirit of life here on earth. Sometimes, our lives are a living hell; other times our lives are heaven on earth. Indeed, we casually use these expressions as part of our common discourse.
Hell is the experience of a personal darkness that sucks the life out of our spirit. It is knowing excruciatingly difficult times—times of personal struggle, grief, pain and anxiety. It’s been a living hell, we say, in the popular vernacular.
Heaven, on the other hand, is something quite different. It is the experience of joy and happiness. It’s the profound exultation of personal health and well being; it’s the deep fulfillment of relationships that give meaning to our lives. Heaven is to live the life where many of our hopes and dreams are realized in the here and now.
April 15, 2011 "The presence and absence of God"
When we pause for discernment, what is compelling about faith is the utter mystery of the journey. Faith comes to those who seek its coming, but—always—it comes through our relationships and in its own time and own way.
March 18, 2011 "Don't worry"At some point in our lives, we have to give ourselves to life and to our life’s unfolding in trust. In spite of anything about us—status, wealth, wisdom, whatever it is—we can’t control all the variables of our lives. At some point we have to let go and trust—in the sheer goodness of creation and in the goodness of the Creator.
March 4, 2011 "Can we love everybody?"
On a human level, it is easier to love people than to like them. To love another human being is to identify with that human person as—like us—another human being, with a life-story and with feelings … with joys and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses, good points and bad points.
There is a common chord of humanity in each of us. It is this common chord that we seek to lift up everyday in our efforts to promote peace and harmony—both in our human, as well as our international relations.
February 4, 2011 "When violence strikes"
The argument always put forth in the national debate over guns is that guns don’t kill people, people do. The truth is: people with guns kill people. As statistics on crime suggest, seldom do guns prevent crime and almost never do they make us safer. The variable in the debate is not people.
There will always be some percentage of human beings harboring evil, potentially violent impulses. This is a constant; it is the human situation. The variable (what can be controlled) is the too-easy availability of guns. It has gotten to the point where the escalating availability of more violent weapons (with excessive capacity to kill) has become mindless in our culture.
January 21, 2011 "Growing pains in the New Year"If we observe the social trends in our country—over the decades and even centuries—the trajectory clearly tilts toward enlarging the circle of our life and letting more people in. We’ve seen this in extending the vote to women in the 1920’s and, later, in race relations, culminating in the Civil Rights movement of the fifties and sixties. And we see it, too, in the recently passed legislation with regard to don’t ask/ don’t tell. Still, these changes take time; they don’t happen over night. In a sense, they are part of a life-process of growing pains. On a smaller scale, we see this in our families and community life as well.
January 7, 2011 "What you do matters"
What we do matters. If we want to change our life-situation in whatever way, we have to be the change we desire. As the New Year comes upon us, our prospects in anything are as great and as high as our imagination and determination to achieve them in light of God’s purposes2010
December 17, 2010 "A sense of urgency"The point is there are times in our lives when we need to feel a sense of urgency. We see this frequently in business ventures when we need to know when to push the right buttons. It also applies to our relationships when, for example, a family needs to do an intervention for a loved one lost in the darkness of some addiction. The point, again: life matters. Love matters. What we do or do not do today matters.
December 3, 2010 "The joys of a generous spirit"
Thanksgiving is itself rooted in grace—in the free gift of a loving and compassionate God whose abundance—everyday—pours over us. A truly thankful heart helps put our lives in perspective. Moreover, our thanksgiving is a condition of the spirit. It is a disposition we feel about life. It is also an attitude.
To a great extent, however, we choose our attitudes. In this sense, our attitudes are choices we make everyday. Any day, any moment, we can choose to embody an attitude of humility and gratitude in our living, or an attitude of arrogance and entitlement
November 19, 2010 "Getting right with ourselves"The point is, there are times when we’re not right. Sometimes, this uneasiness within transmutes into guilt; and unresolved guilt, over time, wears away at us. It burdens us and weights us down to the point where, left unattended, it descends into depression and brings us down.
November 5, 2010 "Can we know God’s will for our lives"
The idea of God’s will is important, not because it’s something we can actually know, but for us to seek to discern—or learn about and gain insight into—in what is called a process of discernment. In recent years, discernment has become a buzz word of sorts in the progressive wing of the Christian Church.
To be discerning means to show judgment and insight, an ability to make distinctions. But again, it is a process. It is not like we ever actually arrive.
October 15, 2010 "Tough times are times for personal growth"
In all the seasons of our lives—but, particularly during tough times—it’s important to make the best of things. It’s important to see the difficult situations that come our way in life as opportunities for learning and personal growth.
October 1, 2010 "The power of personal presence"
What do you do when the loved one of a friend or an acquaintance dies? How do you respond? What do you do or say?
Often times, in these difficult situations, we think we have to say something; and, understandably, we worry that it might be awkward or we might mess it up. I’m not suggesting that we not say anything. There are usually some helpful words we can share if we wish. However, what I am saying is that our words are not the most important thing. The most important thing is being there
September 16, 2010 "Surrendering the American dream"
Perhaps one of the benefits of these austere economic times will be the gradual surrendering of the Gospel of Wealth to a more aptly phrased Gospel of Restraint, an interpretation of Christian faith more in line with Jesus’ primary teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
A Gospel of Restraint would emphasize a more tempered life-style, a life-style with a distinct element of sacrifice and generosity of spirit. In the years ahead, such a Gospel could help redefine the American dream, pulling us away from greedy impulses that compromise our soul while opening us to the fruits of the spirit realized through the values of sharing, cooperation and giving ourselves to the needs of the whole.
September 3, 2010 "What's the best religion?"
What the religions of the world reveal to us is that they all have their good points, their sublime glimpses of the divine. In most cases, what religion we are has to do with context—where we were born and what religious story we were raised up in.
For the Dalai Lama, the name of the religion is not important. What is important is the place our religion takes us and the glimpse it gives us of the human heart. When our religion nudges us along the pathway of justice and communal responsibility, it is the best religion. When it prompts in us a response of compassion and generosity of spirit for the poor, the downcast and the infirmed, it is the best religion. When it leads us to the shores of God’s tender mercies and forgiveness, it is the best religion
August 20, 2010 "Re-entry—coming home again"Returning home, it’s always a good feeling when—going through passport control—you hear those special words: welcome home! Simply put, it’s nice to have a place called home—a place with the familiar imprints and symbols of our life-journey
August 6, 2010 "Sabbatical Leave, Final Reflections"
With our days in France winding down, some final reflections on our fourteen weeks here in Aix-en-Provence. To begin with, the beauty in the Provence region of France is spectacular—nothing like I have ever seen. From the beaches along the Cote D’Azur, to the hovering mountains, and up and down the rolling hillsides, the beauty draws you in. Historic, quaint and adorable towns and villages built on hilltops; and below, rolling valleys and rich, verdant farm lands and vineyards. Wherever you turn, there is an unmistakable sense of antiquity. Roman ruins, for example, are everywhere. Castle-like structures, fortresses, churches, amphitheatres, and endless walls for protection; all of these scattered elements greet you as you enter a new village—usually built, if possible, on a hillside or hilltop.
July 16, 2010 "Ten days in Greece and Turkey"
I’ve always wanted to see the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, spend a few days on a Greek island (one of those islands featuring the whitewashed homes looking out onto the azure ocean waters) and walk along the way of the Apostle Paul at the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey. For ten days in late June, Yvette and I were able to do all of this.
July 2, 2010 "Navigating the streets of French towns and cities"
Since our arrival in France two months ago, we continue to be impressed at how the French navigate the narrow streets and byways of their towns and cities. I’m speaking, of course, about the town centers that were built centuries ago (we live in the town center of Aix with one of these narrow streets right below our third story windows). At some points, some of these streets are barely twenty feet wide.
June 18, 2010 "Conversation partenaires"
With our goal of becoming conversational in French, early on we began to seek out conversation partners. By now (we’ve been here around six weeks), we’ve settled into a weekly routine of sessions with three very different French persons. They are all interesting and helpful to us in different ways. The goal of the conversation sessions is for us to help them with their English while, in turn, they help us with our French. Even though the French—understandably—have great pride in their country, their history and their language (l’esprit Francais is legendary), still, fluency in English has great appeal to them. This is mostly because—increasingly—English is the international language. Hopefully, as Americans, this inspires a humble reaction in us while, at the same time, prompting us to learn other languages ourselves, as we are able.
June 4, 2010 "The Popularity of Petanque"
At the Petanque site we visited, most of the players were retired men (Word has it that the Petanque games get them out of the house). Like everything else in sports and games, the competition can become fiery and, clearly, there are pecking orders of talented and winning players. Being, historically, a competitive person myself, my son-in-law commented to my daughter, This game would be great for your dad. He’d fit right in here. We’ll have to see how things play out on that one.
May 21, 2010 "Summer in Provence"
As part of a four-month Sabbatical leave, Jeffrey Frantz is currently living in Aix-en-Provence, France (140,000 people, thirty miles west of Marseille), along with his wife, Yvette, and their five-year old chitz-a-poo dog, Niko. While in France, Echoes of the Heart will be comprised of his reflections and musings on a Summer en Provence. If you wish, you can follow his blog at http://summerinprovence.blogspot.com.
April 2, 2010 "A Lenten reflection: Can we tell the truth about ourselves?"
March 19, 2010 "How vulnerable are we?"Vulnerability as a unifying awareness. If we tell the truth about ourselves, we’re vulnerable creatures. None of us gets out of this life alive. Life, even for the most healthy and strong among us, is fleeting. However, to sound a more encouraging note, this same vulnerability is the foundation of an enduring solidarity. As St. Jerome observed centuries ago, Whatever one of us suffers any of us can suffer.
March 5, 2010 "Covenantal commitments and Tiger Woods"Considering the consequences. As human beings, why is it that so often we listen to the voice of immediate gratification rather than the voice of probable consequences? What keeps us from thinking long-term and pausing to measure the possible consequences of our choices?
If we tell the truth about ourselves, most of the time, don’t we know what we ought to do? We know; yet, we allow ourselves to buy into a false reality. False realities are always out there, luring us away from our best self. In religious idiom, we call them sin.
February 19, 2010 "Life-lessons from Super Bowl 44"
It’s important in life to be willing to risk failure. In baseball, a good hitter fails seven out of ten times. In basketball, even the greatest shooters miss some of their free throws and almost half their shots. Even the most accomplished violinist and pianist sound an imperfect note now and then.
February 5, 2010 "Haiti: beyond the human loss and devastation"The tragic consequences of the recent earthquake in Haiti continue to leave us numb and groping for answers. With reports of mass burials in the thousands and upwards, the magnitude of the loss of human life boggles the mind.
Learning a new language is always a challenge, of course, but I’ve been this route before. The overarching key is to have an immersion experience where you are compelled to speak the language as an unfolding part of your daily routine.
January 1, 2010 "Of what will our children sing?"
With all the upheaval in recent times, we cannot keep ourselves from wondering: what kind of a world are we passing on to our children and grandchildren? In other words, Of what will our children sing? The best of our generals pursue a winning strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Our expert economists seek enduring solutions to our beleaguered economy. Our politicians volley contentiously back and forth about health care reform; and the nations of the earth come together to sort out the challenges of climate change. In the big picture of life on planet earth, there’s a lot going on and even more at stake.
December 18, 2009 "The ambiguity of the holiday season"
The joy of life comes through the struggle and the tears. It comes on the shoulders of our suffering and sorrow. As our religious holy days unfold before us during this holiday season, if we resolve to push on (keeping the faith), meanings and truths will rise up and give way to a cheerfulness within—on the other side of our imperfect lives, on the other side of regret and disappointment.
For all those whom we hallow in sacred memory, for the deeply distressed in our midst, and for ourselves, let the life that God gives be celebrated. Come, O Holy One, come!
December 4, 2009 "The blessings of a generous spirit"
Did you know that giving is good for you? Again and again, studies have shown that giving makes people happy. It makes us feel better about ourselves.
For many people, giving is the most fun part of Christmas and the holiday season; no surprise there. Clearly, there’s joy in giving—for both the giver and the receiver.
The miracle of child birth. Child birth continues to be the most amazing unfolding—how these adorable human infants come into the world so completely formed, everything in the right place (thank God), from the complexity of their eyes to their tiny finger nails.
At its best, the birthing process is a singularly phenomenal event, utterly humbling and joyous. These infant ones are bearers of the same genetic pool that gave us life. And always, they remind us of the sanctity of life. In them, we see both our past and our future—the recurring traits that are carried on through them, along with the new features to which the creative process points.
November 6, 2009 "The ambiguity of suffering"There is a strange phenomenon in this world, a reality that is both perplexing and ambiguous. It is related to human suffering.
On the one hand, through no outside intent, bad things happen to good people; they just happen. Good, righteous, God-fearing people suffer—through no apparent fault of their own. This was at the heart of the story of Job in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible.
Sometimes we experience this with family and friends—people we’ve loved and cared about on the deepest of levels—who suffer heart-wrenching personal loss through disease (usually cancer) or random accidents.
On the other hand, this same human suffering creates in us new possibilities for understanding and feeling that enable us to love and nurture in ways that we perhaps could not before. Therein lies … the ambiguity of suffering.
October 16 2009 "The many pathways to God."
As a person of faith, I have always believed there are many pathways to God. And just because someone is not in my group and doesn’t think like I do or talk like I do doesn’t mean their pathway to God is any lesser than mine. It’s simply different.
Always, one of the dangers in the Christian Church, or in any faith tradition, is to be too exclusive in anything we do; too exclusive in membership, in who can take Communion or be baptized or married or buried or whatever it is.
October 2, 2009 "No regrets! Really?"
Sometimes, long after a husband’s adulterous affair, both husband and wife will comment how their marriage is actually better and how they’ve grown to this wonderful new stage of marital bliss.
Still, is there no regret? Would the husband now say to his forgiving spouse, I’m so glad, now, that I committed adultery, aren’t you?
September 18, 2009 "Common sense any one? "
When we apply common sense to some of the recent controversies sweeping across our land, beginning with the President’s speech to school children and youth, we begin to wonder, what’s up with us?
Does it make any sense that the President of the United States, a hands-on parent of two young girls, a man who has a pattern of cautious deliberation in everything he does, would suddenly go off track and say something inappropriate for school-age children/youth? Again, is there even a trace of logic in such a fear?
September 4, 2009 "When freedom of expression goes too far"
As Americans, historically, our identity is linked to our freedom. Land of the free, home of the brave, we say. We take our cherished freedoms seriously.
Still, freedom has its context—the health and safety of the wider world in which we live. When the life-energy and well-being of that context are threatened, bringing potential violence into the public square in the name of freedom of expression, for example, we’ve gone too far. Even freedom has its limits.
August 21, 2009 "Dealing with compulsivity"
No doubt we all have some level of compulsive inclination. The key is to recognize it in ourselves, understand it and find ways of turning it into a strength. There’s nothing inherently wrong with counting things or wanting to straighten out the colorful painting on the wall in our neighbor’s family room.
At the same time, there are certain things that we’d be better off letting go of—things that were said or that happened to us that are of small consequence. In human relations, we have to pick and choose our battles. Most of the time, we’re better off letting go of things that are really trivial or silly and welcoming the new day with a clean slate and a fresh beginning.
August 7, 2009 "Obesity and our kids: what’s up?"
To a considerable extent, parents are role models for their children’s life choices—for diet and eating patterns, for what they do with their leisure time, and for life-style choices for physical fitness along the way.
Always, a hands-on approach is most effective: eating together as families (whenever possible), exercising together as well, and organizing our time in ways that promote physical fitness and social interaction.
July 17, 2009 When fame becomes too big—too much.
Today is the observance of the Michael Jackson Memorial in Los Angeles, CA. Not just here in the United States, but around the planet, millions and millions of people are dialed in—taking in the performance tributes and listening to the expressions of praise and adulation.
July 3, 2009 "Following your passion"Have you found your niche in life? Are you doing the number one thing you want to do? In other words, are you following your passion? Over the years, when talking with young people and the conversation comes around to life purpose and life goals, at some point I invariably ask them, What is your passion? What is the key thing in life you really like to do? Put another way, what life-pursuit really makes your heart sing?
June 19, 2009 "The grass is not always greener"
Is the grass always greener on the other side of the fence? Would we be happier in life with another career path, with a move to another house or to a neighboring city or state? It’s easy to get drawn into the illusion that the grass is always greener somewhere else, isn’t it?
May 15, 2009 "Not everything can be fixed"
May 1, 2009 "Who are we?"
Who am I and who are you? Questions of identity always fascinate, don’t they? Are we really the person we present to our surrounding world each day? Or is there another us, another secret person in us begging to be released?
This latter description would seem to describe Susan Boyle, the forty-seven year old unemployed charity worker from a small village in Scotland who wowed the world with her singing recently on the U.K. Television show, Britain’s Got Talent.
The key to her sudden fame is the marked contrast between the way she presented herself on the show and the impression she made once she started singing.
April 17, 2009 "Does everything happen for a reason?"
The problem with everything happening for a reason is that it can be an enormous copout. Where’s the individual responsibility? More still—from God’s point of view—when God gave us freedom at the dawning of creation, God relinquished control and chose to trust, instead, the goodness of our choices and the generosity of our spirit.
When we choose poorly and make a mess of things (which is much of the time), through a sorrow that at times fractures God’s own heart, God forgives and—hopefully—we find the renewal and purpose to move on.
April 6, 2009 "Religion Talk"
Part of what is both inviting and of concern about religion—both exhilarating and repugnant—is that it offers the best and the worst of our human experience. Almost always, this has to do with interpretation.
How do we interpret our sacred writings and what conclusions do we make about them? In the Christian faith, for example, the way we read the Bible is critical. If we read the Bible literally, assuming that every word and story are to be believed in a literal way (i.e., the miracles literally happened as opposed to being metaphors).
March 6, 2009 "Looking up when we’re feeling down"
Some time ago, I read a newspaper column where the author suggested—straight away—that optimists have more friends.
If you think about it, it’s probably true; and why not? Don’t most of us prefer to be in the company of people with a positive outlook?
I run into people all the time who are die-hard optimists. I’m referring to folks who are determined—day in and day out, week after week¬¬—to be upbeat, to have a good day. In my countless conversations with my late father, when I would ask him if he was having a good day, every time he would reply, I refuse to have a bad day; every day is a good day.
February 20, 2009 "Life transitions—Bill Graham"
I remember Bill for his wonderful World War II stories, his unflappable optimism and for fun, fiery conversations on just about everything. Around discussions of international relations, national politics, sports and global warming, what I liked most about Bill was his passion for life.
Through the countless stories and vivid memories recalled, over time, the qualities of greatness that made him such a highly respected and revered man were revealed. As we think about ourselves and our own lives among family and friends, what are some of the qualities of greatness that lift us to a higher place?
February 6, 2009 "The larger meaning of Obama’s Inauguration"
More than anything, the January 20th Inauguration of President Barack Obama in our nation’s capitol was a day of hope realized, a day when the heavens rejoiced. It was a time of unstinting unity and coming together, a time when the world seemed to pause—if for only a day—and rejoice in surreal splendor.
It was more than a mere happening. It was a richly symbolic event, symbolic of a purification and redemption of the American spirit. No matter who we are as Americans in 2009, it’s important that we grasp the symbolism and the attendant meanings.
January 16, 2009 "Transitions"
January 2, 2009 The power of the new year
Tomorrow is an opportunity for us to make sense out of today … and yesterday. Sometimes the yesterdays of our lives are so overcome with sadness and grief, with disappointment and regret, that the only way we can make sense of things is by what we choose to do tomorrow and in the days ahead.
December 19, 2008 "Glimpses of hope"
Come, all of you, into my presence. No matter your group or your religion; no matter anything about you. Come, and be blessed in my presence, and begin again.
For wherever the Christ child is born—which is anywhere and everywhere—new beginnings are possible.
December 5, 2008 "Destination: the other side of the financial crisis "
With the holiday season in full bloom and the New Year soon to break through, still, the global financial crisis remains the number one story. Everywhere, it’s got people talking.
What’s both curious and alarming about our economic woes is that nobody really knows what to do. Still, I have no doubt that over the next few years, if not sooner, we’ll find our way to the other side. Nonetheless, for the moment, it makes us nervous.
What does it all mean? And on a more personal front, for all of us, how secure are our jobs, to say nothing of our retirement and our savings?
November 21, 2008 The meaning of Obama’s win
We Americans have a tremendous capacity for imagination. In election 2008, more than ever, we dared to imagine a post-racial America, an America with a new resolve to be redeemed of our awful sin of slavery.
November 7, 2008 Aren’t we all Americans?
One of the greatest strengths of our nation is our incredible diversity. We’re a nation of immigrants. Indeed, the vast majority of us bear the seed of ancestors who, coming from their homeland, got off a boat sometime, somewhere.
October 17, 2008 "The economic crisis and the Ten Commandments"
As we Americans find ourselves mired in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression back in the late 1920’s and throughout the 30’s, signals of alarm are all about.
What does it all mean?
In spite of the recent bailout legislation passed by congress, credit contraction is still the major issue as financial markets struggle to find a path to recovery. Millions of us around the country can’t help but wonder: are we going to be alright? Three months from now, six months, a year and beyond??return to the top
October 3, 2008 "When we lose our parents"
On September 19th, my father died, one day shy of his 91st birthday. My mother had already preceded him in death in January of 2007. Certainly, it’s a blessing that my parents lived long, productive lives; and it’s a great joy to remember that they had sixty-seven wonderful years of married life together.
Still, for me, there’s a sense of deep loss in my father’s death. My parents have always been the core element in my identity as a person. They were that place called home, that I called every week (in later years, every night). They were the glue that held our closely-knit family together—the source for updates on what was going on with my three siblings and their respective families
September 19, 2008 "Hurricane bluster"
There are, indeed, things to be taken seriously. Are we listening? To the mood of the community and nation? To the calls from the underside for change and a more hopeful future? To the cries from underneath for health care, more equitable education, and more opportunity to provide for our families.
The rumblings from Ike awaken us from our slumber; and we remember. It’s time to get prepared. Time to do what we need to do to brace ourselves for the very real danger tomorrow poses.
September 5, 2008 "Letting go and moving on"
August 15, 2008 "Why male athletes struggle with retirement"
The question for someone like Brett Favre eventually becomes, does the appeal of playing outweigh the appeal of going out on top? At this juncture, Favre’s answer seems to be a resounding yes. However, after a few months back (if that, in fact, happens), he may change his mind and the appeal of retirement may win the day once again.
Moving on and the meaning of life. For many of us, in all realms of life, retirement can come too soon and leave us grasping for a new sense of meaning and life-purpose. More and more, retirement-age people are asking: if I like what I’m doing, why should I retire? To do what?
August 1, 2008 "The 2008 Olympics: let the games begin!"
Straight away, the Olympic Games are the best thing we do on planet earth. Although always vulnerable to political protest and unrest, nonetheless, the games give us the best glimpse we have of possibility across the globe. Through it all and rising above it all, the Olympic slogan endures: One world, one dream.
May it be so!
Always, the opening ceremonies set the tone. Celebrated performers Celine Dion and Taiwan’s Jay Chou will headline the festivities, along with thousands more in the total cast of participants.
But the sacred moment of the games is the athletes entering the Olympic stadium—from every nation of the earth—and then the lighting of the Olympic torch. The symbolism overflows with feelings and meanings caught up in the high hopes we hold for One world, one dream
July 18, 2008 "Patriotism: a messy sorting out"
Is patriotism supporting our government no matter what it does, or is it respectful dissent when our government falls short of our expectations and our sense of our Founding Fathers’ ideals?
July 04-2008 "Making blended families work"
Blending two families together, after a divorce or the death of a parent, is seldom an easy transition. Always, there are adjustments to be made on all sides.
The starting point for the blended-family process is the actual divorce itself, or loss of a parent, as the case may be. Working through these particular losses take time, understanding, discernment and, in some cases, forgiveness.
However, it’s imperative to deal with these endings in healthy ways—ways that minimize unfinished business, like remorse, anger or grief.
June 22, 2008 "Geography anyone?"
A greater awareness of global geography, along with a refresher course on world history, would go a long way in helping us put a face on the rest of the international community, an important step in building relations of mutual understanding and peace.
The demands of the twenty-first century are going to radically alter the way the world functions and, therein, the way we Americans need to embrace the world if we are to be successful while, at the same time, being constructive global partners with our brothers and sisters across the planet.
June 6, 2008 "Remembering fathers"
At our best, we fathers want to make sure our families are okay. We want our wives to feel cherished, honored (as the mother of our children) and fulfilled as a human person. We want our children to have the best possible chance to realize their innate gifts and to lead purposeful and contented lives.
May 16, 2008 "Are you living the good life?"
One day at a time. Part of our problem as Americans is that, too often, we’re in a hurry. We want instant everything; instant food, instant transportation, instant good health, instant results at work. Due largely, perhaps, to our consumer-crazed culture, we’re not a patient people.
May 2, 2008 "Just a little more"
April 18, 2008 "Beyond stereotypes"
For me, personally, relationships are more about spirit than any other unifying category. While age and personal interests are important, to a point, they’re never the primary determinant of who I value spending time with.
April 4, 2008 "Race Talk"
Couple this with the biblical precedent for strong prophetic preaching (i.e., preaching truth to power), and you have a recipe for the sort of fiery and incendiary language unveiled in some of Rev. Wright’s sermons. In a word, as any of us who have spent much time in the black church know, fiery preaching is not an uncommon experience. That is not to say we agree with it; but it is to suggest that we understand it.
March 7, 20008 "A key to success and inner peace- don't covet"
February 15, 2008 "Election fever"
A person with size is a person who understands ambiguity, that life doesn’t come to us in clear shades of black and white but, rather, in various hues of gray. To have size is to—all the time—see the big picture, the inter-relatedness of all things.
February 1, 2008 "Called"
...our calling comes over time and over years of sorting ourselves out. Often times, discovering our calling only comes when we’re willing to risk trying new things. For example, traveling abroad, learning a new language, taking an interesting class, or attending a challenging seminar can all be springboards to uncovering a special calling in life.
January 18, 2008 "Change is all the rage"
January 4, 2008 "Taking the high road"
December 21, 2007 "Are we alive, or just going through the motions?"
December 7, 2007 "Through the eyes of hope"
November 16, 2007 "The first holidays without mom"
October 19, 2007 "Who do we exclude?"
Much of the time these decisions are based on convenience or safety. Still, there is a natural tendency to live out our lives in situations and communities where people are more like us."
October 5, 2007 "When God seems absent"
In the cover story of the September 3rd issue of TIME Magazine, we learned of the stunning revelation of Mother Teresa’s fifty-year crisis of faith—her prolonged dark night of the soul experience when God seems somehow painfully absent.
September 21, 2007 "Taking the first step"
My guess is that people of belief (and unbelief) pass through similar valleys of existential doubt and cold fear from time to time. It’s the human situation. Moreover, often times it’s useful to hang-in-there with our doubts and not be too quick to suppress them. If we’re eager and persistent, the light will come.
On the other side of our doubts, what if Julian of Norwich is right? What if the joy (and the hope) of resurrection faith recaptures a flicker of the joy at creation—a joy to be realized again in the last days?
September 7, 2007 "Taking the first step"
The good news about a process of discipline is that anyone can do it. Any human person can be disciplined enough to achieve their goals. Sometimes we lack the discipline because of the way we think about the challenge before us. In our mind, it’s become too large, too improbable. When in fact, if we can break it down into more manageable parts (manageable size and time frame), the challenge becomes more doable.
Breaking things down into manageable time segments is important also because it reduces our anxiety. Moreover, it’s helpful to realize that we don’t have to have everything all worked out today, at this moment. Part of the discipline process is doing what we can today (without going overboard) and then repeating the process again tomorrow.
August 17, 2007 "Back to School"
"... the spirit of sport is violated when the competitors cheat. The whole meaning of the games that we play is undermined. Performances are altered, therefore affecting final outcomes.
The sacred trust. If we think about it, there’s a certain sacred trust in all of life. We assume, we trust, that people are going to comport themselves in a particular way.
In community life, there’s the trust of some level of common civility, decency and good manners. There are always exceptions of course, but for the most part, most people indeed are civil, decent and reasonably well-mannered."
July 20, 2007 "Are you happy with your life?
July 6, 2007 "Let freedom ring … and responsibility, too!"
"The Statue of Liberty remains a symbol of our freedom around the globe. As Americans,
May 18, 2007 "Love never ends"
The truth is, love can take us to new places—love that deepens commitment, that strengthens resolve. To know again, to be reminded, that our family and friends believe in us, that they value us, that they want so much for us to be well and alive to the promises God holds for our lives.
May 4, 2007 "Virginia Tech massacre: a glimpse into another world ."
April 20, 2007 "Are we measuring Up"
April 6, 2007- "American Idol and the American dream"
March 16, 2007 "Dealing with temptation"
February 16, 2007- "Stuff we need to be able to talk about"
February 2, 2007: "When we lose a parent"
- January 19, 2007: "Looking for the good in life"
- January 5, 2007: "Truth-telling and looking ahead"
- December 15, 2006: "It's the holidays! Cut yourself some slack and enjoy"
- December 1, 2006: "This I believe!"
- November 17, 2006: "Okay, we got it wrong -the Dolphins and other stuff"
- November 3, 2006: "Dealing with stressful relationships"
- October 2, 2006: "First Impressions"
- September 15, 2006: "9/11: Five years later"
- September 1, 2006: "Don’t let your good become the enemy of your best"
- August 18, 2006: "A vision for peace"
- August 4, 2006: "Are you compulsive?"
- July 21, 2006: "Restful vacations"
- July 7, 2006: "More than winning and losing"
- June 16, 2006: "Beyond regret"
- June 2, 2006: "Beyond we and they"
- May 19, 2006: "Are you here? Where are you?"
- May 5, 2006: "You can't have it all!"
- April 21, 2006: "When the best is drawn out of us"
- March 17, 2006: "Too much stress?"
- March 3, 2006: "Marriage and love"
- February 17, 2006: "Divorce: from the child's point of view"
- February 3, 2006: "When we lose a child"
- January 6, 2006: "Let's go and see!"
February 2012 " Planning for the future"
October 2010" Imagining our future"As part of a Sabbatical experience, one of the things both pastor and church are supposed to be doing is reflecting on and imagining the future of the church. Presently, our church is in the midst of a number of transitions (periods of change).
September 2010 "It’s great to be back"
Yvette and I are still adjusting to being happily back home in Miami Lakes after our four-month Sabbatical experience, fourteen weeks of which were spent in Aix-en-Provence, France. For me, personally, it was a wonderful time of rest and renewal. After four months away, I return to my pastoral role, now, with new energy and with excitement about our future.
Yvette and I are hosting a special dinner/program at our church (in Fellowship Hall). We’re calling it, Summer en Provence, Merci Beaucoup. In addition to the French cuisine (nouriture Provencal), it will be an opportunity for us to share our Sabbatical experience with you and to thank you once again for this wonderful experience.
April 2010 "And we are off..."Yvette and I are very much looking forward to this experience. However, please know: we will be very much looking forward to our return to MLCC as well. In many ways, this is an opportunity of a lifetime for us. Four-months pretty much with no deadlines, fourteen weeks of which will be in Provence in France—all paid for by the grant our church received from the Lilly Endowment, Inc
March 2010 "More on the pastor's sabbatical leave"Hope to see you at the bon voyage party on Sunday, April 11th Still, how do we see ourselves continuing to unfold in the months and years ahead? In what ways will we continue to grow our church—expand our outreach ministries, develop a youth ministry, and continue to provide spiritual and theological growth opportunities for our people, all in the rich tradition of a progressive Christian faith?
As the New Year breaks upon us, always, there is an excitement in the air. As the wisdom of Ecclesiastes reminds us, For everything there is a season, a time for everything under the sun. For us here at Miami Lakes Congregational, the season that is upon us is a season of challenge and change. CHANGE, because our new building (for The Growing Place expansion) will soon be complete and in no time, we will be registering three and four-year-olds for the school year which commences in August.
Recently in our church, we’ve been talking about living towards expectation. In our Stewardship drive, we emphasized the need to give towards expectation. Faith is about our hopes and expectations. It’s about the promises of tomorrow and the possibilities on the horizon.
What is so powerful about our Christian story is the way it looks towards the future. Indeed, a question for us at Christmas is how do we embrace the future? Everyday, we have to choose; and it makes all the difference.
Our Stewardship Committee is promoting a new idea this year called Shared Generosity, where we gather together in Fellowship Hall (for the concluding part of our worship on November 8th, Stewardship Sunday) and present our pledge cards—together—as a symbol of sharing the costs and the joys of Christian discipleship.
As many of you by now know, I will be taking a four-month While on Sabbatical leave, I will have restful time to reflect and do research on the unique demographic that is Miami Lakes. The emergence of Hispanic Protestants is in many ways a recent emergent in American life. Yet, their numbers are mounting every year. In the years ahead, and particularly around my leave-experience, I invite you to reflect as well and to join me in envisioning the unfolding of our future in the years ahead.
As we continue to grow our church, through new programs and new ideas, consider the following approach to drawing new people to our church: The KEY: invitational evangelism. Although the idea of invitational evangelism is not new, it remains the best way for most churches to grow their congregations. First, a word on evangelism. It is amazing how this word continues to be a stumbling block for many churches. Instantly, images of reluctant people knocking on doors or handing out leaflets at the mall come to mind.
Evangelism is simply a sharing of our commitment and excitement about the gospel, about what God has done for us in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Our excitement may be in the form of deeds of charity and support for the needy and the downtrodden.return to the top
Questions of commitment are always a concern that voluntary organizations like churches deal with. On the one hand, we don’t want to be demanding to the point where the joy is sucked out of church life. On the other hand, without committed leadership, how is our church going to embrace the second and third decades of the 21st century with a vital sense of promise and hope?
June 2009 "Ministry context-Hispanic Protestants"
As our church becomes increasingly Hispanic, we need to find ways of welcoming and accommodating these new groups to our growing church family. For us, this is an on-going process. For example, one of the most notable characteristics of Hispanic families is the strong emphasis on family. As a church, therefore, we have to find ways of adjusting and complementing the emphasis on these family happenings.
As I prepare for my four-month sabbatical leave one year from now (May 17 – September 16th), I want to begin to prepare the congregation for this shared experience.
The term sabbatical comes from the biblical term Sabbath which refers to the seventh day in the creation story where God rested from all the work God had done. The fourth Commandment, cited above, is a reminder of God’s purposes for the Sabbath. As with God on the seventh day, the Sabbath is a time for rest and recovery. Historically, it was a weekly observance to nourish the body, mind, and soul.
Perhaps the most stunning commentary on Easter is the lives of Jesus’ followers after the resurrection. Simply put, their lives were different.
Their personal and collective identities were irreversibly changed. Peter, before the resurrection, in a compelling moment of truth, denied Jesus three times. However, after the Easter experience, there was no power under heaven that could hold back his commitment. Who we are as people of faith.
Part of the power of Easter is that it reminds us, every year, of who we are as people of faith. Easter people are people of love. Simon son of John, do you love me?
March 2009 "Taking out our personal journey"
Talking out our personal journey. Always, Lent is a journey; it’s a journey inward where we seek to get in touch with the deeper murmurings in our spirit. At times, it can be a painful journey, one that evokes deep ache and sadness. But the journey can also be a time of immense renewal and reassurance.
Whatever our journey, it’s healing to be able to talk about it with others. Not with just anyone, of course, but with those special people whom we sense can take it in and really hear our words.
February 2009 "The day the heavens rejoiced"
From the civil rights movement of the sixties,
January 2009 "For everything there is a season"
What our church is about is community. All the time, we are building up our community of faith. The building of community is what churches are about. Just as in the prologue to John’s gospel (above), Christian community, at its best, is like a light in the world. It is a light of hope and promise, a beacon of mercy and compassion.
Again, at its best, it is a light that no darkness can overcome.
In the year ahead, let us all reflect on what we can do—both personally and as families—to help strengthen and deepen our community. This is another form of our Stewardship, or our caring for God’s church.
December 2008 "A silver lining"
However, there may be a silver lining in all of this because times of deprivation have a way of putting us in touch with what is really important in our lives: not the gifts we can no longer afford to buy for one another, but the opportunity to simply be in each other’s presence and to celebrate the gifts of family and friends.
Rather than buying things for each other, we can do things for one another and make things to share. My guess is that this Christmas will bring less spending and more special times with family and friends. In fact, because of this, this Christmas may well be one of our best Christmases in recent memory. There’s something about deprivation and having to count our pennies that is uplifting of the spirit.
November 2008 "America, behold your future!"I want to make a bold prediction: our nation is on the precipice of finding our way back—back from an ill-advised intrusion into Iraq and back from our current abyss of economic unraveling and chaos.
October 2008 "The bailout that is shaking our foundations"
Growing up, my parents spoke often of the Great Depression which millions of their generation lived through back in the late 1920’s and 1930’s. The recent financial crisis that has sounded across our land is our worst such crisis since those depression years.
September 2008 "Going for it"
Don’t sell out or conform too much to the world around us. All the time, the unfolding inertia of the world is towards mediocrity. When you try too hard or put forth too much effort, those around you feel diminished or pressured to keep up. Over time, they may even resent that you are going for it with such zeal and heart. The will of God does not nudge us towards mediocrity.
July 2008 "Conversations about race Continued"
A sacred conversation on race, therefore, has this biblical understanding as its spiritual backdrop and context. For in the larger sense, racism is always a violation of the sacred. It is both a stain on the life force and a distortion of the divine purpose of our Creator God. In this sense, it is sin.
June 2008 "Conversations about race"
As Christians and as Americans, there’s an atonement theme here that presents an opportunity for us all to move to higher spiritual ground. At our best, none of us wants to live in a country where racism has any currency in our common national life.
However, as the demographics of election 2008 suggest and exit polls confirm, race remains an unresolved element in American life and culture. Still, on the positive side, it appears to be less of a hot-button issue than might have been anticipated.
At some point, any conversation on race has to deal with stereotypes. Try as we might, it’s hard not to stereotype on all sides. Fair or unfair, it’s the way we sort out our lives. From our personal experience—both direct and indirect—we assume certain behaviors from certain persons and groups.
May 2008 "That we may all be one"
April 2008 "Race Talk"
March 2008 "Belief is personal "
The resurrection accounts in the gospels are not facts; they’re about faith and a sense of warming from within in the human heart. Everywhere, there’s mystery and wonder. The empty tomb; the varying experiences of the disciples, like Peter and John in the above reading from John 20.
February 2008 "Lent and the vision of the suffering servant'
All the time in or church, we talk about the suffering/ sacrificial love of Jesus. The depths and meanings of this love define for us who Jesus was … as well as who he is for us moderns some two millennia later.
January 2008 "It’s a new year; take the high road!'
Taking the high road (the spiritual high road, where the holiness of God’s presence pulsates with life and hope for all people) always makes things better in the long run. On the high road, pride and ego are subordinated to the larger good for all people, be it for family, community or the wider world.
December 2007 "When light breaks forth like the dawn"
The light that no darkness can overcome is the light that shines from the very heart of our Creator/ Redeemer God.
November 2007 "Having a thankful spirit"
Sometimes having a thankful spirit takes a little effort on our part. Sometimes we have to slow ourselves down enough to look at the big picture of our lives. So much of our lives is attitude and perspective.
October 2007 "A time to be grieved"
September 2007 .... Prayer and spiritual growth
"When you pray, do you ever feel challenged about connecting with God? Do you wonder on what level you are connecting?
For me, prayer is a very human experience. It is utterly vulnerable activity. I’ve always been struck by the Apostle Paul’s words in verse 26 above: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought.
With prayer, there is always the question of distance from God. How to bridge the distance, how to find the right words?? Always, these challenges are before us. When we view God as utterly awesome, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and on and on, we’re left with the sense that our words, no matter how eloquent and heart-felt, are to some extent always inadequate."
August 2007 "Persistence and perseverance"
"Sometimes, the best we can do in life is to just keep after it. In other words, persist and
June 2007 "The heart of the gospel"
"Certainly, for the Apostle Paul, at the heart of Christian faith is
May 2007 " Will our children have faith ?"