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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Year in Review

How did your inner life grow this year?

What did you learn about yourself this year? If it was a shortcoming, did you choose to make a change? If it was an attribute, how did you utilize it?

Did you encourage cooperation in your family? If you had no family, did you seek one or were you 'adopted' by one?

Did your parish community lose members this year? How? If through death, please pray for them today. If because of other reasons, can you be a reconciling force? If through relocation, why not drop them a note or e-note?

Did your parish community gain members this year? How? What did they see to draw them and make them stay? How did you - personally - reach out to them? Can you remember any names?

Were you active in a village, county, state, regional, national program to benefit those in need? Have you ever considered intentionally praying for those who are imprisoned?

Did you pray regularly? Who was included in your prayers?

Did you ever attempt to mediate an arguement, fight or disagreement?

Did you give to someone who could not possibly reciprocate? Were you ever kind in the face of jealousy, envy, anger, slander, gossip?

A periodic examination, of conscience or spiritual life, is a healthy practice. At least as healthy as a periodic physical exam. Healthy and productive.

The blue lights in the shrubbery in front of my home, the Holy Family with donkey, ox and sheep on the front lawn, and two single candles in the front windows of my home will all remain lit tonight and all day tomorrow. For a welcome, for a sign, for hope. When the ball drops in Times Square less than an hour from now I will be praying for all of you and thank God for the blessings brought to me by being able to interact with you here these last ten months.

I'd also love to hear from you. I posted the pieces that I received a response to.... what else would you like to see? Do you have a favorite brief devotional piece you'd like to share? Sermon? Liturgical drama? Music? Please drop me a line @

Happy New Year 2006, brothers and sisters everywhere! Let us bless the Lord!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

New Year's Resolutions

A time-honored practice, this. Resolve to be a better person in the new year: lose weight, start an exercise program, start and maintain an exercise program, smile more, spend more time with the family, do one good deed per day, aim for that promotion, find true love, pay the bills on time, keep up with your church pledge... the list goes on and on.

I always mean to get my prayer time in every day. Most days I do... when I don't, my thinking isn't as clear and my emotions tend to be more extreme. This year, perhaps, I will aim for enough..... enough sleep, enough social time, enough prayer time, knowing when I have eaten enough..... right in the middle, for a change.

I urge you to spend some prayer time and consider what your goals and resolutions should be for 2006. You might choose to work for or give toward some service organization. Whatever resolutions and goals you choose, I hope you will invite God into each one of them.

Pray for peace, cooperation, understanding, compassion, forgiveness, generousity and faithfulness in 2006. These things cannot come about without our participation, one person at a time.

May God grant you the support and courage to realize your aspirations in the coming year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

1 Corinthians 13 (Christmas version)

This one was sent to Debbie S.Loeb (Hodgepodge) from her aunt.... many thanks.

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,
Strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,
But do not show love to my family,
I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen,
baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
Preparing gourmet meals
And arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime,
But do not show love to my family,
I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen,
carol in the nursing home
And give all that I have to charity,
But do not show love to my family,
It profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels
and crocheted snowflakes,
Attend a myriad of holiday parties
and sing in the choir's cantata,
But do not focus on Christ,
I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though hurried and tired.

Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated
Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way,
but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give
in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.

Video games will break,
pearl necklaces will be lost,
golf clubs will rust...
But giving the gift of love will endure forever.

"You can give without loving,
but you cannot love without giving"

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Christmas Letter from Pakistan

Isn't the internet wonderful where we can pass along wonderful first-hand accounts so quickly?

This particular message was forwarded to me by Barbara who received it from the Rev. W.Nicholas Knisely of Trinity Episcopal Church, Bethlehem, PA..... thank you, Fr. Knisely for sharing it with us and Dr. Knisely for writing it..... I'll let Nick take it from here......

Christmas letter from Pakistan

I got this email from my youngest brother Major Thomas Knisely, MD this morning. He's a doctor in the Army and is working in the Army's last remaining MASH unit which is deployed in quake region in Pakistan. His wife Denise and their children Sam and Brooke are living on the base in Wurzburg Germany. I'm sharing it with his permission.

"It was 0530 in the morning on the 26th of December. Christmas in Pakistan came and went and my disillusionment had hit its peak. Through the phone I heard the excitement in Sam and Brooke's tales of gifts they collected, I heard the sounds of my friends enjoying the day and I heard the strength in Denise's voice as she continued our life in my absence. I heard these things, but I wasn't listening. My thoughts were distracted.

"I missed Christmas Morning with my family and friends. I missed the chance to give my family the gifts I gathered in Pakistan. I missed the warmth and comfort of a normal bed. And I missed indoor plumbing.

"It was thirty minutes ago when I felt the joy of Christmas. Over the past two weeks I've had to cover night shift in the ER. 14-hour shifts, 6 days a week was taking its toll. I was lying down in an empty ICU trying to pass the time when a nurse entered and began to talk to her husband on the phone. I couldn't help but overhear some of the conversation. As I heard her describe the gifts she received and the activities she shared with the families of her inpatients, her words reminded me of what our presence here means.

"The last day of Ramadan is called Eid. Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan by creating extravagant feasts, traveling to their relatives houses, exchanging gifts, and wearing new clothes. Only on these very special holidays do Muslim women of Pakistan use a vegetable dye to paint beautiful temporary tattoos on their palms called hina. To a Muslim, the Eid after Ramadan is their Christmas. In November, we were privileged to observe our Pakistani friends celebrate Eid. Today was our turn. To those of us on night shift, very little about the 25th of December was different from any other day. As a physician treating up to 50 patients a day in the primary care tent, I have been fully immersed into the Pakistani people's lives. But on the 25th of December only sleep deprivation and a painfully slow night shift awaited.

As the nurse explained her Christmas experience to her husband, I began to understand what Christmas meant to me this year. The gifts our Pakistani friends gave today, the cakes and special foods the Pakistani's brought for our celebration and the hina that the Pakistani women painted on our soldiers' palms was a tribute to our cultures acceptance of each other. To me, Christmas in Pakistan means to not only respect other ways of life, but also to embrace the unique differences in our religions and traditions. I'll remember this Christmas for a long time.

Merry Christmas, Tom"----

(The Rev.) W. Nicholas Knisely
Trinity Episcopal Church, Bethlehem, PA

Monday, December 26, 2005


Christmas Eve is usually a bustling time at any church. The clergy is focusing on delivering homilies to a significantly larger than normal crowd. The parish secretary or administrator has labored over the various bulletins to be used; the sexton makes certain there are no cobwebs; the altar guild has made certain the linens are fresh, the vestments spotless; buildings committee made certain the lights are working and the garland will not ignite when the candles are lit.

At St. Bartholomew's I was juggling things trying to make certain the Soup Kitchen would be ready to accommodate plenty of guests for Christmas dinner at noon, moving defrosted turkeys into the fridge, stacking loaves of bread and industrial sized cans of tuna and jars of mayo on one corner of the large stainless work table to be transformed into sandwiches for all the guests to take home after their meal...... for later.

I brought my puppet Murray the raccoon to take part in my homily (Murray the Christmas Raccoon: Wondering, Wonders, Wonderful) for the childrens/family service at 4pm. The service went without a hitch. All the kids got a cocoa mug on their way out the door after the service. I then proceeded to Dunkin' Donuts to pick up jelly donuts to give to our soup kitchen volunteers. Back for the 11pm service, preceeded by a lovely musical program of anthems, hymns. Fr. Gawain welcomed the new faces in the Christmas eve congregation, some bedecked in regal finery.... There are strangers among us, there was a stranger between Joseph and Mary that night long ago. Who and how we are as Christians has a direct connection with how we deal with strangers -- and making them welcome, strangers no more. The candles, the families, the hymns, what a glorious night. I got out of vestments, went down to the kitchen once more to put donated canned goods into the cupboards. It's 2am and I'm crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge to head home to Emmy Lou and some sleep.

Up at 6. Got to get to church to put the 4 huge turkeys into the commercial-grade oven. The volunteers who will be helping prepare, serve and clean up after the meal are all Jewish from the White Plains area. What a testament that they were longing to find somewhere to do service the morning of the first day of Hannukkah.

There we were, Jew and Gentile, doing our part to see to it that those on the fringes of our local society and economy were fed a full meal with all the trimmings; they were clothed: each received a coat,gloves, hat, scarf, gloves, fruit and a tuna sandwich for later; they were listened to: we sat down and ate with them.

Most of our guests were significantly moved and grateful; a few 'old timers' adopted the callous attitude of getting as much as they could grab, "working the system" without any thanks - the attitude of 'you owe me' that masks any vulnerable feelings they may once have had.

Our job was not to expect thanks or judge their actions and motivations... simply and purely to give because generousity and kindness are underpinnings of both of our faith systems.

Blest are you, Lord God, King of the Universe, who provides food for your people.
Blest is your Son who, coming among us, gives us a present of inestimable value.

Help us to do your will, to minister to those in need, and give you the glory and praise. Amen

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