Happy Easter!

Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,

Listening to the Passion According to Matthew this morning read so beautifully by our team, I wondered what part of this story touches you the most? For years now my favorite part has been Jesus’ time in the garden and his dialogue with God and with himself about pitting his will in a challenging conversation with God’s will. Jesus clearly knows what God’s will is, but wonders if there isn’t another way that might not involve his death. And finally he simply says, paraphrased, “not mine, but Thine” and events unfold that lead to his crucifixion.

Jesus encourages us to follow the will of God. It’s not the easiest presence to grasp. Perhaps God speaks directly to you? Perhaps God speaks to you through others? Perhaps God’s voice is quiet at times in your life. More often, like Jesus, we pray, listen, and then act in accordance with what we think God has in mind and in heart for us driven always by God’s love for you and me. I don’t know how I’d do in the garden. So far God hasn’t asked. I’m grateful. Happy Easter!

Love and Blessings,

Alvin

Spring Break

Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,

Ah, Spring Break. Growing up in the City of Chicago, this week was called Spring Clean-Up Week. We literally all worked together to clean up city neighborhoods. Anything was better than being in school. Eventually in Barrington, Illinois, Spring Break took place the last week of March. I remember when I finally realized I could take some time off with my family even in Lent. When Holy Week (the week between Palm Sunday and Easter) fell the same week as Spring Break, there was always wailing and gnashing of teeth because that meant a drop in attendance. Of course it took years for me to realize that just as our members were travelling to see their families, others were travelling our way to visit their families. The Easter congregation was always a beautiful and interesting mosaic, which changed every year with the ebb and flow of parish family life.

Here in Fairview Spring Break falls the week before Easter. Who needs the break more? Teachers? School Administers? Children? Parents? (Probably mixed opinions on that.) Maybe our lives need the break no matter one’s age? I think so. Leave it up to the schools to invite us to take a deep breath, look around, and witness the pouring forth of new life after the throes of winter. It’s a break, a breath, and a pause. We all know that the following Monday life will be back to what life was before the break started but for nine days we are invited to stop, drop, reflect, act, and realign. And it’s no mistake that Spring Break and Easter often flow with or near each other. The Queen of Feasts, as Easter is called in catholic Christian faith, shouts to the world that new life springs forth from winter.

Wherever your break takes you, look up a local church on Easter and if it’s your family tradition, then attend. Visitors are always, always, a blessing. So they will be for us here. So you will be wherever you go. Happy Easter!

Love and blessings,

Alvin+

Living the Life of the Overwhelmed

Dear St. Stephen’s Family and Friends,

The book is called THE SHAPE OF LIVING:  Spiritual Directions for Everyday Life by David Ford.  His premise is simple; we live in an age in which the experience of being overwhelmed occurs more and more.  Some of that has to do with the constant onslaught of information through various social media outlets and tools of the trade as in cell phones, laptops, television and more.  Yes, we can all hit the off button.  But, frankly, most of us don’t.

But being overwhelmed isn’t just about input.  Other ingredients can include work demands, family demands, personal struggles, financial pressure, health concerns, political anxiety, and the list goes on and on.  Increasingly we see more and more of what we do or don’t have any control or power over in our lives.  Ford’s belief is that the measure or sense of being overwhelmed isn’t going to go away and because of that reality we are called to develop a different way of living spiritually that takes this reality into account.  I’ll come back to this topic and this book over time but for today simple the question:  Have you ever been overwhelmed?

A friend asked me this past week if I was Ok?  She said I looked frazzled.  I said I was fine and by the time I got back to my apartment realized that her perception was accurate.  I’m overwhelmed.  Many of you will have advice for me once you read on, but I’m not looking for advice.  I’m fully aware that taking on too much and needing to let go are two spiritual practices in constant need of attention if I’m to find a creative and spiritual way to live the life of the overwhelmed.  Unpopular practices like discipline become, nonetheless, critical if you or me plan to find the necessary balance for the full life that Jesus promises us (full not meaning a full calendar of activities).  Jesus seeks us in order to help us find the balance.  More on David Ford’s thoughts on living the life of the overwhelmed after Easter!  Until then, bring your whole self to Church on Sunday and bask in the love of Jesus for you.

Love and blessings,

Alvin+