Vicar’s Corner: A Metra Train Ride Can Be Quite The Adventure

A Metra train ride can be quite the adventure.  Depending upon the time and line, the ride can be a quiet journey or a nerve rattling encounter.  Wednesday afternoon, a semi-express from downtown out to Cary and I had a corner seat upstairs right next to the engineer’s room.  Perfect!  Plenty of room to stretch out, enjoy my coffee, read or simply close my eyes and relax.  Ah yes.  A nice, quiet and easy commute was in the making.

Then, of course, there is the possibility of an extended conversation which is exactly what I choose, or rather, what was chosen for me.  The gentleman directly across from me, earphones in and seemingly alone in his world was wearing a Detroit Red Wings cap.  We looked up at one another, I pointed to his hat and gave him a “thumbs up” sign.  He took out his earphones and asked if I were a “Wing Nut,” too. I knew what he meant.  (fans of the Red Wings are often referred to as a wing nut…don’t ask me to explain it any further than that, thank you.) We leaned in closer to the rails and began a conversation that lasted from the Clybourn stop to Cary.  

First off, we talked sports.  I knew we had a common bond what with the Red Wings and all.  Found out Kevin was born and raised in Metro Detroit.  Another common piece to our individual puzzles.  He was suburban raised and me, inner city just outside downtown.  We knew the local ‘hot spots,’ popular watering holes, greasy spoons and the better dining establishments, too.  We talked about our world class Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Historical Museum and of course, the city’s long and distinctive history of rock and roll, Motown and Techno music which was born in Detroit.  Then, he ventured into the arena of politics and religion, which today can be quite risky.  Well, again, he and I were on the same page.  No harsh words or demeaning comments were expressed toward any individual politician or church leader.  Rather, we talked openly of our disappointment with regards to the state of our country; the chasm that has been created due to partisan politics, and a seemingly, ineffective Church hierarchy that has allowed years and years of abuse against children and women to go unchecked.  The conversation went back and forth.  It was lively, honest and possessive of a tone reminiscent of two, long-time friends, let alone two strangers on a train. 

The conductor announced the next stop, Barrington, followed by Cary.  This set Kevin in motion as he gathered his papers together while I took advantage of the lull in the conversation to take a long desired sip of my coffee which was now tepid at best.  He asked if I were married and I said yes, I most certainly am.  I talked about Douglas, how we met and how long we’ve been together.  He looked at me, smiled and said, “Now that’s cool.  Good for you.”  I knew he meant what he said; that he truly was sincere.  There’s no mistaking a smile like that as being anything but sincere. He said he and his wife have been together for 26 years, too.  Another ironic twist in a series of coincidences.  Then again, I’ve long held that there are no coincidences, rather unique moments in time when things line up just so with God being the “Prime Mover.”  I mentioned St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, extending an invitation to come, bring the family, visit and see what we’re all about.  He said he may do just that, though truth be told, I would be quite surprised if he did make good on the invitation.  Then again, who knows?  Once the train come to the Cary Station, we both hopped off, shook hands, he headed to the east parking lot and I began my walk up Main Street toward home, sweet home.

My sisters and brothers, make good use of the time we have to reach out, open up to others and share a little about ourselves with the people around us.  We need only divulge that with what we are comfortable while we respect the privacy of others. Silence may be golden but shared conversations and open dialogues are platinum and priceless and may lead to an exchange that could well change someone’s life.  Kevin may never show up at St. Nicholas.  However, and perhaps more important, he knows we are a pretty friendly, welcoming and an all inclusive faith community.  This my friends, makes all the difference in the world.

“Just Call Out My Name”

“When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand.  And nothing, whoa, nothing is going right.  Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there.  To brighten up even your darkest nights.”   
Carol King originally put these words to music and entitled her piece, “You’ve Got a Friend.”  This was way back in 1971 when both she and James Taylormade recordings of this song.  We’re all pretty familiar with it, that is, those of us of a certain age and particular, musical appreciation.  Nonetheless, it is a piece of music we can all relate to because all of us at some time or another are in just, such a position; needing a friend to pull us out of the darkness and into the light.
We know to whom we ought turn when darkness overshadows, weighs us down and brings us all but to our knees.  We have Jesus, a friend to all, Savior and Redeemer, brother and ally.  It is in our beloved Christ Jesus we find solace, strength, guidance and unconditional, unquestioning and unequaled love.   
“You just call out my name.  And you know where ever I am, I’ll come running to see you again.  Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call.  And I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend.   
Sounds pretty simple, does it not?  Just call out Jesus’ name and He will come running to see us, again.  Well, it doesn’t always work quite that way, now does it?  That is, Jesus never abandons us, but the response we desire may not arrive as quickly nor in quite the manner we desire.  We don’t always get what we want, though more often than not, we do receive what we need.   
My sisters and brothers, it is in one another, in each and every one of us, that we gain and receive the support, the friendship and guidance we seek.  When we’re feeling down and out and we need a friend, it is in our faith community we find that which we need.  Welcoming shoulders upon which we can lean.  To find such security in our church family who are there to lift us up and share a friendly smile.  We all have our flaws, shortcomings and crosses that weigh us down.  Yet how fortunate are we to have others who understand and buoy our spirits with words of encouragement, selfless love and hands that help lift those painful burdens.  When darkness blinds and confuses, seek the light that our sisters and brothers in community can provide; an illumination that guides us to a better, more comforting and reassuring place.  It’s all possible because Jesus is here, alive and well and ever so willing to give of Himself for our betterment and happiness.  Jesus the Redeemer who resides within us and shows Himself through our words and deeds. 
We are all entrusted with responsibilities that at times, get the better of us.  There are occasions we feel powerless, consumed by a hungry world that seems to feed on us, leaving us exhausted, beaten and abandoned.  It is at such times as these that we need, more than ever, to be in the company of our church family, if for no other reason than to have friends to help ease the burden, to uplift and enlighten our soul and spirit and tear down the veil of darkness and let in some reassuring and welcoming light.  And of course, there is Jesus to be shared in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist: food for the soul that blesses us with strength, comfort and grace.   
There is a wind behind us that leads us to where we are to go.  That wind, the blessed breeze is Jesus and He wishes us to be at a place where all are welcomed, warmly embraced and allowed to laugh, to sing, to cry, to worship and to simply ‘be’ with one another.  For us, that would be our St. Nicholas Church and her church family.  To paraphrase yet another song, which, no doubt we are quite familiar: “what a friend we have in Jesus.” A true friend indeed.  In our church family we have a blessed abundance of friends, who care.  Make good use of the Lord for He enjoys and savors our company just as all of us here, truly desire and savor spending time with another.     

Father Manny’s Hiking Adventure

It was a glorious, autumn afternoon.  I had accomplished all the computer work for church that I had determined would be completed for the day.  Granted, the work took me over 4 hours to complete.  Still, the work was done.  I symbolically clapped my hands as if I were wiping my hands free of dust.  The sun was just beginning to take it’s westward dip and the clouds were hanging low and full.  Still, I was determined that I would take care of ‘self,’ and go for a hike/walk/run through the nearby Hallows Reserve in Algonquin County.  First, a run to the grocery store for the weekly shopping trip.  Back home, unloaded and carefully placed all the purchased staples in their proper places.  Then, into my sweat pants, pulled on a tee-shirt that has been with me since probably my graduate school days and laundered, without exaggeration, well over a hundred times, clean, white socks and my shoes were donned and off I went.  Only decision I had was which trail I would take.  I choose the trail, as I describe it the one “less traveled.”  I call it this because it is far more overgrown with thick brush, complete with large stones, ruts and tree stumps that makes running quite treacherous and walking an adventure.  Still, it was my choice.  My two, surgically repaired knees can’t take much running which troubles me, not just because of the pain, but because I used to be such an avid runner.  But, “fast walking” (like how I walk when I’m at St. Nicholas) is okay and I’m fine with being blessed and able to do that.

About 15 minutes into the walk, the elastic on my sweatpants snapped.  I had my car keys and cell phone on me and both pockets of the sweatpants had holes in them.  It was hot and muggy, I was thirsty and now, I had to find a way to walk while holding up my pants and not lose my keys and cell phone.  As fate would have it, I ended up walking the same trail twice and was into my third “rotation” of the course when I finally realized what I had done and was yet doing again!  Looked to see where the sun was, listened to the distant sounds of traffic on Rt. 14 and I began walking quickly toward the noise.  Victory!  I could see the distant parking lot and my brilliant, blue car, all alone in that lot, waiting patiently for me.  Once inside my car I smiled, drank with abandon the two 16 ounce bottles of water and headed home.

“You can’t always get what you want,” is a classic, Rolling Stone’s song.  And ain’t it the truth. We plan and organize, prepare ourselves, fully anticipating a problem-free encounter or event.  Then again, it may be wiser to always plan for the unexpected just as we prepare for the expected.  Wisdom dictates that in running a church, it is wise and prudent we have sufficient reserves available just in case something completely unexpected occurs.

At St. Nicholas, we plan for both realities.  We budget and spend carefully and judicially, to ensure we have reserves on hand to pay our monthly bills (electricity, gas, water, etc.)  Likewise, we plan for the unexpected, the unplanned and unwelcomed realities of life such as roof repairs, sealing and securing faulty windows, etc.  These scenarios should sound familiar as these two unwelcomed realities are what we here at St. Nicholas are working at remedying and correcting.

We are blessed in many ways here at St. Nicholas.  A community of faith that truly cares for the health, well-being and security of one another as well as the growth, development, protection and future of our church and worshiping family.  Because of the generosity and willingness to share our finances, our gifts and abilities and our willingness to participate makes for a church that is alive, filled with the Spirit and the individual spirit and desires of each and every member for the common cause we so affectionately refer to as St. Nicholas Episcopal Church.

Thank you, my sisters and brothers, for the continued and immensely considerate sharing and caring of all our church family members.  We are only as strong as we are united and committed to this loving and vital entity in our lives.  Our church has a bright future because of the resilient, dedicated and loving present time.  Let’s all do our best to ensure and secure that bright future by doing all we can, as we can and as best we can for our church right now and always, first and foremost, for God’s greater glory.