Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 8

February 22, 2021

Don’t Touch That Piano!

One of the most beautiful things I ever saw as a child was a grand piano that my Aunt Rena had. It was a grand piano, not a baby grand but a grand piano. She had the right house for it. It was a big beautiful house in the wealthy town of Westfield, NJ. I so wanted to hit those keys but I was forbidden. Whenever I tried I got a finger in my face and was told in a stern, loud voice, “don’t touch that piano.” The sin was that no one touched that piano. It belonged to my late uncle who, I was told, was a rather accomplished pianist. I never met him but he sure had a wonderful piano. It sat in Aunt Rena’s large living room untouched. It was a shrine and would have been better off in a museum.

At church I loved hearing the music of pianos. These were upright pianos and a bit battered. They certainly did not have the charm of Aunt Rena’s grand piano. I went to hit a key on one of those and got the same reaction. “Don’t touch that piano,” I was told with a finger in my face. “No one touches pianos unless they know how to play.” It was years later that I began to wonder how one learns to play if one can’t touch a piano without knowing how to play.

When I first met my wife’s family I was intrigued and joy-filled by their after-dinner tradition. They gathered around their piano and sang hymns together. It seem to be a perfect way to give thanks for the wonderful meals that my mother-in-law was so good at cooking. I realized how joyful piano music could be. I also was startled by the contrast that at their house I could touch the piano and was even encouraged to while growing up I was forbidden.

Years passed and now I live in a house with a piano that my wife plays. My two grandsons like to “bang on the keys” as well. I’m doing things differently than my family. I don’t forbid them from touching the piano. I encourage them. I want them to know the joy of creating music. I think it is a sin to forbid a person from exploring the making of music.

Just as a side note, in this time of Corona with more time at home I decided it was time to go back in time and begin to hit those piano keys. Pam picked out a key of C tune that I practice with. I pretty good at it, although it is only with one hand. Soon I’ll be proficient at “Eternal Father Strong to Save.”

I encourage everyone to make music. It is a great way to praise God. You will never hear me say, “don’t touch that piano.” I think that saying such words is a great sin. Touch that piano, play that piano, and praise God while you do it.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Music

#Pianos                                                                      #PraiseGod

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Why Me?

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 7

February 15, 2021

Why Me?

Two horrible tragedies were featured in our local news this week. Both involved 11-year-old-children. It is always sad to see children sick or injured. I have seen enough such cases during the six years that I was a volunteer chaplain at a regional medical center. In a fallen world, illness happens. The two tragedies I am referring to are not, however, illness. They were both tragic accidents and sting me whenever I think of them.

The first little child was a boy who  was sledding at a local park and hit a tree. The newspaper reports that he is in critical condition at a local hospital. I can’t imagine the anxiety and pain that his family and friends are going through.

The second case took place in my hometown of Jersey City. A fire broke out in a home. The mother escaped with her 11-year-old daughter. When the daughter realized that her 8-month-old brother was still inside, she ran back it and  tried to rescue him. Both the 8-month-old as well as the 11-year died in the fire. The mother escaped the blaze. I can’t imagine the pain of losing children or the “survivors guilt” she must be feeling.

Sometimes we ask ourselves “why me?” when we are struck with a tragedy. My question is the opposite. Why did a little boy have a head injury and I escaped the same fate? When I was eleven, I did many dare-devil activities on a sled each and every winter and yet I suffered no injuries.

I have never had a house fire and I have not lost children from such a tragedy. I have escaped these things. Why me? Why did I escape such tragedies when others did not?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But it is a reminder to most of us how good our lives are and how we have been protected in life, often from our own foolishness. “Why have I had it so good?” ought to be our daily question. “Why am I so blessed? Why me?”

Let each day of our lives be a day of gratitude for all that has not happened to us.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #ChildInjuries

#ChildDeath                                                              #HouseFires

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Mixed Messages

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 6

February 8, 2021

Mixed Messages

I had a yen for Wanton soup a few weeks ago. I get craves once in a while and the only way to stop the crave is to give in and eat whatever it is that I am craving. I went to my favorite Chinese restaurant and found out that it was closed on Mondays. Not to be deterred I arrived at my second favorite. It also did not have business hours on Monday. I was getting desperate and when to the third Chinese place in town. I saw a big sign that proclaimed, “we are open.” I was excited when I walk up and pulled on the locked door. It too was closed on Monday despite the “we are open sign.” Next to the “we are open sign” was a sign that said, “we are closed Monday.” I was annoyed at the mixed message of being open but being closed, both messages given at the same time.

Are there times when we as disciples of Christ or even the church itself sends mixed messages? If we claim that we are care for the poor and the hungry, as Jesus commanded and yet do nothing, are we sending out mixed messages?

If we claim that we put God above all else and put anything be it country, family, clubs, sports or pleasure activities ahead of obeying God are we giving a mixed message?

At times we might claim that we are ready to preach Christ to all the world but we are too frightened to witness to a friend, is our message consistent?

If we claim that we desire justice, but are not offended when people are treated unfairly, is our Christian message really dependable?

Unlike the Chinese restaurant, I hope our message steady. If not, perhaps we need to be in full confession during Lent which is upcoming. If we are sending mixed messages, let us correct this. If we are faithful and consistent, let us continue to be so.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Faithfulness

#Steadfast                                                                 #Consistent

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Ripples of Suicide

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 5

February 1, 2021

Ripples of Suicide

I was celebrating the birth of a new baby. He was a boy, the son of a woman who grew up in our congregation and has since moved out of the area. My heart was rejoicing when I read the news and my spirits plunged. I read about the death of a Pompton Lakes High School teacher who it is believed committed suicide. The official report has not yet confirmed this, but officials believe that this is the cause of death.

When I read this, I was suddenly back in time to a place of grief that has never healed and a place of guilt that I never feel forgiven from and a guilt that I cannot seem to forgive myself for.

My guilt comes from my Godfather killing himself in the summer of 1980. I should have been there for him. I did not reach out to him as much as I could have. I bear the shame and guilt from this up until the present day. Did my neglect cause his death? This year my guilt is worse. Since my sister died this year, relatively young, from lack of self-care, I wonder if I could have done more for her as well. Might these two people have lived longer if I had only done more?

Assuming that the early suicide report is correct, what are the family and friends of this high school teacher feeling? Do they have similar guilt, shame and remorse? Suicide spreads hurt and grief to all around the victim. There is no such thing as a “victimless” suicide. When one kills oneself, it hurts others.

I am begging all those who are depressed or feeling hopeless; all those who are contemplating suicide to call someone to talk. Please call the suicide prevention line if you are feeling this way. If you need someone to talk to, reach out to me. I’ll gladly give you any pastoral counseling that I can. Please don’t kill yourself. It hurts others and I doubt that you really want to do that.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Depression

#Suicide                                                                     #SuicideHelpLine

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Waiting For The Vaccine

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 4

January 25, 2021

Waiting For The Vaccine

All over town, as well as from friends across the country I hear the same tale of woe. “I can’t find a place that is administering vaccines.” It is true. There is a real shortage of vaccines and people to administer these vaccines. I don’t know who should be surprised by this. There are three hundred fifty million people in this country. If we each need two vaccines that is seven hundred million inoculations. Is it shocking that this would take a while. How fast could our nation possibly administer that many shots as quickly as we would like? Most of us will be waiting awhile.  How does one wait effectively with as little stress as possible?

I learned some tips from a beloved professor at Hope College. He was a child in the Netherlands during the occupation by the Nazis. The Dutch had faith that the Allies would be coming to their rescue but they did not know when. It was years and that is a long time to wait. Death from the war was all around them. Soldiers committed atrocities and bombs were dropped from the sky. No one knew where they landed. My professor and his family survived and talked about how they waited.

They took all necessary precautions. They did all they could do to be polite to the Nazi occupiers. Some people were rude and they generally were killed or imprisoned. My friends family were cautious and tried not to anger the occupiers.

Each house had a bomb shelter in the basement for the frequent air-raids. Times in the cellar were pretty boring. They brought prayer books and hymnals with them and entertained themselves by praying and singing. Often, the faithful used their basements as house churches when it was too dangerous to meet gathered in a church building. One bomb could have killed an entire congregation.

He also told me that there was a chess board constantly set up in the basement. The game would be played during air-raids and left set up to be continued during the next bombing attack. One had to have some enjoyment.

My professor told me that the keys to waiting are: take all precautions, pray, sing hymns, and find something to amuse oneself. I guess I’ll follow his suggestions as I wait for my vaccine. I’ll take all precautions, praise God continually, and do something fun. For me this is reading watching movies and playing world conquest games on my computer.

What are you doing while you wait? I hope you are being careful, praying, singing, and doing something fun. It might be a long wait but it will be shorter than the people in Europe waited for the Allies to arrive.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #CovidVaccine

#Waiting                                                                    #SafetyPrecautions

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Faithful Christian Children

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 3

January 18, 2021

Faithful Christian Children

It was seven years ago that I was thrilled when one of my daughter’s was ordained as a minister of word and sacrament in the Reformed Church in America. She is part of a lengthy tradition. Both her parents as well as her maternal grandfather are ministers. Just eight days ago I was thrilled once again when her sister, my other daughter was ordained as a deacon in the Reformed Church in America. I could not have been more pleased that she is following the faith tradition.

I remember the day when I was ordained as a deacon. I was still in high school as well as the day that I was ordained as a minister of word and sacrament. These events really originated, I think, when I was in pre-school and early grammar school. Whenever my grandmother was greeting in church she would drag me with her so that I could stand next to her so that she could show me off to her friends. These other ladies would pinch my check until it felt like it would fall off.

As I got to college my behavior was less than exemplary. God was much more faithful to me than I was to him. It took me a few years to straighten myself out and begin to live the life that I should have been leading. Finally, by God’s grace I did arrive back on the correct track even though I still have a long way to go. When children arrived, I vowed that I would try to pass on the faith as it was given to me in those early years greeting people in church with my grandmother. I taught and role modeled as best I could and prayed that my girls would be women of faith.

I guess God heard my prayers and I am thrilled and grateful. It wasn’t easy. There were a lot of tears when we placed church above other activities. There were times when I endured anger when I had to say, “church comes first.” Now I am very glad that I did.

Not every parent has the same experiences. Many have raised children in the faith only to have them fade away. Yet, in this case my efforts bore fruit and I rejoice in that. What do we do with those who have left the faith? Love them, pray for them and continue to be examples of Christian faith.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #ChildrenOfFaith

#OrdainedDeacons                                                 #OrdainedMinisters

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/





American Exceptionalism

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 2

January 11, 2021

American Exceptionalism

I know that this is not politically correct but I do believe in American Exceptionalism. I do think that our historic succession of power, in a world that had monarchies, was exceptional and is now imitated. I will never forget the summer than I learned this in practical reality as opposed to a theory. That was the summer that I fell in love with America.

I took a month-long trip to Spain during the summer of 1974 as a student with the Foreign Study League. Back home Richard Nixon was under investigation. In Spain, General Franco became ill and Prince Juan Carlos took over during Franco’s illness. My group was in Barcelona at the time. This city, with a long history of a desire to break away from Spain, surged with unrest. It was the first time that I heard explosions and machine gun fire. Police demanded to see passports at gunpoint. The national police and the army were both mobilized. I kept wondering why everyone was so upset over a leader who was ill. I had seen presidents come and go and no one got that upset over it.

Our trip continued and at the end of the month we returned home to become immersed in the political chaos of our country in the midst of the Watergate scandal. The day arrived when Richard Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford became president. Unlike Spain, our nation did not mobilize the army or the national police. One president left and another took over without violent protests. Many people in the neighborhood decried Nixon’s resignation while others celebrated it. They argued, but there was no reason to mobilize peace keeping forces. We, in the United States were exceptional.

My heart was broken on Wednesday as I saw a mob break into the Capital because they disagree with an election outcome. People that I know who were cheering this mob on expressed the belief that the election was “stolen.” This is the third time in my lifetime that I have heard that an election was “stolen.” Most historians that I have read believe that John Kennedy stole his election from Richard Nixon, yet Nixon refused to contest it. Most of us remember the George W Bush election win against Al Gore. Many still believe that this election was “stolen” yet it was settled by the courts, not mob action. These, I believe, are other examples of American Exceptionalism.

This past week I looked at a number of Facebook posts from friends who are immigrants from Latin America. They were outraged by the behavior at the capital. These immigrants claimed that political violence in their home countries was a major reason for wanting to live in the United States. The lack of political violence was, for these immigrants, American Exceptionalism.

It is sad for me that some of our citizens did not exhibit American Exceptionalism last week. I wonder how we can reclaim it. Perhaps it is up to all of us who know people who support such mob activities to tell those folks, “we don’t act like that here. We Americans are exceptional. Let us all act like exceptional people.” Will you join me in this task? Together we can reclaim our exceptionalism.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #AmericanExceptionalism

#MobPolitics                                                            #StolenElections

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Politics and Religion

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 1

January 4, 2021

Politics and Religion

On December 22, 2020 John Gabriel wrote an opinion piece for USA Today. This article which was titled, “God help us: We’re losing our religion and filling void with politics.” In this article he argues that religious participation in our country continues to decline but political activity continues to rise. His opinion is that politics has become our new religion even as Americans are rejecting religious of faith. I was disturbed by reading this but not surprised. Not exclusively, but much of the blame for this must fall on Christians who seem to talk politics more than faith.

I certainly am active on social media and am friends with Christians and non-Christians. I talk to Christians who consider themselves to be “right” of center and “left” of center but I still am unclear what these terms actually mean. During the recent presidential election, I saw posts from many of these Christian people who supported one candidate while demonizing the other. The rhetoric was rather harsh in many cases. Each claimed that the candidate of their choice was the candidate that God desired to be in the White House and would do God’s work. Absent from these political raves was much talk about what these people were doing to preach Christ. I heard more about political candidates than I did about Jesus during the election cycle.

I’m not saying that the Church and individual Christians should not have a prophetic voice. We need to speak prophetically to the powers of this world. I thank that we get off course when we become partisan in our prophetic voices and lose our prophetic voice. Maybe we need to stick more closely to the prophetic voice of Jesus. What did he say?

Jesus told us to pay taxes to Caesar but never called for his overthrow.

Jesus told us to pray for, not condemn our enemies.

Jesus told us to share with those who have less, not establish a social program to do so.

Are we preaching Jesus or are we preaching politics in our lives and on social media? This is a question that I hope we ask ourselves this year. We must preach Christ to people of every political stripe.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Elections

#PartisanPolitics                                                      #PreachingChrist

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Persons of the Year?

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 45

December 28, 2020

Persons of the Year?

I have been a subscriber to Time Magazine since the 1970’s. In high school I took a class that examined current global political issues. Our textbook was Time Magazine. I discovered that a subscription was cheaper than buying copies weekly at the newsstand.  Since I enjoyed reading it, I’ve been subscribing since then. I always look forward to the person/person(s) of the year issue. Some years I have agreed with the selection. Other years I haven’t. This year I’m appalled by the selection. I am even considering writing a letter of protest to Time. Biden and Harris are persons of the year? Really? I believe that this was a dumb selection.

Traditionally this award has been given to the person(s) who have done the most to influence events of the year. What has Biden or Harris done to influence the events of this year? The two won an election two months before the year came to an end. That is not a whole lot of influence over world events. So, who might I pick for this honor?

Perhaps Dr. Fauci, who was a major  part of Donald Trump’s Covid task force.

Maybe the pharmacology companies who developed the Covid vaccine.

Perhaps the scientists who invented the Covid-19 inoculation.

My personal favorite for this award is the frontline health care workers who cared for the sick and the dying. Some of these workers died because of their efforts.

With these candidates for this award, why would Time magazine even consider Biden and Harris for this award. Many of my friends have accused the national media of being “leftward leaning.” With this award I can’t help but wonder if these people are correct.

In my mind, the health care workers are really the “persons of the year,” and I will always treat them as such. Certainly Biden and Harris are unworthy of this award.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #TimeMagazine

#PersonsOfTheYear                                               #BidenHarris

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

A Tradition With A Twist

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 44

December 21, 2020

A Tradition With A Twist

For decades one of our deacons has been making Christmas Deacon ornaments. These are made as members order them. It is a fine tradition and my tree displays every ornament for the past fourteen years. They look wonderful and the money from these ornament sales go toward our deacons fund. Each of these have been different designs from hearts to candy canes to angels. This year the ornaments are a not quite the same as any other.

This year, reflecting the Corona times that we live in, have a very special message. They are in the shape of a ribbon with many colors; white, rainbow, black and red. Each color pays tribute to something or someone that we are grateful for in this time of death and illness.

The white is for the first responders and essential workers.

The rainbow is a sign of peace and hope for the future.

The black is in memory of many lives lost.

The red is for faith that God will help us through it all.

These words were written by Deacon Barbara who created these ornaments. I really don’t have anything to add to these fine words. I will simply thank Barbara for these ornaments. Each year, when I put mine on the tree I will remember this hard year as I mourn those who I lost and show gratitude for those who served me during this time.  Of course I will be grateful for surviving the plague.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Christmas

#ChristmasTreeOrnaments                                    #Gratitude

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/