De-Decorating Christmas

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #3

January 17, 2022

De-Decorating Christmas

Last Friday I spent time de-decorating my home of Christmas decorations. Since I can remember I have always enjoyed Christmas decorations. Winter nights are lit with beautiful lights, Christmas music plays and there is a better spirit among people, waiting for the joy of Christmas. Even secular people who have no interest in Jesus somehow become a part of this “Christmas Spirit.”

Alas, the Christmas season leaves us and the decorations are stored away for another year. I always feel badly when that happens and wonder why we can’t keep Christmas all year long. If I did, however, I would be trying to keep Jesus as a little baby and missing out on the words of life that Jesus, the man, instructed us. The little baby gives us a feeling of joy but it is the man Jesus who tells us what we need to know. What did he tell us?

We are special. God knows us and watches out for us.

Be humble before God.

Treat others as you wish to be treated.

Pray for the blessings of our enemies.

We cannot be right with God if we are estranged from our brothers and sisters.

We need to share what we have with those who have less.

All of us are less than perfect and need to strive for improvement.

God will judge us by the same standard that we judge others.

I would not have heard these words if I only saw Jesus as a little baby. There is more to following Christ than Christmas. As much as we adore Christmas celebrations, each of us need to move on each year and hear what adult Jesus tells us. If not, can we ever know the joy and peace that Jesus can give?

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #PastorMarkAuthor            

#BergenCounty                                                        #BergenfieldNJ

#Christmas                                                                #SayingsOfJesus

#AdultJesus                                                              #BabyJesus

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

Decorando la Navidad

Reflexiones ministeriales del lunes
Por reverendo Mark William Ennis
2022 Blog #3
17 de enero de 2022
Decorando la Navidad

El viernes pasado pasé tiempo desdecorando mi hogar de decoraciones de Navidad. Desde que puedo recordar siempre he disfrutado de decoraciones de Navidad. Las noches de invierno están iluminadas con hermosas luces, obras de música navideña y hay un mejor espíritu entre las personas, esperando la alegría de la Navidad. Incluso las personas seculares que no tienen interés en Jesús de alguna manera se convierten en parte de este “Espíritu de Navidad”.

Desgraciadamente, la temporada de Navidad nos deja y las decoraciones se guardan lejos por otro año. Siempre me siento mal cuando eso sucede y me pregunto por qué no podemos mantener la Navidad todo el año. Sin embargo, si lo hiciera, estaría tratando de mantener a Jesús como un bebé pequeño y de perder las palabras de vida que Jesús, el hombre, nos instruyó. El pequeño bebé nos da una sensación de alegría, pero es el hombre Jesús quien nos dice lo que necesitamos saber. ¿Qué nos dijo?

Somos especiales. Dios nos conoce y cuida de nosotros.

Sabonen humildes ante Dios.

Trata a los demás como deseas que te traten.

Oren por las bendiciones de nuestros enemigos.

No podemos estar bien con Dios si estamos alejados de nuestros hermanos y hermanas.

Necesitamos compartir lo que tenemos con los que menos tienen.

Todos nosotros somos menos que perfectos y necesitamos esforzarnos por mejorar.

Dios nos juzgará por el mismo estándar que juzgamos a los demás.

Yo no habría escuchado estas palabras si sólo vi a Jesús como un bebé. Hay más que seguir a Cristo que la Navidad. Tanto como adoramos las celebraciones de Navidad, cada uno de nosotros necesita avanzar cada año y escuchar lo que Jesús adulto nos dice. Si no es así, ¿podemos saber alguna vez la alegría y la paz que Jesús puede dar?

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #PastorMarkAuthor            

#BergenCounty                                                        #BergenfieldNJ

#Christmas                                                                #SayingsOfJesus

#AdultJesus                                                              #BabyJesus

Para leer más de los escritos del pastor Mark, por favor pida una copia de su libro: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Ben Franklin, “The Way To Wealth”

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #2

January 10, 2022

Ben Franklin, “The Way To Wealth”

I have a few quirky rituals. Some I do daily and others I do yearly. For my daily devotionals each morning I read sections of the Heidelberg Catechism. When I am finished, I start again. My yearly ritual happens on New Year’s Day. Each new year I re-read the United States Constitution and also “The Way To Wealth” by Benjamin Franklin. It is a short book, only thirty pages, and it is full of wisdom that I find useful.

The point that Mr. Franklin makes in this book is that we hurt ourselves by living lives that lack self-discipline.  He explains that in life there are certain things that we cannot control. Governmental forces, economic realities, even weather is out of our control. These we simply must cope with. Yet, he continues, the most harm we receive is self- imposed. We do more harm to ourselves by our lack of self-discipline, a poor work ethic, and poor habits. I find that these are lessons that I need to hear again and again.

In life there are many things that we cannot control but we are capable of controlling ourselves, our lifestyles, our habits if we choose to do so. At the time of year when people make resolutions maybe our one resolution simply ought to be to lead a disciplined life; to control ourselves in a world where many things are not in our control. According to Franklin, wealth and respect come to us when we lead such lives.

This sounds to me a bit like an echo of Jesus’ words. He taught us to seek God’s kingdom first and everything we need would be given to us. This year may we pay less attention to the alarms and troubles of the world and more attention to ourselves, making sure that we behave well and making sure that God and God’s will are our priorities.

I challenge everyone to try this challenge. I bet that we will live feeling less stress and we will live respectable and prosperous lives.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthor                                                 #BergenfieldNJ

#BenjaminFranklin                                                   #PoorRichard

#TheWayToWealth                                                  #Responsibility

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

Christmas Fear

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #1

January 3, 2022

Christmas Fear

I saw, and heard about, a lot of fear during this Christmas season. With the new virus variant tearing through the world there are long lines at the testing centers, rising hospitalizations, and an overall sense of anxiety and in some cases, outright fear.

I wish that my grandmother was here to talk to us all. She once told me about a Christmas season when everyone that she knew was fearful and/or panicked. She told me a few times about the Christmas of 1941. She was forty-one years old at the time, was nursing a sick husband, trying to raise a nine-year old daughter.

To top this off, just eighteen days before Christmas, military forces of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. She told me that the whole country was scared that other attacks would come in the Western Part of the country even while German U-boats were attacking United States shipping bringing Lend Lease supplies to England and the Soviet Union. There was violence on both coasts, rumors abounding, and an overlay of fear. That is the mindset that she and other Americans had when they entered into church for Christmas Eve in December 1941.

I asked Granny how she, and others dealt with that fear. She smiled as she looked at me and told me her method. This many years later I could not possibly quote her but I’m sure that I can paraphrase her from my memory.

She told me that everyone she knew did the following:

Prayed daily

Vowed to never miss Church, both for mid-week services as well as Sunday. Prayers and hymn singing had a therapeutic effect on a person. Also, she told me, people were not sure how long they would live and church assured them that heaven awaited them if they died.

She told me that people were kind to one another. There was a real sense that with the fear of death so close by, a person did not want harsh words toward another to be their final words.

Finally, she told me that they listened to instructions from President Roosevelt and other governmental officials. She told me that sometimes instructions made sense and other times they did not, but President Roosevelt had more resources of facts than the average person did. Overall, federal advice was the best around.

Granny and her generation survived a difficult Christmas and lived with a lot of fear for almost four years before the war came to an end. If these techniques worked for her, maybe they will work for us. In this time of fear, I encourage us all to follow the Granny’s advice.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthor                                                 #BergenfieldNJ

#Covid                                                                        #Christmas

#Fear                                                                          #Anxiety

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

Corona Gratitude at Christmas

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 52

December 27, 2021

Corona Gratitude at Christmas

Much to my surprise, I am Covid positive. I was tested after I became ill on the fourth Sunday of Advent. I spent one and one half days sick in bed despite taking all the precautions that I could.  I wear a mask everywhere and have had two Covid vaccines plus a booster. I never dreamed that my test would be anything but negative.

As world of my illness spread people were very kind and checked in with me. One conversation that I had was with a friend who is a minister and chaplain. She asked how I felt and I told her that I was much better and out of bed.

“No,” she persisted, she is a therapist and a chaplain after all, “how are you feeling emotionally? Being ill around Christmas represents a profound loss for you.”

“I feel grateful,” I replied.

“You really are in denial,” she proclaimed. “You must be feeling anger.”

“Anger? Why? I’m alive.”

I continued, “In the early days of Covid three colleagues died from it. I spent only 1 ½ days sick in bed from it.

“I bet that my two vaccines and my booster might have kept me from hospitalization and/or death.

“I checked in with those folks that I was near my last Sunday in church. None of them have symptoms of Covid. I have good reason to believe that I didn’t spread it.

“Yes, I spent a bit of time on sick leave but I was able to work from home during quarantine. That is a gift we didn’t have before our technology explosion.

“I’m not feeling anger, I’m feeling gratitude.”

My friend just couldn’t relent. “You missed Christmas with your whole family, and a live Christmas Eve Service. These are losses. You must feel some anger at this.”

“Life isn’t perfect. I’m grateful for the grace I was given. I don’t have time to be angry over what I don’t have. Life itself is a gift and I’m grateful I am still alive.”

I guess that this is a choice we all make on Christmas and every other day of our lives. Do we get angry over what we don’t have or do we celebrate with gratitude all the wonderful gifts that we are given? Gratitude is a choice. I hope that we all feel gratitude each and every day.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#Covid                                                                        #Christmas

#Gratitude                                                                 #BeingAlive

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order copy of his book:

ahttps://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

The Gospel of Hallmark Christmas Movies

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 51

December 20, 2021

The Gospel of Hallmark Christmas Movies

“What do you have against Hallmark Movies and how do you even know what they are like?” I was asked by a woman who loves Hallmark Christmas Movies. She knows that I often criticize them. Well, here is my answer to her questions.

Yes, I have seen many Hallmark Christmas movies. While visiting my mother in the last weeks of her life, I heard her television broadcasting one movie after another. She loved that channel. I know a lot about these movies. What do I have against them? They are the opposite of the gospel of Jesus Christ, without whom there would be no Christmas.

The gospel of Hallmark instructs us that at the end of the movie, things will be magically fixed by the magic of Christmas. The nativity of Jesus tells us that at the end of the story there is still pain, not a magical fix, but God himself lives with you amidst these difficulties.

Hallmark movies focus on the love of humans for one another, without any mention of the love of God. I don’t believe that our love for one another can be separated from the love that God has for us and the love that we show to God. In the beginning of creation, the man and the woman are together, but God is also walking in fellowship with these two. The gospel of Hallmark does not mention God. This gospel believes that we can have love in its fullness without God’s presence. I believe that this is a false teaching.

The gospel of Hallmark is philosophically Humanist. It believes that human difficulties can be magically fixed by what people do. The Gospel of Christ teaches that humans are flawed. We will never know the full joy of life until we humble ourselves to God and live life with God. In short, Hallmark is Christmas without God. I think such a Christmas would leave a lot to be desired. I prefer the joy of a Christ-centered Christmas.

If you like this blog, please share it. Just one “share” can bring hundreds of new people to know about these blogs and our congregation. If you don’t like this blog, feel free to challenge me. Let’s get the conversation going!

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#ChristmasPlays                                                      #Christmas

#God’sLove                                                               #Incarnation

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order copy of his book:

ahttps://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Fear and Wondering

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Fear and Wondering

By Scott Hoezee on December 14, 2021

Read: Luke 1:57-66

And fear came on all their neighbors. (v. 65)

We often miss the Bible’s humor. God himself invented humor, and anyone who has ever watched a one-year-old child giggle uproariously at the silliest things senses that humor is hardwired into us. We should expect, then, to find humor in God’s holy book. And today’s scene from Luke 1 is funny.

Elizabeth gave birth to a son and the whole neighborhood gathered to celebrate. Everyone had long ago concluded that having children was never going to happen for this couple. So when it did, people responded with joy. At the day of circumcision, the child was to be formally named, and that was the father’s job ordinarily. But Zechariah had been strangely unable to speak for nine months, so the people turned to Elizabeth. They expected her to name him Zechariah Jr., but instead, she said John. The neighbors were shocked.

So they went to Zechariah and did what we often do to people who cannot speak: we talk louder. We make gestures with our hands. The neighbors “made signs”—I imagine them pointing to Elizabeth and making rude circular “She’s cuckoo” gesture around their ears, but perhaps they were more polite. Zechariah responded by writing out “His name is John” and just like that, he got his voice back.

The neighbors suddenly fell silent. Something odd was going on here. God was afoot in their neighborhood and that brought about an awestruck fear. Clearly this baby boy named John was going to be someone important to God. And they were right. —Scott Hoezee

As you pray, ask God to show you where God is working today.

 

Imperfectly Perfect

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 50

December 13, 2021

Imperfectly Perfect

One of the great things that I have always enjoyed about church throughout my life is the annual Christmas pageant. As a little boy our pageant was always held on Christmas Eve. I frustrated my mother by falling asleep and missing my first performance. I don’t think that she ever forgave me. A few years later the whole cast got a virus and the play had to be cancelled. Frequently, pageants simply don’t go well.

Several years ago, due to a small Sunday School, we had to expand the Children’s play to an intergenerational version. It was rather fun to have people of all ages be part of this play, and a good education for the young people to be seeing older people participate in such activities.

The movie “The Preacher’s Wife” starring Whitney Houston has several scenes about a church performing a Christmas Play. Like the ones I have been a part of, not much goes right. There are a number of mishaps. Despite all the problems, the children have a wonderful experience and learn again of the miracle of Christmas, God becoming human for the sake of humanity.

How can something that goes so wrong possibly be so good? I think that it is because of the very simply message. God loves us enough to incarnate into human form. The message is powerful and is strong enough to overcome imperfection in our delivery. Yes, our pageants are imperfect, but the message is perfect and has the power to transform hearts. Perhaps that is why the story “A Christmas Carol” is so powerful. It is a simple story of the love of Christmas transforming the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge. God’s love is transforming, even if we as a church are imperfect at communicating it.

Isn’t this a microcosm of all that we do as faithful Christians. We are here to proclaim the love of Christ however imperfectly we do it. We can’t wait for the perfect time or the perfect means. But we must never stop proclaiming.

If you like this blog, please share it. Just one “share” can bring hundreds of new people to know about these blogs and our congregation.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#ChristmasPlays                                                      #Christmas

#God’sLove                                                               #Incarnation

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order copy of his book:

ahttps://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Monday Ministerial Musings

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 49

December 6, 2021

Pearl Harbor and Other Traumas

Tomorrow we remember Pearl Harbor Day. That day in 1941 began our nation’s entrance into World War II and gave hundreds of thousands of young men really bad memories. As I child I knew a lot of veterans of that war. Most didn’t want to talk about the war. It was something to walk away from and try to forget. For most, they never had to visit those places of trauma ever again and they were happy about that. War causes abuse, but for most, the war ended.

War, like it or not, changes people. It is by nature, abuse.  What happens when the trauma is not from war, but from a place that is not, by nature, supposed to be abusive or traumatic. What happens when abuse comes in church at the hands of people who claim to be committed to follow Jesus and who claim that church is “safe?” How do these people heal? Those who committed the abuse are not “the enemy” and have not been “defeated?” How does one heal when the abusers continue to be respected members or leaders of a church and no justice has been done?

Thanks to the efforts of the Hudson River Care and Counseling Center, a new program to attempt to bring healing to those who have suffered abuse by churches or church members. Clinton Avenue Reformed Church has partnered with this agency to help be catalysts for this healing.

It is an evil sad tragedy that there are some folks who have been abused by people who claim to be “people of faith.” We hope to be real people of faith who can begin to help healing from past wounds.

After months of preparation, Hudson River Care and Counseling Center, has begun recruiting victims who wish to enter this program of healing. My Sanctuary Healing has begun and the first introductory video has been launched. Please see the link below.

Do you know someone who has suffered because of religious abuse? Have you been so abused and need help healing old wounds? You are invited to  watch the video link below and begin the first step toward healing. As a faith group hurt you, now let a faith group heal you. Please accept this Christmas Gift from Clinton Avenue Reformed Church and the Hudson River Care and Counseling Center.

If you like this blog, please share it. Just one “share” can bring hundreds of new people to know about these blogs and our congregation.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                   

#BergenfieldNJ

#MySanctuaryHealing                                             #HudsonRiverCareandCounseling

#ReligiousAbuse                                                     

#HealingfromAbuse

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order copy of his book:

ahttps://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

You Did All You Could…

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 48

November 29, 2021

You Did All You Could…

“You did all you could,” I said to a gentleman in my congregation two Sunday’s ago. We were talking over a cup of coffee following worship. His family sat around him. The man, on the brink of Thanksgiving, was grieving the death of a fourteen-year-old boy who was his neighbor and who played sports with his sons. Joe, the church member that I was speaking with, was a coach who administered CPR to the child who collapsed and ultimately died. Joe was feeling a bit guilty because the child did not live despite his efforts.

Tara, his wife and a trained nurse, quickly ran to the scene. She herded all of the nearby children outside for an improvised prayer circle as Joe, and then the responding EMT’s fought to save the boy’s life. Unfortunately, the CPR nor the prayers were able to save Aaron from death. Everyone involved had feelings of guilt and wondering if they had done enough. They all needed assurance.

I have been in such situations as a hospital chaplain. One evening I sat with a chronically ill girl, who was also fourteen years old. As she declined and her parents were in route, they asked a chaplain to sit with her. I prayed fervently that she would not die, or at least until her parents arrived. My prayers were not answered as I wished. She died before they arrived. I held her hand as she slipped away. I felt guilty and apologized to the parents that my prayers were un-answered. They assured me that I had done all I could do and they were grateful that their daughter did not die alone.

Sometimes, our prayers and best efforts do not get the results that we desire. Yet, by our presence, prayers and best efforts, we have “done all we can do.” Much of our efforts in many aspects of life, we don’t get the results that we want. Nevertheless, by our prayers and  best efforts we have “done enough” and “done all that we could.” Perhaps that is the measure of our lives. Have we “been there” and “done our best?” Perhaps this ought to be how we evaluate our lives. Not results, which are often out of our control.

Now that Aaron has died it is the job of everyone who knew the family to be present, praying and doing our best to walk with his family through this time of grief. We all also have an obligation to be present for Tara and Joe and those children who witnessed this horror.

We must be present and do our best. Then we will have done all that we could do.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#DumontNJ                                                               #AaronVasquez

# JoeRivera                                                               #TaraFox-Rivera

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order copy of his book:

ahttps://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/