Monday, December 30, 2013

Angels Watching Over Me

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!-Psalm 148, vs. 2

On the Sunday between Christmas and New Year's I decided it would be a good idea to highlight angels in the Bible. Members of the North Canaan Congregational Church , where I was preaching that Sunday, agreed that this was a great idea, and pulled together to make what is often a low-attendance, low-energy Sunday into a special celebration. I preached a sermon about angels, we sang hymns and anthems featuring angels, and members of the congregation brought in angels from home to decorate the windowsills. One member even created the little peanut angel ornaments to distribute to the other worship attendees. Special thanks go to Gertrude Anderson for helping to pull the event together.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Now after [the Magi] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” --Matthew 2:13

Most Americans believe in Angels. Even a majority of non-Christians believe in Angels, as well as four in ten people who never attend religious services. In the Bible, Angels (sometimes translated as "Messengers", as in messengers from God) are everywhere. The passage of scripture I quoted at the beginning of this blog entry is one of many famous passages of scripture about a person receiving a visit from an Angel. This particular angelic visit changed history, as it probably saved the life of the young Jesus. It also raises some interesting questions about the nature of Messenger-Angels. After Joseph takes his young son and wife to Egypt, Herod has his soldiers kill all the boys in the area who are roughly the age that he thinks Jesus would be. According to estimates of population in the area at the time, that amounts to about eighteen children killed, which is a pretty awful massacre. Why didn't the angels warn those fathers about the pending danger? Or did angels warn them as well, but for some reason they couldn't hear or understand the warning, or maybe they just ignored it? Scripture is silent on this question, and we will never know.
People who claim a special ability to see angels claim they are pretty much everywhere all the time, as depicted in the German indie movie "Wings of Desire."   (If you've never seen it, the film is more like a long visual poem than a traditional movie, but it contains many beautiful and interesting and even humorous ideas about angels and humanity and the interplay between the two. I didn't love the movie while I was watching it, but almost fifteen years after I first saw it I still think about the ideas and images in it.) Angels also appear in more popular films, such as "It's a Wonderful Life," which is one of my favorites. 
What do I think about angels? I guess that's a complicated question. People who have come through rough times in their lives have told me they feel that angels watched over them and sometimes guided them to safety while all the terrible things they went through unfolded.  When I was younger I was often skeptical about these statements. I thought, if an angel was watching over you, surely they would have told you in no uncertain terms to just dump your abusive husband and get on with your life. Now I see things differently. Angels seem to speak very gently and quietly, and modern people, either by habit or inclination, don't seem to listen for them or to them much at all.
What if we took some time every day to consciously look and listen for Angels? We wouldn't need to change our beliefs at all to open our hearts and minds a tiny bit and just listen. Would it change anything for us? Would we start making different decisions, and start making decisions differently? I think it's a good question for us to ask ourselves.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

If you are at the end of your rope

This is a post for anyone having some sort of severe crisis. I am posting it just before Christmas because a crisis can feel even more difficult during this time of year, but this list has information that is useful year round. As these links illustrate, no matter what sort of crisis you are experiencing, there is a resource available to help you.  (If you a feeling just a little bit "down" during the holidays, check out my previous post on "Holiday Blues.")

If you are experiencing a crisis during the Christmas season (or at any other time), here are some resources that might help.

For Prayers: If you feel the need for someone to pray for and with you, try the Silent Unity 24-hour prayer hotline1-800-NOW-PRAY (669-7729). 

For emotional difficulties: The national suicide prevention hotline is for anyone who feels they are in some kind of crisis, regardless of whether they are thinking of suicide. Visit their website or call them any time day or night at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).  
If you are living in an abusive situation: The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help. Visit their website or call 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
Homelessness: If you are homeless or fear that you are about to lose your home, visit the website for the National Coalition for the Homeless.

If you are a homeless teen or a teen thinking of running away from home, call the National Runaway Switchboard  at 1-800-621-4000 or visit the Switchboard's website at

For Hunger: If you are hungry or don't have secure access to regular meals, there is a National Hunger Hotline.  Visit their website or call at 1-866-3hungry (1.866.348.6479) or 1-877-8hambre (1.877.842.6273).

If you lack healthcare coverage: go to

If you are experiencing grief: The national suicide prevention hotline helps individuals experiencing problems with grief as well. Visit their website or call them any time day or night at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).  

If you are grieving the loss of a pet: The ASPCA pet loss hotline can help. Visit their website or call (877) GRIEF-10.

For Veterans in crisis: If you are a Veteran of the US Military and having any kind of crisis, the Veteran's Crisis Line is for you.  Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or send a confidential text to 838255 at any time of the day or night and any day of the year.

If you or someone you love is terminally ill: Visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization website to connect with local services.