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Blue Jays in the White Snow

Father Rob's Blog - Fri, 03/06/2015 - 00:10


In he comes...


Away he goes...


Sometimes it's easier to take little hop than to take flight.


Back for more.


Off again.

Demon bird.


Joy Found Here

Father Rob's Blog - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 22:29


My personal list of people I most look up to and would like to emulate has just grown by one.  This little girl is now on it.  

Arms raised, a huge smile on her face, both feet off the ground as she literally jumps for joy--such utter delight in another person's success!   There is absolutely no sense of self-consciousness or self-importance here, only pure elation in the triumph of someone else. 

There are a lot of people who spend a lot of money to convince us that we need beer, a big house, fancy car, or exotic trips to be happy. Personally, I think we need moments like this. And the simple truth is, without them, nothing else will make much of a difference.

A Hospital Fantasy

Father Rob's Blog - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 00:24

Did you know that out of 141 people questioned in an unofficial poll,  almost half of them said they had a "hospital fantasy?"  Katrina Alcorn  describes a hospital fantasy as  the hope that a person will be in a minor accident so they can rest up for a few days in the hospital.    One woman lamented, “I don’t want any permanent injuries. I just need a break. Just a couple days in the hospital. No work, no kids. Can you imagine? I could catch up on sleep. I could read a magazine. I know, it’s ridiculous, right? But doesn’t it sound great?”

Apparently they are pretty common.  I've talked to a few people this week in my own informal poll.  When I told them what a hospital fantasy was, they almost all said, "Oh yeah, I've had one" in a tone that suggested  this is pretty much par for the course.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise, then, that only 17 percent of adults report that they are flourishing.  The vast majority of us feel like we don't have time to do everything we want to do  (frankly, I can't imagine anyone saying otherwise),  and most parents don't feel like they are able to spend enough time with their families.

All of which is to say that apparently it is pretty rare for people to feel like they have found their "sweet spot" in life.   But here we have some good news:   that is exactly what we'll be talking about this weekend (and throughout Lent) at St. Matt's.  So--if you feel like you could use a little help finding and living from your Sweet Spot, please join us.

Please Inspire Me

Father Rob's Blog - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 11:48


We live in a world that all too often is anything but inspiring. Our culture excels at promoting such negative emotions as fear, anger, and distrust. People find themselves demoralized, discouraged, frustrated, disappointed--anything but inspired.  Internet sites encourage us to "Share the despair" (as I have done above!)  The message is funny, in part because we see the truth in it.

And yet...  

Inspiration is necessary for people to make the most of their lives. It creates joy by bringing out the best in us. People who are inspired find the motivation to stretch beyond was is comfortable, and so are more satisfied with there lives.

That means it is very important we discover ways to be inspired.  I consider myself fortunate in this; I have a job that most everyday lets me see people at their finest.   But here's the best part: you can put yourself in situations that bring you into contact with such people too.  You can embrace environments that by their very nature bring out the very best in people.

Berkeley prof and happiness expert Dr. Christine Carter writes (from an entirely secular perspective):  Once you find sources of inspiration and awe, connect to them regularly...  If it is your church, make sure you show up on Sunday..."   Good advice, I think.

Thankfulness and... Sacrifice?

Father Rob's Blog - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 12:30

Want to be more deliberate in practicing gratitude?   Then give up—or change up—what you really love.

Yep, you read that right.  That's what Dr. Christine Carter, and Berkeley prof and author of Raising Happiness, suggests.    "I know," she writes, "that depriving yourself doesn’t seem fun, but entitlement and adaptation undermine appreciation."  She then goes on to point out that   "research shows that we enjoy things more when we give them up for a little while. For example, people who gave up chocolate for seven days enjoyed it more at the end of the week than people who indulged all week."

Interestingly, she then concludes that "This might be why Lent is a common religious practice!"

So... want to be more grateful to God for what you have?  Give up something you love for Lent!

The Mighty Potomac, Frozen Solid

Father Rob's Blog - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 00:29

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Whether it's the cold grey winter, enjoyable work in which there is always more to be done, or a late-onset of sluggishness, I have never in my life been as sedentary as I have been the last few months.   Because at my age such lack of activity can be lethal, this Lent  one of my disciplines is to exercise.

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Though the morning was a bit cool, the sun was bright.  Linda and I decided to take our first walk of the winter.  We decided to go down to the Potomac River to see if it was frozen.  It was.

From behind I heard my name being called.  I turned around and thought Linda had fallen in (the shore ice is the most unstable.)

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But no, she was just lying down to get some interesting pictures.

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The patterns of the snow drifting over the ice was very cool.  Literally.

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Every season has its beauty.

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Yep, that's the Potomac.

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After taking a few more pics, it was time to wave good-bye to the river and head home.

Anti-aging or Pro-truth?

Father Rob's Blog - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 15:00

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?  --Mary Oliver

In a world that is decidedly anti-aging, that hates wrinkles and sags and bodies that bulge in places youthful bodies do not, the words of Ash Wednesday are radical words:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust shall you return.

Our culture wants us to believe we can stay young forever, that we never have to get old. But here is the simple truth friends: We do get old. And one day, we die.

Ash Wednesday reminds us of this. It is meant to be a gift, because in so doing it asks us to see how much this moment matters. Too often we live like we have all the time in the world, like what I do today is no big deal because there is always tomorrow. But what Ash Wednesday lovingly but firmly reminds is this:

There is not.

The Luckiest Guy in the World

Father Rob's Blog - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 11:27

Apart from being a film franchise that went on for far too long, Friday the 13th is actually a superstition that has its roots in Biblical history. Though the combination of Friday and 13 as a negative omen didn't appear until the 19th century, it is a reference to Good Friday, and the 13 attendants of the Last Supper.

Despite the notion that today is an unlucky day, I feel like the luckiest guy in the world! All of you at St. Matt's have made me feel overwhelmingly welcomed. Since working here for the summer of 2011, no other Church has felt like home -- and for good reason: there's something special here. No congregation has made me feel more at ease, and given me more of an opportunity to brighten the lives of our congregation and beyond, they way they have brightened mine.

I couldn't be happier to see kids so dedicated to faith and fellowship already, and to see so many who seemed to be just waiting to get involved. I am excited to continue to be a part of a healthy, vibrant, growing, wacky, and inclusive Youth program.

The program's next big event is this coming Tuesday: the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, from 5:30-8pm in the Parish Hall. The Youth, volunteers, and I will be putting on a breakfast feast for all on the last day before Lent begins. We will be happy to see you all there for fellowship, pancake art, pancake relay races, and plenty of food. Donations will go to support the Youth mission trip.

Coming up at the end of the month we also have a Lenten WatCH starting on the 25th, when the Youth and I can dig into a deeper study of the season, and Tacky-Wacklemore Ice Skating on the 27th when we will take Reston Town Center Pavilion by storm in the craziest clothes we can find at Goodwill.

See you all Sunday, and God bless! -Trevor

A Celebration of Clouds

Father Rob's Blog - Mon, 01/05/2015 - 01:15

Billowing clouds

Apparently, the atmosphere was pretty active today.

Cloud fingers

Looking in different areas of the sky, the clouds were doing different things.

Cloud folds

They looked almost like the northern lights in black and white.

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And then the sun began to set...

Cloud colors

So many colors at the same time!

Storm clouds

A plane rises above storm clouds to the west.

Plane clouds

And flies off into the sunset.

Making the Season Bright!

Father Rob's Blog - Mon, 12/22/2014 - 14:01

There is so much to love about Christmas, but one of the things I love best is simply seeing all the people. And some of the people I look forward to seeing most are those I only see this one time of year. Many of these are folks who are visiting from out of town. That they take the time to include us in those visits means the world to me.

Others are folks who only come to church once or twice a year. I am so glad they do. Lord knows, and He does, that it would be far easier for them simply to stay home. The season is certainly busy enough to provide ample excuses to do so. But they don't. They take the time. They make the effort. They make a Holy Night even holier by their presence with us, a night unlike any other night of the year.

But perhaps my favorite group of all are those who have been away from church for a long time. In my experience, people generally have good reasons for this. But though they gave up on the church, underneath it all they've never quite been able to give up on God, or to shake the sense that God hasn't given up on them. And so, when they are ready, they come home. What a joy that is!

Maybe that's you this Christmas. Maybe you've been away from church for awhile. Probably you have a good reason for that, one I'm sure not going to argue with. Maybe you wonder if anyone even missed you, and if they didn't, what's the point? Maybe you decided you don't believe, but deep down inside there is still an awareness that Something is out there greater than you are, you are wondering what to do with that, and you know something will always be missing until you do.

We've missed you. Believe me when I tell you every night there are names and faces of people I still think of, I still miss, I still long to see again. Won't you come home this Christmas?

Choose Well...

Father Rob's Blog - Sun, 12/21/2014 - 00:42

David Foster Wallace has been described by secular sources as "the most brilliant American writer of his generation."  Read the following and you'll understand why.

"...Here's something that's true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual type thing to worship is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

If you worship money and things - if they are where you tap real meaning in life - then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you.

On one level, we all know this stuff already.  The trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power - you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart - you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.

The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default settings.  And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self...  But the kind of life that is most precisous involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.

That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the "rat race" - the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing."

Real People, Real Help

Father Rob's Blog - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 23:39

There is a family with four young children. The two youngest children, both under seven years old, have autism. The younger of these two is also nonverbal, and another child struggles with an eating problem caused by food allergies. A friend knows that they have fallen on hard times, and she starts to think of who might help. The name that comes to mind?  “St. Matthew’s.”

Nothing pleases me more than being known as the church that will help—the very first place people think of when they think of helping someone in need. That’s been our vision from the very start: to become a community wherein people’s hearts are so changed by knowing God’s love that we share love whenever and wherever and however we can. To be a community that is relentlessly and outrageously generous.

The friend called St. Matthew’s, and without hesitation St. Matthew’s jumped right in. We helped with food and gave them a Thanksgiving meal. One of our small groups “adopted” them and bought the kids Christmas toys. “Is there something special we could do for the parents?” we asked. “No,” they said, “you’ve done so much already.” We pushed a little harder. “Maybe a gift card to our local pharmacy to help us with our children’s meds?” The pharmacy did not take gift cards, but they did allow our Office Manager to set up a cash account in the family’s name, and we promptly began to fund that as well.  Just yesterday  (Thursday, Dec 18th) we paid $500 into that fund--one month's prescription expenses.

As 2014 comes to an end, we invite you to join us in being relentlessly and outrageously generous, and to help us help real people with real stories just like these by making a year-end gift to St. Matthew’s.   Your gift will help us to offer help where help is needed, even when the person needing help is  a person in the community with no ties to St. Matthew’s at all. Thank you for your kind and generous support. No gift is too small, and every gift counts. We cannot do this without you.  If you'd like to give online, please click here.

Finally, let me take this occasion to say one more time how very thankful I am for each of you and the friendship we share.  Gratefully, Rob+

Flying Friendly Skies

Father Rob's Blog - Sun, 11/30/2014 - 23:49

Advent1 025

When I first looked out this morning, there was a single trail perfectly arcing through a deep blue sky.  Just above it, another was being made.

A half hour later  as I left for work there were a few more.  Wherever they were, I hope they enjoyed quality time with loved ones, and I hope you did too.

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Father Rob's Blog - Wed, 11/26/2014 - 14:42

Dec trout fishing 065

The water in the pool was slow, calm, and crystal clear.   I stood off to one side, a good distance away, watching.  Would there be the dimple of a rising fish, its telltale rings expanding outward in little ripples on the glassy surface? 

Yes.  Yes, there was.  

Now it is time sit patiently and think.  There is no hurry. What is it eating?   Perhaps even more importantly, how can one approach this pool and make a cast without scaring the fish?  Wild and wary, they flee for cover at the slightest movement.

The fish rises again.

I guess at what seems the only possibility and tie on a small fly.    Slowly, very slowly, I crawl into position.  There will be only one chance; a poor cast, and the fly line itself will spook the fish. 

Breath.  Be calm.  Focus.  Let the universe be reduced to this one single point, and to this point only.  Cast. 

Grace comes in so very many moments, and in so very many ways.  The fly lands just where I envisioned, begins to drift naturally in the slight current, and another dimply appears on the surface.  In  this instant everything has been absorbed into one, and it is absolutely perfect.

The fish comes to hand, and it is impossible to be unmoved by its beauty.  You behold it just for a moment, and then feel it slip from your hand and swim away.

Bt fin

There are more hours in the day, more water to be explored, more fish to be caught.  But you are done.  You are done because you know in this moment is everything you need.  There is nothing to be added.  Your heart is full.

To try for more would ruin it.

Bt colors

A Hard Choice

Father Rob's Blog - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 02:05

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As the weather turns cold and grey, and rain mists down from the heavens with an occasional "mood flake" mixed in, it's hard not to find one's mind turning back to the joys of summer.    I find my mind being drawn to this morning in particular when we had a decision to make:  the Lake Agnes Tea House or The Plain of Six Glaciers?

It's the Lake Agnes Tea House that gets most the attention, but Linda read something somewhere about the Six Glaciers that made us think that might be the better choice.  But how to decide?  Fortunately we ran into a delightful you woman who gave us the inside scoop.  A groundskeeper hard at work changing out trash bags, she told us that Six Plains had chocolate cake.  That was enough for us.

Here is the greeting committee.

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And here is the kitchen, where everything is being baked from scratch.

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Like these pies kept warm on a wood burning stove...


We couldn't resist.

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Afterwards Linda made a friend.

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They were sort of like chipmunks on steroids.

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Then it was time for the next leg of our journey, up closer to the glaciers themselves.

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Still climbing.  Yes, I am in the picture below, though you'll probably have to click to enlarge it to find me.

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Then it was time to return to tea house once again for... you guessed it... chocolate cake!

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There's A Bear in the Woods...

Father Rob's Blog - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:04

Black bear

That black spot in the middle of the above photo is a bear.


We met at this log. I was at one end, he was at the other.  He started walking across.  How we didn't see each before that, I'm not sure.  But we didn't."GO AWAY BEAR!"  I shouted with as much authority as I could muster.  He looked up, startled.  And then he backed up and bolted up the hill.  Beneath the log was a stream.  In the stream was this.


And this.

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But this just may be my favorite picture of the day.

Brookie light

Deer Drama

Father Rob's Blog - Wed, 11/05/2014 - 01:04

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"There's a buck in the field," Linda said.  So I stepped out on the deck  to take a look.  I expected it to run at first sight of me, but instead it came several steps closer.

It continued to stand motionless for some time, its attention was clearly very focused on something in our yard.  We figured it was interested in food, probably the last of the tomatoes still hanging on the vines.  But food was not it.

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A doe appeared beneath our dining room window, grazing her way through the garden. 

Someone walked a dog on the far side of the field, and the buck high-tailed it into the woods.  I figured he was gone, but it wasn't long before he was back.

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The doe kept right on eating.  This little tomato, and others like it, would not last long.

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The buck tried another approach.


What happened next I can't say because it was time to go to work.

Friday Night Lights

Father Rob's Blog - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 00:38

Sky lights

Seeing the low clouds this evening, I wondered if they'd pick up the colors of the setting sun.   Linda and I decided to walk to a hill by the house and watch the sunset.

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When we got the hill, some colors were beginning to show.

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And then the show really started.  It was sort of like the hand of God was stretching out over the heavens.

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I'm not sure how it was even possible, but the colors just kept getting brighter and deeper.


It was hard to know where to point the camera....


Whether to zoom out...


Or zoom in.  The depth of the blues, which the camera failed to capture, were every bit as impressive as the reds.

Six seconds

What did seem quite clear was that this was a good time to remember to practice the six second kiss.  You are still practicing the six second kiss, aren't you?

Then it was time to go home.

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Surprise and Delight

Father Rob's Blog - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 12:40

Weddings are always an occasion of great joy, but this weekend’s wedding added a healthy dose of laughter into the mix as well.

It started off like pretty much every other wedding. The groom and the groomsmen were standing at the front of the church expectantly. The bride and the bridesmaids had processed in, and the bride was as clear a vision of beauty as is available to us in this life. There was a moment of silence while everyone settled in to position, just before the opening words: “Dearly beloved, we have gathered here…”

And then the silence was broken from the back of the church by the loud voice of a child. “UH-OH!” the child exclaimed. There was another moment of brief silence, and then everyone burst out laughing. It is nice to know that even after almost 30 years as a priest, there are still delightful surprises.

Frequent Flyers

Father Rob's Blog - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 01:25

Monarch flower flying

Though the hummers have now left, the monarchs are making a strong late season showing.

Monarch flying

Being in the glacier fields this summer was certainly beautiful. But this?  I think it just may be something even more.

Monarch navigating flowers

I'll just let that one speak for itself...

Monarch with company

There were Painted Ladies as well.

And finally (for now), perhaps what is my favorite of all.