Welcome to the Deacon’s Corner
Latest book review is at the bottom of the page
This page is dedicated to providing concrete ideas, practical suggestions, and accessible resources to help you tackle some of the struggles and challenges of everyday Christian living. On this page you will find brief reflections on various aspects of Christian life in the 21st century, as well as questions for you to think about, recommended readings and online resources, and directions to reference materials for further reading.
The reflections and resources on this page are designed for people who don’t have a background in biblical studies or theology, although there will be references to readings in the Scriptures and other works for further study if you wish to use them. The purpose of this page is to address everyday situations on a practical level, rather than from an academic or theological perspective.
Your feedback on the materials on this page is most welcome. Any thoughts, experiences, and questions that you wish to share will be valuable in guiding the direction of the page as it develops. Please send me your feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m excited about this new way for us to share our Christian journey, and look forward to exploring it with you. Peace be with you, today and always.
LOVING AND SERVING
The Christian’s Call
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God!
These words, or words much like them, are the last thing we hear at an Episcopal worship service as the deacon dismisses the congregation after the final blessing. We hear these words at almost every worship service we attend. But despite their familiarity, do we understand them as God’s words directed specifically to us? Do we know what it means to love and serve the Lord in our own life, here, today?
The words of this powerful exhortation are dynamic: Go! Love! Serve! They make it clear that all Christians share in the responsibility to take the Good News into the world. In fact, the fundamental purpose of gathering to worship is to prepare us for the work ahead of us, loving and serving God as we go about our lives in the world. While it’s true that worshipping together can help us feel closer to God and each other, that’s not the primary goal. Strengthening bonds in the family of faith builds up the body of Christ so that it can be an effective witness to God’s love in the world and a source of sustenance and support for its members.
This web page is based on the theme Loving and Serving. It is intended to help all of us become more effective bearers of the Good News in our world. Jesus taught us by example to love and serve throughout his own earthly ministry. He also taught that in loving and serving others we love and serve Him and His Father. Loving and serving are the essence of the Christian life.
Commitment to living a Christian life is the most far-reaching and long-lasting commitment we’ll ever make. It touches every aspect of life and changes everything we do. Few other commitments in life come close to its breadth and depth. The responsibility can seem overwhelming or daunting. Perhaps that’s one reason that we don’t often think about what God is calling us to do when we leave church each week.
Called But Reluctant
If you sometimes feel uncertain about this call to the life of Christ’s followers, be assured that we in the 21st century are not the only ones who have been hesitant to respond. The Bible offers stories of other people who were called by God but were reluctant (even adamantly opposed) to doing what God wanted them to do. Oddly enough, many of them are revered as heroes of our faith tradition. For example:
+ Moses tried four different excuses to resist God’s call to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go. He first told God he wasn’t a person of sufficient importance to appear before Pharaoh. Then said he didn’t know who to say had sent him if questioned by the Israelites. Then he asked what if the Israelites didn’t believe him? And finally he told God he couldn’t do the job because he had a speech impediment. Even after God answered each of these objections, Moses said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 3:1 – 4:17)
+ The military leader Gideon, whom God called to deliver the Israelites from Midianite oppression, objected on the basis that he had too little power: “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6:15) He also demanded multiple signs from God before he finally believed that God had specifically selected him to take on this critical task.
+ The prophet Jeremiah told God he couldn’t speak on his behalf because he was only a boy with no public speaking experience and little credibility. (Jeremiah 1:4-19)
+ The great prophet Isaiah was sure he couldn’t be chosen as a holy man of God, because he was sinful and lived among a sinful people. (Isaiah 6)
Few of us will be sent to confront oppressive political leaders, or to speak on God’s behalf against violations of His law. It’s highly unlikely in this country that any of us will face personal harm or mortal danger because we believe in Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior of the World. Even so, in the course of our everyday lives we regularly find ourselves in situations where it is hard to do what we believe is right. How are committed Christians to respond to situations such as these:
+ when the office water cooler conversation turns to disparaging comments about one of our less popular co-workers.
+ when a new family moves into the neighborhood from another place where customs are much different from ours, but neighbors seem to be avoiding them rather than helping them feel at home.
+ when we’re in a minority (perhaps of one) because we disagree with an idea that the rest of the group enthusiastically endorses, even though that idea also has an adverse effect on a disadvantaged person or group.
We come across situations like these every day. Each of them is an opportunity to love and serve, but love and service may carry a cost. We might be excluded from a popular “in-group,” or lose status or influence or opportunities for future advancement. Just as these situations are opportunities to love and serve the Lord, they are also opportunities to grow in our faith.
Questions for further thought:
• When you stop to think about what God invites you to do as He sends you out into the world, what comes to your mind? In what ways do you love and serve God and His people? In what ways have you thought about serving, but haven’t yet taken action?
• How does God offer you opportunities to love and serve? How do you recognize those opportunities?
• What are your objections (excuses?) for God when he asks you to love and serve?
• What resources would help you be ready to love and serve when the opportunity arises?
by Lisa Genova
©2007 Pocket Books, New York
A week before the time of this writing, a beloved former parishioner of St. Paul’s died of pre-senile Alzheimer’s disease. He was 59 years old, and had been diagnosed only 5 years before. It happened to be the same week as my husband and I were reading and discussing this book. It seemed a good time to recommend the book.
There are few sources of hope for the more than 5.3 million Americans who have a dementing illness. It’s the sixth most common cause of death in the country, but the only one in the top ten that cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed (Alzheimer’s Association, www.alz.org/facts/overview/asp). In many ways Alice’s story is difficult to read, but it’s also inspirational. Her journey demonstrates how dignity can be preserved even when memory and thinking are clouded by brain disease. That in itself is a source of hope.
Still Alice, the first novel by Lisa Genova, who is a neuroscientist, was written to illuminate the experiences of patients and families living with a diagnosis of early onset (age 65 or younger) Alzheimer’s dementia. The book chronicles in rich detail the poignant experience of Alice, a fictitious Harvard psychology professor who first recognizes the early symptoms of her cognitive impairment at the age of 50. She is just approaching the peak of her academic career, as is her husband, another Harvard professor. The couple’s adult children are getting launched in their own careers and beginning their own families. It’s typically a time of life that holds much promise and happy anticipation of what lies ahead, but dementia changes all that. The author describes how Alice’s condition eventually affects every aspect of life in her family, community, career, and home. The reader gets a rare inside look at the situation from the patient’s perspective, which is the special genius of this account.
Still Alice provides a wealth of valuable information on the disturbances in thought, memory and decision-making that characterize dementing illness, and its inexorable progression. Options in medication management and neuroscience’s current understanding of the underlying brain pathophysiology are explained in clear and accurate layman’s language, giving the reader a practical understanding of the changes that Alice and her family face. Above all, the story is told with great sensitivity and respect, showing that although Alice no longer possesses her brilliant academic mind, she is still who she was.
This book has proven a valuable resource for patients, families, and professional caregivers who interact on a daily basis with people with early onset dementia. It is also a helpful resource for those dealing with the more common later onset dementia, since the cognitive changes are similar. The main difference is that there’s a slower and more gradual process of deterioration when the first changes occur in the 80s or later. The 2015 Academy Award-winning performance of Julianne Moore as Alice in the movie version further expanded the reach of this important work, by focusing public attention on a condition that many families attempt to manage in isolation because of embarrassment, fear, shame, or simply lack of knowledge.
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia affect more than 110,000 seniors in the state of Wisconsin alone. The number of Alzheimer’s cases is projected to rise by 40% by the year 2025, if there are no medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease. The costs of care (public and private out-of-pocket spending combined) would increase five-fold. We all know someone who has been impacted by this illness as a patient, caregiver, neighbor or friend. This book can provide useful insight to all who share the desire to help.
Resources on Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementing Illnesses
Alzheimer’s Association Website: http://www.alz.org/
+Facts and Figures about the disease; Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment; Resources for Caregivers, Families, and Care Professionals; Current Research; opportunities for Advocacy and Further Education
Alzheimer’s Association Greater Wisconsin Chapter Website: http://www.alz.org/gwwi/
+Local Events; Conferences; Local Support Groups; Resources for Professionals; Opportunities to Volunteer and Contribute
Alzheimer’s Workplace Alliance: http://www.alz.org/gwwi/in_my_community_102309.asp
+A growing network of companies and organizations dedicated to providing leadership and resources to lead the way in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging: ADEAR Center
+A service of the National Institute on Aging, the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center provides information concerning Alzheimer’s disease for health professionals, people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families, and the public. A staff of Information Specialists is available by phone or email to respond to questions and furnish free informational resources including publications and referrals to clinical centers specializing in treatment and research on dementia. Information is available in English or Spanish.
WebMD Brain & Nervous System Health Center: Tools and Resources on Dementia
+Current information in laymen’s terms and available in multiple formats (slideshows, videos, podcasts and online articles) on Alzheimer’s disease and many other related but less common types of dementia such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and hydrocephalus among others. Clear descriptions of symptoms and changes to watch for at each stage of dementia.
Compiled March 2016