Dealing with Dementors

This past Sunday was Balloon Sunday at First Parish Church in Taunton.  My story was inspired by this article I found by Chris Crass.  It’s amazing what can be found on the internet by plugging a few words into your search engine.

The Harry Potter stories have lots of mythical  and magical creatures – some nice and wonderful, some not so much.  One of the least nice of the creatures are the Dementors.  According to Professor Lupin of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Dementors “drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them… Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you…You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”

And the worst news is…Dementors are real.

In real life, Dementors are not wispy, dark ghosts floating around us.  They are the people that we meet from time to time who tell us that we are not smart enough, that we are not pretty enough or strong enough or skinny enough.  They are the people who tell us that we should quit trying to do great things because we are not good enough.  They tell us that we shouldn’t even try to bring good things into our lives because we are not worth it.

Expecto Patronum!

 

We know how to deal with Dementors, though.  In the world of Harry Potter, they use the Patronus charm and that is how we deal with Dementors in real life, too.  We whip out our wands and shout, “Expecto Patronum!”

Not really.  Although that sounds like a lot of fun and I might just try it some time.

The key to the Patronus charm is not the wand or how loud we shout the magic words.  The true strength of the magic is in our happy memories.  The hope and love in our hearts is what protects us and drives away the Dementors.

So when we meet Dementors – and we will meet them –  we must remember to fill our hearts with happy memories, loving thoughts and hope.  We strengthen those memories and thoughts by filling our lives with people who love us, who support us as we grow into wonderful people and who help us do great things.

It would be way more fun to whip out our wands and shout, “Expecto Patronum” at some Dementor who has been putting us down.  However, as two young girls at church reminded me on Sunday, Dementors can often be driven away by simply ignoring them or telling them that we don’t like what they are saying.  And then go get a piece of chocolate.

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The 3 sisters – Hope, Faith and Love

???????????????????????????????????????The theme in February at First Parish Church in Taunton is Hope.  I have been thinking a lot about Hope and Faith lately.  This story, which I told at our Time for All Ages, came from that thinking.

This is a story about three sisters – Hope, Faith and Love.  I think their parents might have been hippies.  Every day, the sisters work to fight injustice.  They march against unfair treatment.  They help kids being bullied.  They sit with parents with sick kids.  They help families struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table.

Each morning, Hope wakes up first and, in her wee happy voice, she sings, “I hope today will be a good day.”  Her cheery optimism helps get her sisters up and ready for the day.  The sisters sing together over breakfast, hum while washing up and dance while getting dressed to start the day.  Bellies full, clean and neat, the sisters head to the door.  Sometimes Hope’s sunny mood dims a little as she considers their work ahead and the challenges they might face.  “I hope today will be a good day, but I am not sure.”

Faith chirps up in a voice strong and determined.  “I have faith that our work matters.  I have faith that things will get better.”  Hand in hand, the three sisters set out to protest, to protect, to educate, to feed and clothe, and to heal the broken places in the world.   They march arm in arm.  They speak truth to power.  They hug and cry with the suffering.  They sing with the brave.  They keep their hands busy with their life giving, world saving work.

The sisters have many friends and partners, but not everyone welcomes them.  Sometimes they meet people who put them down.  Sometimes they meet people who push them down.  Sometimes they are even beat down.  In these dark times even Hope’s optimism and Faith’s determination waiver.

Love in usually pretty quite.  Usually she shows her strength with a gentle touch, a loving smile or a warm embrace.  In the dark times, when the sisters are at their lowest, she shows her true power.  “Get up!” she shouts.  “Stand up!”  “Keep moving!”  When the sisters are almost at the breaking point, it is Love’s power that brings them through.  Love reminds them  why they work so hard every day.  Love reminds them of all the wonderful people with whom they struggle.  Love reminds of all the beauty they work to protect.  With Love, they rise.  With Love, they push forward.

And so the sisters work together each day.  We will find them when we work together for justice.  We will find them when we act with compassion.  We will find them when we stand up and we will find them when we are shoved down.  Each contributes in their own way to help us do what we know is right.

“Mostly dead is slightly alive”

A year ago today, Rev. Christana Wille McKnight began her ministry at First Parish Church in Taunton.  As I look back on the bleak winter days leading up to the early spring in which the Board made the wise decision to answer the door when opportunity knocked, I am reminded of this scene from the movie “Princess Bride.”

 

First Parish Church in Taunton was “mostly dead.”  But, as our wise friend Miracle Max pointed out, “Mostly dead is slightly alive.”  Over the past year, the congregation at First Parish Church created its own miracle, led by our own “Miracle MaxKnight.”

One Year Later, Rev. Christana writes in her blog, “our vision continues to expand, relationships deepen and our ministry grows.”

As we look forward to many years together, my wish for the congregation in Taunton is, of course, “Have fun storming the castle.”

It’s not the end of the world

The sun shines behind the storm

A funny thing happened on the way to work this morning.

I do my best thinking while driving.  As a social worker and a parent, that means I get a lot of time to think.  Sometimes I think simple things like what I am going to do when I get to where I am going, sometimes I ponder deep, spiritual and social matters.  If I am going to be delivering the message at church on Sunday, I usually get it sorted out in my head while driving then put it on paper when it’s just about finished.  Sometimes I get a good idea for Story for All Ages to share at our worship service on Sunday morning and get the details of the story sorted out on the road.

This morning was different.  I was just driving along and I heard a song on the radio in which the singer tells about feeling broken hearted.  It’s a pretty common theme in music, across just about every genre.  For whatever reason, I started to think about people who are in a dark place and start to feel that it will always be that way.  I was really disturbed by the thought.

Then it hit me.  It came all at once – like a massive iTunes download – straight past my brain and into my heart.  I drove straight to my computer and typed it up.  I have to admit that I was moved, emotionally, while I was typing it.

Now, you have to understand something here.  I don’t, and have never, written poetry or song lyrics or anything of the sort.  I have been known to be a bit of a story teller and I preach a pretty good sermon now and then.  This was different.

It was given to me.  I’m just passing it along.

I know you’re feeling broken and burned
It’s like your whole world is in ruins
You can’t see past the rubble and dust
But I see you and you’re beautiful and strong
So follow my voice

I’m right here, calling to you
There will be joy
The sun shines behind the storm
There will be good times and laughter
There will be joy, again, for you.

I saw you fall into that pit.
Frightened and covered in mud and blood
Nothing but cold walls closing in
But if you just look up, you’ll see me
Listen to my voice

I’m right here, reaching for you
There will be joy
The sun shines behind the storm
There will be good times and laughter
There will be joy, again, for you.

I see you stumbling in the darkness
Tripping, falling, bleeding, crying
Can’t see the sun through your swollen eyes
I’ve been there and I know a way through
So follow my voice

I’m right here, waiting for you
There will be joy
The sun shines behind the storm
There will be good times and laughter
There will be joy
again
for you.

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