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Rob Merola
Updated: 4 hours 57 min ago

Real People, Real Help

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

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.

Advent1 032


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

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 02:05

Alberta 2014 042

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...

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.

Fall brookies 019

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

Brookie light

Deer Drama

Wed, 11/05/2014 - 01:04

Buck doe 004

"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.

Buck doe 013

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.

Buck doe 028

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

Buck doe 041

The buck tried another approach.


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

Friday Night Lights

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.

Late october sunset 118

Surprise and Delight

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

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.


Storm Rise

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:48

Storm rise 040

They are calling for heavy rain today, and sure enough this morning saw heavy black clouds rolling in.  Interestingly, though, there was a touch of pink behind them.


The pinks began to grow and break through.


This close up does a good job of picking up the contrast between the low, fast moving clouds in the outer edge of the incoming storm, and the high altitude clouds behind them. 

I couldn't resist a panorama which perhaps best captures the overall visual punch.

Storm rise

Encounters with Delight

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 13:11


While walking up a mountain trail this summer, one of the animals we encountered was a porcupine.    Expecting the porcupine to be slow moving, and perhaps to stop and quill up, I followed it into the underbrushing hoping for a better picture.    But it didn't stop or even slow down.   Instead it put its little motor on, bolted down the mountain side, and left me far behind.  It didn't matter, though.  We were so pleased just to have had the initial encounter, and to come upon such an interesting animal in its own habitat.

The Heavens Ignite

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 14:04

Sunrise explosion 010

This morning's sunrise was an explosion of color.  One moment, drab grey clouds stretching overhead.  The next--BOOM--and then this.


As if hurled outward by the force of the detonation, the color spread throughout the sky.  I switched to panorama to try and capture it.


The color kept going so I kept panning.

Sunrise tornado

High up in the sky the wind caught a cloud and twisted it into an uprising fire tornado.

Flower fireworks

On the ground, there were more explosions of color.  It's fascinating how the color of flowers subtly changes and they reflect the vagaries of light.

The colors fading, it was time to set out the hummingbird feeders and go to work. 

Sunrise explosion 030

Old Man

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 01:33

Old man

Old man take a look at my life
I'm a lot like you ...

My wife caught me trying to tie some leaders together, which now even with glasses, are pretty darn hard to see. What's the next line? "Give me things that don't get lost." Yeah, I increasingly understand the value of that--in more ways than one!

All That is Now

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 11:28

Eclipse 023

There will no doubt be much better pictures elsewhere, but here's an idea of what the lunar eclipse looked like in northern VA this morning.


Other folks were watching too.  The guy with the tripod is doing it right.

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All that is gone.  That certainly pertains to the moon now.


Time to walk home, just in time to catch the flowers glowing in the morning sun.

Eclipse 040

And to put the hummingbird feeders, hung high the night before so they are out of the reach of raccoons, back in the yard where the hummers sit perched, eagerly awaiting breakfast.

Eclipse 042


Mon, 10/06/2014 - 00:18


As human beings, some times it seems like it is awfully hard for us to find stuff we can all agree on.  But perhaps we will all concur on this:  Nature can be unbelievably amazing.  Last week, for instance, we were on a stream that flows into Lake Erie.  The water was low and clear.  But all of a sudden large numbers of steel-head (big rainbow trout) began swimming upstream through the shallow shale flats.  It was quite a sight.


Look at the amount of water these fish are moving.  Sort of like a speed boat, they threw up quite a rooster-tail!


Here's a picture zoomed out a bit to give you a better sense of the setting.  You can get an idea of how fast these fish are moving by the length to the wake they are making.


OK, I know this last pic is a little random, but I like the effect.

Erie14 003

Urban Angling

Sun, 10/05/2014 - 00:30


Often, these days, it seems like woods and water are not too far away from concrete and steel. 

Suburban waterfall

It is hard to find the work of the hand of God free from the hand of man.

Great art

But then...  you do.


And sometimes ...  sometimes you hold the work of God in your hand.  You see its beauty.  You feel its power.   And you cannot help but be humbled by it.


Birthday Bash

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 02:30


As you may know, on Sunday I turned 56 years old.  Sunday is, of course, a work day for me.  But that evening when my work was through?  I jumped into a car with a friend and headed up to Erie, PA.  We took the stunning sunset as a good omen.

Though we didn't get in until midnight, we were up and at 'em by 4:30 the next morning.  First stop was The Country Store for a pumpkin donut.

Erie14 066

OK, I admit it.  This is the real reason I come to Erie.

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Work has been absolutely crazy this fall.  I wasn't sure I should go.   Could this picture indicate Divine Approval?


Catching fish meant more chances to play with my camera.  I love the interplay of light and water in this one.


This one throws a little color into the mix.  The kyped jaw is pretty cool too.

Purty big buck


Gill flap

The fish weren't the only sources of brilliant color.

Fall color

Soon enough it was time to head home.  Turns out there were some interesting colors on the road as well.


High Impact

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 12:43

Leach. Lathrop. Leary. Nowinski. Hart. Chamblin.

Miriam (our office manager) recently found a small collection of “newcomer” cards and these were the names that were on them. It’s interesting to think that these folks, who are now so familiar to so many of us, were once newcomers. (And if you are not familiar with them, let me assure you these are some of the best people you could ever know.)

I simply cannot imagine St. Matts without these folks (and many others just like them.) We would not be where we are without them. God has greatly blessed us, to be sure. But he has often chosen to share that blessing through people like these. And I’d like to think they’ve been just as blessed by St. Matt’s as St. Matt’s has been blessed by them.

Thinking about that, I find myself tremendously excited about who will join us at St. Matthew’s in the years to come. I think of people who are longing to make a bigger difference, have a greater impact, than they are having now, and of giving them an opportunity to do just that. I think of the difference itself that they will make, and of what an impact that will have on so many other lives.   I think of the difference we'll make in their lives and family as together we find some of the deepest joys life has to offer.

All this makes me realize anew how important it is that we who are currently at St. Matt’s continue to invite new folks to join us. I realize anew how essential it is that we warmly welcome all those who walk through our doors.  I look forward to meeting these good people who will help ensure the goodness of the years to come, and I hope you do too.

Big Brookies

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 11:17

Alberta 2014 1407

It's been said that the joy of fishing for trout isn't just the beauty of the fish, but the beautiful places where they live.  Never is that more true than when a person is fishing for brook trout.


Of course, it's not exactly like brook trout are ugly.

Brook trout halos

The rings around the spots are called halos.  Fitting, I think.

Big brookie

In the mountain streams of the east coast, brookies tend to be small.  But given the right environment and plenty of food, they can grow large enough to be measured in pounds, not inches.

Brook predator

Though this is one of the smallest fish we got, it was also one of the  most colorful.  I like this pic because it really brings out the fish's predatory nature.

One of the most satisfying moments of all is watching them swim away.

Brook t


Mon, 09/22/2014 - 00:22

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OK...  but what if the road you are on is only two lanes?  And the surface is loose gravel?   And the truck is coming TOWARD you, going very, very fast?

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With a bit of good fortune, I'd manage to get a good tip from a local about where I might catch some arctic grayling.  The only problem was the road getting there.  Looking at our car (we'd rented the cheapest car possible, but Enterprise graciously gave us a free upgrade), the local said, "But your not going to drive THAT care on THAT road are you?"  In fact, that exact line would be repeated three more times by 3 more locals.  We got lost a few times trying to find the aforementioned gravel road, and each time we stopped to ask for directions, we heard the same refrain.  It was a bit unnerving.

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We made it, but the car did get muddy.

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REALLY muddy, in fact.

Grayling stream

The stream was beautiful.  Even better--we had it to ourselves.


Perhaps best of all, the fishing was every bit as good as the local said it would.  Maybe better even.  And that meant I got to practice taking more underwater pictures.


Grayling are a beautiful fish.


Before leaving, we decided to go swimming. Linda figured my fly-box would be the perfect place to store her earrings.  As we climbed out of the water, a very large moth landed in the stream.  A grayling immediately ate it.  So I tied on my biggest, most garish fly of all, and cast it to the spot where the moth disappeared.  WHAM!  The grayling was apparently still hungry.  Figuring it doesn't get any better than that, we decided it was time to head home.