A Year of Gratitude: November

November is considered the month of gratitude. Many are sharing daily gratitude posts. I have done that in the past and I believe it is a good practice. In December of 2018 I challenged my congregation to a “year of gratitude.” At the end of November the year will be technically over.

Gratitude is never out of season, or over. The challenge, to write thank you notes and to find ways to give thanks is one way to live life fully. Paul in his letter to the Philippians writes:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And in 2 Corinthians 9:

You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;  for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.

Gratitude flows from generosity, from faith, from love and from an understanding that our thankfulness allows us to see the world with different eyes. Thankfulness opens our hearts and spirits to more than the pain, grief and anger in the world. Gratitude opens us to the all the goodness in the world which I believe is much greater than the evil and hate in the world.

So today, I am grateful for many things: an unusually beautiful day, lunch with a good friend, a walk in the afternoon, a stunning sunset and a sense that God is at work in the world in ways I do not yet understand.

I pray I may continue to see the world and my life with a grateful heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LifeCycle of Giving: Confirmation Sunday

This Sunday was Confirmation Sunday in Downtown Alive. These confirmands have been together for weeks, studying, questioning, visiting a synagogue and retreating together as they explored what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. On Wednesday in preparation for today’s service they wrote an affirmation of faith, their joint statement of  belief.

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The hymns were chosen by the confirmands and they wanted Patrick to sing, which he did. I am so proud of each one of them. I shared with them that I, too had been confirmed in that sanctuary. What I didn’t say was that it was 50 years ago on Palm Sunday in 1969!!! FIFTY! I  was glad they wanted and believed the church is a safe place for all. I know for me at their age and throughout high school it was for me. They are a wonderful group and bringing gifts that will make the church stronger and more faithful.

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We celebrated and honored them with a reception following.

You can find the whole worship service or just the sermon here.

 

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World Kindness Day

It really is an actual day! Now, I do love crazy celebration days: national root beer float day, or almost all the food holidays. I think celebrating just to celebrate is not necessarily a bad idea. I like it.

Years ago I came across a children’s book called, I’m in Charge of Celebrationsby Byrd Baylor. This author has written all kinds of wonderful children’s books, but this one is one of my favorites. Anything can be celebration if we have eyes see and hearts that are open.

National Kindness Day started in 1998 on this day. This year, many are coupling it with a celebration of Mr. Rogers. If I had known earlier, I would have been in! I don’t really have any cardigans to channel Fred Rogers, but I do have a longing to be more like him: curious, intentional, and willing to listen to the smallest among us.

Today went fast, so did yesterday and the day before. I can hope and pray I have been kind in the middle of all the busyness and things to do. There have been moments in the last few days that have been deep and meaningful. Today included. I am deeply grateful for those moments.

As much as I love this crazy holidays, there is a part of me deep down that wishes everyday is National Kindness Day. I find the world often too harsh, too mean and too cruel when it doesn’t have to be. Cheap shots sent through social media, bullying from all ages and excuses for why we can’t do better, when I know deep down, we can.

Even though today almost slipped by before I knew it, there is still time for me to commit myself to more kindness, more care and more intentionality. I know Mr. Rogers could be that way in a 30 minute show, but I also belief, he really was that way and we can still choose to follow his example.

I intend to celebrate National Kindness Day tomorrow, and the next day and every day after that. I may not be able to change the whole world with kindness, but perhaps there is a chance I can change my small part in it.

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In honor of Veterans

 

Friday night I had the privilege of attending the annual KPTS Veterans Coming Home Salute and Awards Banquet. Some friends who have a non-profit dedicated to helping Veterans asked if my husband and I would attend. We said yes.

I found out I knew several people there and even knew on of the honorees who is a good friend. You can find the pictures of the honorees and banquet here. The banquet was well done, the key note address powerful and the stories of the veterans that were honored were powerful and moving. Every one of those veterans were doing good work, and many of them, hard work.

I am not a veteran, but I come from a family that has had veterans in every generation. Part of the story I heard again and again is of the forgotten veterans, the ones on the street, the ones in the throes of addiction or mental illness. The most recent statistics is that 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Twenty a day.

In some ways this does not surprise me. Current warfare is so awful, so violent and the rules of engagement always changing. Health care for the average American is difficult enough, for a veteran there is more red tape and often long waiting lists.

Those who choose military service often face situations I can not even imagine. If they are members of a “minority” group it can be worse: women, ethnic minorities, lgbtq persons have even tougher roads. Yet, everyone of them chose to serve a great cause.

My brother in his blog wrote this about being a veteran and how to best honor them:

Gratitude is best when coupled with action. On this Veteran’s Day don’t stop at thanking a Veteran for their service. Turn that sentiment into tangible activity. Patronize and support a veteran owned, led or managed business (Google is very good at identifying these businesses). Take a few minutes to write to your congressman and senator about your support of Veteran benefits and services.

Finally, if you have a Veteran in your life, whether teacher, family member, loved one or friend, reach out to them. When genuine gratitude comes from someone close it is a sentiment that will touch that Veteran profoundly.

So, I would echo his words. Honor a Veteran, honor a veteran’s service AND their business. Give to the non-profits that support veterans. Volunteer and get to know a veteran. Thankfulness is seen in action as well as heard in words.

 

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LifeCycling of Giving: Harvesting the Fruit

Today was “consecration” Sunday. Some churches call it “stewardship” Sunday but whatever it is called this Sunday invites us to think about our money and giving for the next year. “Let’s talk about money!” said no on EVER!!!

Still, we are stewards of what God has given us. Money is only part of it: our time, our talents and prayers are also part of what we have to offer. The truth is, the church needs money, it has bills to pay just like everyone else, but it is more than that. I believe deeply in the ministry of First church and I am grateful and excited for the year ahead.

We affirmed the UMC Next’s four commitments in October alongside the Great Plains Annual Conference of adoption of them last June. In my sermon I shared an abbreviated version, you can find the full text here

I am also excited about the welcoming statement we adopted. It is minimally adapted from one our youth wrote for themselves. When it was shared with church council there was some discussion about writing and then it was like a light bulb went off….why don’t we just adapt this one! So we did adn here it is:

First United Methodist Church will live out the love of Jesus Christ by including everyone, accepting others for who they are, treating others the way we would want to be treated, respect all, love all, and affirm the full participation of all regardless of nationality, race, class, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, and age.

I understand that there is some fear for the denomination and anxiety about what comes next. I have no fear about First Church. I absolutely believe we are continuing the ministry that was begun 149 years ago at 3rd and Broadway and I know God has plans for us.

If you would like to watch the service or the sermon only, you can find it here.

I continue to be grateful and humbled to be one of the pastors at this wonderful community of faith.

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Important Anniversaries

There are many reasons to pause today: for citizens of the United States: this weekend hosts many Veterans Day activities. My grandfather was a World War I veteran. He served as both a sniper and a front line interpreter in Europe. His experience was bad, and my grandmother would note that he never got away from the “nightmares.” He never talked about them or his experience much. But on November 11 in 1918, World War 1 ended.

Prior to World War II, this day remembers Kristallnacht. November 9-10, 1938 Jewish homes and synagogues, hospitals and schools were and demolished throughout Germany and Austria. Thousands of Jewish men were sent to concentration camps and this was the beginning of the Holocaust were millions of Jewish men, women and children would be slaughtered.

In 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany would occur beginning on November 9 and continuing in the days that would follow. This symbol of the division between the east and west, between the Soviet Union and the free world would be dismantled and the reuniting of families would begin. The visual was stunning and Germany would spend billions of dollars on unification of families and their country.

Personally, today is the anniversary of mother’s death. Six years ago she transitioned from this life to the next surrounded by her children and love. Every day is filled with anniversaries of things internationally and personally. Finding time to pause and remember is important.

For me it can be easy to go through life and not pay attention to these important moments where the world changed and where my life changed. And yet…..I find if I don’t pay attention, it is easy to forget. What is the old saying? Those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it.

I honor the memory of mother, of those who tore down the Berlin Wall and commit myself to not forget the horrors of Kristallnacht. Too often I turn from injustice because it “doesn’t affect” me….and yet, if I am honest it does affect me. Life is too short not to notice the injustices and pain and pain of those who are inflicted with hatred and bigotry.

We are brothers and sisters, siblings created in the image of God. This day as is true every day, we are called to stand up against evil and injustice wherever they may be. I long to be part of a world where goodness and love, hope and faith are made real in the world.

So as I remember my mother, as I remember the horror of Kristallnachht and the hope of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I recommit myself to be part of God’s reign of justice, righteousness, hope and peace.

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Friday Fun?

As my husband likes to say, “Now that we have no children at home, we live in the largest house we have ever lived.” This is a true statement. Our home is called the “Roembach” house and is in the Park Place/Fairview historic district. Probably this house was built probably in 1908, although the old Wichita Directory has the Roembachs here as early as 1906. The family wasn’t one of the old “established” families in Wichita so there is not much information about our home.

It’s big. I often forget how big it is until someone new comes by and and their eyes get large and they remark on the house. Andrew estimates it is around 4000 square feet, which may or may not include the yucky basement. The bedrooms are on the second floor, but several decades ago someone opened up the attic to a third floor.

Our grandchildren call it “theirs.” We are going to “our” floor grandma! And honestly this is a great “grandma and grandpa house.” An Edwardian foursquare, it has beautiful stairs off the foyer and very narrow and steep servant stairs to the kitchen. When they were younger the grandkids would run circles from one stair case to the next.

The third floor really is “their” floor. I have neighbor who turned her attic into the cutest area with iron twin beds and antique quilts and antique toys and her grown grandchildren still want to visit.

A couple of years ago, Andrew built triple bunk beds into one of the dormers. It sure beat the mattresses laying on the floors that we had had for several years. We have created a reading nook and their is a large tv for watching movies and playing the Wii. Andrew and I use the space in the meantime to do yoga most every day of the week.

Today, I got up there and organized. Recently I have taken up several small boxes and baskets of craft supplies and stuff. It needed to be put away and straighten up. Now no one will be visiting until Christmas, so I did put up the Christmas decorations while I finished up all the Thanksgiving decorations downstairs. (That is for another blog)

Today, I made the bed with brand new quilts bought from the First United Methodist Church quilt auction. There are two different groups of quilters that make beautiful quilts each year and sell them to raise money for the Religious Nurture Center (which is a ministry for developmentally disabled adults) and for our Downtown Alive Television ministry.  I have wanted old fashioned quilts for those beds and I bought three, PLUS a Frozen quilt and pillow case. They look great!

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So the upstairs is all relatively organized and Christmas decorations are up.

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There are actually more, but I didn’t take any more pictures. It felt good to get that space ready, to clean it up, make the beds and think about when the family will be here and I will hear laughter and probably a little yelling from the third floor.

Fun, like many things is relative. I don’t really like to clean, but I like having this done and ready. I probably ought remind myself of how good it feels to get things done, particularly those things I dislike: putting up old things, re-organizing, cleaning. In the end it feels good and I am grateful

 

 

 

 

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