Monthly Archives: January 2019

Year of Gratitude: February

We are finishing the second month of our Year of Gratitude. (We started in December with the beginning of the Christian year.) This month we focused on new things: New Year’s  resolutions, new paths and other choices to begin a new year and gave thanks for the new possibilities we are given. We created a gratitude jar so each week we could put one thing or event that made a difference and for which we were grateful. At the end of December, 2019 we will be able to look back over our year and remember.

For the month of February our gratitude focus will be:

Relationships: This month is filled with “Valentines” but love is more than hearts and flowers. There are many relationships which call for gratitude. This month we give thanks for all our relationships.

Sarah Ban Breathnach in her journal book The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude writes:  “Grace is available for each of us every day–our spiritual daily bread–but we’ve to to remember to ask for it with a grateful heart and not worry about whether there will be enough for tomorrow.”

Grace is our daily bread as is gratitude. I would like to encourage you to think about the grace you have received through the month of January. Have you written three or four things to put in your jar? If not, take a few moments to so. Breath in grace, Breath in gratitude. What has touched you in January? What has surprised you in its grace, its beauty, its love?

Relationships are also part of our spiritual daily bread along with grace. Our relationships teach us many things. As we prepare for February and our thankfulness for our relationships, today I want you to write two thank you notes. One, I would like you to write a thank you note to God, for the blessings you have received in January. Put it in your jar, so that in December you might pull it out and re-read it with a prayer for God’s goodness.

Second, to begin our month focusing on relationships, I would like you to write a thank you note to yourself. We are so often hard ourselves, we call ourselves names, often have a running litany of what is wrong and why it is wrong and blame ourselves. Often the grace that is our daily bread is offered to others and we offer little to ourselves. Take some time and thank yourself, for getting up and out of bed, for taking care of others whether it be children or friends or a partner or parents. Thank your body for what it can do. In thanking yourself, you have a path to thank God for life, for love and grace.

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Courageous Faith: Daily Bread

This morning was beautiful. At church I took this beautiful sunrise picture.

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The open hymn at both the Heritage service and Downtown Alive was

“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
The King of creation
O my soul, praise Him
For He is thy health and salvation
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near
Praise Him in glad adoration”

One of my favorite hymns it really seemed to fit on this morning when the sunrise was so glorious. In week three of our sermon series our focus was on the phrase, “give us this day our daily bread.” The altar was beautifully set with a variety of breads. (Not pictured are the baskets of holy bread shared with the congregation during worship.)

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Our scriptures; Psalm 23 and Luke 12: 22-32 are verses that remind us that God is there for us in all of life. “Don’t worry,” Jesus says, and we all know how easy that is! Still, again and again we are encouraged to not be afraid, to not worry or be anxious. The Lord’s Prayer gives us a moment to ask for what we need, not just for ourselves but for the whole world You can find today’s service at this link.

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Year Of Gratitude: January: Week 4

Last year (was that only a few weeks ago?) I challenged my congregation at First United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas to living a year of gratitude. We would write one thank you note each week. I promised to write a blog “prompt” each week as a way to keep us on track. The link above gives the monthly “focus” for the year.

January is a month that people often take stock of their lives and what they want to do differently in the new year. It’s called “resolutions.” By this time, many will have given up what they intended to do.

Did you make New Year’s Resolutions this year? What were they? Are you still striving to do something new? Some people choose to lose weight and try a new diet whether is is low fat, low carb, Whole 30, Keto or Paleo. They might join Weight Watchers or T.O.P.S. People might decide to get back in shape, they join a gym, begin walking, biking, exercising again.

Earlier this month I had us write letters to people that have had vision or ministry or purpose that have made a difference in our lives. This week I want to focus on our physical selves. Our bodies are important and if you have made a resolution to lose weight, to get healthy, to eat better to move more, I want to encourage you to do so. I know it is hard, I KNOW it is hard.

Mu husband and I have been getting back to a regular routine of exercising. Now we are are pretty good about getting out and walking and biking, but over the holidays we quit going to the gym and just quit period. We decided we didn’t like the aches and pains that come without moving; from not walking, not stretching, and just sitting around. So we started to move again.

Yesterday I woke up in pain. My lower back and hip are really sore. I haven’t done anything that I know of  (I think maybe after watching the movie Wonder Woman I must have been fighting the forces of evil in my sleep!) Regardless, I am sore, I hurt. I could easily give up and not move right now. Instead, I got up yesterday and today and slowly and gently stretched. I know I need to move to keep from seizing and stiffening up. I know that with time, the aches will go away if I don’t over do.

This week I am going to write a thank you note to someone who inspires me to be better physically. I have many friends in that category. They are amazing atheletes who run or bike or do triathalons. They continually push themselves into becoming stronger.

Who inspires you? Is it a doctor who did surgery for you on a hip, a shoulder, a knee or some other joint or bone? Is it someone who has over come adversity and learned to walk again, or move again and learned to move differently? Is it a coach or a personal trainer or a physical therapist? Is it a nutritionist or dietican that has helped you eat better? Is it a friend who is your accountability partner in exercise and eating?

This week, write one thank you note to someone who helps you be more comfortable in your body, more whole and healthy in your body. Then do something this week that helps you be healthier and stronger.

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Courageous Faith: Your Kingdom Come

It was a cold, cold day, but the sun was shining and we gathered on the Martin Luther King, Jr weekend to worship and continue our sermon series. After being out of town AGAIN, it was so good to be back “home” in this beautiful sanctuary.

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After worship, there wasn’t one person left, but I stayed for a bit. Sat down and just breathed in Spirit there: thousands upon thousands of prayers have lifted in this space. Tears of happiness and sorrow have been shed, laughter has carried the joy up and out the doors and faithful hearts have again and again have prayed:  God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

The music today was beautiful and the hymns meaningful. After attending two different meetings the last two weeks, I have become more and more convinced of the depth of the Lord’s Prayer, and the courage it takes to pray and live into it’s meaning. You can find today’s service here. I truly pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

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Year of Gratitude, January: Week 3

Like last week, I was out of town again this week. The first two full weeks of January tend to be like that on my schedule. This week was the Great Plains Conference annual meeting of Orders and Fellowship. For those “non United Methodist” people it is a meeting of the clergy with several goals in mind: continuing education, orders meetings (which is usually split into Elders, Deacons and Local Pastors, but not always) and fellowship. This meeting moves around but this year it was held at the Church of the Resurrection the largest United Methodist Church in our annual conference and the United States.

It is a beautiful facility and huge, literally huge. Recently it has become well known for having created the largest stained glass window in the world in the new sanctuary that seats 3500.

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There are certainly better pictures, but you can find those by searching in your favorite search engine. The sanctuary is well thought out, deeply theological and purposeful. The design makes it feel more intimate that you might image. I was most impressed as Adam Hamilton, founding pastor and senior pastor explained the concepts not only of this window, but of the entire sanctuary.

It was good to be there for many reasons. I am grateful for my clergy colleagues, the presenters, and the time just to be with these people that have this most particular calling. Part of the focus of the week was to look at self care and mental health issues. It was pointed out in a sermon and in presentations that gratitude was one of those things that helped people feel better about their lives. Gratitude isn’t a self help cure for depression or mental illness, but it is a vehicle that can help.

Last week I invited you to write a thank you note to someone whose vision and faith made it possible for you to be part of the community of faith.This week, I want you to challenge you to write a thank you note to someone who helps you be your best self. Is there a colleague that you seek out when you need advise or help thinking through a work problem? Is there a friend, that no matter how long it has been since you have seen them, your time together is a gift. Is there someone who blesses you, by their laughter, their love and their unique self? This week, write a thank you note to that friend or colleague or acquaintance that helps your be your most authentic self. Add a prayer of gratitude for that relationship and ask God to help you be that kind of person for someone else.

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Courageous Faith: Baptism of Jesus

We began a new sermon series focusing on the Lord’s Prayer. Sunday School Classes and small groups will be reading and studying Adam Hamilitons Unafraid, Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain TimesOver the next few weeks we will be looking at the Lord’s Prayer as a statement and prayer of confidence, courage and faith for us to utilize in the midst of a changing and uncertain world.

Today in worship we focused on baptism as well as the Lord’s Prayer. At the Heritage service in our chapel, Pastor Rebecca had a wonderful sermon on baptism and the power of water and being unfraid. I didn’t get a picture of the chapel that she had so beautifully decorated with the colors of greens and blues. At the renewal of our baptismal vows, one person came up and asked to be baptized. She had never been baptized and after everyone was finished with their renewals, we had a baptism. The moment was beautiful, sacred and holy.

In the sanctuary the altar was decorated to look like flowing water with pitchers of water which were used for the renewal of our baptismal vows. The sanctuary looked like this:

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Every year I am grateful for this service. In baptism each one of us is claimed and named as beloved children. Renewing our baptismal vows is a reminder of the One to whom we belong. You can find the whole service here.

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Year of Gratitude, January: Week 2

At the end last week, I wrote a slew of Thank you Notes for Christmas gifts received. I have 3 left to write.

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How about you? How are you doing writing thank you notes?

I am attending an annual meeting of “Large Church Pastors.” It began forty years ago among pastors in the United Methodist Church who served traditionally “big” pulpits. By big, I mean those pulpits that people grew to believe and know would be filled by the best of the best. Traditionally they were downtown churches and often named First but not always. The list of people who have attended this 24 hour meeting are filled with legends in terms of preaching and leadership in the United Methodist Church: James Moore, Charles Allen, Mouzan Biggs, Gene Craig, Bill Hinson, Dick Wilke, Kent Millard, to name just a few.

Currently the preachers in this group include many who I have known “about” for years because of their leadership and who they are in the United Methodist Church. First UMC of Wichita has never ever been as large in membership as some the churches represented. I jokingly call myself the little yappy dog in the midst of the big dogs.

The meeting moves around and includes churches from several states and jurisdictions. Mostly in what we would call the midwest. This time we met in Oklahoma City and I was able to see the sanctuary that was used as the model for the church I currently serve in downtown Wichita. St. Luke’s was built in 1957 and the same turquoise blue that is seen around First Church and domed ceiling in the sanctuary can be seen at St. Lukes.

When I peeked in the sanctuary I thought this looks familiar. What a gift it was to walk in and see the sanctuary and the upgrades they have done over the years. I took some pictures, but these from the internet are much better:

 

The black and white picture is the sanctuary as it was originally, it hasn’t changed too much but the fish netting has come down and that opens up the chancel.

Fifty plus years ago, people from First in downtown Wichita came to St Luke’s and other sanctuaries in Oklahoma to design a new sanctuary. They had vision and purpose and wanted to created a space for people to encounter a living and love God. Every Sunday I am grateful for that vision and faithfulness, commitment and determination to see that vision through. Each Sunday and almost every day I am in the building I see this window and am grateful to be one among the many who have been pastors at First.

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I don’t deserve it, but I am so deeply grateful. I am thankful to be at the table this week, among such amazing leaders and preachers. I don’t really belong, but I am glad to have a seat there anyway. It is good for my soul to be among these good and faithful servants. I will be writing at least “one” thank you for hospitality given and space for sharing.

This week, whose vision and faith has touched your life and made it possible for you to be part of the community of faith. Might you write them a thank you note and add that to your prayers of gratitude?

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