Category Archives: year of gratitude

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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Grateful for Family Promise

If left to my own devices, I tend to be an early morning person. When I have no set schedule, and can sleep until I am done, then my regular rhythm is to be awake early. at this point in my life that is not true. I tend to be up later and consequently am not that “early riser.”

On Monday night, First Church was hosting Family Promise. This great organization supports homeless families and helps them get into housing. Many, many congregrations enable this to happen by either “hosting” (which means having homeless families in their building for one week four times a year) or by supporting the hosting congregations.

Each family has their own room for a week, the evening meal is provided, as well as transportation from the day house to the church and back to the day house in the morning. The children then ride the bus to school, the SAME school everyday so they are not moved from school to school. The parent(s) either go to work or do some sort of schooling or apply for jobs.

Andrew and I were the overnight hosts.  Basically we spend the night and if there is an emergency, then someone who knows the church can help in what ever way possible. The families had to be in the van at 5:30 a.m. After Andrew drove them to the day house, we had a lot of morning left.

We went to the Y across from the church. This is our “normal” Y, but usually we are not there at 6:03 a.m. Who knew so many people were up working out and running at six??? The gym was very busy almost uncomfortably so on the track. We are not particulary fast, but we walk quickly. Many were “running” around us.

That morning, the views from the 3rd floor were stunning. To see the dawn slowly moving into morning with the crown from our steeple was lovely.

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Then just a few minutes later, the sunrise woke up the sky! Both First and St. John’s Episcopal were breathing taking.

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“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118: 24)

I am sure this is why sunrises were made! Tuesday was a long day. Sleeping at the church was not terribly restful, but the work of Family Promise is important, important enough to a lose a little sleep. What a gift it was to have that early morning to see the hope of a new day, to walk out the kinks from an uncomfortable bed and be reminded of the goodness of God and God’s constant invitation to be part of making a better world.

Today I am grateful for the ministry of Family Promise, for the opportunity to share a small part in that ministry and to be reminded of “joy comes in the morning” and each day is a day that God has made.

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Life and Death, Joy and Sorrow, Thankful for it all

November 5th is an interesting day in the life of my family. Ten years ago, my daughter had her youngest son. He is the third son, only 17 months younger than the middle son and 3 years and a bit younger than his older brother. He is a delight and a bundle of energy. He has aggressively followed his brothers from the moment he was born, determined to keep up! It’s hard to believe he is now in “double digits” celebrating his birthday.

Six years ago, my mother was entering the final days of her life. Facebook reminds me that I cooked dinner that night for my twin sister and my younger brother. My facebook memories remind of the menu: oven roasted salmon, carrots and broccoli and tossed green salad. I noted I was grateful for the staff at West Heights who helped me be present for those important moments.

In another year, there was a wedding which I attended and witnessed the love between a wonderful young couple. One had been my associate pastor and her new husband and I had been on a mission trip together. What a joyful occasion their wedding was and how happy I was there with them.

Exactly one year ago today, my mother-in-law died. My husband and I were there as she transitioned from this life to the next. She had lived 98 1/2 years and it was time. Her mind began to recede before her body. In her last months my husband provided her with lots of laughter and love. She was surrounded by that love and by our prayers and the love and prayers of others.

Joy and sorrow, life and death, love and loss always seem interwoven, on some days more than others. I honor these days and moments. November may make it easier to focus on how precious life is, as the days grow shorter, the nights longer and colder. The leaves turn colors and then release and the ground turns brown in anticipation of the winter.

The turning of the season does not mean all is lost, the change reminds me that life constantly changes and life and death are different sides of the same coin. In the Christian tradition and my faith, out of death comes resurrection and new life. The importance of remembering convinces me that my intentionality of how I live matters in the long run. I remember the deaths, but I celebrate the lives as well: birthdays and anniversaries!

Finding a way to pause for the grief, means the next moments and the next celebrations are a bit sweeter knowing I have no guarantee of how many of those moments will be granted. In the Ecclesiastes the author writes, “for everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.”

Indeed, there is a season and a time for everything and there are moments to rejoice and to weep, to laugh and to cry, to mourn and to celebrate. On this day, I celebrate: the memory of my own mother, and my mother-in-law, my grandson’s birthday and a friends anniversary. I am thankful for it every one of those moments and memories.

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All Souls and Giving Thanks

Today is All Soul’s Day, the end of the All Hallow’s Triduum. For Protestants this doesn’t mean much, All Saints Day if celebrated at all is honored on the first Sunday in November. All Soul’s Day is also known as “Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed.”

In other words, everybody. Our loved ones may never have a day set aside for them or a festival, but in more liturgical traditions, we remember all those we have loved and lost on this day. Each year, these moments to stop and remember, regardless of whether or not I call them All Saints or All Souls, become more tender, more reflective, and more poignant. In my own life, we will remember the one year anniversary of the death of my mother-in-law and a few days later, the six anniversary of my mother’s death.

I reflected on my own mother’s death in a couple of blog posts, that you can access.

https://revcindylee.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/all-souls-and-being-thankful/

https://revcindylee.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/gratitude-and-grief/

And these are not the only deaths that I am reminded of during these holy days. Family, friends, colleagues all come to mind and I am grateful for our relationship, love and laughter shared. I miss many of them deeply, but not to the point of great pain. I miss them because of their unique and unrepeatable spirits which can not replicated, only celebrated and remembered.

Carrie Newcomer has a beautiful song called “All Saints Day” In the Celtic tradition the last few days have been a thin space between life here and the spirit world collide. Perhaps it isn’t the space, but the time where we can almost sense the world beyond this one, the place and space and time when the prophets promised there would no more tears, no more sorrow, no more suffering, no more death.

These holy, hallowed days invite me to pay attention to the sacredness of time, of place and of relationships. I am grateful, deeply grateful for those I have loved deeply and who no longer walk this sacred earth. I smile, I sigh, I say a prayer of thankfulness. On this All Souls Day I am blessed and I continue to be graced to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thankful for All the Saints

Today in the Christian tradition, it is All Saints Day. This day sits in the middle of a triduum (a series of three days, we use the word for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday as well.) This period begins with All Hallows Eve ( Halloween) continues with All Saints Day and ends with All Souls Day. “Traditionally” today is the day we remember the named saints and tomorrow is the day we remember “everyone.”

I almost always write a blog on this day.  A couple of examples of what I written are here:

https://revcindylee.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/all-saints-day/

https://revcindylee.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/all-saints-and-remembering/

So many people have touched my life and I miss them. After 35+ years as a pastor, I have done countless funerals and this day is always a big poignant for me. I don’t think I am maudlin, but I do believe that as a culture we are uncomfortable with grief and tend to want to move on. I know I often do.

Today, after a couple of unseasonable cold and blustery days, the sun is shining. I have taken down the Halloween decorations and am working on the Thanksgiving decor. The colors of autumn remind me of how precious life is, how deeply grateful I am to be alive and to remember. As the leaves turn colors, I think of how many share the best of who they are in the final time of their life.

Autumn is an invitation for me to take each moment as a gift, and to live with love and gratitude. As I finish up an intentional year of gratitude, I am grateful for “all the saints who from their labors rest.”  I am grateful to honor their lives and spirits and be challenged to share the best of their faith, their love and their gifts with others.

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Year of Gratitude, October Week 2

Our year of gratitude is pairing well with our stewardship sermon series, “Lifecycle of Giving.” The image we are using is from seed to sapling to flowering and fruit bearing tree to the next generation of seeds from the tree. The fall is the time of the final harvest of the year and for some crops, planting for the spring.

In the first verse of Natalie Sleeth’s song, Hymn of Promise, it states,

“In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree, in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterlies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”

This hymn became popular across denomination lines after it was penned in the mid 1980’s. Sung often during Easter time and at funerals, Ms. Sleeth points to the deep mystery around life and the life hidden in seeds and bulbs and other places where we least expect it.

Gratitude seeds itself in our hearts, minds and spirits. This seed is nurtured by faith, and love and grace and is made real in who we are and how we express ourselves. Gratitude and thankfulness when allowed to sprout, can bring deep meaning to our words, our actions our lives.

Natalie Sleeth’s second verse says, “there’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody; there’s dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.” Gratitude helps me and maybe you see past the darkness, to listen deeply into the silence and know that  we are not alone when the world seems to be cold and alien and uncaring. God is not outside of the darkness or the silence, gratitude helps me cling to to my faith that God will  not desert me or let me flounder in the depth of my fear or uncertainty.

 

Hymn of Promise, like many songsof the faith can provide the sound track to a life of gratitude. The words and melody sung to the tune of gratitude, allows us to participate in the mystery of God at work in the world. In this particular season of autumn, the shorter days and longer nights, the leaves turning colors and falling the ground reminds us that gratitude sown, nurtured and harvested brings hope and faith into the world.

During this month of gratitude, is there someone you can thank for the nurture and care you have received? In you moments of silence and darkness who was there for you? Who listened, who cared, who helped you find ways to be grateful? Write them a note, visit them or find a way to say thank you.

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Year of Gratitude: October

We are eleven months into our year of gratitude. Today, the temperature has plummeted from high sixties into high forties. Kansas can be a drama queen when it comes to weather. October’s focus is the harvest of our lives. Autumn is that time of planting somethings for the spring (think tulips and other bulb flowers, garlic and wheat to be harvested next year.)

October 2019

Harvest: This month the garden season is winding down and in many places the first frost hits. It is the season of autumn when reflecting on the harvest of our lives is possible. What seeds have been planted and grown and harvested in your life and spirit? This month we give thanks for the harvest of our words, actions and lives.

The harvest of our lives begins with those who planted the seeds of faith and of love and grace and acceptance in our lives. Who was the first person you remember in your life who made it absolutely clear you were loved and adored. For some of us, that person comes later in life, but for many that person is first part of our immediate family.

What person encouraged the seed of faith and confidence in you? Who nurtured those seeds that that might begin to take root and grow?

If any of those persons are still alive, this is a good time to write a thank you note and tell them exactly how much they mean to you. If they are not, think of a way to honor their life and legacy. Perhaps you can write a note of encouragement to someone who reminds you of them or perhaps you give a donation in their honor or do one random, beautiful act of kindness.

As the leaves begin to turn and the nights grow longer and the days colder, the season of harvest is an invitation to give thanks for the life and love of those who plant seeds of deep faith and gracious love in others.

 

 

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