Category Archives: year of gratitude

Year of Gratitude, September

Last year we began a Year of Gratitude. My intention had been to post weekly prompts as well as reminding us to be thankful. Mostly I have been successful and then somehow in July I got off track. I was still putting slips in my gratitude jar, but the weekly prompts did not happen. In fact, I didn’t do any in the month of August.

So I am back on track this week. Today is September 12 and I thought it would be good on this day to focus on gratitude and thankfulness. September 11 is usually a day of remembrance that is difficult and sad.

On September 12, 2001 people woke  up and began to focus on our unity, not our divisions. My exchange student daughter from the Republic of Georgia posted these words on my Facebook page yesterday:

 I remember that day.. and the unity of American nation that followed it.. Flags on every single house – something that had surprised me a lot – for a country of 200 years of history only, the unity and dedication of every american was remarkable… Years after I was blessed to get to the 9/11 memorial in NY to remember the victims of terror and honor the heroes… Thank you for sharing the post Cindy, that exchange year is very dear to my heart.

As I mentioned yesterday, it must have been very difficult for Ella’s parents having her so far away and in a situation where everyone was overwhelmed and afraid. I am grateful for Ella’s insight and her remembering the unity and dedication that followed that awful day. I, too, remember the acts of kindness that followed, the determination of people not to allow hatred to rule our lives and to stand up against bigotry. I am grateful for those memories and am once again challenged to live into a sense of unity and love.

September’s gratitude focus is this:

September 2019

Mentors/Teachers: As school is in full swing again, it is a good time to give thanks for those who have been our teachers and mentors. School teachers, neighbors, parents, children, friends, pastors, counselors, bosses or those who mentor us formally or informally make a big difference in our lives. This month we give thanks for teachers and mentors.

If I was writing that today, I would also say, “heroes and sheroes.” There are many people who on this day began the hard work of rescue, recovery and rebuilding. There are disasters that are still raw for people: hurricanes, tornadoes, floods. The devastation after Hurrican Dorian is still being assessed.

So on this day, I invite you to write a thank you note to someone who consider a hero. Maybe they are not famous, perhaps they are known only to you. Write a note of thanks for their courage, their bravery and their service.

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Year of Gratitude: July

The month got away from me, particularly because I was on vacation from July 2-13. Yes, I could have blogged, but I didn’t. I am grateful for the “vacation/sabbath” with my husband and then having time with children and grandchildren.

July’s focus for our year of gratitude is:

July 2019

Service Personnel: This month begins with a celebration of the United States. It is a good month to be thankful for all those “service” people who are part of our lives. That would include military personnel, police officers, fire fighters, government officials and those we often overlook: postal carriers, trash collectors and others in “service” industries. This month we will give thanks for those who serve.

Service people are all around us and often unseen and unappreciated. Those who service in military or those who serve overnight as EMT’s, fire fighters and police officers work diligently to provide security and safety. In the next couple of weeks I will focus on other service workers, but this week I do want to ponder what I experience because of the people who offer themselves in this line of duty.

This was particularly brought home to me as I read my friend Jeanne Wood’s post about being a 9/11 survivor and hero. She didn’t use the word hero, but that is what I would call her. I have known Jeanne online since 1999 and had an opportunity to meet her in person as well as continue to be friends over all these years. If you are on Facebook, you can see her post on my page. 

Sometimes it is easy to point out all of the flaws for those who serve. Yes, we hold them to a higher standard (as we do preachers, teachers and others) and that is not a bad thing. There are flaws in every system and sometimes people make terrible mistakes. Day in and day out, however, these people who serve do so because they feel called to do something that matters to others.

At Vacation Bible School this week we have been been focusing on “Going Beyond With….Faith….Boldness….Kindness.” We have had some off duty Wichita Police Officers assisting us in the evenings. The last two nights we have had Officer Shannon Meyer. The children have adored her and I have enjoyed getting better acquainted.

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I am grateful for her choice to serve the city of Wichita and serve us downtown. Todays theme for VBS is “Going Beyond with Gratitude!” I am grateful on many levels for the Wichita Police Department, our Wichita HOT team, our Firefighters and EMT’s and all who serve and put their lives on the line day in and day out.

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My challenge for us this week to write a thank you note to someone you know, or a note of appreciation to a group of service personnel. Or stop by your local police or fire department and take them a plate of cookies or a pan of brownies. Thank them for serving.

 

 

 

 

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Year of Gratitude, June: Week 4

When it comes to “sabbath” how many ways you can talk about it or practice it? In scripture it says, “Observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.” (Deuteronomy 5) Sabbath wasn’t supposed to be a problem or burder, it was to be a joy!

Many people can still remember what it was like when everything was closed on Sundays (the Christian sabbath.) Usually the day was uncomfortable, kids were to stay quiet or play quietly. This was a far cry for the “gift” of Sabbath originally intended.

In antiquity, Judiasm had a holiday or vacation EVERY WEEK! Nobody else did that! Other traditions had rest days, but not nearly as often. The sabbath was to acknowledge God and God’s goodness and mercy. Each week, time was given to share worship, love and joy.

Now even though most people have “days off” they are often spent working, checking e-mail and returning text messages. Time off sounds lovely but kind of crazy.

I think we need not just a “sabbath” one day a week, but sabbath time every day. Moments of peace, of quiet when we are not driven by blinking cursers, or text messages or incoming phone calls or e-mails. Time when we push back from our desks, from the gardens, from the work in front of us and pause and remember that God is our God. That life is more than work and we are  blessed with every moment we are given.

So for our gratitude challenge this week, I want you in the next seven days to take a sabbath break every day. Perhaps it is time to take short walk, or sit outside with glass of iced tea, or getting in quiet place and being in the presence of God. I want you to write a thank you note to someone with whom you enjoy spending time, over a meal, exercising, visiting or enjoying a cup of coffee. Those moments alone and with people who matter to us, are bits of sabbath we are given every day. Then spend some time thanking God for time, for Sabbath.

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Year of Gratitude; June: Week 3

June’s focus for our year of gratitude is Sabbath. Last week I noted I am not always good at taking time off and giving myself a break. I did so last week, but clearing my calendar so I could have more than one day off (after going a couple of weeks without one.)

This week I am on a sermon retreat. I usually try to schedule one each year, but often they get interrupted by funerals and other things. I get some sermon work done, but it never feels like enough.

This week I chose to be part of the Great Plains UMC offerings of a retreat called “A Time Apart.” Pastor Rebecca is offered this as part of the Transition into Ministry program and I decided to tag along. Beginning Sunday evening, it ends this this afternoon.

What a gift this has been! The retreat is being held at The Spiritual Life Center in Bel Aire, north of Wichita. I could have slept at home and driven in and out, but chose to stay. A much better choice as I was up early and walked and walked in the evening and had plenty of quiet and reflective time. At home I have a tendency to be driven by the many things left undone. The space is beautiful. This  morning I saw the moon reflected on the water, one of the many times this small body of water was as smooth as glass:

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I am not sure the moon in the water is all that evident in my picture but it was beautiful The water’s edge is teaming with life: baby turtles, little sun fish and big carp and catfish often nibbling on the moss. Some crawdads and water snakes. Geese honking and swimming, small and large blue heron, standing tall and paying attention to the water.

This retreat, respite from the normal daily tasks of work have been good for my soul. This time has allowed some creativity and energy to be part my long range sermon planning. The time is work, but at different pace, in a seperate place and surrounded by prayer and grace. The chapel where we held Morning and Evening Prayer has amazing accoustics. Perhaps you can imagine what it sounds like when several preachers sing! One of my favorites this week, was a personal favorite, It is Well With My Soul.” 

So today I plan to write a thank you note to the Spiritual Life Center for providing such a beautiful retreat setting. I will say thank you to the retreat leader. I have found myself profoundly grateful the last few days for this gift of time and space.

How do you find time and space for retreat from your normal everyday activities? Where do you find rest for your soul? Is it well with your soul? I pray you find Sabbath this week, where you may encounter the God of grace and love.

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Year of Gratitude: June, Week 2

This month’s focus is on “Sabbath.” For any one who has children or was once a child, June was the beginning of the summer break from school. When I was younger and had kids at home or as kid myself, I so looked forward to summer. Longer days, swimming, picnics in the park, vacations and just a different schedule.

Now, I have no kids at home and while the schedule at church changes, it is not the same. The truth is Sabbath is a gift from God and one that is part of the ten commandments. Of course of the ten there are commands to worship God, to treat other people right (don’t steal, lie, covet or murder,) but the command to take a break is in my opinion pretty profound. Last year in the middle of a sermon series I spoke about Sabbath.

I am terrible at taking time off. I have a litany of excuses as to why I shouldn’t be “lollygagging” around! Yet, God demands we do so. Rest and Sabbath IS good for the soul and necessary for good health. Sabbath is a gift of time that in some ways allows the “soul to catch up with the body.”

I have had a run of days that have been filled to the brim beginning in May. I have had some days off, but recently I haven’t. I cleared my calendar for yesterday (Thursday) and my day off is Friday. I wanted/needed some down time.

My time “off” began with a delightful Wednesday night opening of “Sound of Music” performed by Music Theatre Wichita. Attending with my husband, my sister and a friend, it was a good way to unwind and destress. On Thursday morning, I picked green beans and then we went to the Wichita Art Museum for their exhibitm”Georgia O’Keefe: Art, Style, Image,” and had lunch in the cafe. We visited one of our wonderful indepent bookstores, Watermark and picked up some new reading material. My sister and friend headed out for the rest of their weekend and I ended the evening cooking supper (something that relaxes me) and watching the movie “Mary Poppins Returns.”

I note all this not because my way of relaxing is the same for everyone, but in order to invite people to do the same. If I am to give thanks for Sabbath, then I have to take Sabbath. I need to take a break. So I added a couple of slips to my gratitude jar. Remember those?

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Have you been adding events and moments for which you have given thanks? Remember, in December, we will have a time to pull them out and re-read about our year of gratitude. Today, I am still relaxing, reading and giving thanks for Sabbath time, with my soul, my spouse and my God. This is your invitation and challenge to do the same.

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Year of Gratitude: June

We begin a new month in our year of gratitude. This month our focus is:

June 2019

Sabbath: This month begins summer break for people in school. Vacations, camps and all kinds of outdoor activities abound. Summer vacation has often been a time to relax, enjoy outdoor activities and time away. This month we give thanks for Sabbath and time off.

I always loved summer, either as a kid or when I had children at home. It was an easier time, with trips to the pool and the park and grilling out and time away. I still love summer for riding my bike, walking, hiking, eating every meal I can outside, listening to the birds a different rhythm.

In this weeks blog, I don’t want to focus on sabbath so much, as the historical events remembered this week. I don’t know about your news feed, but mine been filled with the honoring Women’s Sufferage and the 75th anniversary of D-Day. There are precious few that are still alive that participated D-Day and none that were part of passing the Woman’s Suffrage bill in U.S. Senate.

Both of these events were historic for the lives of many. On June 4, 1919 the Women’s Suffrage bill passed to allow women the right to vote. It would not be until August 20, 1920 that the ninteenth amendment would be ratified by a majority of the states. It wasn’t perfect, women color still to this day continue to struggle to exercise their right to vote. But Methodist women, both Anglo and women of color, have been on the forefront of this important step toward equality.

D-Day was a changing point in World War II. The sacrafice made by the soldiers and the medics in life and limb and sanity of mind and spirit was great. This was the event that began to turn the tide against the ugliness and the hatred and the bigotry of nazism. We must never forget the horrors inflicted upon our Jewish brothers and sisters, the Roma, homosexuals, dissendents against the Nazi regime, athletes, theologians, artists and others who were systematically murdered. Fascism in whatever form it rears its ugly head must be called out and named so this can not happen again. I am forever grateful for all those who stood up and fought against this perverse political understanding.

So while this is not a post on Sabbath, it is a post to encourage us to think about those who have gone before us. This is an invitation to thank someone today who has made a real difference,  has made stand for equality and against the powers of bigotry and hate. Perhaps you know someone who is serving in the military, as an Americorp or Vista or in the Peace Corp. Could you write them a note and say thank you? Maybe you know someone doing an internship in the church, in the schools, at a medical facility and is working to make the world a better place, a place where all are welcome. Today, write a note, pick up the phone or find a way to say thank you to those who continue the work of those who have given of themselves to make the world more peaceful and more just for every one.

 

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A Year of Gratitude End of May +++

I missed writing my prompt for our year of gratitude last week. I was attending the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis and posted two blogs, and had planned a third. Obviously not done! So I have a whole lot of gratitude, many random thoughts and a few things I want to share.

The Festival, as always was inspiritational and filled my “cup” both spiritually and intellectually. I am deeply grateful for all those who make this event possible every year. This was my fifth time to attend, and I have never been disappointed. The theme was “Preaching as Moral Imagination.” You can find my thoughts from the first couple of days here and here. The preachers were wonderful and challenging.

Some quotes that I continue to ponder from Anna Carter Florence:

(When speaking of Zaccheaus) “What Zaccheaus wanted was an unobstructed view of Jesus and what he got was an unobstructed view of Jesus in his life.”

As preachers, like Zaccheaus we need to learn to climb trees, “to try and see Jesus in the text, in the people, in the world, in each other, in the hard covnersation and in the meetings.”

So I am thankful for time away, for time to worship and learn and reconnect to the art and practice of preaching.

This week I am grateful for the clergy and laity that met at the Church of Resurrection to ponder and consider a way forward in the United Methodist Church. What’s next? UMC Next gathered people from every annual conference in the United States to pray, to have conversation and begin to discern a way forwawrd that would truly be open and inclusive for all. You can find the details of their meeting and their commitments here

I am deeply thankful for all those who gathered together and did the hard work to move the United Methodist Church in the United States in a new direction. I am personally committed to doing whatever I can to be part of this new direction.

This weekend is Memorial Day and I will give thanks for all those who have gone before me. I will decorate the graves of those I loved, and tell stories and laugh and maybe even shed or two.

What will you being thanks for in the next few days? What groups, or institutions or people are you grateful for their leadership and their commitment and their vision?

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