Tag Archives: A year of gratitude

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

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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A Year of Gratitude: May, Week 1

I have every “good” intention of writing this on May 1. However, I was traveling that day and did not get this weekly prompt written prior to leaving. Once I arrived in Goshen, Indiana, I have been preoccupied with having a very good time with my family.

The month of May’s focus for our year of gratitude is:

Celebrations: This is month is filled with holidays and celebrations. Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and graduations abound. This month we give thanks for all those opportunities to celebrate milestones, and events and people in our lives.

There are all kinds of celebrations during his merry month of May! Today, case in point is Star Wars Day; “May the fourth be with you!”  A made up holiday that thousands if not millions embrace because they are fans of the movie franchise.

Tomorrow is Cinco De Mayo, or the fifth of May which is the date of a battle where the Mexican army beat the French in 1862, the celebration itself is much bigger deal in the United States then it is in Mexico. The day can be a day to celebrate and honor Hispanic Heritage. Like many celebrations in this country it is often an excuse for a party.

I don’t believe this is a bad thing. Human need to celebrate and to give thanks. Since the focus this month is on celebrations, milestones and the events and people in our lives. I am deeply grateful this week for time with my family.

My daughter and son-in-law had a wedding out of state. This gave the opportunity for Andrew and I to come and spend time with our grandchildren. We have been to a soccer meet, baseball games, have participated in First Friday in Goshen, and will attend church tomorrow.

I have cooked, baked and been to the Farmer’s Market. Mostly, I have just loved being with my grandsons. Monday we plan to stop by another daughter and son-in-law and enjoy those grandchildren as well.

How will you celebrate this month? Are there graduations, or weddings or anniversaries or birthdays or reunions? Will you gather with family and friends around a meal or grill? This week, find time to spend with at least one person and celebrate your relationship. Write a note to someone you deeply appreciate just to say “Hi” or “I love you.” It’s May! Let’s celebrate!

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Year of Gratitude, April Week 4

The days following Holy Week and the first Sunday in Easter.  can feel a bit like a hangover: tired, grumpy and a little lethargic. There are many people to thank for all the wonderful services leading up to and including Easter, but fatigue often takes over and thanks get forgotten.

We are in a year of gratitude and have committed to finding ways of living our thankfulness. We are ending April which has us focusing on:

Growing Edges: Spring comes this month and for Christians, Easter. Flowers begin to bloom and gardens are planted. New life is all around. This month we give thanks for growth: physical, spiritual and those places where we need to grow.

T. S. Eliot wrote in his poem “The Wasteland”

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Why is April cruel? What is it about spring that seems so cruel? Perhaps, life in the midst
of death seems cruel in the midst of violence and grief. April can seem crazy in terms of
weather in  midwest, we go from 80 degrees to snow and freezing rain in the midst of an
hour. The month does point to new life: the blooming of the lilacs, the iris, the tulips and
all the other spring flowers point to life, instead of death.
Today, I am reminded of death and life because I was with someone and their family and
as they moved from this life to next. It was a surprise, and as always such a privilege to
be there. In our funeral tradition, we say the words, “in the midst of life, we are in
death.”  And that is true. Easter reminds me that death is not the final word. In the
resurrection of Jesus,  I am reminded that life is stronger than death, love is stronger
than hate and good is stronger than evil.
So I am grateful this week to be a pastor who has the honor of being there in the most
intimate moments of people’s lives. I am grateful to preside at the communion table, to
preach the high and low moments of the Christian year. I give thanks to serve in so
many ways. In this calling, I give thanks that I experience new life again and again
and again through God’s grace and love. I do have a couple of thank you notes to write, a
couple of events to put in my gratitude jar and some time to just say “thank you” to the
God who has created and continues to create, who loves and invites me to love as well.

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Year of Gratitude: March Week 2

This week there has been several things that have caused me to give thanks. At some point in the last week, someone has put additional chocolate on the conference table in my office. If you didn’t know it, that table is always covered with chocolate, individual bags of peanuts and cheese or peanut butter cracker snacks and usually some fresh fruit. As you might guess, the chocolate disappears more quickly than the other snacks. How sweet it was to see small bags of M&M’s and new little chocolate candies!

Then, yesterday, in the midst of the “bomb cyclone” that hit much of the midwest, a bright red cardinal appeared in my back yard. The rain was long past, the wind was terrible, but we sat for a few minutes outside, somewhat protected and there was that cardinal. Feathers being ruffled by the wind, but he was there, hanging on to the tree in all his glory. I paused and admired him. That beautiful cardinal had no intention of being moved by that wind.

On Tuesday night, I had my window cracked open all night long. It didn’t get below 58 degrees and having fresh air on my face for the first time since last fall was such a gift. I was grateful for the respite from unrelenting cold and winter we have had. These three experiences reminded me how easy it is to overlook the little things that occur each day.

So this week, I am adding to my gratitude jar these simple joys. Remember our gratitude jar? I wrote about this jar on my first blog post of 2019. This invitation was to write down one thing each week, an event, a surprise, something for which I am grateful for, so that in December, I have a whole year of wonderful memories to enjoy! What has gone in your gratitude jar? I have a few simple things, like what I listed above and a couple of big things, like my brother’s retirement party. I don’t even remember everything I have put in the jar, so I am really looking forward to seeing what I wrote in December.

Today I am grateful for my home. For the birds, the backyard, the place to put a gratitude jar. I am grateful for bed to sleep in, windows that open and close, a heater that works when it is cold, a kitchen to cook in and indoor plumbing! My home is place where my family comes to visit, where friends hang out, where I find refuge when the world seems a bit crazy and where I can entertain, or just be alone. What do you give thanks for where you live? How is your home a place of refuge and a place where you can be surrounded by those you?

 

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Year of Gratitude: March

March snuck up on me. In some ways it really did come in like a lion weather wise and through the reaction to the United Methodist Church’s decision around human sexuality. People who are deeply hurt by the decision of the General Conference may find it hard to be grateful in the midst of the grief and sadness and pain. I don’t blame them. I find it difficult to figure out how to be thankful when I am heart broken over my beloved church’s decision.

The challenge in this year of gratitude lies not in the easy weeks, when life is good and everything is going smoothly. The challenge is always to find the grace and gratitude when nothing seems to be doing right and the world seems to be falling apart. In the psalmist words, “How can I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” How do we keep on singing when hearts are heavy and the road seems impassable?

I believe we do so by giving thanks. Grace abounds and gratitude calls me to a deeper path of faith. I am grateful for the many allies and people that stood up during the process of General Conference offering hope and grace and love. I am grateful for those who found themselves moved to a new understanding of what the church could be and look like. I am grateful for the delegates who gave of their time and energy to represent the church.

So in the midst of that gratitude, I turn to the focus for the month of March.

March 2019

Home: This month is often when people get the urge to “spring clean.” Our homes can be places of refuge and sanctuary. We have other “homes” as well, places where we are our most authentic selves and feel welcomed and appreciated. This month we give thanks for all those places we name as home.

In the Christian tradition Lent has begun. Christians often begin new spiritual disciplines or take on new opportunities to serve. As I am thinking about lent, this week, let’s begin with our church home or our sacred space whether that is with friends at a coffee shop, a home, a building where we volunteer or an actual religious space. Can you write a note to say thank you for that space? Maybe it is to your favorite barista, or a friend, or family member or staff person at your sacred space. Write and let that person know how their life affects you and how their presence in that space makes you feel like you have come home.

Take a little time to center yourself in your sacred space. Breathe and breathe out and connect with God through that space. May the Divine Presence surround you with love, with peace and with grace.

 

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