Tag Archives: Gratitude

LifeCycle of Giving: Nurturing the Seed of Faith

Today we began a new sermon series, “LifeCycle of Giving.” This is the time of year when Stewardship is the emphasis as we plan on how we will support and underwrite ministries for 2020. This year we will focus on the lifecycle of trees, from seed to sprout, to flowers to fruit to regeneration. We celebrate All Saints and the series ends not with our consecration Sunday, but with Confirmation as young people choose to proclaim their own faith in their own way.

This afternoon, several United Methodist Churches gathered to participate together in a National Coming Out Day Celebration Service. Reverend Elizabeth “Liz” Evans preached a powerful sermon. She grew up here in Wichita and shared her story and her challenge that all of us, whether we are LGBTQIA or allies need to find ways to live into the world that God has created and move out of the dark caves of death and despair. The music, the stories shared through poetry and Brian Sutton’s testimony were all deeply moving. I am deeply grateful to have experienced this gift of grace.

This morning we focused on gratitude as one of the seeds of faith that enables us to give thanks for every moment and to help us be witnesses to the God of love and grace. We were given leaves to write down the names of those who planted the seeds in our lives and/or how our faith is being nurtured now. Those leaves we placed in our offering plates and will be displayed. You can find today’s worship service here.

 

 

 

 

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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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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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Ponderings on International Women’s Day

So many do not remember their names, except the ones who were first: the first woman in a pulpit, the first ordained, the first consecrated bishop. But there are others I remember who never made the history books. Those pioneering women who pastored and preached and provided leadership before there many women, in times past, when the push back was terrible and the call was strong, the prospects of living fully into their call bleak.

Yet the persisted, seeking out their pulpits, while the men were appointed, these women found their own places of service. When a man was found to serve, they had to seek again their own places to preach, to pastor, to pray. Their names: Nina Anderson, Marian Holbert, Portteus Latimer, Lois Lenz, Janet Sevier, Marjorie Swingle. These women are a few I remember. There are countless others who led the way, who persevered against the odds to serve and lay the ground work for all of us who followed.

My path as a pastor has been made so much easier because of the witness and the strength and the determination of those who went before me. While my ministry has not always been easy,  it is those amazing, beautiful, strong women who went before me that paved a path for living out my call. Those women stood up preached, prayed, proclaimed and pastored in spite of the name calling and the flat out determination that they not succeed.

Every excuse was used to stop these women from following the call of God in their lives. You are too young, you are too old. You are too tall, you are too short. You are single and will steal our husbands, or you are married how will you take care of your husband? You are too ugly, too beautiful, you voice is too high or too low or too soft.

They preached even when they were told to be silent. They prayed even when their right to do so was questioned. They presided at the table and baptized and stood at gravesides to comfort the heartbroken in the face of unbelievable opposition.

On this International Women’s Day, I want to say thank you to Portteus, Marian, Janet, Marjorie, Nina and Lois in particular and to all those other women who pioneered in ministry. Thank you for your witness, for your strength, for your sense of humor and for your determination. Your memory is a blessing to me, and to those who do not know your name. You are blessing to a new generation of women who have a much easier path and I am deeply grateful to be part of your legacy of faith and ministry.

For me, I am once again reminded to live out my call to proclaim the love and grace of God for all people. While sometimes my pathway in ministry was difficult, it was certainly made easier by these amazing women. May my ministry make the way broader and more inclusive for the next generation. May it be so….may it be so.

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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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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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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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