Tag Archives: Gratitude

On the first day of Fall

Several years ago, three, I think, I posted this reflection on the fall. It really is one of my favorite seasons. It came up “on this day” on Facebook. As I reread it, I thought it is still true. Autumn reminds me that life is short. God is good and each day is gift and the fall weather reminds me that I should not take this gift for granted. I am reposting in the hopes that that reminder might be a blessing for others.

On the Autumn Equinox

 

Thoughts on this first day of Fall

Last year at this time I was reading an old fall issue of Midwest Living, a magazine that focuses on life in the mid-west. What struck me about this issue, was not the recipes, although I love to cook, not the trips or the festivals but the opening piece by the editor. He had asked people why they loved the fall. The responses varied, but tended toward “it’s cooler, it’s football weather, the leaves are lovely and my routine is back after the long days of summer.”I was looking for something else. I love autumn. I, too, love the cooler weather, the leaves that change colors, the opportunity to jump in a pile of just raked leaves, the mums that burst forth as the last color before winter. I love the smell of the wood fires and the sight of bright stars on a cool crisp night.

For me, autumn is my time to reassess my life. I know for our dominant culture we make “resolutions” on January 1. I, however, look over my goals, check out my calender and try to prioritize what is truly important in the fall.

Autumn drives me in a way no other season does. I feel compelled to check my pantry, to can up produce and freeze produce for the winter. I feel pushed by time as the days grow shorter and colder.

Without being maudlin, autumn reminds me that I will not live forever. My days on earth have a beginning and have an end. I am not promised forever, only the moments I am given. As the days wane, I am deeply aware that my life also wanes. In the springtime all is new and exciting and wonderful and young. I look for the tulips and the daffodils and iris to spring forth in all their glory. In the fields I can see the young calves and the lambs and the colts. I can hear the “cheep cheep” of the young birds in the nest.

Summertime is for long sun-filled days, full of energy. When the crops begin to grow green and tall and begin to produce the sought after harvest. Summer is a gathering in of family and friends and an enjoyment of time that seems to stand still.

Then suddenly, the days grow shorter, a cool breeze creeps in from the north. soon leaves begin to turn color until they are a riot of orange and coral and amber and red. The wind grows stronger and they begin to fall until the branches of the trees are barren and the grass has turned brown and the nights are much longer than the days.

Autumn is our seasonal reminder to “pay attention” if you will to the life we have been given. To say “I love you” to the people that matter the most. To, in the words of the Psalmist “to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” There will come a time when I enter the winter of my life, when like the autumn leaves, I will have spent all that have and will lie down to rise no more.

I want to honor the days of my life that I am given. I want to love well, to truly let those people I love know how much I have loved them and appreciated their love. I want to use my gifts and abilities in a way that leaves this world a better place. And at the last, I want to say a prayer of thanks to God for the times and the seasons I have been given.

I am

Graced to Serve.

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Transitions, Part 2

On July 1, in my annual conference of the United Methodist Church, new appointments begin. I began ministry June 1, 1982 when appointments began June 1. Today, I officially begin my new appointment as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas. I posted about this surprise move in an earlier blog, Transitions . I say “official” because I have spent this last week moving my office and preparing for Sunday morning.

I am aware that no transition is easy or clean. First Downtown is the church I grew up and so there is a familiarity to the building and the space. There are people from what I jokingly call “my former life” and others are new to me and I to them. So I am going home in some ways and in other ways this is all brand new.

In the midst of joy, excitement and a little fear in this new beginning, there is also a sense of awe, humbleness and gratitude. The pulpit ministry of First goes beyond the walls of the physical space through live television and online streaming. Ministers that have gone before me are some of the “best” preachers in the United Methodist Church. As a historic downtown “tall steeple” church, the expectations are real. In its 146 year history, I will be the first woman senior pastor. Other women broke the barrier as associates as far back as the 1970’s, but I am aware of how honored I am to be appointed to this church that has such  an important place in my heart and in the hearts of others.

I am grateful, because I am not here because of who I am, but because of the hard work of many other women before me. This year at General Conference they celebrated the 60th anniversary of women’s ordination.

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Now first of all, I need to note that this is INCORRECT!!!! This is the 60th anniversary of women in “full membership.” One might think that the question that those in process gets asked the most (what’s the difference between ordination and membership) might not be misrepresented at the top level of the church. Sigh. In my blog from a couple of years ago, I mentioned one of those wonderful foremothers who broke the ground for me and so many others Rev. Portteus Latimer. Portteus or “Preach” as she was known was ordained BEFORE she was a full member.

What that meant was that she had to “find” her own appointment and if a man was found to fill the pulpit she had to leave. What that meant was that when she attended annual conference with her lay member (who happened to be a woman) her lay member was allowed full voice and voting right and Preach was not. She was ordained, but NOT a member. Those membership rights 60 years ago MEANT that in theory at least, women could vote, could be elected to attend General and Jurisdictional Conference as clergy delegates and could even become a bishop! She shared about being a pastor without being recognized as fully equal. Without her mentoring me and caring for me in those first five years of ministry, I am sure I would not be the pastor I am today. I am so grateful for all those women who went before me that paved the way for me to serve God in so many ways.

On May 31, 1988 I was ordained an elder in the United Methodist Church. Preach laid hands on me in the moment that was so blessed. On that day I received two gifts, one a red stole placed around my neck after I was ordained and a small gold dove, engraved with my ordination date by my family.

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Each year at Annual Conference I wear the dove and if I participate in the ordination service I wear this stole. It is part and parcel of the history of those who went before me and I pray for the ministry in which I am now engaged.

So the new adventure begins. Downtown Wichita is part of who I am, from when I was a child, to the choice I made ten years ago to move back to the heart of Wichita, where I grew up and where I attended school and where I thrive. To be part of Life.Downtown. was a surprise blessing. I look forward to coming full circle and being in ministry at First.

I am graced to serve.

 

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Christmas Merry or Not

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” the song goes. Every artist including Kermit the Frog sings this Christmas standard. The song itself, is reflective, a bit melancholy and challenging. Regardless, the song states, “have yourself a merry little Christmas, now.”

Now those who know me, know I tend to go overboard at Christmas. My house has 23 decorated Christmas trees, yes that number is correct. I don’t count the little miniature trees that are not decorated, although my husband would include them in counting the trees. I have lighted Christmas garland everywhere and outside lights that my twin sister states are “Griswold-like.”

I love Christmas cookie and candy making. I watch a plethora of Christmas movies and have more Christmas CD’s than I want to admit. Yes, I still play CD’s, in fact I have the old time @Firestone and @Goodyear Christmas LP’s which also get played. I don’t begin these activities before Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is its own holiday and deserves respect and honor.

The day AFTER Thanksgiving, the decorations begin and the plans are made. This year, for the first time in many years my children are home and the grandboys are here. Such a blessing in so many ways. There has been laughter and a bit of yelling over a game or two, some cooking and baking and eating and watching movies. My heart is happy.

Having said that, there are still those moments, when I acknowledge the ones that are not here. My facebook feed has an option to look back “on this day” and the last few days have been filled with memories, many of which go back long enough to include my mother.

Now my mom loved Christmas, but not in an over the top way. She hated baking, particularly cookies. She preferred recipes that were easy and didn’t take a whole lot of time. She was into convenience. She liked family around, but often preferred to observe rather than to participate. She did LOVE Christmas music though. The house would be filled LOUDLY with old Christmas albums playing non stop during the holidays.

For some reason, the past few days keep reminding me of her. The last Christmas we spent together this pictures was taken.

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It’s one of my favorite pictures of my mom and my sister and I. Yesterday I pulled out a cookbook she gave me. This particular cookbook was one of those “church” cookbooks, from her congregation.

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Not new, obviously but included the “pumpkin bar” recipe she made every holiday and “puppy chow” which grandboys love. I made the pumpkin bar recipe this evening and of course it reminded me of her.

I am not a person who wallows in sadness or grief. I am finding myself, noting the moments, and being grateful for both the joy and the sadness. I do not want to be one of those persons who gives up holidays because someone has died during that time period. As a pastor with so many funerals after 33 years, I would never ever celebrate a holiday again. I want to grieve and to celebrate.

Life goes on, and that is as it should be. When I prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, that birth took place in the midst of tragedies, in the midst of fear and grief and also in the midst of joy and celebrations. Each loss changes things, but grief ought not to have the final word. Love and laughter are life giving.

I ran across this amazing piece of music. It acknowledges the grief and the uneasiness of those who have lost loved ones. “Different Kind of Christmas” by Mark Schultz will speak to those with most recent losses but also those who are recreating holiday experiences.

In my life, it seems every year is a “different” kind of Christmas. Not necessarily bad, but always different. The world, the community, the family changes and each year for me I am challenged to embrace the beauty of Christmas, God made real in “Emmanuel” God-with-us.

So, on this day before Christmas Eve, I wish you a Merry Christmas. May your holiday be filled with love, with laughter, with friends and family far and near. May you experience Emmanuel, the presence of God with you.

 

 

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Giving Thanks

Today I give thanks for so many things: family, friends, a job, a home I love, a chance to cook and for the people who will gather around my table tomorrow. Thanksgiving week usually tends to be a slower week at church, even though we are gearing up for Advent.

Today, once I got home, it was full swing into getting ready for company. We had kids and grandkids coming home. We finished up cleaning and making beds. For me, it was cooking and baking.

I tend to do as much preparation as I can before a big feast day. I want to enjoy the day and not spend the whole time in the kitchen. Tomorrow, three of us will participate in the ‘Say Grace’ 5K race in the morning. The money supports a ministry of the United Methodist Church and it’s fun.

So, today I made a chocolate bourbon pecan pie, caramel apple banana muffins, a cranberry tart.

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I tasted the cranberry curd….oh my is it tasty! I also bought pies from the youth, so dessert is covered! We smoked a natural ham in the smoker and I I just pulled the turkey out of the oven.

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My twin sister is bringing the green bean casserole and the make ahead mashed potatoes. The 7 layer jello salad will be done before the evening is out. There will be relishes, corn and dressing to finish up tomorrow.

When it is all said and done there will be ten around my table and I couldn’t be happier. Surrounded by love and laughter, that for me is the bedrock of Thanksgiving. The food is important, but the fellowship is what makes the feast.

So from my house to yours, may you experience love and laughter this Thanksgiving and may grace and gratitude bless you.

 

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Resting on Sunday

Today has been a typical Sunday. Church was wonderful. The youth delivered their pies, we were challenged to remember to give thanks.

This afternoon, I had plans. Thanksgiving is this week and my to do list is long for home and for church. I laid for my normal every week Sunday “sacred nap.” I woke up after about 10 minutes, but decided to stay in bed a little longer.

Two hours later, I finally drug myself out of bed. I told my husband, “maybe we could go for a walk,” but we didn’t. There was an event down at Century II I thought about attending. I just couldn’t move. I was tired, really tired.

Then this came across my facebook newsfeed from Love What Matters:

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My husband said, “pay attention. You always work, it is okay to just take the afternoon off.”

So I have. I read the paper, the Sunday paper ON Sunday. I have watched a little football with my husband (don’t ask who is playing.) I have done basically nothing.

Tomorrow will be here soon enough. I will have a very long to do list, a three day week at church will require me to be at the top of my game to be ready to have a holiday. The house will have chores to be done and food to be prepared. What will get done, will get done. Today, I rest. I replenish, I refill, I refresh. I am grateful for the time to do so. It is enough.

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Thanksgiving Chores and Preparations

Recently the world has erupted in anger, chaos and violence. Mostly I have been distracted and saddened, deeply saddened by the hatred and anger simmering under the surface. In the midst of all, though, I, can not always think about these terrorist attacks and refugees and all things that are wrong and unjust.

In fact, with the Thanksgiving holiday just a week away, I am juggling work and how to get ready to have our family home. The past two days, I have begun the preparations. Certain chores I don’t mind and others are not so much fun.

Cooking gives me joy. I love all the preparation for baking and cooking. Grocery shopping makes me happy. I actually enjoy ironing the tablecloths and napkins and polishing the silver. I am not so fond of all the dusting and mopping and vacuuming.

Today, all the napkins have been ironed. I have worked on organizing the third floor where the grandchildren will be sleeping. Much more work will need to be done in order for everything to ready.

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Wednesday night at the church I serve, I taught a “stress free holiday cooking” class. It was great fun and my prayer is that it was helpful. For those who want some recipes that would make Thanksgiving easier, I offer these three that are tasty, fast and make the preparations a little easier.

CranApple Sauce

5 apples (granny smith, gala, Jonathon or your favorite)

peeled and chunked

½ cup sweetened dried cranberries

1 cup concentrated cranberry apple juice

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and cook about 10 minutes until it becomes a chunky sauce. Can be served warm or cold

cranberryapple-complete

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes (Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes)

5 pounds russet potatoes

8 ounces cream cheese

8 ounces sour cream

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt  and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

  1. Peel and cook potatoes.
  2. Drain well and mash until smooth.
  3. Add cream cheese, sour cream, seasonings and butter.
  4. Beat with hand mixer until smooth and fluffy.
  5. Place in lightly greased casserole dish.
  6. Dot with more butter.
  7. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
  8. Bake at 350 until heated through (about 30-45 min.)

Creamy-Oven-Baked-Mashed-Potatoes

Spicy Sweet Potato Mash

1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon butter

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 ½ tablespoons real maple syrup

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or hot smoked paprika or to taste

Wash the outside of the sweet potatoes and pierce all over with a fork and place in the microwave. Cook on high for 10 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft

Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh into a large, microwave-safe bowl. Add the butter and mix well.

Crush the thyme in with your fingers and add the pumpkin, syrup, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Using a potato masher or a large folk, mash the potatoes until smooth. Place the potato mash back into the microwave and heat for 1 minute or two.

The potatoes can be baked in the oven and the mash itself can be placed in the oven to heat. If you want to fancy it up, you could sprinkle chopped pecans over the top, or chopped spicy pecans over the top.

However you celebrate, may your preparations not be too taxing, your anticipation delicious and in the midst of the chaos and uncertainty of our world, may you gratitude be a gift of grace and love.

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Gratitude and Grief

Today is All Soul’s Day. It is the end of the three-day period that begins with Halloween. Most non-Roman Catholic churches don’t honor or celebrate All Soul’s Day. This day is the catch-all for “all faithful who have departed.” The Roman Catholic (and Orthodox) traditions have a strict definition of saints, where other churches do not. So saints and souls and sinners don’t have to be divided.

Today allows me some time to ponder grief and gratitude. Since November in my religious tradition begins with remembering those who have died and ends with the cultural holiday of Thanksgiving, grief and gratitude seem tied together. In my understanding as a pastor, I have always put those two together as I work with families to plan memorial and funeral services. Those gatherings lend themselves to both expressions of the human experience.

Personally, the anniversary of my mother’s death falls between those dates as well. Facebook does a tremendous job of reminding me. Not that I would need reminding, particularly. Many small things come along that send my mind racing back to those final days.

Yesterday in worship, the gospel reading came from the beatitudes with this verse included:

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In the first moments of grief, it usually doesn’t feel like a blessing. It can, particularly if death took a long time and the loved one transitioned inch by inch. Sooner or later, grief comes hard and fast and with a deep ache. Then comes the moment and moments when it doesn’t hurt so much. The sadness is not a constant shadow that stalks day in and day out. THEN, then the blessings come and the gratitude.

At that time and season, the memories comes with smiles and laughter and not so many tears. Grief transitions to gratitude as we become able to say thank you again and again to the gifts our loved ones have left behind: stories and sayings, laughter and love, values and faith. Our grief and our gratitude becomes a witness, a tribute to our memories. On this All Soul’s day I continue to be thankful for the many saints and souls that have gone before me. Their memories, their laughter, their love and their unique and unrepeatable spirits continue to be part of my spirit.

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Reading

I think it is amazing how many people spend time sharing their thoughts through blogs. In the “old” days people did newspaper articles, if they were lucky enough to be published. In the twenty first century, it is privilege to be able to put thoughts into the internet and connect with others.

In today’s blog, I want to share some of my favorite bloggers. They are all over the map and some are very well read and some not so much. These are the blogs I come back to because they make me laugh, make me think and challenge my creativity.

I love Ali Ebrights recipes and reflections:
Gimme Some Oven

A shameless plug for my brother’s blog: he makes me laugh
The Kansas Expatriate

I have followed Brandy for a long time. Back in the day when I was a “poor” parson:
The Prudent Homemaker

I ran across Peacebangs writings about 8 years ago she makes me evaluate how I dress:
Beauty Tips for Ministers

Tikiman is a neighbor who has published a couple of novels for my writing push:
The Tikiman says

Rachel Held Evans ALWAYS inspires me and challenges me spiritually:
Rachel Held Evans

While I have many more, I have a SHOUT OUT to the group that got me blogging each day
RevGalBlogPals

I am grateful for these writers, their lives and my opportunity to glimpse in, to laugh, to learn and to remember I am graced to serve.

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A Day in the Life, Part 3: Interfaith Friends

I am often amazed at what a gift it is to be a pastor, but the last three weeks, I have been reminded more deeply how blessed I really am. Today, was the Sunday before Thanksgiving. If I was more liturgical and the church I served was more liturgical it would have been “Christ the King” Sunday. The last Sunday of Christian year is a day that points to Christ as Ruler of all and as the one who one day will, in the words of the Hallelujah Chorus in Handel’s Messiah, “will reign forever and ever.”

Instead, as I have in last couple of decades, this has been “Thanksgiving Sunday.” There are so many traditional Thanksgiving hymns and songs and while the culture rushes on toward Christmas, Thanksgiving gives me and the church a chance to breathe, to pause and to do what we are called to do as a faithful people “to give thanks with a grateful heart.” Scripture is filled with admonitions to give thanks, to remember that blessings are gifts and that the love we share, the food we eat, the roofs over our heads, everything is a gift from God.

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Unlike many of our American holidays Thanksgiving is universal. One does not need to be Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist to have thankfulness. Anyone in any place can be thankful. Now the America’s tradition of Thanksgiving is rooted in a faith that understands a Supreme Being, but having a feast where one says “Thank you” doesn’t require faith of any kind.

Today, was a full day in the life of the church. Special music, a pick up for homemade pies made for by our youth as a fundraiser, and a very special dinner following worship. A group from the Student Association for Interfaith Dialog from Wichita State University came to bring us a “pre-Thanksgiving” dinner. Most of the students and faculty and families are from Turkey, so they brought a feast to our church to share with us.

Ms. Esra Barut shared with us about the Association and there were families at each table so we could share food and share fellowship. Adam and I had been in touch through other activities including their annual dinner. The food was amazing and it was such a joy to eat and laugh and share with new friends.

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I have not pictures of the food before it was devoured, but I have a few pictures after we had eaten.

The beef pastries and beef and rice was so good!

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The wheat salad was like nothing I had eaten before. They take wheat, soak it all night, then drain it and begin to pour boiling water on the wheat until it tender. Add homemade yogurt, vegetables fresh dish, a little mayo and some pickles….well it was amazing.

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And of course what would a Turkish meal be without homemade Baklava?

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There was other food, spinach pastries, cake, a potato salad, tossed salad and our friends were concerned that they hadn’t brought a main dish!!!! Here is what my plates looked like:

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Wichita is not a big enough city to have a Turkish community center to teach cooking classes. So it was decided that next spring we should gather and learn to cook “real” Turkish food. We will also host an interfaith dialog this spring.

Being thankful is not an “American” trait or a “Christian” trait, it is a gift that crosses all cultural, ethnic and religious lines. I am so thankful for the friendship extended this day from Adam, Asra their families and all who came to share food and fellowship with us. Their generosity and truthfully fabulous food was a gift without price. I am deeply grateful to have celebrated God’s goodness this day with West Heights and with new friends who remind me I am graced to serve.

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Thanksgiving in view

This week’s Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals was all about Thanksgiving. You can read the prompt in the above link. This Thanksgiving, like last years is different. Last year, my family gathered to celebrate my mother’s life. Our hope had been that she would live that long and as much of her family as was possible would gather, as we had not for years to have Thanksgiving together. Instead, on Tuesday of that week, we had her memorial service and then cooked up a storm and ate together and shared together.

This year, like last is much different. For the the first time none of my children will be home for Thanksgiving. Life and circumstances often change celebrations. I am used to having more anywhere from ten to twentyfive for dinner. This year, there will be three, my husband, my husbands mother and myself. I am not sure how to “cook” Thanksgiving dinner for three, but am sure I will try and figure it out!

The prompt for today asked what is the cure for “mulleygrubs?” Aunt Bert says to “bake a cake” and there was a time when I would bake to cure any “mulleygrubs.” Sometimes I had dozens of cookies in the freezer from dealing with life. Today, though, I tend to “cook” rather than bake. When life piles up, I get myself into the kitchen and cook dinner. It feeds body and soul.

I will be home for Thanksgiving, menu yet to be decided and am deeply grateful to be home. I will miss the family that will not be here this year. I will deeply miss cooking with others. Last year for the first time my brothers and I cooked together. It was a deep joy to me to be in the kitchen with my brothers who are amazing cooks. I will miss cooking with my grandsons, just learning how to cook and enjoying the hustle-bustle of the kitchen.

Yet, I am grateful to have my mother in law, 94 years old to cook for and celebrate this Thanksgiving. No promise is given as to how many holidays any of us get to share, so each one is a gift of love. So I am thankful for family near and far, grateful I can cook and share what I create and deeply grateful to have people I love and who love me in return. I am graced to serve.

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