Tag Archives: Gratitude

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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Thankful 24/7 In All Things

I love Thanksgiving. It may be my favorite holiday, but maybe not. I love the fall colors, the food, the opportunity to gather family and friends, the laughter and the pause to give thanks. Thanksgiving doesn’t require any religious affliation. Thanksgiving is an invitation to say “thank you.”

Sunday’s service was about being intentional with gratitude. The music was marvelous, we sang some of my favorite “thanksgiving songs” and we focused on giving thanks 24/7. You can find the link to the whole service here.

I wish  you and yours a most joyful and blessed Thanksgiving!

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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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