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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, 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

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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Year of Gratitude, May: Week 2

As I mentioned last week the focus for May 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.

This Sunday in the United States is Mother’s Day, a holiday driven by greeting cards and floral companies. This holiday is surrounded with both positive and negative energy. At many churches, attendance goes up as children go to worship with their mothers or grandmothers. While many people embrace this day with great joy, for others it is filled with angst, sorrow and anger.

For those women who have longed to be a mother and have been unable, this day pokes at all those tender and grief stricken holes in their hearts and lives. For mothers who buried a child this year or in years past, this day is like a dull ache that never stops. For those women who have never wanted to a be mom and have no desire to raise a child, they often must deal with the pointed question and disbelief that this is an experience they are not interested in having. For those who have difficult relationships with their mothers because of addiction or mental illness or abuse, Mother’s Day is a reminder of what they do not or will not ever have. For those who buried their mothers, this day is a reminder that they are a “motherless child.”

Yet, for all those difficult experiences, there are many who delight and love to celebrate their mothers or those who have mothered them. For those who have had strained relationships with their mothers, they have connected with other women where they experience grace and love. My own mother died over five years ago, there are other women whom I now claim as “my mother.” In their lives and in our relationship, I am blessed and loved and cared for.

So while I acknowledge that Mother’s day is not always easy, I do want to take this week for our Year of Gratitude to honor women. I want you think about which women in your life have loved you, challenged you, helped you, comforted you, encouraged you and mentored you in ways that have made a real difference in your life.

My daughter gave me these cards:

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Called Persistent Sisters, they are trading cards of women in all kinds of professions. They are “sheroes.” Mother’s Day is an invitation to think and honor the sheroes in our lives whether they are “our” mothers or any kind of mother at all. These women make the world a better place. As a part of our gratitude challenge, I invite you to write a thank you note to at least one woman who embodies God’s grace and unconditional one. Write a note to one women who has helped you, loved you or been there for you. You can write more than one note, or make some phone calls, send some e-mails, take a small gift and say thank you….

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Year of Gratitude April: Week 3

The cold winter has created a beautiful spring. I have never seen the flowers in my yard or in my neighborhood more abundant or beautiful. Recently I have been “so over winter,” so it seems has the spring flowers.

On my walk this morning I was greeted by this very cheery woodpecker

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Can you see it? Right in the middle of the picture. The lilacs across the sidewalk were full and the smell was heavenly!

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In my own yard, my iris are so full of blooms and my wisteria as well.

So as I continue my year of gratitude and particularly this month of finding my growing edges, I am grateful for Holy Week. Today is the last day before the Triduum (the 3 Holy Days of Thursday, Friday and Saturday) before Easter.

Today is known as “Spy Wednesday.” So named, because traditionally this is the day we remember Judas and his betrayal of Jesus. Two years ago I blogged this reflection on this day.  In it, I quoted Leonard Sweet who had written, “there is a sliver of Judas in all of us.”

That phrase haunts me. Holy Week is a reminder to take stock of how how I betray Jesus in word and deed. As I look at the flowers from my walk this morning, I am reminded of the sweetness and beauty of the grace of God. The flowers shown don’t just pop up, but must be tended and watered and the season just right. Yet they are always there, whether they are blooming or not. God’s grace is like that, always there. Whether I turn away or don’t pay attention, God is still there.

So today I am grateful for the traditions of Holy Week. Tomorrow evening I will gather with the good people at First United Methodist Church, there will be prayer stations, foot washing, holy communion and a meal around tables. On Friday we will gather to hear remember those last hours of Jesus’ life and word and music. On Saturday, I will wait. As the people have waited generation upon generation. I will write a thank you note or several to all those people that make Lent a special time.

And I will rise early, Easter morning……for darkness can not stop the light, hatred can not stop love, evil can not stop God on the move. My betrayals and my failings can not keep Jesus in the tomb….After the long night…..morning will dawn….

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Year of Gratitude: April

We have entered a new month for our Year of Gratitude. This month our focus is

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..

How are you progressing on writing a thank you note a week? Personally, some weeks are better than others for me. Sometimes I don’t write one note, I write several. This is one of those weeks.

Are you remembering to place memories or events in your gratitude jar?  I have not always put something in the jar each week and sometimes I have put two or three memories or events in the jar. Like the thank you notes, it is a good push for me personally to remember to be grateful by action and deed.

In the Christian tradition we are still a couple of weeks away from the celebration of Easter. Holy Week is another week away, but the spiritual disciples of Lent are still part of the lenten journey. During the forty days of Lent, seeds can be planted for growth,, physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Like a flower bulb, or a seeds, new growth is cultivated by nourishing the soil, by watering the soil and the right amount of sun. Out of the right amount of care, flowers and trees and the garden grows.

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What spiritual practices are helping you grow this week? “How is your soul?” John Wesley encouraged peopl to ask each other. How is your soul and spirit? What are you nuturing in your spiritual life? Who is helping you do that? Have you thanked your prayer partner, your small group leader, your Sunday School teacher or your pastor? Perhaps there is an author that helps you deepen your faith. Can you write that an author a note or share their book or writings with others?

This week, may you find new challenges to help your faith grow, and to deepen your spiritual life in Christ.

 

 

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