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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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Year of Gratitude, March Week 4

The month of March our gratitude challenge has focused on “home.” When the weather changes, some people get anxious to spring clean, to declutter, to spruce up the outside of the house. Home is also more than the place where we sleep and eat and live. We have homes in many places including churches and clubs and organizations and parks and vacation spots.

One home we, or perhaps only me, don’t talk about very often is how at home are we in our bodies? We physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally inhabit a body and that body is our home while we live on earth. Our Lenten sermon series has been “God on the Move” and as a congregation we are walking to Jerusalem, recording our steps and our miles we are physically moving each week.

My husband and I have “upped” our miles walking and also increased the intensity of our walks. I am personally looking forward to getting back on the bicycle. However, I very aware of how I don’t move the way I used to move. I am slower at some things, less strong and I can feel the increased miles in my body.

I have recently been noticing how my skin has aged and I have aged. I am not ashamed of being 60, but perhaps the truth is I am noticing I do not look as did when I was younger. My skin is different. While they are not huge or dark, I have more age spots on my hands and arms.

 

IMG_3120Wrinkles continue to make themselves noticable across my face, around my eyes, my mouth, my neck and forehead.

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And how is it I can have “blemishes” popping out WITH wrinkles?!? We won’t even mention the gray hair.

So this week, I was wondering how to give thanks for my physical body? This amazing creation of God that while not perfect and certainly is filled with flaws, is the vehicle through which I am enabled to be in ministry. This body takes me out to make hospital calls, to have a cup coffee with a friend, lead worship and preach every week as well as the numerous other ministry tasks.

This body enables me to play, encourages me to walk, to ride my bike and exercise or reminds me by aching that I need to be physcially active.  This same body enjoys laughter, good food and hugs from those I love.

My eyesight while very nearsighted, still sees the beauty around me and my ears hear the wonderful sounds of creation, music in so many places and the sighs and prayers of my heart. I could go on, but even this aging body is a gift that enhances my life and allows me to life a life of gratitude.

How are you grateful for your body which is your home in this world? How do you show your gratitude for this gift of life? This week write a thank you note or two to those who help you appreciate your body. Maybe it is a physical therapist, or a doctor or a dentist. Maybe it is an exercise partner or a personal trainer or someone how who leads class. Maybe it is cook or chef that makes sure you have good food to eat.

This week find ways to give thanks for your home, your body that houses all that you are: physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

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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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