Tag Archives: thankfulness

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, 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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A Year of Gratitude: May, Week 1

I have every “good” intention of writing this on May 1. However, I was traveling that day and did not get this weekly prompt written prior to leaving. Once I arrived in Goshen, Indiana, I have been preoccupied with having a very good time with my family.

The month of May’s focus for our year of gratitude 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.

There are all kinds of celebrations during his merry month of May! Today, case in point is Star Wars Day; “May the fourth be with you!”  A made up holiday that thousands if not millions embrace because they are fans of the movie franchise.

Tomorrow is Cinco De Mayo, or the fifth of May which is the date of a battle where the Mexican army beat the French in 1862, the celebration itself is much bigger deal in the United States then it is in Mexico. The day can be a day to celebrate and honor Hispanic Heritage. Like many celebrations in this country it is often an excuse for a party.

I don’t believe this is a bad thing. Human need to celebrate and to give thanks. Since the focus this month is on celebrations, milestones and the events and people in our lives. I am deeply grateful this week for time with my family.

My daughter and son-in-law had a wedding out of state. This gave the opportunity for Andrew and I to come and spend time with our grandchildren. We have been to a soccer meet, baseball games, have participated in First Friday in Goshen, and will attend church tomorrow.

I have cooked, baked and been to the Farmer’s Market. Mostly, I have just loved being with my grandsons. Monday we plan to stop by another daughter and son-in-law and enjoy those grandchildren as well.

How will you celebrate this month? Are there graduations, or weddings or anniversaries or birthdays or reunions? Will you gather with family and friends around a meal or grill? This week, find time to spend with at least one person and celebrate your relationship. Write a note to someone you deeply appreciate just to say “Hi” or “I love you.” It’s May! Let’s celebrate!

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Year of Gratitude, April Week 4

The days following Holy Week and the first Sunday in Easter.  can feel a bit like a hangover: tired, grumpy and a little lethargic. There are many people to thank for all the wonderful services leading up to and including Easter, but fatigue often takes over and thanks get forgotten.

We are in a year of gratitude and have committed to finding ways of living our thankfulness. We are ending April which has us focusing on:

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.

T. S. Eliot wrote in his poem “The Wasteland”

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Why is April cruel? What is it about spring that seems so cruel? Perhaps, life in the midst
of death seems cruel in the midst of violence and grief. April can seem crazy in terms of
weather in  midwest, we go from 80 degrees to snow and freezing rain in the midst of an
hour. The month does point to new life: the blooming of the lilacs, the iris, the tulips and
all the other spring flowers point to life, instead of death.
Today, I am reminded of death and life because I was with someone and their family and
as they moved from this life to next. It was a surprise, and as always such a privilege to
be there. In our funeral tradition, we say the words, “in the midst of life, we are in
death.”  And that is true. Easter reminds me that death is not the final word. In the
resurrection of Jesus,  I am reminded that life is stronger than death, love is stronger
than hate and good is stronger than evil.
So I am grateful this week to be a pastor who has the honor of being there in the most
intimate moments of people’s lives. I am grateful to preside at the communion table, to
preach the high and low moments of the Christian year. I give thanks to serve in so
many ways. In this calling, I give thanks that I experience new life again and again
and again through God’s grace and love. I do have a couple of thank you notes to write, a
couple of events to put in my gratitude jar and some time to just say “thank you” to the
God who has created and continues to create, who loves and invites me to love as well.

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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, December: Week 3

DECEMBER

Just a few days from Christmas we continue with week 3 of our Year of Gratitude. Week one I invited us to write thank you notes to those who talents had blessed us and to share our talents with others. Week two we were thankful for the gift of time.

It was a real joy for me to write some thank you notes to people who had given the gift of time. Honoring their commitment and savoring the gift was a blessing to me. Giving of my time was another way to celebrate the joy and love and yes peace of the season. Giving time not out of obligation, but out of a sense of love and faith was joyous!

This week the challenge is to write a thank you note focusing on treasure. The first definition of treasure from Merriam-Webster focuses on money and wealth. It is the second definition that speaks of something or someone of great value. That can be, but isn’t necessarily based on monetary value.

Jesus once said, “that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Perhaps it begs the question, but what do you treasure? What do I treasure? What do I find most precious in my life? What do you find most precious in your life? What do we treasure above all else?

This week the challenge is to write a thank you note that honors what we treasure most. That thank you note might honor a relationship we might have, it might be to an organization that we are so grateful to be able to assist through our time and our donations. Honor what you treasure most with a thank note and through the gift of you: your time, your presence or a donation.

May what we treasure help us focus our faith this week as we celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God-with-us.

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