Tag Archives: thankfulness

Year of Gratitude, October Week 2

Our year of gratitude is pairing well with our stewardship sermon series, “Lifecycle of Giving.” The image we are using is from seed to sapling to flowering and fruit bearing tree to the next generation of seeds from the tree. The fall is the time of the final harvest of the year and for some crops, planting for the spring.

In the first verse of Natalie Sleeth’s song, Hymn of Promise, it states,

“In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree, in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterlies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”

This hymn became popular across denomination lines after it was penned in the mid 1980’s. Sung often during Easter time and at funerals, Ms. Sleeth points to the deep mystery around life and the life hidden in seeds and bulbs and other places where we least expect it.

Gratitude seeds itself in our hearts, minds and spirits. This seed is nurtured by faith, and love and grace and is made real in who we are and how we express ourselves. Gratitude and thankfulness when allowed to sprout, can bring deep meaning to our words, our actions our lives.

Natalie Sleeth’s second verse says, “there’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody; there’s dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.” Gratitude helps me and maybe you see past the darkness, to listen deeply into the silence and know that  we are not alone when the world seems to be cold and alien and uncaring. God is not outside of the darkness or the silence, gratitude helps me cling to to my faith that God will  not desert me or let me flounder in the depth of my fear or uncertainty.

 

Hymn of Promise, like many songsof the faith can provide the sound track to a life of gratitude. The words and melody sung to the tune of gratitude, allows us to participate in the mystery of God at work in the world. In this particular season of autumn, the shorter days and longer nights, the leaves turning colors and falling the ground reminds us that gratitude sown, nurtured and harvested brings hope and faith into the world.

During this month of gratitude, is there someone you can thank for the nurture and care you have received? In you moments of silence and darkness who was there for you? Who listened, who cared, who helped you find ways to be grateful? Write them a note, visit them or find a way to say thank you.

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Year of Gratitude: October

We are eleven months into our year of gratitude. Today, the temperature has plummeted from high sixties into high forties. Kansas can be a drama queen when it comes to weather. October’s focus is the harvest of our lives. Autumn is that time of planting somethings for the spring (think tulips and other bulb flowers, garlic and wheat to be harvested next year.)

October 2019

Harvest: This month the garden season is winding down and in many places the first frost hits. It is the season of autumn when reflecting on the harvest of our lives is possible. What seeds have been planted and grown and harvested in your life and spirit? This month we give thanks for the harvest of our words, actions and lives.

The harvest of our lives begins with those who planted the seeds of faith and of love and grace and acceptance in our lives. Who was the first person you remember in your life who made it absolutely clear you were loved and adored. For some of us, that person comes later in life, but for many that person is first part of our immediate family.

What person encouraged the seed of faith and confidence in you? Who nurtured those seeds that that might begin to take root and grow?

If any of those persons are still alive, this is a good time to write a thank you note and tell them exactly how much they mean to you. If they are not, think of a way to honor their life and legacy. Perhaps you can write a note of encouragement to someone who reminds you of them or perhaps you give a donation in their honor or do one random, beautiful act of kindness.

As the leaves begin to turn and the nights grow longer and the days colder, the season of harvest is an invitation to give thanks for the life and love of those who plant seeds of deep faith and gracious love in others.

 

 

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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, 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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