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Sunday Spirit November 18, 2018

Gratitude

During the Children’s Sermon this past Sunday I showed the children various pictures. One was a picture of an empty kitchen table and on the back side of the page was a picture of a table filled with people. The next picture was an empty backyard and the flip side showed folks playing a game of baseball in the same yard. The final picture was of an empty sanctuary and the flip side showed the sanctuary pews filled with people. The children guessed immediately what I was trying to teach – gratitude for the people in our lives.

If I had to pick one thing to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, it would be the people in my life, my family, my friends, my church.

Spend some time with your children thinking about what it would be like for your dinner table to never have people sitting around it, or your yard to never have people in it, running around, playing or our sanctuary to never have people sitting in its pews.

Ask your children to share someone they are looking forward to seeing this Thanksgiving.

And to delve deeper into what Gratitude is all about I suggest the following Veggie Tales Video: Madame Blueberry. One of my favorites!

Pray together
Dear God, I am grateful for the people in my life, at my table, in my yard and in the pews of my church. Amen.

Blessings…

I am usually cautious when we begin talking about our blessings.
The home in which we live.
The food we have to eat.
The opportunities we have for work and travel and recreation.
The good health we enjoy.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for gratitude.
I am all for pausing long enough not to take any of these things, or a hundred other things I could list, for granted. But I think there is a shadow side to the way we think and talk aboutblessings.
If we do not have a place to live…
If we struggle to have enough food to eat…
If we are out of work…
If our health is not good…
Are we then not blessed?
Less than good?
Something wrong with us?
But yesterday, in a passing remark about blessings, I heard a turn of a phrase which caught my attention. “Do we count our blessings or count the ways we can be a blessing?”
I like that.
Count the ways we can be a blessing.
That feels a whole lot better to me.
A whole lot more human.
A whole lot more holy.

Sometimes We Make It Too Complicated

prayer2
Sometimes we make praying and prayers too complicated, don’t we, O God.
Thinking we have to be in the right place or say the right words in order to pray. But it is not like that, is it?
Remind us again, O God…
That each time our heart reaches out to another is a prayer.
Every thank you felt and said is a prayer.
Each time we listen carefully and caringly to another is a prayer.
Every time we gaze at another with love overflowing is a prayer.
Each time we reach out our hands to help another, it is a prayer.
Every time our heart breaks for another it is a prayer.
Each time we are stopped in our tracks by beauty is a prayer.
Every time we look closely at a flower;
Or gaze into the depths of space, is a prayer.
The lesson for us is to turn those moments into a lifetime.
Amen.

Ordinary Days

just-an-ordinary-dayI got up this morning as I usually do.
Normal time.
Normal routine.
I put the dog out.
I made coffee.
I got the newspaper from the front walk.
(Yes, newspapers still come that way.)
I let the dog in and gave her food and water.
I sat at the breakfast table and had my first cup of coffee.
All of which is to say
This day began as an ordinary day
Like most of my other days begin.
And the rest of the day shapes up to be a pretty ordinary day as well.
A bit of work to do to be ready for tomorrow.
Several chores to accomplish so I can cross them off my list.
Grocery shopping.
Walking the dog.
Daily run.
All VERY ordinary.

My prayer today is this…
May I recognize how wonderfully special and unique each ordinary day really is.

Paying Attention

checks
Each December, when our children were young, we would gather as a family around our dining room table and talk about what organizations we would like to support financially.  Our church always came first, but we also always set aside additional money to support causes and programs that were important to us.  One year, one of our sons had been studying whales in school and so wanted to give some money to a program that supported whales.  Together we decided on the amount.  I wrote the check.  He addressed the envelope, put on the stamp and put the check in the envelope to be mailed.  As they grew older, the causes they chose were most often the ones they were involved in.  A small organization in the heart of Appalachia with whom we worked each summer to repair homes.  A program that provided food, clothing and a touch of humanity to the homeless who lived in New York City.  The organization with whom they worked when they traveled to Central America to build homes.  That mid-December conversation became a family ritual with each of us having a voice and all of us making the decisions together.

My two sons are now grown.
Young men each making a difference in his own way.
But, the tradition continues.
This evening, after dinner, my wife and I sat down and had the conversation again. What causes or programs do we want to support? Which organizations are addressing the most pressing needs which we see in our community?
With the decision made, I was left the task of writing the checks. As I did I realized that I should be paying more attention to what I was doing. That with each check I wrote I should be more mindful of the work we were doing some small part to support.  The food pantry where more people will line up tomorrow so they have the food to survive and to feed their children.  The medical clinic which provides much needed medical services to the most vulnerable in our community.  The organization which is doing fabulous work with the immigrant population in our community, not only helping them find their way in this new country and culture, but challenging the rest of us to live up the ideals of our nation.

I realized as I was writing the checks what a privilege it was to do so.
And, that I needed to pay more attention to what I was doing.

Thinking About Thanksgiving

thanksgiving

The way the family story goes is the only way I passed French in high school is that my Mom promised the French teacher I would never take French again.  That high school trauma of not being able to learn French led to 30+ years of believing I could not learn another language.  That began to change when I began to lead service learning trips to Central America and wanted desperately to be able to have at least simple conversations with the new friends I was making.  Albeit slowly, little by little, I am now learning Spanish.

All of which leads to this…
The Spanish for Thanksgiving is el dia de accion de gracias.
The day of the act or action of giving thanks.
I like that.
The action of giving thanks.
More than just words.
More than just saying Thank You.
The action of thanksgiving.
If Thanksgiving was more like that what might the action of Thanksgiving look like in your life?

Learning to Skip…Again

Yesterday as I was walking our dog, I walked down the sidewalk behind a Mom and her son who were on their way to school.  The mother was carrying her son’s backpack while the little boy alternately walked holding his mother’s hand and letting go to skip ahead or to walk along the curb like he was walking on a balance beam.  Joy filled both that moment and each of the little boy’s steps.  I watched with a smile on my face as I took in the scene and remembered when I walked down that same sidewalk with my son on the way to school.

I don’t skip much anymore.
At least that way.
But in thinking about that little boy on his way to school I realized that a part of life is about not forgetting how to skip.  If I no longer skip down sidewalks, I need to at least be sure my heart skips along when I hear a cardinal call from a tree or watch my puppy wrestle with a stick or watch a young boy dance his way to school with his mother.

Maybe as I grow older skipping has something to do with paying attention.
Paying attention to where I am:
And who is around me;
And the fullness and wonder of life in that very moment.

And, then, in whatever way I am able…
Saying Thank you.

Today…

January 15

 

There is nothing special about today, O God.
There is…
My list of things I hope to get done.
Several meetings I said I would attend.
The dog to walk.
Dinner to prepare.
The details and rhythms that make up my daily routine.
My daily life.

There is EVERYTHING special about this day, O God.
After all, here I am…
With work to do which I both enjoy and find meaningful.
Surrounded and sustained by the love and support of family and friends.
A list to tasks to accomplish for which I have both the resources and the skills.
A dog to walk who will help to introduce me or reintroduce me to neighbors and strangers on the Village streets.
Food to prepare and to eat which is more than what many…maybe even most…will have today.

There is EVERYTHING special about this most ordinary day, O God.
Thank you.