Thursday, April 19, 2018

Gratitude .. Let Me Count the Ways

A couple years ago I was privileged to share in a study at church with a group of women (that I didn’t have to lead myself!) Although I couldn’t connect with the theology of the woman on the video – or her style of speaking – her key idea stayed with me.

She spoke about noticing the gifts all around us and of her own journey as she took committedly began journaling about them each day. Would you commit to recording five things each day that you’re grateful for? I’m all for gratitude. And being an on-and-off-again journaling person I had a few notebooks laying around so I took the challenge.

Now right away I’ll admit that I’m only on number three-hundred-something and, like I said, the study was two years ago. So clearly this doesn’t happen every day.

Since moving to Wausau my practice suffered even more. But a couple months ago I found my little spiral notebook in a stack of journals – some full, some not so full. I set it on the kitchen table along with my pens – I alternate colors, which is about as artsy as I get – and on my weekends, however many mornings that is, I sit and record gratitudes as my Sabbath station plays on the Sonos.

The next monkey wrench is that now that I’m getting back into my practice, I miss it during those weekends when I stay over in Wausau. (My notebook is in Appleton.) This should be an easy fix, I know, but I don’t want to start in one of the beat-up theme books that litter my little house and I haven’t yet gotten one I can love. (I’ll work on this.) So until I find a notebook, I collect thankful moments in my mind before sleep. That helps me remember that my life is full and rich.

How do you celebrate thankfulness? Or remind yourself that, even in the midst of the crummy stuff, God is still present and active and that life is still good?

After playing society’s game of chasing shadow wealth, Laura Tong writes about her discovery of true wealth:
... with no idea where to go from there, I found an empty journal and started a record of the True Riches In My Life. For each year of my adult life, I jotted down every experience, achievement, adventure, friendship won or lost, and every decision I could remember making.

What an epiphany!

I realized my life had been full of riches long before I started chasing financial wealth and material gain. I realized most of the truest riches in my life actually came when I didn't have all that much money.
Laura then writes about some of these real riches. Acceptance, curiosity, forgiveness aren’t surprising but I was intrigued to see vulnerability on the list. I’m going to think about that one. You might want to check out her blog and notice what catches your attention.

Just recently I had an epiphany of sorts myself. It’s still too close to me to speak of in any depth, but after being reminded about how many people’s lives are shaped by fear, and how easily my own can sometimes dive that direction, I decided that I was going to live in love – with everyone and everything I encountered. If this brought me to where I wanted to be, fabulous! Wonderful! If not, well, I would still be in a better place than if I didn’t do it.

Okay, no big surprise there, but somehow, sometimes, when we face ourselves in the mirror for the tenth or ten-thousandth time, we find that we notice things we’ve known all along in whole new ways. And as we continue our journey, our lives become fuller and richer for having paused enough to notice.

What words speak to you about the preciousness of this life? Here are a couple more that resonate with me:

Sunday, April 8, 2018

You Matter; I Matter

We welcomed two people into our church family today at Wausau: First. One of them is only months old and their name isn’t even in our church registry yet. (We’ll have to fix that!) We welcomed this beloved child of God through baptism. Family gathered from all over to witness the event. We spoke ancient words and spoke of “water and the Spirit.” An older brother and sister watched proudly and shyly. A delighted grandfather walked the little one up and down the center aisle as a member of our United Methodist Women told the parents of a gift they will make in honor of their child’s baptism. This event was a wonderful addition to our 10 a.m. worship time.

Yet the 8 a.m. worship service also celebrated a joining today. This one, another of God’s beloved children, is more old than young. He has already been a part of this church for twenty years (less than a quarter of his lifetime) yet over Lent he decided to make it official. No friends or family came from far away to witness the event, though it was no less special to me (or hopefully him.) We spoke words of “prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.”

His partner had secretly been in communication with the church office to have a magnetic nametag made for him. As everyone applauded, she handed it to him with a few quiet words. (Later she said with a gentle smile, “It's about time.”) We all stood in the aisle and shook hands with each other, and saying “Welcome” to this new addition.

It was a good morning. (Of course, both have been a part of God's family all along. Only churches are fussy about membership and such.) All present were hopefully reminded that we are each invaluable to all the others with whom we worship. Each of us is special, unique and beloved. We needed this, I believe, especially after learning last month that one of our community had ended his life.

Too often we lose track of how very many people value us and of all who would feel our absence keenly were we to disappear. In my longtime favorite flick, one person gets a chance to experience this but it’s something we seldom get to do. And we need to know that we are valued. They need to know that they are valued. This month, maybe you could make a point of raising people’s awareness. Tell the folks – some of whom might never hear it – that they make your day a little brighter. Tell them about how they have wormed into your heart. Or about how you smile when you think of them. Or ... (well, you get the idea...)