Giving thanks…

Giving thanks…

In the United States, this is the week we will be celebrating Thanksgiving…one day specifically set aside to remind us of the many things we could be grateful for the other 364 days of the year.

So…here are a few of my blessings:

  • Parents who raised me with love–and expectations that in everything I tried, I would do my best.
  • A loving spouse who has encouraged me to grow…to expand my outlook…who has supported me through some significant health issues…who is present for me.
  • Two great children…yes, they’ve given me some gray hairs and some extra wrinkles…but they’ve turned out well and I’m proud of them!
  • A son-in-law and a daughter-in-law who are super additions to our family.
  • Three marvelous grandchildren, even though we only had one of them for 21 years…but they are all in our hearts.
  • An adorable great-grandson! (Enough said!!!)
  • A church family that supports…and challenges…me to live out what I say I believe.
  • The opportunity to work at something I love.
  • The gift of music–the classical music I was taught as a child…the traditional hymns I have sung for years…the new praise songs and hymns that are popping up…the expanded repertoire my son encourages me to listen to…the music found in nature…
  • Friends!
  • Books…ways of visiting places and times I could never do otherwise.
  • The smell of fresh-baked bread…can there be anything better?
  • A warm place to live and enough to eat.
  • People who have the interest and skills to take care of our youth and our aging family members…sometimes their patience absolutely amazes me.
  • Pets!
  • The gift of memories that remind me of so many people and experiences that have enriched my life.
  • The ever-present Divine who constantly walks with me…challenges me…supports me…

How can I not be grateful? Not just this one day…but every day of the year. What would it be like if we truly lived thankfully 365 days a year? Might be an interesting project…

Challenge…

A couple of days ago I read a challenge on a blog I follow – Single Dad Laughing. I have to admit, I don’t get around to following his posts every day, but this one caught my attention.

A year ago, he posted a rather lengthy blog: “I’m Christian, unless you’re gay.” As you can imagine, it generated a lot of discussion…all along the spectrum of viewpoints. This year, he posted some of the responses he had received…again, all along the spectrum. You can read them here.

I’ve appreciated the message, and responses…and the challenge. What do I believe is most important? What would I say to the world? What do I say?

am a follower of Christ…in fact, I am a minister. I am also the sister of a gay man and the wife of a bisexual man. I am a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, an aunt…

There are many roles I play in life. But I hope that in all of them I build on the foundation of love. Not the sappy, shallow emotion that is so often depicted as love. That can so easily be derailed…be lost and turned into something else.

No, the love I believe we all need is the kind of love that I think Jesus showed–at least according to my reading of the scriptures.

He spent a lot of time with those who were marginalized…ostracized…on the fringes. He didn’t preach at them–he loved them in a way that helped them see themselves as people of worth…and that is what transformed them.

He spoke his harshest words against those who were judgmental–who pointed the finger at others without seeing their own faults.

And when he was asked what was most important, he had a simple answer:

  • Love God with everything you have in you.
  • Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Everything else that the religious leaders thought was so important–EVERYTHING ELSE–was dependent on that foundation.

What would happen if we lived that way? That doesn’t mean that we have to change our beliefs…or become wishy-washy. It doesn’t mean “anything goes.” We would still have disagreements…different perspectives…a variety of beliefs. We would still have loud arguments.

But we would also be connected with ties that bind us together…that help us realize that we’re in this world together and need to work together…to find places of commonality and agree to live in the uncertainty of those places where we disagree.

The violence that we inflict on each other has to stop! It doesn’t matter if it’s verbal violence…or physical violence…or war…or hatred…or any of the myriad other forms violence takes. It HAS to stop.

“They don’t judge me…”

“I come here because they don’t judge me.”

That was the response last Sunday to a question posed by one of our guest musicians to a member of our congregation. Jane [name changed] is homeless. She has some mental health issues and sometimes isn’t on her meds. But she has found a place where both her body and soul can be fed.

I have sometimes described our congregation as “a congregation of misfits.” Besides our core group of  “traditional” church people, our congregation includes people dealing with addictions of many kinds…homeless folks…ex-convicts…LGBT individuals…ex-addicts…extremely dysfunctional families…. People who wouldn’t feel comfortable–or who wouldn’t be welcomed–in a typical congregation.

Does this combination of folks create challenges? You bet! There are personality clashes at times. Some of our folks wander in and out during the service. Sometimes they’re present for a few weeks and then gone for several–either because they’ve got other things (including family needs) that need to take priority…or because they’re in jail. We definitely don’t all believe alike.

But a core value for us is “the worth of all persons.” ALL…no exceptions.

We accept folks where they are. Do we want them to stay there? No…but we realize that for many of them, they have to feel safe before they can even begin to think about the possibility of change. And for some, change may not be possible–or something they choose to do. But as long as they do not hurt others, they are welcome.

We don’t judge–at least, we try not to. We try to encourage, to mentor–but not to judge. Sometimes, as individuals, we do find ourselves thinking judgmentally…but as a congregation, we focus on making all welcome…seeing each one as one of God’s beloved children…and remembering that judgement is not our responsibility. It’s God’s.

Not what we do…but what we say

I had a bit of a meltdown yesterday–found myself weepy and not able to deal with “stuff” very well. It was enough of a meltdown that I decided I wasn’t going to be any good to anybody at work, so I finished what I needed to do, went home at noon, slept a couple of hours…and stayed away from my work email except for finding out what time I needed to be at work to play for a service this morning.

What triggered it?

There were a couple of things. One was dealing with the unexpected death of a friend/cousin. He was 13 years younger than I am and died of a sudden heart attack. His memorial service was two nights ago, and I had played for it. It was a good experience–lots of friends there from the various groups he interacted with, and lots of sharing and fellowship afterwards.

But the immediate trigger wasn’t that. It was a situation that unfortunately happens far more often than I wish it did. A work-related situation came up that needed to be taken care of pretty quickly. In the process of the email exchanges, because of some statements that were made about expectations for me, I began to feel taken for granted. It felt as though the individuals on up the food chain didn’t think that I had a life–that I would be able (and willing!) to just drop everything in order to be where they said I should be…when they said I should be there. And I already had a commitment for that night…

I’m very willing to work with folks and to rearrange my schedule if need be…but two factors ticked me off in this situation.

  1. This is a mini-crisis that didn’t have to be one. The planning for it could have (and should have) been in process previously in time to avoid panic. Unfortunately, this happens fairly frequently.
  2. The bigger issue was that I wasn’t asked about my availability and my willingness to help solve the situation. I was told that I would be part of the solution.

If someone had just said, “We have [this issue] that we’ve let get by us and we need to get it taken care of as soon as possible. We really need your help to get the planning and scheduling done–what does your schedule look like?”…I don’t think I’d have reacted the way I did.

I know that sometimes–especially in work-related situations–it is necessary to say “This is the way it needs to be.” But I also believe that many times it is possible to say “Here’s the problem, and we need your help. Please let us know what would work best in your schedule.”

Collaboration really is valuable…

My post-election prayer

The election is over…. The hullaboo has ended, and another governing cycle has begun. This is my prayer:

God,

You have created all of us as brothers and sisters…and who called that creation “good”…

We don’t always see that. In our humanity, we find it easy to demonize those we disagree with–and when we do that, we forget that we share similar hopes and dreams for ourselves, our families, and our country.

We want a world where there is peace…where children can grow up in safety, with hope for a future where they can fulfill their potential.

We want a world in which the needs of each one for food, shelter, clothing, are met…a world where justice prevails.

We want a world where no one is left behind…where those who are vulnerable are carried along with us and helped through their vulnerabilities.

The problem is that we don’t have the same vision of how to get there.

God, help us to see that we need each one’s portion of that vision…to understand that each person has something to give to the whole. Help us to see that when we work together, trying to find common ground, we can often find unexpected new ways of meeting our common goals.

Grant us the wisdom to see the humanity in each other, even when we disagree. Give us the courage to stand up for our convictions, but also the willingness to talk with each other and the ability to find ways we can work together for the good of all.

May we find ways of being peacemakers with each other.

Amen.