Gratitude

Gratitude

September 28, 2017

Tags: gratitude, cup of salvation, CROP walk

I’m full of gratitude last night and this morning. I felt so good yesterday evening after a day of work inside and outside – the whole afternoon in the yard, clearing brushy plants from the perimeter so we can blow leaves more easily into the woods. The air was cool and golden light shone through the leaves.

After dinner I sat on the patio, drinking tea and eating gingersnaps, watching clouds move overhead and dusk creep into the recesses of the yard. I went to sleep on a bed made for a queen with dark polished wood, curved posts, and intricate knobs. Pleasantly tired, I lay awake looking forward to the next day of rest and writing.

This morning Ed made us mushroom omelets with swiss cheese – and orange juice and fresh strawberries and good hot tea. I again felt like a queen. Though we call ourselves middle-class, we live like royalty used to – in a spacious home that is cool in the summer and warm in the winter, eating elaborate meals with fresh fruit from far places, having many choices of clothing in beautiful colors and fabrics. Many people of lesser means serve us – waitresses, store clerks, parking lot attendants, the young woman in a light blue uniform at the hospital wiping the fingerprints from the shiny glass stairwell.

“What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?” the psalmist asks in Psalm 116. “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.”

I want to lift up the cup of my life in gratitude, and pour it out so others may be blessed. One of the things I will do today is write a check so a student in Liberia has tuition for the year (an amount not much more than Ed and I spend for a nice dinner out.) I will resolve not to covet, enjoying what I have, remembering Jesus’ warning that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I will put what I have at his disposal – time, energy, goods – and work for a more just distribution of the world’s resources.

I’ll lace up my hiking boots and walk in the CROP walk for hunger this Sunday. I could call or write my representatives in Congress to say that everyone needs access to basic things – clean water and education and health care, to name a few. Americans like me, wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of our ancestors, need to share – not hoard – what we have. Guide me, O God, as I live in gratitude today.

Learning from Women

September 14, 2017

Tags: learning from women, new retiree, Holy Spirit, writing, World War II

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. –2 Timothy 1:5-7 NRSV

I’m sitting at the feet of women who are long dead. “Sitting at the feet of” is the posture of a disciple with a rabbi. “What can you teach me, Mother?” I ask these women. I need wisdom as I enter a new phase of my life in an uneasy season in an uneasy world.

The first woman is my grandmother, a farm wife in Huron County, Michigan, at whose kitchen table I sat as a child, eating apples from the cellar and listening to stories of her life. Only later would I realize what terrible things went untold, held behind her pursed lips and pale blue eyes. I have some of her diaries, the earliest from the years of World War II. Her entries are maddeningly brief. She reports the barest of facts – rarely how she feels about them. If I read between the lines, try to understand her heart, perhaps I can understand, and learn how to live my days.

“What can you teach me, grandmother?” I ask. I live in a time of polarized leadership, violent prejudices, calamitous disasters, even the threat of nuclear attack. Yet in my small sphere, I’m incredibly fortunate: newly-retired after a difficult, but rewarding career as a pastor, I’m able to spend luxurious amounts of time outdoors and at my writing desk. I’m free to wander fields, name wildflowers, and slip my canoe in the water on a Monday afternoon. I’m free to be with family and friends, eating and drinking and talking and playing, preparing to welcome our first grandchild. I’m free to write where the words take me, free to make mistakes, following the words until the trail ends or grows over, and I must turn around and find a new way.

The other women are in a devotional book, Meditations for Women, published in 1947, given me by my mother-in-law in 1979. It’s been on my shelf all these years, unread. When she gave it to me, I thought it quaint and dated. Now it interests me because it coincides with the time of my grandmother’s diary. When I open it, the binding cracks and a piece of the cover breaks off. The prose is more flowery than ours, but the insights ring true. And perhaps these women who raised children and rebuilt communities and reflected on the life of the spirit in those strange post-war years can help me as I care for my daughter and grandchild and try to resume the odd life of writing.

I claim the promises of these who have gone before me, who laid hands on me literally or figuratively, and ask for their blessing. Through the re-kindling of the Holy Spirit, may I live a disciplined life, speaking the truth in love, with freedom, boldness, and power.

Selected Works

Sermon Preparation
"I cannot imagine a more practical, attentive, useful, reliable, provocative, and thoughtful guide to the delightful play of detail and form in sermons than this volume." -- Thomas Long
Adult Study
This is a Lectionary-based Adult Bible study for Year B. Contributors: Terri S. Cofiell, David A. deSilva, Mary Jo Osterman, Vincent Harris, Denise Nutt-Beers, Sondra B. Willobee
This is a Lectionary-based Adult Bible study for Year B. Contributors include: David A. deSilva, John O. Gooch, M. Bass Mitchell, Denise Nutt-Beers, Mary Jo Osterman, Sondra B. Willobee
Devotionals
"Unique metaphors of faith permeate this collection of worship resources and personal reflections. Clergywomen share insights into their spiritual journey, declaring both the exquisite joy and palpable pain of ministry."--Nan Self
These prayers and meditations can be used for personal reflection or for devotions at a women's meeting.

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