ONE THOUSAND GIFTS

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transparent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~ Sara Ban Breathnach

Monday, October 31, 2011

Power of Naming

...in the Bible a name...reveals the very essence of a thing, or rather its essence as God's gift...To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it, to know it as coming from God and to know its place and function within the cosmos created by God. To name a thing, in other words, is to bless God for it and in it.  ~ Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy


A double blessing this morning.  The reading of Psalm 8 and Susan Boyle singing, How Great Thou Art.




In my younger and stronger days (pre car accident) I managed our large hog operation. It was difficult, dirty, and tiring work and I loved it.  I loved the sows (mama hogs) and I never tired of the miracle of birth.

Voskamps also raise hogs on their farm and on page 50 Ann begins to recount a time when the sows were aborting their litters early.  The Farmer and the vet had tried everything to find the cause, but without success. Day after day the Farmer worked yet his stock remained ill.

One thing that struck this heathen (aka me) was what Ann described as also being a part of this daily ritual of tending...and dying.
At the table...The Farmer sinks down into his chair at the end, lowers his head in prayer. He thanks God for the sustenance. I pray for some of that too.... I clear the table and he reads Scripture. We do this at the close of every meal..." (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 51)
Discouraged, tired, concerned... The Farmer lowers his head in prayer...he thanks God....he reads Scripture.

I "know" the fatigue, the worry, the frustration of what the Farmer was experiencing with his livestock, and I know those same feelings of helplessness are experienced by many as they face their Giants on the battlefield of life.  [I preached on David and Goliath yesterday ; ) ]

I know this fatigue, and I am sorry to admit that all to often, in the beginning of the battle, the Giant controls me, becomes my center, before I eventually fall to my knees. What I am reading is that the Farmer, regardless of his work load...sits down, prays, and read scripture...daily.  It is part of who he is... As I preached a few weeks ago from Colossians 3...God is not a component of the Voskamp household, God is their life.  And I do believe that when I get this truth....I will stay centered amidst the Giants.

But! Continuing with Ann....One evening the Farmer rushes in early, sits down at the computer...later Ann learns that he thinks he knows the disease/problem/Giant that is stealing life from his livestock.
"'If that's'...I point to the screen, to that name too long to pronounce. 'If that's really whats going on out in the barn, are you OK?'" (Voskamp, p 52)
The Farmer replied:
"'Yes...and no. I don't like what it is, or that it looks like it's nearly impossible to eradicate, but you know what?...I'm strangely happy...God's good. Just naming it..When you don't have the name for something, you're haunted by shadows. It ages you.'" Ibid
Not long ago I shared with my mom how being able to "name" something gives one power.  It doesn't change the circumstances, but now you have a name for that Giant.

I had to read Ann's sentence a few times before her insight began to sink in:
"Naming is Edenic...The first man's task is to name...When I name moments - string out laundry and name-pray, 'than You, Lord, for bedsheets in billowing winds, for fluff of a sparrow landing on line, sun winter warm, and one last leaf still hanging in the orchard - I am Adam and I discover my meaning and God's and to name is to learn the language of Paradise...Naming to find an identity, our identity, God's. (Voskamp, p 53)
Again, from Alexander Schmemann:
Now, in the Bible a name...reveals the very essence of a thing, or rather its essence as God's gift...To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it, to know it is coming from God and to know its place and function within the cosmos created by God. To name a thing, in other word, is to bless God for it and in it.
Ummm, yesterday I reminded the congregation that when David ran up to Goliath, God was there...in the midst.

God is here...in the midst...God is....
This naming really does call now a gift, a gift of God...I look at a day, a thing, an event in front of me, and it may look manna-strange: 'What is it?' But when I name it, the naming of it manifest its meaning: to know it comes from God. This is gift! Naming is to know a things function in the cosmos - to name is to solve mystery.  Ibid
I wonder where Ann will go with this insight within dark Gratitude...hard Eucharisteo?

Honestly, I do not want to think about a "dark thing" coming from God....having a place and function in the cosmos created by God.

Ann finishes this section writing:
In naming that which is right before me, that which I'd otherwise miss, the invisible becomes visible. The space that spans my inner emptiness fills in the naming. I name. and I know the face I face. 
God's! God is in the details; God is in the moment. God is in all that blurs by in a life - even hurts in a life.
God!

My beginning efforts of naming moments, even though they seem trivial and small may change the ugly names I mindlessly attach to what I see.

Paul in Colossians 3:2, not denying my reality,  reminds me to look up to a greater reality!

And when I look up, the Giant does not disappear, but through the Holy Spirit, I may be able to see God within the space of the Giant...and I may be able to name it differently.  I may be able to name from a place of wholeness rather than fear of the unknown.

Just as there is power in naming a dark mystery, there is power in being present to the mystery that surrounds me in ordinary moments.  There is power in naming that which is around me...because when I do this....I encounter God!

I encounter God when I name the gifts within my ordinary moments.

Being faithful to this discipline of naming...strengthens my heart, giving me courage, allowing me to live within a place of trust....

But......

If I write this as being true, then why am I not cracking open my book to begin?

Come on  San..."practice what you preach!"  "Walk the talk"....all those cliches have meaning in their truth...."become the sermon"...  God, send your Spirit down upon me, helping me to begin this journey in earnest...not just reading and journalling "about" this naming of gifts....help me to identify what keeps me from taking my first step...to name what keeps me from picking up my journal...and to then run toward it with courage and trust in you...


Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gratitude Doesn't Mean I Understand

Then Job broke the silence. He spoke up and cursed his fate: Obliterate the day I was born. Blank out the night I was conceived! Let it be a black hole in space. May God above forget it ever happened. May God above forget it ever happened. Erase it from the books! May the day of my birth be buried in deep darkness, shrouded by the fog, swallowed by the night...released me...into a life with so much trouble. ~ Job 3:1-10



Hello Lord, I got your number now
It took me a while but I figured you out
And now
I know more, know more than you
Now I know more,
I know more than any god in the hell or heavens knows
I know more than anybody could ever know
I know more, more is the science of this world
I finally understand, it cant be understood
I finally understand the good Lord can’t be understood ~ JJ Grey

This morning, I have been thinking about gratitude, hard gratitude.  Gratitude in the midst of pain, helplessness, discouragement, fear...  

I have been thinking.... and I believe when I can find gratitude in these places, I will know fullness of life.  At the same time, Scripture is FULL of laments.  

My Job study for tomorrow reminds me that the authors of Matthew and Mark ( Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34) both used the deep and anguished lament of Psalm 22: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" as they wrote of Jesus' crucifixion. 

I am not reading Ann's book this morning.  At some point, she may address my thoughts: Is part of being able to live through an attitude of gratitude being unafraid to "approach the throne of grace with boldness" (Hebrews 4:16) Is part of this gratitude thing being unafraid to express...to cry out in lament?

JJ Grey has spoken about lament.  For him, he believes lament is therapeutic.  "When I hear someone else sing of lament, it is sad yet it feels good.  When I sing of lament in the end I feel like I haven't lost anything by feeling it."

"I haven't lost anything by feeling it."

I'm using the Kerygma study of Job.  Carol Bechtel is the author...I appreciate her insights and her questions.  She wonders: "Perhaps we have been too timid in the past...our 'sweet hour of prayer' too sweet."

Like I have just written, Ann may address my thoughts of this new day...these questions of lament and is lament a part of living a full life of gratitude?

Just wondering......

But now...a smile as I consider "lament."  

Blessings for a weekend of wonder. : )

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Friday, October 28, 2011

Quiet Gratitude

This morning, instead of many words and thoughts to consider, a quiet video with quiet truths to hold as you and I step into a new weekend..



Happy 82nd Birthday to my wonderful Mom!

She is truly the greatest and I am so blessed.
Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'm not in control....

(I don't have the exact quote...) I am peaceful, I am happy because I am no longer in control. ~ Bernie Madoff to Barbara Walters regarding his life in prison.

I do my best to move from my Bible and laptop to doing stretches during the first few minutes of Good Morning America so I at least have some idea what is happening in the world.  This morning the focus was on Bernie and Ruth Madoff.

I wasn't particularly interested but then I heard Barbara Walters quote Madoff, saying something close to what I began this post..."I'm happy...because I am no longer in control."


I have been using the question, "God, what is your will for my life?" as a focus for a sermon series.  It has seemed like I am continually hearing messages from the Universe that nudge me as I have held this question of "God....?"

This morning, Sarah Young wrote in her devotional Jesus Calling:
As you become increasingly aware of My Presence, you find it easier to discern the way you should go. This is one of the practical benefits of living close to Me. Instead of wondering about what is on the road ahead or worrying about what you should do if...or when...you can concentrate on staying in communication with Me. When you actually arrive at a choice-point, I will show you which direction to go. 
Many people are so preoccupied with future plans and decisions that they fail to see choices they need to make today...people who live this way find a dullness creeping into their lives. They sleepwalk through their days, following well-worn paths of routine.
I have paused with Madoff's thought, Sarah Youngs, Ann Voskamp, insights from my sermon series and study of Job...  As I LEARN the deep language of eucharisteo, I also learn trust.  I learn to "wake up" to what is around me....to God's continual presence within my day.  As I wake-up and I learn to trust...I learn to let go of my illusion of control.  There are different kinds of prisons.  My sleep walking through life is a prison of sorts...in this prison I do not know the fullness of life that God wants for me....
Mr. Klumpenhower slides the mail into the clunky mailbox at the end of the lane...I stand at the window and I hold pen. I write it down in my journal: 
22. Mail in the mailbox 
And when my grandma's bona fide wood handled pressure cooker...full of potatoes...I hold the pen and I write it clear: 
23. Grandma;s pressure pot still dancing 
And when...I look over and see an old man all white-whiskered and bent, looking for the just-right card in the Hallmark aisle, I grab the journal from my bag and I write it wobbly: 
24. Old men looking for words just perfect  (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 48)
Ann shares she is beginning to grasp the why of how noticing these simple blessing make her feel:
How eucharisteo always precedes the miracle, even joy in a supermarket. (Ibid)
Martin Luther is quoted as saying: "If you want to change the world, pick up your pen." 

Luther picked up his pen, and The Reformation began.

The Reformation BEGAN... It did not happen overnight.  Luther was subjected to great trials...the Reformation was not easy.  Still, I wonder...

I wonder if by picking up my pen and cracking open my journal if that is the first step in my inner and personal reformation.

I wonder if by picking up my pen I become reformed...learning to lean into and trust God's Presence...for ME!

John Piper once said, "There are eyes in pencils and pens."


Eyes in pencils and pens... Many times I have said there is great wisdom in my fingers when I simply let go and let them write...
I hold the pen. The cataracts clear. 
37. Windmills droning in day's last breeze 
38. Wool sweaters with turtleneck collars 
39. Faint aroma of cattle and straw 
(Voskamp, p 49)
Erasmaus, a contemporary of Martin Luther, said, "A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit."
This pen is nothing less than the driving of nails. Nails driving out my habits of discontent and driving in my habit of eucharisteo. I'm hammering in nails to pound out nail, ugly nails that Satan has pierced through the world, my heart...Because the habit of discontentment can only be driven out by hammering in one iron sharper. The sleek pen of gratitude. 
I write: 
54. Moonlight on pillows 
55. Long, lisped prayers 
56. Kisses in the dark 
And in a house sleeping, my heart rings. 
(Voskamp, p 50)
So many thoughts to hold.

Reformation.

A Pen is nothing less than the driving of nails...nails driving out my habits of discontent and driving in my habits of eucharisteo.

Habit...

Learning new habits...Lord, help me!




Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

To learn...

I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. ~ Philippians 4:11-12

A nice reminder of simple gifts from an old and missed voice...


As I read Ann's words yesterday, I thought, "She's becoming 'hooked' on the adrenaline rush of the happiness."

Ummmm.  Today as I continued reading, Ann wrote:
At first, it's the dare that keeps me going. That and how happy it makes me - giddy - this list writing of all that is good and pure and lovely and beautiful. But what keeps me going is what I read in that Bible lying open on my prayer bench looking out the window to the snow fort. The fot with a door in the wall. It's Paul writing the letter to the Philippians. I read the fourth chapter. I almost don't see it, but Paul repats it twice in only two sentences, so I don't miss it. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 47)
I read that passage which I began this post several times...looking....then I to noticed what Paul was saying to me.


Two times he says it: "I have LEARNED..."

Learned.

If I want to live a life that is full.

If I want to live a life from a place of inner peace and joy, then I to must learn.  I to must learn eucharisteo.
Learn it like I know my skin, my face, the words on the end of my tongue. Like I know my own name. Learn how to be thankful - whether empty or full. Could the list teach me even that hard language? Over time? Gratitude in the midst of death and divorce and debt - that's the language I've got to learn to speak - because that's the kind of life I'm living, the kind I have to solve.
I to live a life full of uncertainties, cancer, financial concerns, death, uncertainties and fears regarding health....  This morning my cousin will be undergoing open heart surgery, my newest Grand continues to cry, I've three counseling sessions before the team/elder meetings tonight...

This morning my cousin texted saying, "I wish there were easy fixes to broken bodies..."

I replied I do my best to watch my feelings and then to check the thoughts behind those feelings. Last evening I had a melt down.  I was tired physically, emotionally, and mentally.  I received an update on my precious Grand...and finally after so many days, while talking to a good friend...the tears, the anger, the frustration...the fears surfaced.

BUT! Once all that stuff was released, I was able to take deep breaths and to begin resting in trust....  I'm working on the gratitude of within some of the things of my life.

Like Ann says...Gratitude in the midst of...  in the midst of "life."

Paul wrote: I have learned how to be content with whatever I have...


This morning, I crack open my book and begin writing.  I begin writing even though the things I list seem trivial.  And....as I write...I do sense an emptying and a filling....I do sense a spark of inner peace as I begin this day.

John 15:4-7 - Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you...I am the Vine, you are the branches... Separated, you can't produce a thing...But, if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon.."


I cannot do this learning, this transformation on my own.  Yet, Scripture reminds me I do not have to do this on my own! I have the Holy Spirit of the Living God, living within me to help me, to guide me....to comfort me when I fail.

James 1:4 - So don't try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.


Writing down my beginning sounds of gratitude...It is a beginning.

Ann writes: I wake the next morning and I grip my pen, ink to crake the code.


: ) "Crack the code."

Interesting choice of words for me to consider as I leave my home and travel south.  As I leave the quiet of my space and step into "life."

Lord, I know I cannot do anything without you. I cannot let go of my concern for Baby Grand or my Cousin.  I cannot fix the fears of those I will be meeting with today.
Help me to learn to be content within the stuff that is life, help me to lean into you in trust so that I might know inner joy and peace.  


Rain - Anne Murray


With every drop of rain....I hear you call...I can hear above the clouds.... Praise God!!

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Monday, October 24, 2011

Beginning sounds

This thanks that I am doing - it seems so ...crude. Trivial. If this list is the learning of the language of eucharisteo - this feels like...guttural groanings. ~ Ann Voskamp, "One Thousand Gifts"

If you read my blog last week, you know I made a fast trip to help Daughter #3 and crying Gabriel.  While the little guy cries A LOT, there are moments he smiles and coos, much like baby Emma.  Reading Ann's thoughts today on how her beginning list feels like guttural groanings...I thought back to how my heart smiled as Gabriel responded to me.

If that is true with me, that my heart smiled with Gabriel's beginning groans of speech, how much more might God smile with my beginning groans of learning to express eucharisteo?

Ann entitles Chapter 3, First Flight and begins with a quote by Sarah Van Breathnch:
Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
Ann writes how a friend casually mentioned, "You've changed...It's that list you've been writing, isn't it?"

Obviously, having to prepare a sermon, parlor conversation, monthly session devotion..... Obviously, I read a lot of spiritual, biblical, healing and insightful thoughts.  However, Ann reminds me that in order to embrace, to live those things I read...I have to do something!
When one is thirsty one quenches one's thirst by drinking, not by reading books which treat this condition. ~ Pierre de Caussade
POW. That is one of those insights that hit me smack between the eyes! : )

If I thirst, I have to drink.

The only way to quench my thirst is to put all my books to the side and to bring the cup of life to my lips and take a drink. It is sort of like my yearning to learn how to knit. I can read and read and read, but until I pick up the needles and yarn, that yearning will never be satisfied.

If I thirst, I have to take an action.

Ann shares that she had no idea how to lay aside her books about eucharisteo but one morning she picked up a pen and began to write.  As she wrote she realized she was taking down, swallowing, the first real drink.  It was that first drink that began the transformation her friend noted, "You've changed..."


It is surprising what sometimes moves us to take a first step, in Ann's case it was a dare of sorts.

Like many of us this time of year, Ann's kitchen counter and desk was full of lists.  Lists of upcoming holiday menus, projects to complete, have-to-buys.....  In the midst of all the pre-holiday list making, a friend asked if she, Ann, could write a list of a thousand things she loves.
I read...again. As in, begin ANOTHER list? To name one thousand blessings - one thousand gifts - is that what she means? Sure, whatever. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 45)
It sounds so simple.  Ann thought so as well.
Sometimes you don't know when you're taking the first step through a door until you're already inside. (Ibid)
Grabbing a scrap piece of paper Ann wrote "Gift List" at the top. Not gifts that she needed or wanted during the pre-holiday season, but gifts she already had.  Her gifts were simple.  Her beginning thoughts brought a smile to my face.
1. Morning shadows across the old floors2. Jam piled high on the toast3. Cry of blue jay from high in the spruce (Ibid)
Just common things, but maybe I do not even recognize the common things of and in my life as "gifts" until I pause, lay aside my books and take an action...an action of writing them down.

I have begun such list, and hopefully I will continue my list as the busy holiday season comes upon me.  Hopefully I do this because I know in my heart by taking this step....this action....I do recognize these little things are indeed gifts!  Gifts that God bestows on me with love.

After my car accident I wrote how each day is a gift, but unless I unwrap that new gift every morning, it simply sits looking pretty.... but I have no idea what is inside unless I loosen the ribbon, tear off the tape and open!
This writing down - it is sort of like ...unwrapping love. It might fit like a glove.
16 Leafy life scent of the florist shop17 The creak of her old knees18 Wind flying cold wild in hair
 Ann realized the very action of writing her list, made her feel happy!

I understand.  Writing this blog, writing lists of gifts, reading my devotional.... These things seem to flip an inner switch of sorts giving me a new lens from which to see my day.

Ann writes how she likes the sense of happiness so she writes more...
I can hardly believe how it does that, that running stream of consciousness, river I drink from and I'm quenched in, a surging stream of grace and it's wild how it sweeps me away. And I add one more to the list. To feel it all again....yet...the list feels foreign, strange. Lone, I am woman who speaks but one language, the language of the fall - discontentment and self-condemnation, the critical eye and the never satisfied.
Ann shares her ah-ha that if all the "gifts" she was listing were gifts from God, then wasn't her action of writing them down like receiving them...like taking them with thanks?

Giving thanks....
This crazy-dare gift list-it's language lessons in eucharisteo!
This realization was followed by the thought that her list seemed crude...trivial...the thought/quote I shared as I began this post.

I stopped here, thinking how my own lists have sometimes felt crude and I wondered if that is one reason I have laid them aside?

It is DIFFICULT to change!!!

Living a life from an attitude of gratitude doesn't just happen because I wish it or I read about it....I have to take intentional steps if I want to live from this place.  I have to be intentional.  I want to be intentional.  I don't "have" to do anything....I WANT to learn to live from an attitude of gratitude because I know I will experience peace and joy within not only my ordinary days, but also during those days that have shadows.

This is a new day, and for that I am grateful!

I want to think and consider how I can begin this acknowledging gifts/blessings in a way that will help me during the busy days to come.

AMEN!!!

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Eucharisteo... One Word

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him, and he was a Samaritan. ~ Luke 17:15-16


: ) I found this video and song this morning.  Not what I would normally choose, but even though I am not crazy about some of his choice of images....I simply couldn't help but smile looking at some of the other images, and just listening to his simple words.




"...My brain's insane...Overwhelm is just my state of mind...My lips get blamed..."


Ha! That would often be me.

It has been a rough two days, yet reading the story of the Ten Lepers from Luke and listening to this video...I'm smiling.

The story of the Ten Lepers from Luke 17 is one of my favorites.  When I was young, I would hear this story and wonder... "The one came back and Jesus told him to 'rise up and go, your faith has made you well'. (Luke 17:17-19)...but wasn't he already healed?"

I used this story in a sermon last year, asking, "What does Jesus mean when he says, 'your faith has made you well.'?"

Ann digs into this story and shares that in the Greek, "well" is the word "sozo".  There are many translations of this word, but, Ann writes, its literal meaning is "to save."
Sozo means salvation. It means true wellness, complete wholeness. To live sozo is to live the full life. Jesus came that we might live life to the full. He came to give us sozo. Ann asks, When did the leper receive sozo - the saving to the full, whole life? When he returned and gave thanks. I lay down my pen. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 38-39)
Ahhhhh.... Our very saving is associated with gratitude.

Jesus said, "Thy faith has saved you." and the leper's faith was one that drove him to his knees in gratitude.  Soooo....does Jesus count thanksgiving as integral in a faith that saves?
...How else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our 'Yes!' to His grace. (Ibid)
"If the church is in Christ, its initial act is always an act of thanksgiving, of returning the world to God." ~ Alexander Schmemann

Ann challenges me to consider her insight, "If I am truly in Christ, mustn't my initial act, too, always be an act of thanksgiving, returning to Jesus with thanks on my lips?"

I wrote of the trip to help my daughter and her new baby. Since being with them...this precious baby has spent more time crying than sleeping.  My daughter at times has spent more time crying than anything else....and I feel helpless.

Added to my sense of helplessness is my worry of work I need to be accomplishing for the church.  I have done some things by phone as I have "danced" with Gabriel, yet many things need to be done at the computer and finding time for this work...

I listen to this baby cry, I watch my daughter sink into depths of exhaustion and sadness, I consider the agenda and budget that needs to be proofed, I think about the bulletin and that sermon, and then my own pain...  And I ask, how can I get on my knees in gratitude?

Ann offers me a verse from the Psalms: He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God ~ Psalm 50:23

Thanksgiving - giving thanks in EVERYTHING

The act of offering my thank offerings up to God - the small things like pain, a crying baby and exhausted daughter...all the way up to those things much more "devastating"... This act of offering up thanks to God opens a way for God to show me His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentfulf lives and from all sin that blocks an open and full relationship Him...

At the Eucharist, Christ breaks His heart to heal ours (mine) - Christ, the complete accomplishments of our salvation. And the miracle of the eucharisteo never ends: thanksgiving is what precedes the miracle of that salvation being fully worked out in our lives. Thanksgiving - giving thanks in everything - is what prepares the way for salvation's whole restoration. Our salvation in Christ is real, yet the completeness of that salvation is not fully realized in life until the life realizes the need to give thanks. In everything?(Voskamp, p 40)
If this is true, I will never experience the fullness of my salvation until I express the fullness of my thanks every day, and eucharisteo is elemental to living the saved life.
All those years thinking I was saved and had said my yes to God, but was really living the no. Was it because I had never fully experienced the whole of my salvation? Had never lived out the fullest expression of my salvation in Christ? Because I wasn't taking everything in my life and returning to Jesus, falling at his feet and thanking him. I sit still, blinded. This is why I sat all those years in church but my soul had holes had never fully healed.
Eucharisteo, the Greek word with the hard meaning and the harder meaning to live - this is the only way from empty to full. (Ibid)
Wow....some heavy and deep thoughts to consider....

Know what story comes to mind?

Well, actually, parable....  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle...(Mark 10:25)

...a rich man.

As a child and as an adult, I thought of "rich man" as someone with an abundance of riches, yet, I am rich and all to often, I take my riches/blessings for granted.  All to often, I am like the Nine Lepers....running into life with little thought of the Source of Life.

.....some heavy and deep thoughts to consider. I don't like to think of myself as being one of the Nine. : )
The way through is hard. But do I really want to be saved?
I suppose this may be my salvation.... That I need to sit with and ponder.  However, I am holding that this "Eucharisteo" may be the secret of a fuller life here on earth.

Another "personal testimony" video this morning... Funny...I guess these are speaking to my heart this morning rather than some of the more professional clips available...


Well....precious baby is crying once more....  Lord, open my heart to Eucharisteo....

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Is there another way?

The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live...He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything. ~ Albert Schweitzer


This prayer was composed by Rabbi Lazer Brody. Another interesting spiritual teacher.

Yesterday became a flurry day as I made last minute preparations to leave home once more and to travel to help Daughter #3 and her very unhappy baby.  I left Indianapolis in late afternoon and began the bus ride north. Evening is always the most difficult time of day.  Physical pain issues seem to be on full alert. Texting to a friend, she suggested I try centering prayer for the next two hours.

Seriously, I am not "there" and I don't know that I will ever get "there".

When the pain becomes so intense, it is like I become the servant and the pain the master.  Is it possible to keep this from happening?

Ann continues her early reflections on Eucharisteo.  She is thinking more about emotional loss...pain.  Is it possible that Eucharisteo is also the mystery to the fullest life when one is battling physical pain?

The Apostle Paul knew physical pain...and in that pain he offered up Thanksgiving...
I might have found the holy grail...and lost it, moved on. And yet really - hadn't God set the holy grail in the center of Christianity? Eucharisteo, it's the central symbol of Christianity. Thanksgiving. The table with its emblems is the essence of what it means to live the Christ-life....Doesn't the continual repetition...at the table of the Eucharist clearly place the whole of our lives into the context of thanksgiving? (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 34)
Ann challenges me to consider that the elements of the Table are the most common foods, bread and the drink of vine.  Two basic elements that have been a part of our meal taking across centuries and cultures.


In other words, Jesus did not institute the Eucharist around a once-a-year event!


The simple food of the Table....a slice of bread and drinking a cup from the fruit of the vine...Is this not an every day occurrence for most of us!


1 Corinthians 11:26 reads: "...whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup..."


Whenever...


I eat bread and drink juice, every day....

Ann reminds me it is not just "whenever" but also "wherever: here"
Doesn't Christ, at His death meal, set the entirety of our everyday bread and drink lives into the framework of Eucharisteo? The Big Dipper lurks low outside the window. Yet, how does the framework of Eucharisteo undergird a life? Penetrating the mystery is like discovering galaxies; there is always more. (Ibid)


Is it not a truth that the more I know...the less I actually know?


Shaping dough into loaves, Ann reflects on her thoughts and writes that she decides, this time, she will enter into the mystery. 
...I think how Jesus took the bread and gave thanks...and then the miracle of the multiplying of loves and fishes. 
How Jesus took the bread and gave thanks...and then the miracle of Jesus enduring the cross for the joy set before Him. 
How Jesus stood outside Lazarus's tomb, the tears streaming down His face, and He looked up and prayed...and then the miracle of a dead man rising! Thanksgiving raises the dead! (Voskamp, p 35)
Eucharisteo - thanksgiving - always precedes the miracle.


Alexander Schmemann writes in his book, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy:
"The only real fall of man is his noneucharistic life in a noneucharistic world."


: ) Remember, Ann has already nudged me to consider I am reliving the Garden Story...that the Serpent was an ingrate.

Non-eucharisteo...humanity's, my, discontent with all that God freely gives.  How can I...in the midst of my ordinary life hang on to eucharisteo and live from an attitude of thanksgiving?

Might a life of eucharisteo really work the miracle of the God-communion? (Voskamp, p 37)


Yet, to live from this place, is to live as Jesus lived.

That means, like Jesus, on the eve of his arrest, trial, and crucifixion...he took bread and offered thanksgiving.

Jesus offered thanksgiving, knowing God would abandon him.

Jesus offered thanksgiving, knowing he would be tortured...broken...

Jesus offered thanksgiving for the joy (chara) that would follow.

The mystery always contains more mystery. (Ibid)


I know the story.... and I ask if there is not another way.


Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:16:
Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?


Last night, in the black of the bus, watching the lights of Daughter #3's city home approach...as I battled with pain and spasms...

The lights of the city shone so bright, and as I watched...they came nearer and became brighter until I was in their midst....until I was held within the light.

Is that how this journey toward gratitude looks...works... ?

Standing in the midst of my darkness...that I can see the light of what is coming?

Standing in the midst of my darkness, is it like the first glance of the city...bright but on within my reach?

Is there another way?

Is there a way to enter this journey of living as Jesus without the trial, pain, and darkness?

This picture reminds me the "rose" also carries thorns, just as this beautiful flower is surrounded by hard needles.

I "know" the answer...doesn't make it any easier.

I've written I am facilitating a conversation on the character of Job on Sunday's.  I didn't plan this cross over at the time, but Job's story resonates as I consider and reflect on the idea of Eucharisteo.


I found another meditative piece by Rabbi Brody that spoke to my heart as I draw this to a close in order to dance with this baby.... Ummmm how much am I like this crying baby? : )

Three Minute Meditative Cure....


Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saying, "THANK YOU!"

Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone. ~ Gladys B. Stern


Thank You for Giving to the Lord...


October has been set aside as Ministry Appreciation Month.  Last night, I realized it is nearing mid October and I have not written a single note of appreciation!

I have made a commitment in years past to write a note to every single person in the congregation, acknowledging what and how they have touched my own life or the life of another.  And I have said, "Thank you."

It is easy to find "Clergy Appreciation" cards, yet clergy cannot do the ministry of the church on their own. It takes an entire congregation who is full of Spirit filled disciples...reaching out and touching lives so that others might know Christ through them.

I really like the quote by Gladys Stern, "Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."

If there is someone who has touched your life, either personally, or as you have watched them minister/serve others...I would like to encourage you to take a moment and say, "Thank you" this month.

It may be your pastor, Sunday School teacher, or the elders of your congregation.

It may also be the librarian who makes an extra special effort, or the nurse who always makes you feel as though you truly matter.

It may be a blog friend whose words, images, insights have touched you in some way...helping you to then be present to help, encourage, support another.

It might be the check out person at the grocery store who always welcomes you with a smile...or maybe your favorite person at Starbucks?

You know what, it might be one of those you gather with to play cards, RummyCube, or to share stories of knitting or quilting.

Perhaps it is a parent, child, spouse, or sibling who "OF COURSE" knows they are appreciated.

We are called to walk side by side, and all to often, we take those who are walking alongside us for granted.

This weekend of October, who are you grateful for?  Who has touched your life in some way? Who has encouraged you?

You are walking alongside me, as I focus on Gratitude...and I thank you and appreciate you!

Because you are walking alongside me as, together, we consider how we can live from an attitude of gratitude...would you consider just writing a short note to someone to say, "Thank You!"

A phone call or an email...they are nice.  But, a handwritten note?

A handwritten note is something another can hold, prop up, stick on the refrigerator, put in their Bible or favorite devotion book... a handwritten note is just really special!

A neat story of one man who said, "Thank you." Neurosurgeon says thank you to a teacher...


Thank you!

Two little words that carry so much power...
Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Friday, October 14, 2011

Those infamous "bucket lists"

Time is free, but its priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it, you can never get it back. ~ Harvey MacKay

Since its Friday...a bit of fun... Green Day.

Yesterday, I was feeling pinched for time.

I didn't have the time I wanted to go outside and clean flower beds.

I felt rushed getting the BPC Update published and sent out.

I needed to get a start on the bulletin and a sermon...Sunday's comin!

Time...

It is comforting to learn I am not the only one who feels pressured and threatened by the lack of time to do....  In the second chapter of her book, A Word to Live...And Die By, Ann Voskamp recounts a similar thought process that I have described and then on page 31 she writes:
"...I close the bathroom linen closet. Pick up a brush to swish the toilets. I don't need more time to breathe so that I may experience more locales, possess more, accomplish more. Because wonder really could be here - for seeing eyes. 
"So - more time for what? 
"The face of Jesus flashes. Jesus, the God-Man with his own termination date. Jesus, the God-Man who came to save me from prisons of fear and guilt and depression and sadness. With an expiration of less than twelve hours, what does Jesus count as all most important? 
"'And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them...' (Luke 22:19 NIV)
Wow, a reality jolt on this Friday morning.

In the Greek "he gave thanks" reads "eucharisteo."

Ann challenges herself, and then me to consider if this one word could lay a sure foundation under life?  Could this one word offer the fullest life?

The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning 'grace.'

In other words, Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be a gift and gave thanks.  (Voskamp, p 32)


There is more, Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis AND it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning "Joy."


J-O-Y.


Isn't this what I am seeking?


Joy of living of being alive at this time in history, and knowing that Joy within every fiber of my being.


The Bucket Lists that are popular to write, are then not seeking this sense of "joy"?


But as I sit here pondering this joy, I know in my heart the joy of eucharisteo is deeper, broader, fuller than any joy experienced checking things off a bucket list.


The joy of eucharisteo is holy joy.
"Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo - the table of thanksgiving. I sit there long...wondering...is it that simple?" (Voskamp, p 33)


Is it that simple?

Ann continues pondering,
"As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. Joy is always possible. Whenever, meaning - now: wherever, meaning - here. The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be - unbelievably - possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now." (Ibid)
It almost seems to simple!

Charis. Grace.

Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.

Chara. Joy.

Grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo

A Greek word...that might make meaning of everything?


For me...these are powerful thoughts and images that I will hold as I walk through the next few days.  Something else that comes to mind as I hold these thoughts is this passage from Ephesians, "A cord of three strands is not easily broken."

This coming Sunday, I will be officiating at the baptism of a beautiful baby boy during worship.  Holding Ann's thoughts, the thoughts of Paul,  and the thoughts of Knox's baptism...

This Charis...this Eucharsisteo...this Chara... Jesus always sent his disciples out two-by-two.  Why? I believe so they could be encouragement for one another AND so each would have a trusted friend with home to depend upon guiding him with love and truth.

It is difficult to discover Charis - Eucharisteo - Chara by oneself.

The darkness of the world is often difficult to resist when walking by oneself.

As I hold these thoughts of Grace, Thanksgiving, and Joy...I want to also consider who is in my life to help me live in this Grace, this Thanksgiving, and this Joy. I want to hold how I and the congregation are called to walk alongside John Knox.

God has placed his Spirit within me AND he has given me brothers and sisters to walk beside me, who also carry his Spirit within them.

Eucharisteo.

One word that offers me the joy of God's grace in ways that are deeper and broader....more life giving than any check mark on a bucket list.  Praise God!

What am I grateful for on this Friday morning?

Simple things like my flavored coffee and that I didn't lose this post earlier! : )

I am thankful for Daughter #4 calling to give me a hard time this morning. : )

I am grateful for the sunshine that is streaming through my kitchen window.

I am grateful for the four wonderful women from BPC who have willingly joined me in this journey of faith.  Holding me accountable and offering me wisdom when I stumble.

I am grateful for a friend who offers me hard truth in love.

I am grateful....and as I sit within this circle of gratitude, I feel my inner self shifting ever so slightly as I begin this Friday.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Groaning into a new day...

...The more hassled you feel, the more you need this sacred space of communion with Me. Breathe slowly and deeply. Relax in My holy Presence while My Face shines upon you. This is how you receive My Peace, which I always offer you... Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Be Still My Soul... by Selah.  All I can add is to whisper a grateful, "Amen."

This morning, for whatever reason, the body, the mind, the spirit...just could hardly move....just could hardly believe I had to begin a new day.  A day I already knew to be full with an Update, a Sermon, a Bulletin....those words that appear on a page....I just have not found a way to shut my eyes and then discover the page full....of just the right words.

This morning, sitting down with my devotion I prayed, "Lord, you know what is on my plate for this day and you know how tired and spent I feel...and the day has not yet begun! Lord, I feel overwhelmed by all I need to accomplish.  Lord, I feel sad by the things I really want to accomplish, yet I know those things don't pay the bills. Lord, grant that I discover what I need within these moments with you. Amen."


Yesterday, during the Wednesday Lunch Bunch conversation we talked about miracles.  Biblical miracles and miracles that occur in our everyday/ordinary life.  Sarah's devotion for today...I would almost count as a miracle. Continuing from above...
...Imagine the pain I feel when My children tie themselves up in anxious knots, ignoring My gift of Peace. I died a criminal's death to secure this blessing for you. Receive it gratefully; hide it in your heart. My Peace is an inner treasure, growing within you as you trust in Me. Therefore, circumstances cannot touch it.Be still, enjoying Peace in My Presence.
"Receive it gratefully..."

Those words are taking on a new significance for me as I strive to live life through an attitude of gratitude in all things.  This morning, because I know I am struggling with focus, instead of journaling on One Thousand Gifts, I am going to Psalm 46, as transposed by Eugene Peterson in The Message Bible:
1-3 God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him.We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,courageous in seastorm and earthquake,Before the rush and roar of oceans,the tremors that shift mountains. 
This morning, sitting with these words, I realized that in many ways....I wanted to hide!  I wanted to hide from anyone and anything that could want something from me....I realized I do feel as though I am standing [and have been standing for a long while] in the midst of a storm.  A storm of constant demands on my physical, emotional, and mental self.

Ummm.  Sound like a familiar Bible story?
8-10 Attention, all! See the marvels of God!He plants flowers and treess all over the earth,Bans war from pole to pole,breaks all the weapons across his knee."Step out of the traffic! Take a long,loving look at me, your High God,above politics, above everything. 
11 Jacob-wrestling God fights for us,God-of-Angel-Armies protects us..


As powerful as the imagery in this Psalm, it was Eugene Peterson's reflection that really helped me to pause this morning.

...The city of God is safe, not because it's a sphere of innocence, protected by unscalable walls and sophisticated security systems. It's safe because it's the sphere where God's help is available....The verb 'help' is used in verse 5, where I translate it, 'God at your service.' He knows the kind of world we live in, and he knows how vulnerable we are in that world. He anticipates our needs and plans ahead. He's there right on time to help, there at the crack of dawn."


In verse 8, the psalmist says, 'Attention, all! See the marvels of God!' In other words, 'Quit rushing through the streets long enough to become aware that there is more to life than your little self-help enterprises.'


In a world that is falling apart around us, it's easy to become frantic and lose touch with God. But if God is the living center of redemption, it's essential that we be in touch with him and responsive to him. If God has a will for this world and we want to be in on it, we must be still long enough to find out what it is.


It is then, and 'only' then, that we'll be able to see the marvels of God that are going on around us and inside us.


In order to write words that others might find meaningful within an Update or a Sermon, in order to consider Gratitude...to journal about Gratitude... In order to live fully I must be still long enough to discover God working around me and within me.

It is with a sense of gratitude that I receive the words of Sarah Young and Eugene Peterson as they used the imagery of Psalm 46 in their own writing.

Instead of sitting with Ann's book, these were the words I needed this morning to calm my anxiety, my overwhelm, and my fatigue at the beginning of a new day....a day that is truly a gift from God!

God, I am grateful for the Psalmist, and I am grateful for those who take the words of these ancient writings and weave them into paragraphs of words that heal my soul on mornings such as this. Help me to take the peace of these moments into my day.  Help me to pause as demands seem to heavy...seem to come to fast...and simply rest in your presence. Amen!


This video....I struggle with the images of the crucifixion story as depicted in The Passion of The Christ.  ....truth be told, I normally avoid them.  But this morning, the images within this video spoke to my heart, as violent as they are...  Through It All....  If Christ had not suffered...how would I know he truly understands my tired and weary heart? How else could I trust?

Many Blessings ~ Sandi