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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Joy and Pain

"The difference between shallow happiness and a deep sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can't stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope--and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend upon it) disappoint us." Walter Wangrin, Reliving the Passion

After recording 1000 gifts, Ann reflects on the realization that she has a journal full of blessings, but as she has awaken to the joy of God's presence/grace/gifts, she has also awaken to the reality that awakening to joy also awakens her to pain.
" is loss...WHAT will I lose? Health? Comfort? Hope? Eventually, I am guaranteed to lose every earthly thing I have ever possessed. WHEN will I lose? Today? In a few weeks? How much time have I got before the next loss? WHO will I lose? And that's a definite: I will lose every single person I have ever loved. Ether abruptly or eventually...Every step I take forward in my life is a loss of something in my life and I live the waiting." (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 84)
Deep thoughts.

Real thoughts.

Thoughts that I often try to avoid.

In a world of certain loss, then the question comes, "What is 'grace'?"

By naming "blessings", "gifts"...."God Winks" I am striving to be more aware of God in my life.  But, notice the words... "blessings" and "gifts"..... If I name these moments as gifts and blessings, what are the moments of pain, of suffering?




How do you know how to sift through a day, a life, and rightly read the graces, rightly ascertain the curses? (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 85)
Like  me, Ann asks what is good, what counts as grace, what is the heart of God?

When Job lost everything,  he assumed that God had either turned his back on him or was unfairly punishing him.

What is the heart of God?
Do I believe in a God who rouses Himself just now and then to spill a bit of benevolence on hemorrhaging humanity? A God who breaks through teh carapace of this orb only now and then, surprises us with a spared hand, a reprieve from sickness, a good job and a nice house in the burbs - and then finds Himself again too impotent to deal with all I see as suffering and evil A God of sporadic, random, splattering goodness - that now and then splatters across a gratitude journal? (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 85)
Like Job, Ann draws herself up and asks a hard question.

What are all the moments that I don't list as "gifts", as "blessings"?

What of these moments?

 God, it is difficult, this waiting...waiting when I see such darkness within such brightness.  Give me courage during this season of Advent to hold both the joy and the pain that is life and to see You. Through the power of your Spirit, may my happiness be transformed into your Joy. AMEN.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Monday, November 28, 2011

Waiting.... Watching....

We are in the season of Advent. Advent is the name for these days leading us to Christmas and the birth of Jesus. It is a season to give attention to God’s gift for us that is new every year. We watch and we wait in Advent. We watch so that we might be found. ~ Michelle Thomas-Bush

In her devotional book, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young writes:
"Problems are part of life. They are inescapable: woven into the very fabric of this fallen world. You tend to go into problem solving mode all too readily, acting as if you have the capacity to fix everything. This is a habitual response, so automatic that it bypasses your conscious thinking...You are ever so limited in your capacity to correct all that is wrong in the world around you...Rather than trying to fix everything that comes to your attention, ask Me to show you what is truly important..."
I admit to having a love/hate attitude for this season of the church year.

I tire of all the things that slip so easily onto my calendar.  I tire of my inner expectations for myself at church and at home.  I tire of the weary faces of those I meet.  I tire of the constant movement....

The Grands that give me so many smiles.
I love the colors and the music.  I love hearing the bells ringing.  I love the smiles and excitement of the Grands.

I even love the brightly colored gift wrap!

I love the Christmas story.

Yet, more often than I like to admit, I allow the "tires" of the season to create unnecessary "problems" that keep the "loves" of the season hidden. But, this season, I am striving to walk through this season with my eyes more clear, because I want to be more fully living within these moments of mystery and awe.  I want to more fully live into to the gifts that are all around me, just ready to bless me and to give me the promised hope, joy, and peace of this season.

Advent is about waiting.

Advent is walking through the darkness as I await the coming Light.

I've been thinking, how Advent is like my journeying of discovering and living through the eyes and heart of Eucharisteo.  It is slow, yet I have caught glimpses that encourage me to continue watching and waiting.

Today I planted an Amaryllis bulb.  As I smoothed the soil around the large bulb, I thought how long it takes for the brillant flowers to appear, and then I stopped....

I stopped and thought how this flower is a perfect bulb to plant during Advent, this season of waiting and anticipation.

I thought how this flower, as it slowly puts out it long leaves and then its display of brilliant red flowers, is a perfect visual reminder for me to continue this journey as the days and weeks to come promise to be full.

Daily discipline, especially in the midst of so much stuff,  is the door to full freedom.  Ann writes of this freedom when she records her 1000th gift:
"...the discipline to count to one thousand gave way to the freedom of wonder and I can't imagine not staying awake to God in the moment, the joy in the now.  But, awakening to joy awakens to pain." (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 84)
Joy and pain.  Ann's insight is they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don't numb themselves to really living.

Joy and pain.

I resist pain.

I want to problem solve pain and make it go away... disappear.  Yet, Ann, as she writes her 1000th gift comes face to face with the reality that "awakening to joy awakens to pain."

I didn't expect that.

When I pause and consider all these thoughts; as a mother of daughters...when I sit with the Christmas story and consider all that would have been beneath the words of this familiar story, I can imagine there would have also been pain and loss within the wonder and mystery.

God, through the power of your Spirit, may I be given the courage to continue walking through this time of waiting so that I might learn to live with both the joy and the pain of life.  May I walk through this season of Advent with eyes more open and a heart more full. AMEN.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rest - Relax - Release - Rejoice

Rest in the deep assurance of My unfailing Love. Let your body, mind, and spirit Relax in My Presence. Release into My care anything that is troubling you, so that you can focus your full attention on Me. Be awed by the vast dimensions of My Love for you: wider, longer, higher, and deeper than anything you know.  Rejoice that this marvelous Love is yours forever...Bring Me the sacrifice of gratitude, and watch to see how much I bless you. ~ Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Last week my phone lines went in and out, mostly out, leaving me without Internet access.  When the Internet issues began, I felt stressed knowing I could not leave posts during the week of Thanksgiving.


Of all weeks to not journal about gratitude!

All kind of questions and doubts about what others would think if I did not post began to fill my heart until I finally realized the path I was going down was not going to change the fact I did not have Internet and that I had a choice whether to stay on that dark path or step aside and choose another.

Pausing, then choosing another path...felt great! It felt powerful to intentionally choose a healthier path...

But then life decided to send another curve ball my way when I learned a much loved daughter decided she and her family would not be gathering with us for Thanksgiving.

I cried and I focused on what I would not have until my friend reminded me I had a choice.

I could choose to stay focused on what I would not have OR I could change my focus to what I would have.  
"Let your body, mind, and spirit relax in My Presence. Release into My care anything that is troubling you...and watch to see how much I bless you."
1 Peter 5:7 says: "Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you." (NIV)

Blessings don't always come as I expect.

I think blessings may some times come as quiet peace.  And, when I am open to that blessing, I am able to receive more blessings.  This past week, I did not have one daughter at the Thanksgiving table, but I had three others/spouses/Grands, both my parents, my brother/sister-in-law, a nephew/wife/baby, and my cousin...and there was much laughter, conversation, listening...and a feeling of love, respect, and gratitude for the relationships that rested between us, among us, and within us.

When I was able to Rest and Relax, my clenched hands Released and I knew Joy (Rejoice).

Still, I spent moments walking back and forth through the dark valley of hurt, doubt, and what-ifs off and on through out the weekend. Ann refers to these dark paths as "hard eucharisteo" and in chapter 5 of her book, she offers her own dark moments.
"I'm still transfixed when the ricochet of words rip up the back. 'Levi's hand went through a fan at the barn!'...I know it, even in running down the lane to the barn, this may be it. The hard eucharisteo. Now I know that I don't want to know it yet...Ever. How to lay the hand open for this moment's bread - when it will hurt." (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 80)
Yesterday morning, during the Job study, I was struck with Job's thought that he was no longer blessed because he was no longer experiencing the "good life." Life was not going "his" way.  One woman commented that Job had lost hope and was in despair.  Another commented that Job had lost his sense of being in "control", that suffering is being thrust into a situation that one has no control.

When life is good, it is easy to notice God's Gifts...God's Grace, yet all to often I am like Job, when life takes a u-turn and the unexpected happens and my illusion of control is burst in a split second...I silently wonder what of God's Grace then?

Job asks that hard question that I am sometimes afraid to voice aloud.

I realized this past week one reason I had hesitated in beginning my own journal of gratitude was I felt like Pollyanna listing "silly" things as gifts.

I don't want to be a "Pollyanna", still, I believe that my feeble attempts at writing gratitudes the past couple of weeks did make it easier to refocus (again and again) when I felt kicked in the gut regarding who would and would not be gathering around the Thanksgiving table and why.
68. Dad carving the turkey. 
69. Warm scents and taste of freshly roasted turkey. 
70. The moon shining brightly.
Yesterday morning I was greeted by many weary faces at church.  I didn't have the time to ask how Thanksgiving had gone for them but in some ways, their faces reflected a more than deep weariness.

Later I wondered if, like me, some had known disappointment during their time of giving thanks.  As I wondered this I focused back to myself.  I wondered how many of my disappointments come from the Universe not giving to me as I think/believe I should be given (like Job).  I wondered how many of my disappointments come from what I have already created in my imagination as "happening".... not happening. (eg: that Norman Rockwell image of family...of "perfection")  I wondered how many of my disappointments come from my perception that something is wrong with "me" when that image of perception does not happen and I go down that dark path of retributive judgement. (Job : ) )

I want to be saintly, yet I'm just San, doing my best every day to be aware, to continue reading and reflecting, to strive to notice and name God's Gifts even within those dark moments of hurt and uncertainty.
156. A gummy smile. 
157. Daughter #2 back home safe. 
158. Sharing a bowl of blackberries with #3. 
159. Internet! 
Ephesians 3:16-19, Paul says: "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you [Sandi] with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith.  I pray that you [Sandi], being being rooted and established in love, may have grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God."

If I could just fully grasp these sacred truths!

Bring me the sacrifice of gratitude and watch to see how much I bless you.

The "sacrifice" of gratitude.

Now, there is another word for me to sit and ponder!
Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Friday, November 18, 2011

Living Year Moments

The hurry makes us hurt. And maybe it is the hurt that drives us on? For all our frenzied running, seemingly toward something, could it be that we are in fact fleeing - desperate to escape pain that pursues? ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 67

"In the Living Years...."

"The hurry makes us hurt..."
Whatever the pace, time will keep it and there's no outrunning it, only speeding it up and pounding the feet harder; the minutes pound faster too. Race for more and you'll snag on time and leak empty. The longer I keep running, the longer the gash, and I drain, bleed away.
Hurry always empties a soul. 
"Say it clear..."

Wow, if I need a reminder this morning as I hold all that is on my plate, Ann's thoughts and Mike's words nudge and prod me to simply pause.

I'm hosting a "party" at the church this coming Sunday for 20 (+) women.  I'm preparing a Maple Glazed Roasted Turkey and some side dishes along with Candy Cane Punch.  The rest of the meal will be brought in by the participants.  I'm calling it a "Family Favorite Pitch-In".

The three ring notebooks are focused on and the tables will be set in the theme for the afternoon, "Untangling Christmas."  Yesterday I was delighted to discover this little guy at Barnes and Noble for 75% off.  Is he not a great example of how so many of us, well at least "me", feel either during or after the holidays?

"Hurry always empties a soul."

I've been surprised and a bit saddened by the email responses of some of the women who are attending the Untangling Christmas event.  "Sandi, I actually dread this time of year. It drives me crazy to hear 'the reason of the season'! I'm doing my best to just hang on, I can't handle being reminded over and over again I have lost the 'reason of the season.'"

I love my family so very much, yet I can relate to some of the emails I have received.  Like I said, this little guy from Barnes and Noble is a pretty good image for how I feel on Christmas night....if not before.

I hear people wishing for more time, yet it isn't "more" time that I need; I just want "enough" time.

I want time enough to take deep breathes and to really see.

I want time enough to laugh and to play with the Grands...and even my grown kids.

I want time enough to truly give of myself rather than to go through the motions.

I want time enough now...while I'm in the "living years."

One of my favorite gentlemen at BPC, he's a retired school administrator, but he's really a wise and thoughtful storyteller....anyhow, this past Sunday he looked at me and said something like, "Happiness comes from being grateful."

I haven't journaled that I have actually begun recording "Gifts"!  I was thinking last night that it is in these "gifts" I discover God.
36. The yearly call from my mom to say she's found a 20+ pound turkey.  
37. My daughter calling to share a smile received at Starbucks. 
38. The feel of a soft stuffed dog I will share with Grand # 3 this afternoon.
No, I don't need "more" time, I just want time to do these moments; these moments during these "living years"; I just want time to do these moments well.

Some have told me "it's just the way it is" this craziness during these months of October through January.

"It's just the way it is."


There is more to life than this craziness of hurting as I hurry through life!

I want to embrace the challenge by Gandhi, "Be the change you want to see."
39. The branches of the evergreen moving 'with' the wind. 
40. The sunlight filtering through that evergreen and through my blinds to reflect images on my wall.
I don't understand, maybe I don't need to understand, but the simple act of writing and naming these ordinary gifts help me to regain a vision of my center.

It helps me to laugh at this funny little Zombie Buddy as I sit with all that is on my plate.

I think I will keep him on my desk as a constant reminder to be present during these "living year" moments in the days and weeks to come.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Monday, November 14, 2011

One by one...

Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.   ~ Johnson Oatman, Jr.

This hymn was originally published in 1897.  Ummmm, tells me this message, this journey of eucharisteo is not a new journey.

Yesterday we had a service of hymns that began with "Great is Thy Faithfulness".  Hymns of gratitude and thanksgiving followed until we transitioned from gratitude into stewardship with the old hymn, "We Give Thee But Thy Own".

Preparing this service I was surprised to discover that many of the familiar hymns of thanksgiving were written by individuals who had lived through or were experiencing great hardship.  In the darkness, thanksgiving rose up in their hearts and wonderful hymns were written that have been sung by generations.

Last week, with the Wednesday Lunch Bunch, we studied the Ten Commandments.  I asked the group what "gods" they put before God.  The responses were varied and honest.

My family.  My church.  My responsibilities with a local NPO.  ..... One woman finally said, "My time."

The title of chapter 4 in Ann's book is The Sanctuary of Time.  Ann asks:

I see my reflection, those seeking eyes. You're the one in the dire need of time, that thing we can't buy, what we sell of ourselves to get more of what we think we want, what we sacrifice to seemingly gain. They say time is money, but that's not true. Time is life. And if I want the fullest life, I need to find fullest time...the busyness of your [Ann speaking to herself] life leaving little room for the source of your life....God gives us time. And who has time for God?
There is a story of a pastor who was asked what was his most profound regret in life.  Thinking of all the cemeteries he has visited, he replied: Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing of front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing... Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.

Yesterday the keyboard player s-l-o-w-e-d the last phrase of "Count them one by one..." each time we came to the end of the verse.  We hadn't talked about it ahead of time, as far as I know, she doesn't read my blog...but as I sang slowly that line again and again, I thought how she was tapping into my own journey of recording eucharisteo.

Name by one.

In order to do that, I HAVE to pause and make time, I have to pause in the sanctuary of His time.

It is different naming God's blessings one by one, than simply lumping them into one big thank you and hurrying out the door.
I scrub the bowl hard, try to scrape away the regrets of my life lived amateur. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 66)

Would you believe I have worked on this post for nearly 4 hours!


I have had interruption after interruption.

Life has been happening and once again, my time has been placed before time spent with God.

Sitting here I hold not only my own stories and thoughts, but the stories of those who have "interrupted". I hold their stories, am I holding God's stories?

The stories I am holding this morning all deal with individuals living with and within HARD eucharisteo moments.  Maybe, my challenge isn't so much to complete a journal posting with some profound and/or provocative thought to consider, as much as it is to prayerfully and intentionally be present with Christ as he is present within these circumstances.


This morning, I am desperately in need of sanctuary.

If I am to be present to God within the stories of all my interruptions, I first must simply be still and rest in His sanctuary of time....if counting my blessings one by one helps me to pause so that I am keeping the first commandment of not having any gods be God... then maybe I can better trust Him to be in all these hard eucharisteo moments others are carrying.

Counting blessings one by one....

Sanctuary of time.....

Raising words of thanksgiving and praise within hard eucharisteo moments.....within the harder stories of life....

Hymns. Praise Songs. Scripture. One Another....  Words that point to One.

There is another story/saying that the Universe is actually made up of stories rather than atoms. This I am going to pause and rest in the sanctuary of His time, I am going to consider this truth as well as some of the words that came from life stories of the men and women who penned the words of gratitude and praise that became familiar hymns of thanksgiving.

Many Blessings  ~ Sandi

Friday, November 11, 2011

The other side of prayer...

I pray that you [Sandi] will know that the blessings God has promised his holy people are rich and glorious. And you will know that God's power is very great for us who believe.  ~ Ephesians 1:18-19

Rich Mullins was just the most amazing man used by God....

"Sometimes you try to impress God with all the right words...."

I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me. This, this, makes me full...What will a life magnify? The world's stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong, and terrible busted? Or God? Never is God's power or knowing small.  God is not in need of magnifying by us, who are so small, but the reverse. It's our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated self, and in thanks we decrease and the world returns right. I say thanks and I swell with Him, and I swell the world, and He stirs me, joy all afoot. 
This, I think is the other side of prayer. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 59)
"The other side of prayer."

What a provocative thought.....

In the Job study we have talked about the throne room of heaven, not something I have ever thought a lot about...but, would the "other side of prayer" be my moving more into God's presence?  Would it be the "throne room"?
The list is God's list,the pulse of His love - the love that thrums on the other side of our prayers. And I see it now for what this really is, this dare to write down one thousand things I love.  It is really is a dare to name all the ways God loves me. The true Love Dare. To move into His presence and listen to His unending and know the grace uncontainable. This is the vault of the miracles. The only thing that change us, the world, is this - all His love. (Ann Voskamp, p 60)
I think of Gandhi's challenge to me, "Be the change you wish to see..."

When I give thanks for the "microscopic things" like sunshine filtering through my kitchen window, the taste of warm cider from a pretty cup, the fingerprints of my Grands on my stainless steel refrigerator, being able to dial the phone and hear my mom or dad say, "hello...".... you know those ordinary/everyday things of life...

When I pause and offer gratitude for these everyday things...I stand on the other side of prayer...I stand in His presence....I stand on holy ground....

I feel so ...


I feel amazed...

Ann writes:
I am bell and He is sure wind, and He moves and I am rung and I know it for what it is: this is the other side of where Daniel, man of prayer, lived. Change agent, mover and shaker Daniel, second-to-the-king Daniel...Rather, his prayers moved kings and lion jaws because Daniel "prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God." (Daniel 6:10) (Ann Voskamp, p 60)
Wow...I've really got a lot to hold and reflect upon this evening.

Prayer. Holy Ground. Change agent. Daniel.... Something I take for granted....Something I all to often treat very casually.

I want to keep reading, to keep journalling these thoughts and images, yet I feel nudged to sit still with all that is rushing through my heart.

The other side of prayer....

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making a place for God to grow...

Something always comes to fill the empty places. And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.  Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p. 59

According to the book of Genesis, Jehovah Jireh was a place in the land of Moriah, which according to legend is the place Abraham was going to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide.

This evening I have been thinking of all the ways the Lord provides, sometimes in ways we may not be expecting.

This evening I have been wondering if as I strive to seek God in all places, to live from an attitude of gratitude, if I am more aware of how he is and has been providing for me?

I've journaled about the Wednesday Lunch Bunch.

I began this gathering as a Bible 101 Crash Course around a simple meal on the second Wednesday of each month.  I decided each month would be a stand alone conversation so people could come and go.  I would be lying if I had not hopefully envisioned a full table with lively discussion, but I have learned the past several years that those who God calls to gather....are those who gather.....and when I accept that.....I am ALWAYS RICHLY blessed.

Such is the case with the Wednesday Lunch Bunch.

Is there a full table, no.  Yet, those who God has called to participate have gathered and it is a small table with lively discussion.  I cannot begin to express how blessed I am with the conversation, the questions, the insights of those who gather for a bowl of soup and a Bible.  Today, I simply shook my head as I left the church and whispered a prayer of gratitude.

A few weeks ago I downloaded the e-book by Karen Ehman and LeAnn Rice, Untangling Christmas.  Karen and LeAnn are both authors of Proverbs 31 Ministries, not a site I visit.  In fact, I have no idea how I came across this book! has been a gift...a blessing!

I am untangling the upcoming holiday!  Me!!!

Originally I thought it would be a fun thing to offer as a women's gathering at the church.  Which means, like everything else I prepare...I really learn more than anyone else.

Because I stumbled upon this book and then decided to offer it to others, I have a focus as I approach the busiest time in any mom's, Giz's, and pastor's life...that I have not had for many years.  Plus, we are having a women's gathering that I am looking forward to!  In addition to the conversations around the book, it will also be a pitch-in of favorite holiday foods and a recipe swap. A win/win!  And I'm blessed more than anyone!

As I seek God in the little things and say, "Thank You" I am finding it easier to accept "gifts" without as much of my "knee jerk" reaction.

This coming Saturday is the church's annual Turkey Dinner.  It is a hard week of planning, grocery shopping, preparation.  Today I saw all the loaves of bread waiting to be broken up for dressing.  I didn't look to see if there were pounds and pounds of potatoes already in the kitchen waiting to be peeled on Saturday morning.  It is an effort of the entire congregation, but, like so many other things....a few do A LOT of the work.

I grew up with such dinners.

I know what goes into them and I expect to carry my weight.

However, instead of having a turkey to roast this year and desserts to prepare....instead of being scheduled to work....  I've been given the night off!  The email this evening read:

I hope you didn't get upset with my message. I really don't want to see you get burned out before the holidays. I have changed a few things about the supper and the upcoming holidays. I am not getting all tangled (notice the word "tangled"?) like I usually do. Please just come and enjoy. Mingle and enjoy....

My initial "knee jerk"?

What's going on! Do they think I can't carry my weight? What....

And then I thought, "San, where is God in this? Is it possible to simply say, 'thank you'? Because the reality is....this is a killer evening/weekend for you!"

By the time Sunday evening comes and I pull into my garage after an exceptionally long weekend, I am physically and emotionally tired.

Jehovah Jireh.

The Lord will provide when I open my hands, willing to receive his blessings.

Has this "transformation" happened because of Ann's book....No.

Her book has been a part of a ONGOING process that began many months, maybe years, ago.

I am slowly unclenching my fists and relaxing my stance....making it possible for me to receive.  Still....I'm just making beginning sounds of this language of gratitude.  With the help and encouragement of all those God sends to walk alongside me....I pray that I continue the process of learning how to speak this language so that I might live a life full.

Awesome God, I thank you for all those who bless my life with conversation, laughter, listening, caring....friendship and love.  Through them, I gain a glimpse of your kingdom here on earth.  Healing and merciful God, you know the needs of one I love deeply.  Please God, I pray for healing and strength....I pray for a way to be made.... AMEN.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Living fully in the present...

"Jeremiah's letter is a rebuke and a challenge. Jeremiah may as well be saying, 'Quit sitting around feeling sorry for yourselves.' The aim of the person of faith is not to be as comfortable as possible, but to live as deeply and thoroughly as possible - to deal with the reality of life, to discover truth, to create beauty, to act out of love."  ~ Eugene Peterson, Run with the Horses, p. 152

I've previously admitted what I am doing in one area of ministry, leaks into another.  Today, I was reading Jeremiah in preparation for tomorrow''s Wednesday Lunch Bunch.  And...I was surprised to discover connections with my journey through Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts.

History lesson:

Israel was taken into exile in 587 BCE. The people were uprooted from the place they had been born...the land in which their identity as "God's People" had been formed.  Eugene Peterson writes,
In the new land, Babylon, customs were strange, the language incomprehensible, and the landscape oddly flat and featureless. All the familiar landmarks were gone. 
Like the song from Les Miserables, the exiles dreamed a dream of a time....  They wondered when they would be able to go back home...back to "normal".

I sat with that thought for some time.  When I resist gratitude, I am often dreaming a dream of life as I  like... life that is comfortable with little or no uncertainties or pain....

I am beginning to gain a deep love of scripture.

Within these wonderful ancient words, I discover wisdom and truth that I can hold and live through today. When I do not read this sacred book as history, but as sacred a book of faith rather than history....I can find healing.

While some were predicting a time Judah would go home, Jeremiah told them to, "Build houses, live in them. Plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry. Have children. Invest in relationships..."

In other words, I hear Jeremiah telling me the only place I have in which to be human is right where I am now, in this live fully in the present and get on living the life I have in this present moment.  Not the life I had nor the life I wish for....the life I am living today.

And when I do this, Jeremiah tells me:
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 29:12-14 NIV
In other words...."San, look for God everywhere..."

Isn't that what striving to live from a place of gratitude is all about, seeing God in every circumstance? No matter how painful, how small, how beautiful.... seeing God.
Ann writes on page 58:
I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the would of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage?
Why would the world need more anger or more outrage?
How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.
When I allow joy to seep into my soul...into the cracks where I am dry or broken...light begins to shine.
The clouds open when we mouth thanks.
I'm not sure whether Jeremiah was saying to be grateful, but he was saying To Live.... To Live Fully!

To live fully is to live seeking God in everything and everywhere.

Yesterday Ann wrote of using her camera as a hammer to nail lessons into life.

Yesterday Ann wrote of using her camera to snap a moment of gratitude for grated small and insignificant.... Seeking God in everything and everywhere...  Even in a mound of grated cheese.

Jeremiah, Job,  Eugene Peterson, and Ann Voskamp all with words to challenge me to live, to seek, to discover that which gives me full life.

Lord, just doing some rambling thinking this evening.  By your Spirit, help me connect the dots... AMEN.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Monday, November 7, 2011

Grated Cheese - Grateful

A lifetime of sermons on "thanks in all things" and the shelves sagging with books on these things and I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time. ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 57

Ann writes that there are days her camera is a hammer.  I certainly appreciate that analogy.  So many times I have run inside or back to my office to grab my camera.  I want to capture a moment that has reminded me of God's faithfulness. [you can imagine my sorrow when I realized my camera was not working when I grabbed it from my bag on our way to Wisconsin on Friday....I'm still working on the blessing of my broken camera. : ( ]

Anyhow, the Farmer walks into the kitchen just as Ann is focusing her camera to get a picture of a plate of grated cheese,
I like finding you just like this...You being happy in all these little things that God gives. It makes me very happy. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 56)
Happiness and joy.

Joy is part of living life to the fullest, and joy is always given, never grasped.  God gives gifts and I give thanks.  It is in the giving thanks that I receive and unwrap the gift of joy.

I want the spirituality, the peace, the joy of the masters....yet, I must learn, I must Ann I do this by finding blessings in something like a plate of grated cheese.
Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant - a seed - this plants the giant miracle...Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life - even the hard - is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole...There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 57)
 Ephesians 5:20 says, "And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Like Ann, I have read this, I have used it in sermons...yet I struggle.  I struggle to find the blessing in small things like a broken camera.  I REALLY struggle to find the blessing in bigger things like young mothers battling cancer, failed crops, physical pain....

Yet, by sitting with the frustration of a broken camera or the fear and uncertainty of cancer...I miss the sign of Life and Love that is around me.
But in this counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life. A lifetime of sermons on "thanks in all things" and the shelves sagging with books on these things and I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time. (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 57)
Little nails and a steady is this that will rebuild my life....will build transformation of peace and joy.

Eucharisteo precedes the miracle.

It is with this insight that Ann snaps a picture of cheese.

I have been putting off taking several steps that would lead me to emotional health, physical health, and spiritual health.

One, posting on this journal helps to keep me focused on spiritual health, but this time then pushes aside the exercise I desperately need for my physical health.  November is the month in which many of us focus on gratitude, and this November....I want to make some changes in my life so that I can better embrace the many gifts God has showered upon me.

Small steps... Small steps when I want to be running a marathon! : )



One small step....I guess it is time to get out of the boat!

I'm not sure how becoming more serious about exercise will affect my blogging small step.... and trust that Spirit will lead me as I strive toward I strive toward a life lived fully.

It is only through your Spirit that I can "Surrender All".  Yet, as I struggle with my issues of control, fear of letting go....As I read and as I desire to live fully in You...I know you love me for my desire to live fully in hope, peace, love and joy....and that you will always be near to guide me and encourage me.  Thank you. Amen.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Peace is.....

Now, may the Lord of Peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

I had Indian for lunch today.

The scents of the small restaurant were wonderful and I enjoyed the different tastes.  Besides the scents and tastes, I enjoyed lunch with a friend with whom I can probe the theology of the church and share thoughts and questions I only raise in a few safe spaces.

Coming home, I opened Eugene Peterson's "The Message" and my eyes fell upon the verse from 2 Thess. I read it several times and then did a search for a quote on thanks/joy/peace and I discovered this quote by....Ann Voskamp!
I have sat, studying and reflecting on this quote.....

Some days I am uncertain exactly how to explain matters of faith.

Days such as this often leave me feeling unsettled and restless.  Today, reading this quote by Ann a few minutes after reading the passage from 2 Thessalonians I thought...

1. Peace does not come within circumstances.

2. Paul reminds me I can learn to be grateful within any circumstances.

3. I may not always agree with the theology of the of my circumstances.

Ann Voskamp has also written that she believes Peace is a Person.

You know....there are days I wish I could simply hear for myself what Jesus said, rather than reading what others have written he said.  Yet, even though I have questions regarding the writings of New Testament authors, I do agree with Ann, that Peace is a Person.

Peace is this Person, Jesus, that someday I just can't wait to hear what he has to say for myself!

Until then....

I can continue to practice the disciplines he taught (pausing, prayer, study.....) and within these disciplines, be grateful.

I'm going to be spending a few days with my family...for that I am grateful!

Blessings for a weekend of beauty, compassion, and discovery.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It Takes Practice

It's hard to think that the insulting ordinariness of this truly teaches the full mystery of the all most important, eucharisteo. It's so frustratingly common - it's offensive. ~ AnnVoskamp

Drew's family is proud of his accomplishments of learning to play the piano.  I remember painstakingly playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  All the while yearning to play a much more complicated concerto!

It takes practice to learn anything!

From learning to speak, to write, ride a bike, play the piano.... It takes practice to learn to be still and centered before God.  And all the while I yearn to be like the great spiritual teachers.
Some days I coax hard. I am tired. I don't know if it's the way the oney light runs down the walls and sticks to all the dust lying still on every surface, or if a fog films over the eyes, or if I am plain deceived...I try taking up eucharisteo because I have known it before, that joy-miracle that might happen even now and here.  (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p 54)
Like Ann, I do feel happy when I pause to notice (I"m still not writing...pausing, but not writing.)
I do feel that. Happy when I name. But the porridge pot soaks in the sink and I don't know. How much is my tongue, tail of the heart, learning the real language of eucharisteo? I forget Eden and naming and nails, and it all seems just a bit...juvenile. (Voskamp, p 55)
Oh, does this resonate with my heathen heart.

Honestly, I don't want to learn anything at the moment! I just want to "be"! I want to be like the saints I read and study! I want to be able to express their hard language of faith! I want to be able to fluently speak the language of thanksgiving!

Like Ann writes, I want the very fullest life...and I want it now!

I want it without the work and practice.

As I began this post sharing:  It's so frustratingly common that it is almost offensive... 

Driving nails into a life always is. (Ibid)
Paul said it twice that even he had to learn.  And like anything else, learning takes practice.  C.S. Lewis wrote: If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it's not so bad.

What I appreciate so much about Ann is her honesty.
This is why I had never really learned the language of "thanks in all things!" Though pastors preached it, I still came home and griped on. I had never PRACTICED. Practiced until it became the second nature, the first skin. (Ibid)
This morning Sarah Young soothed my frazzled heart as I read her devotion in Jesus Calling:
Do not be discouraged by the difficulty of keeping your focus on Me. I know that your heart's desire is to be aware of My Presence continually. This is a lofty goal: you aim toward it but never fully achieve it in this life. Don't let feelings of failure weigh you down. Instead, try to see yourself as I see you. First of all, I am delighted by your deep desire to walk closely with Me through your life. I am pleased each time you initiate communication with Me. In addition, I notice the progress you have made since you first resolved to live in My Presence...Rejoice in these tiny triumphs, and they wil increasingly light up your days.
I needed this reassurance this morning.

I am tired.  I have a full plate.  And....I just do not want to pick up a pen and begin practicing!

Practice must be the most difficult thing when it comes to learning, yet I know (in my head) that this practice...this training is the very essence of transformation.  Ann concludes this portion by writing:
Practice, practice, practice. Hammer. Hammer. Hammer
Lord, you know my heart.  You know my fatigue.  You know I am resisting having to PRACTICE!!  Like a child, I do not want to commit to working on/practicing on that which can save my life. This fatigue is my Giant and through the story of David, I know you are here with the midst... I am grateful to be reminded that you love me and that you celebrate that at least I yearn!! : ) Praise be to God!

Many Blessings ~ Sandi