post and photos by June Friesen,
A day has been set aside for all of us in the world to celebrate gratitude. It is interesting that in a world of beauty and bounty in so many ways for so many, we struggle with what I call an ‘attitude of gratitude.’ Over the past twenty years of my life, I have been repeatedly challenged at how often I quickly become ungrateful in my own life. Psalm 42 is one of my ‘go to Psalms’ and in the King James version it begins, ‘As the hart/deer pants for water so my soul thirsteth after Thee O God….’ A discipline that I was encouraged to develop through a book I was reading years ago was the key to my own development of gratitude along with Psalm 42.
A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek;
I want to drink God, deep drafts of God.
I’m thirsty for God-alive.
I wonder, “Will I ever make it— arrive and drink in God’s presence?”
I’m on a diet of tears— tears for breakfast, tears for supper.
All day long people knock at my door,
Pestering, “Where is this God of yours?”
4 These are the things I go over and over,
emptying out the pockets of my life.
I was always at the head of the worshiping crowd, right out in front,
Leading them all, eager to arrive and worship,
Shouting praises, singing thanksgiving—
celebrating, all of us, God’s feast!
5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God— soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.
6-8 When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you,
From Jordan depths to Hermon heights, including Mount Mizar.
Chaos calls to chaos, to the tune of whitewater rapids.
Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers crash and crush me.
Then God promises to love me all day, sing songs all through the night!
My life is God’s prayer.
9-10 Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God, “Why did you let me down?
Why am I walking around in tears, harassed by enemies?”
They’re out for the kill, these tormentors with their obscenities,
Taunting day after day, “Where is this God of yours?”
11 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God— soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He is my God.
When I think of gratitude my heart is overwhelmed with so many thoughts, so much bounty, so many gifts God has given. However, along with that, I am also reminded of many who may not enjoy the bounty I have around me whether in nature, in a secure home, in daily provisions being met and they are often thankful for just waking up alive each morning. There are those whose bodies are handicapped sometimes from birth and sometimes from situations that arise along their life pathway. Yet I am amazed as well as blessed at their attitudes of gratefulness. A mother who is blind enjoys the touch and sound of her infant and child as they grow; a father who is handicapped, in a wheelchair, is able to have his child sit in his lap and they go for a ride, for families who have been separated for months because of travel restrictions caused by Covid who have been able to connect through zoom, face time, and maybe like I did – preparing fun parcel gifts to send in the mail. Life really is so much about attitude and it is an attitude of ungratefulness that leads one quickly into despair, anger, and bitterness which blocks one from embracing the beauty that is present, as little or small as it may be from time to time. I have shared with you here several photos of natural beauty that I have had the privilege of enjoying over the past weeks/years. Below is a varied bounty of food (limited as it is) that we enjoy not only because it is available to eat but because God has created us with a sense of smell and a sense of taste.
LIVING WITH A GRATEFUL SPIRIT
Life is a gift from the beginning –
That first breath, that first cry, as the heart beats and breath fills the lungs –
Life begins with a pulsating heart that courses blood throughout the body
Nourishing the cells;
Life continues on as nourishment fills the body with energy and growth;
Life grows into fulfillment day by day, year by year
As one learns to live and embrace the moment at hand, one by one.
Gratitude is a gift that one learns when embracing a thankful spirit –
A ‘thank you’ for a meal or a treat;
A ‘thank you’ for a flower or a gift;
A ‘thank you’ for a walk in the rain,
A ‘thank you’ for the fall of a snowflake on one’s tongue,
A ‘thank you’ for the crunch of a cracker or chip,
A ‘thank you’ for a warm fire on a chilly day,
A ‘thank you’ for the breeze on a warm, warm day,
A ‘ thank you’ for a hug as one heaves a heavy sigh,
A ‘thank you’ __________________…..
So, in a world where we take all good things for granted
Until they are gone or nearly gone –
How does one carry a spirit of gratefulness within – and without?
It comes with a change of heart or what I call an attitude adjustment,
When it is extremely hot outside, I am grateful for a home with air conditioning/fans;
When it is raining outside, I am grateful for the new and continued growth it will bring;
When I sit down to eat I am thankful for my sense of smell and of taste;
When I miss my family who is far away, I am thankful for the telephone, letters, and parcels;
When I have to say that forever goodbye to someone dear,
I may weep but I also choose to embrace the friendship and memories we shared;
Today I choose to be grateful for each of you who also chooses to be grateful;
Together we can not only celebrate, but we can invite others on this wonderful journey;
You, I and they will all become more grateful, especially grateful for each other.
June Friesen 2021
(The book where I learned of a gratitude journal is Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach)
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by Christine Sine,
Can you imagine if the whole world took a day to say thank you? Tomorrow, September 21st is World Gratitude Day. This celebration began in Hawaii in 1965 and was adopted by the United Nations but unfortunately, it is not as yet a day that has become universally celebrated.
What do we all have to be thankful for, you may wonder? In a world that is still suffering terribly from the effects of COVID and the economic impact on our lives, the aftermath of hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires, our fears about climate change, and our uncertain future; how do we come together as a global community and say thank you?
My new mantra “I thank you God for the gift of life, a wondrous gift so freely given” and which I will share more about at our Gearing Up for a Season of Gratitude online retreat on Saturday, revolutionized my life. Each morning as I sit in my sacred space with my cup of tea in my hand, I recite these words and relish the thoughts that come to me. I am amazed at what has welled up from the centre of my being. God has placed so many gratitudes within me that need to be expressed.
One day I found myself focusing on the new opportunities that each day brings – opportunities to appreciate the beauty and incredible diversity of our world, and to share the love and compassion of God, and to enjoy the creativity that God placed within me. The following day I gave thanks for the organizations Tom and I support that help us fulfill our desire for justice and equality and sustainability in this world. I am so grateful that our concerns for this world and its inhabitants are shared by so many others who are much better able than we are to respond.
On another day, after reading @blackliturgies on Instagram, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the rich and varied gifts that God has placed within each person in this world. Then there was the day that I sat and basked in gratitude for the memories of my childhood adventures, all evoked by watching the movie Swallows and Amazons on Amazon Prime. I grew up with this series of 12 books but Swallows and Amazons, the first in the series, was always my favourite. I entered vicariously into the adventures of others and it stirred into being a life lived in the open spaces of my imagination, a gift that even now spurs my creativity.
Can you see the trend here? This focus on the wondrous gift of life took my gratitudes from “me” to “we” and convinced me that gratitude needed to embrace the whole world with words of thanks and with actions of support and provision.
Evidently, there are 17 nations in the world that hold thanksgiving celebrations. It is not confined to the U.S. and Canada, though many of these were influenced by the American celebrations, as this article documents. Sadly, what began in many places as national celebrations tended to become more family-oriented private events. So today I encourage you to think about one small thing you could do to help make September 21st into a day of worldwide gratitude. Perhaps this Thanksgiving dinner blessing written by Adam Lee, an atheist will help:
As we come together to share this meal, let us first remember how it came to us and be thankful to the people who made it possible.
This food was born from the bounty of the earth, in warm sunlight, rich earth, and cool rain.
May it nourish us, in body and mind, and provide us with the things that are good for living.
We are grateful to those who cultivated it, those who harvested it, those who brought it to us, and those who prepared it.
May its consumption bring about the pleasures of friendship, love and good company.
Join us on September 29th at 9am PST for the Facebook Live session with Christine Sine and Lilly Lewin. The recording will be available on YouTube later today if you cannot join live.
A contemplative service from St Andrews Episcopal church in Seattle with music in the spirit of Taize. Carrie Grace Littauer, prayer leader, with music by Kester Limner and Andy Myers.
Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from One License with license #A-710-756 with additional notes below:
“Nada Te Turbe” and “Što Oko Ne Vidje (What No Eye has Seen)” are songs from the ecumenical Taize community in France. Copyright and all rights reserved by GIA/Les Presses de Taizé.
“Bring Your Peace,” “Kyrie,” and “Parable Song” are original compositions. Music and lyrics by Kester Limner and Andy Myers, shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY)
Thank you for praying with us!
by Tom Sine,
“Faith-based disaster relief groups balance COVID safety with speedy response to Hurricane Ida”. A spectrum of faith-based disaster relief groups were prepared to respond to Hurricane Ida when it recently struck homes and communities in Lousiana, Mississippi, and other southern states.
These Christian relief organizations sponsored by a number of denominations were prepared to respond to Hurricane Ida before it ever arrived. In 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change, we outline how not only denominations but local churches can also be prepared for new and increasing waves of natural disasters and other forms of disruptive change.
Here is a quick description of how some denominations prepared to deal with the impact of Hurricane Ida on hundreds of communities. For example, “Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church [USA], focuses on long-term recovery after natural disasters”. This organization is still “doing rebuilding work in Lake Charles, Louisiana after it was hit hard by Hurricanes Lara and Delta in 2020”.
These days, Presbyterian volunteers are required to be vaccinated so they don’t put the communities where they are serving at any greater risk.
The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team are equipped to be able to “serve tens of thousands of meals a day” when Hurricane Ida struck. A number of these denominational disaster response groups actually began putting supplies in place before Ida made landfall on August 29, 2021. They created ways to keep in “constant contact with church leaders and other volunteer” agencies to coordinate their disaster response efforts.
Join those Prepping for Disaster Next in Your Home, Church, & Community
Since we find ourselves living in a decade of accelerating change and increasing environmental disruptions, it is important that leaders in local churches enable not only their members but also those in their communities to prep for Disaster Next where they live.
“During last week alone, millions of people across the country experienced catastrophic emergencies. Hurricane Ida left millions of Louisiana residents without power or without access to food and water. Flash floods in New Jersey and New York caught many people off guard. Near Lake Tahoe… some residents evacuated in less than an hour after an evacuation order as fires threatened their homes. In August, flash floods ravaged central Tennessee, and in February year, millions of people in Texas were left without electricity and water following a winter storm.
Unfortunately, climate scientists now warn that weather emergencies like these may be the new normal, as climate change leads to heavier rains, stronger hurricanes, more tornadoes and bigger wildfires. The average number of climate- and weather-related disasters per decade has increased nearly 35 percent since the 1990s, according to the World Disasters Report.”
In times like these, we need to motivate both those in our churches and communities to prepare for Disaster Next by joining those creating: The Go Bag & The Stay Bin.
The Go Bag
“’No matter where you live, every home should have a ‘go bag’ and a ‘stay bin.’ The go bag is what you grab when you have to leave the house in a hurry, whether it’s to get to the emergency room or to evacuate” because of a fire or hurricane. “The stay bin is a two-week stash” of essentials “in the event you have to hunker down at home without power, water or heat.”
“Creating a go bag and a stay bin does not make you an alarmist or someone who lives in fear of the apocalypse. It just means you’re prepared… I came home to a wrecked apartment because an upstairs neighbor had left his water running. (I was able to rescue my passport and my cats, but I lost everything I owned.) The hardest part about creating a go bag is getting started. You don’t need to do it all at once. I started with a Ziploc bag and placed my passport, birth certificates and other important documents inside. Then I added an extra pair of reading glasses. Last year, I added a phone charger to my go bag because an emergency room doctor told me it’s the single most requested item in the ER….
I also added some masks, which we all need now because of Covid-19, but you might also need a mask if you’re fleeing a fire or a chemical spill… Recently, I upgraded my go bag to a more sturdy Stasher reusable silicone bag and added some emergency cash (small bills are best). I also added a list of phone numbers to reach family members and friends in the event that I end up in the ER….
You should also have a few days’ supply of your essential medications. Pack a few water bottles and granola bars for the traffic jam on the evacuation route or the long wait in the E.R.”
The Stay Bin
In the event “you need to hunker down, you probably already have a lot of the essentials for a stay bin” that might be needed in a stay-at-home emergency. “The stay bins should also have a two-week supply of bottled water and nonperishable food, pet food, toilet paper and personal hygiene supplies. Flash lights, lanterns, candles, lighters and firewood are important. (Wire-cutter recommends a head lamp.) A battery-powered or crank weather radio as well as a solar phone charger will help you cope with power outages. Extra blankets are a good idea. Other items that are often recommended are duct tape, a multipurpose tool, trash bags for sanitation, and hand wipes and sanitizer. If your prescription plan allows it, order an extra supply of your medications or ask your doctor for some free samples” to have in case of an emergency.
I’ve also created a crisis notebook in the event of a health emergency. My advice is to just get started today with what you have handy and work on acquiring more items over time. A little planning and preparation goes a long way in any emergency.”
By planning ahead for the unexpected in our own lives, we will also be more available to help our neighbors, during Disaster Next like the Christian relief organizations that responded to those hammered by Ida.
Why don’t you motivate those in your own church and community to be prepared for Disaster Next for yourselves and your neighbors?
We would love to share some examples of people who help others prepare for Disaster Next where you live. I will post some of your creative responses on this site to inspire others in this time of accelerating change. Contact me.
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I love giving gifts and I love receiving them too. This summer, we did a whole series on the Gifts of a Sacred Summer, including REST, PLAY, SILENCE, GRATITUDE, LOVE, CREATING, and BEING IN NATURE. The Gift of Wonder is the title of Christine’s Book. WONDER is an amazing gift to open daily! But I’m not sure anyone really likes to open the GIFT OF INTERRUPTION! When I was the administrative assistant at a large church, I used to say the job description needed to be “the ability to handle the gift of interruption!”.
If I’m honest, it’s not one of my favorite gifts to open!
I like the plans I’ve made and I like things to go the way I’ve planned.
Last month, we experienced the gift of interruption while on our summer holiday. We were finally going to be together as a family for the first time since Christmas 2019. We have the gift of a family cottage that we get to use on Lake Michigan and it’s a thinplace for us. A place of rest, connection, and the time we get to reset for the next season. We arrived on Monday night, celebrated Rob’s birthday on Tuesday night, and just after dinner, after starting the laundry and dishwasher, a storm blew over the lake and blew over trees into the power lines. The power was out for five days. Now I totally know that this isn’t as bad as what happened in New Orleans or the North East with power outages post-Hurricane Ida. But this just wasn’t what I’d hope for…
At the cottage, when the power goes out, the water goes out too! Thanks to Covid, I’m used to washing my hands multiple times a day. I found myself standing at the sink with hands covered in soap just to realize that the water didn’t work.
Or, I’d walk into a room and want to turn on the lights… habit.
I’m grateful that I always take battery candles on vacations because we used them everywhere.
And instead of restful, rhythmic days at the lake, we were going to get ice or walking down the street to fill jugs with water to flush the toilets… doing laundry at the laundromat, and trying to salvage the two weeks of groceries I brought from home.
This interruption showed me that I have less margin than I thought I had.
I wasn’t prepared. I thought I was rested and had taken time out over the summer to refill my cup, but along with the electricity being out, the world decided to get crazier and interrupt things further.
The crisis in Afghanistan happened, a horrific earthquake in Haiti, and then mask wars in my home state of Tennessee, which now has the worst Covid numbers of the pandemic. I just didn’t have the bandwidth for all of this!
An Interruption of peace
An Interruption of presence
Interruption of the plans I’d made for a fun time with our sons.
Interruption of time
Interruption of relationships
Interruption of trust in my fellow man.
An Interruption of the plans I’d made for fall because the variant canceled things.
I realized I needed to stop and remember JESUS!
On hearing this, Jesus slipped away privately by boat to be alone. But when the crowds discovered he had sailed away, they emerged from all the nearby towns and followed him on foot. 14 So when Jesus landed he had a huge crowd waiting for him. Seeing so many people, his heart was deeply moved with compassion toward them, so he healed all the sick who were in the crowd. Matthew 14:13-14 (The Passion Translation)
When Jesus tried to go on retreat, he got interrupted too!
The crowds followed him.
Instead of getting angry and frustrated like I did,
Jesus had compassion.
Jesus healed them.
Jesus fed them.
Jesus showed up even in the interruption.
What about you? What interruptions have you experienced lately?
How are you doing with these interruptions?
Could interruptions be gifts in disguise rather than just frustrations that make you want to pull your hair out?
What if you could have compassion for yourself? What if you could allow Jesus to show you his gift of compassion and healing just for you? How would that make a difference?
I realized in receiving this gift of interruption that I need to find BALANCE.
I need to rebuild peace and rhythm.
I need to do the practices that help me stay grounded with Jesus.
- taking prayer walks
- painting/doing art
- making time to call or see friends
- practicing gratefulness… I’m keeping a gratitude list, adding to it each night before bed, and saying thank you to God before I get out of bed each day.
- giving myself permission to be just where I am, in all the messiness of the day and remembering that Jesus is with me showing me compassion and love.
What things help you find balance? What practices give you peace and restore your rhythm with God? Take some time to consider this over the next few days.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” JESUS
And we’d love you to join us for our retreat next weekend. We will be live on Zoom together on Saturday, September 25th. Gearing up for a Season of Gratitude. A great way to build some rhythm and find some peace!
photos and writings by June Friesen,
As one ponders this phrase it can bring many things to mind as well as it can cause one to feel many emotions. Life is seasonal yet so often we find ourselves unsettled and maybe even ‘wanting’ for another thing or something else…in the summer one tends to complain about the ‘hot’ days, in the fall there are times one complains about the ‘frost’, in the winter one may complain about the blinding snowstorm/frigid weather and in spring it may be feeling overwhelmed with so much to get done such as preparing for planting and planting itself. The writer of Ecclesiastes took particular time to draw his readers’ attention to ‘time’/’times’ –
3 There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
2-8 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.
9-13 But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.
14 I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear.
I am not sure what phrase/verse may have caught your attention or eye but this time when I read it the last phrase stood out: ‘simply worship in holy fear.’ Ah… to simply worship God… in/with acceptance of what is and/or where I happen to be. How might that change my perspective in life/in my life in particular? Over the many years of my life and experiences, some things have been good, some great, some not so good, and some I even think back on as just not so good at all. However, that being said, I have also learned many years ago that the most important thing that I can do is to remember that God is in charge 24/7, every day, every week, every year so long as I have physical life on this earth. How practical this became in my life goes back to a response to an experience I had 12 years ago hiking in a valley when I stepped off a path to go down to a creek and in the thick underbrush was a branch that snapped. I fell, shattering my ankle. I remember laying back on the ground, looking up through the treetops towards the sun with this prayer, “God, You alone know all that I have to do in the next two months; I am Yours and this situation I give to You. It is now Your problem.” That changed my response to everything, and God did a miraculous healing even though it took some time. At 72 years I now can still run. I have a daily reminder of two scars. On one side the scar appears as praying hands and on the other side a heart.
A SEASON OF GRATITUDE
God, as one ponders the beauty of the harvest time,
One sees the colors change;
While the changing colors are actually preparing for a time of rest –
Rest for several weeks/months, we embrace them with thankful spirits.
We see the sprigs of remaining flowers decorating a few spaces,
Soon to be just empty stalks and then no more.
We see the trees heavy with fruit for harvest,
Some to be enjoyed by humans and some for the animals’ nourishment.
We see the gardens with the last harvests ready of
Potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and more that will be prepared for winter food.
As one ponders with gratitude the four seasons of nature
We too should remember that there are seasons of gratitude in one’s life –
There are times of quiet, stillness –
When God desires that we just ‘be’
As He prepares us for new beginnings and life.
There are times of struggle and maybe even some frustration, maybe even some rebellion…
When God is doing a new beginning, a new growing in our life.
There are times when there is a flourish of activity and so many things/people are calling
And God gives wisdom, strength, and knowledge to share as well as to nurture self and others,
There are times when there is harvesting – seeing others around us bursting forth
With new beginnings, new careers, education plans,
Reaping the benefits of hard work, nurturing received, and now maturation.
And so it is that the seasons will begin all over again
In new ways, with new things, with new people as well as the same people –
In ourself hopefully, we will begin to see that embracing the present season in the moment
Will bring great blessing when the process of life is completed.
Thanks be to God for designing seasons in nature
But also designing seasons of life and giving us the grace and wisdom to live through them.
Amen and amen.
June Friesen 2021
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by Rev Sheila Hamil,
I was reading Luke 5:1-11, in our church’s set reading for today: (020921) when some words jumped out at me. “Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch!”
It took me back to a time when my husband and I were on our first ever, and our only, ‘exotic holiday’, following our retirement. We were both snorkelling on a coral reef in the sunshine, amazed at finding such a wonderful variety of fish beneath the surface of the water, and it was all so exciting, so colourful; a brand new experience for us both.
One morning though, I became adventurous, and I decided to move on out from the reef into deep water! I glided into a brand new world, out in the blue beyond, and I entered a totally surreal environment. At first I was elated. I had the strangest sensation that I was taking off from a cliff in slow motion, out into nothingness, all stretched out and soaring, wonderfully supported by the vast water beneath me.
It was so freeing and exhilarating!
The experience didn’t last very long though, because all of a sudden, I became aware that I had left the warm shallow waters behind me, and was entering a noiseless expanse where I felt a sudden chill on my skin. My entire body had become cold, and I began to feel afraid. After all, what strange creatures were lurking in the shadows? I turned myself round, and immediately headed straight back to where I felt safe and warm, and where everything was familiar once more.
In our reading, ‘the deep’ is where Jesus says his fish are to be found, way out there, not in the shallows; in other words not in the safety of our homes or churches, but in the world outside.
During lockdown we’ve grown accustomed to the comfort and protection of worship at home, by way of Zoom or by streaming in real time, where absolutely nothing is demanded of us. All we’ve had to do is switch on the power, click onto the given link, look in and worship.
Perhaps it’s time to consider going out once more, where it isn’t comfortable, where it doesn’t feel safe, and where bigger challenges lurk menacingly like unknown monsters from the deep. But to be able to become fishers of people, we need to do it together, supporting one another, and in fellowship with others. Jesus calls us not to remain forever in the warm shallows of our own existence, but to get out there where the poor, the needy, the lonely, and the exile are already enveloped in the chill waters. Perhaps we’re being called again to swim alongside them. (But let’s not forget to put our protective masks on though!)
There’s a saying:
‘Ships are safe in the harbour, but that’s not what ships are for!”
The song above ‘Stir into Flame’ was inspired by 2 Timothy Chapter 1:6
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