Adventures in Thanks-Living

Living the gift of life one breath at a time

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

Be it Resolved…

In just a few hours, 2011 will be history and a new year will begin. It’s doubtful I’ll be able to stay awake long enough to usher it in. We probably won’t even leave the house since we both have worship leadership responsibilities in the morning, but that’s just fine. We are content to see the year out quietly in spending quality time together.

Many people will start 2012 with laudable resolutions surrounding better health, sound financial management, or stronger relationships. These desires are good ones, but all too often resolutions don’t last very long and leave one feeling discouraged by “failure.”

I am not making any resolutions this year; rather, I’m adopting a theme and an attitude in continuing my adventure in “thanks-living.” I intend to make 2012 an entire year of “thanks-living” by engaging in specific, conscious practices, thoughts, and actions each day through this blog.

I invite you to join me. Tell your friends. Let’s make this small space on the web an intentional community and gathering of folks dedicated to living life with gratitude. together we can develop a presence that reflects an attitude and practice of living thankfully and with awareness of the precious gift of each breath and moment of life.

What kind of commitment will this require? That’s up to you. It could simply be the 10 minutes or so of reading a blog post every day or it can involve a more substantial investment of time and energy. The choice is yours. There are no gratitude police lurking in cyberspace.

Imagine what might happen if every person reading this decided to devote 15 minutes each day to “thanks-living,” and in turn invited a friend to join in the practice. One small “troubling of the waters” could lead to a ripple effect felt and lived by many.

So, be it resolved that for me 2012 will be the year of “thanks-living.” How about you?

Photo by blueyedA73 used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

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Thankful to Express Thanks

This has been an amazing year full of change, closure, beginnings, joy, and delight! In addition to moving, marrying my best friend and muse, beginning an exciting new call, and undertaking some meaty writing projects, I’ve also shifted my mental location to a place of living in a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness.

I’ve always been a pretty optimistic and grateful person, seeing life’s glass as being half full rather than half empty, but this mind shift has more to do with recognizing God’s abundance and how that is poured out in each and every day. It’s pretty cool stuff, and all one has to do is start to look for it. What happens is that you begin to see more and more for which to be thankful and grateful.

When I was living in upstate New York, our bishop, Marie Jerge, often reminded us of God’s goodness with this simple call and response statement:

“God is good all the time!”

“All the time, God is good!”

Say that a few times in a room full of teenagers at a Lutheran camp or LYO event, and see how much more positively disposed you are to experiencing God’s abundance!

So today I thank all of you for stopping by and sharing a little thanksliving with me. I hope you’ll continue the journey into the new year. I am simply thankful to be able to express thanks.

How about you? To whom do you want and/or need to say thank you? Isn’t is wonderful to have the freedom and capability to express thanks?

Thanks-doing

Looking for a good way to stay in touch with people in this season of light and love? Didn’t get all the Christmas cards sent out that you’d wanted to? Here’s a “thanks-doing” that only requires a note, stamp, and a little time. Click here to visit the Mother Nature Website for an explanation of “New Year’s Gratitude Cards by blogger Starre Vartan.

Photo by artgoeshere used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

 

Thankful for a “Do-Almost-Nothing” Day

Today was a “do-almost-nothing” or “do-as-little-as-possible” day in the Blezard household. After the Christmas worship services, preparing the family meal, and enjoying good times opening presents and playing games, it was time to decompress. In fact, the only activities that caused us to leave the house were four trips up the street to the site of several “Spatchy” sightings (more on that in a minute) and a walk to the cemetery with the dogs. Other than that it was a lazy day of naps, conversation, and uninterrupted reading for the adults.

This Christmas, our first together as a blended family, was wonderful on most counts. It was a bit traumatic where the animals were concerned. Our way cool and much beloved cat somehow managed to sneak out on a rainy night which put a “damper” over the holiday. We posted flyers around town, and just this morning a young person called saying he had seen her getting into the dumpster near their apartment. Hence our trips up the street to look for her and leave food for her. Still no actual sighting for us, however.

The second animal event happened on Christmas afternoon with our Springer Spaniel. Pete has been having seizures of late, and the last one has definitely left him with some behavioral changes including enhanced counter surfing capabilities. Mr. Husband had left a pan of yeast rolls rising on the back of the stove. We went next door to the church to put our turkey in the refrigerator there until dinner time. While we were gone, Pete managed to finagle the pan onto the floor and had devoured all but one of the unbaked rolls. What happens when active yeasty dough meets warm belly? Yes, you guessed it; severe bloat and bellyache. Were it not for the real fear of a serious medical condition we would have enjoyed much laughter at poor Pete’s expense. Fortunately, he came through it alright, although he did barf most of the rolls onto the living room floor.

Aside from the animal trauma and the typical parish pastor post-Christmas fatigue, it was a glorious weekend. The worship in both parishes was wonderful, the generosity and love shared all around was something to behold, the food delicious, and the reason for the season–the gift of the Christ Child, the Word made flesh–was again humbling, amazing, and gratefully received. Yes, a “do-almost-nothing” day on December 26 is indeed something for which to be thankful.

For what are you grateful on this second day of Christmas?

NOTE: Congratulations to Natasha for winning last week’s contest. I know where to find you and will have your notes waiting. Thanks for sharing your experience!

REQUEST: Please include a prayer for our kitty if you’re so inclined. We hope to spot her and bring her home soon. It’s been a joy to know she’s still alive and close by; it would be so much more wonderful to have her back with us. Thank you!

REMINDER: Adventures in Thanksliving will return on a regular basis on January 1, 2012, with enhanced content and a focus on a year-long life of thanksliving. Hope to see you there!

Photo by GabriellaP93 used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

 

Words for the Week & a Contest

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Paul knew a thing or two about thanks-living. He faced some pretty tough circumstances and even managed to be cheery in prison. Seems like his tri-fold admonition is a potent recipe for experiencing a daily attitude of gratitude.

How about a little thanks-living challenge this week? As you ponder St. Paul’s words, live them out by doing these three things:

1.  Find reason to laugh and be joyful each day.

2.  Pray as often as you’re moved to do so during the day. It doesn’t have to be formal and fancy, just a conversation with the Creator at any time in any place.

3.  Finally, find at least one (but hopefully more) reason to give thanks and/or say thank you to someone every day.

Are you up for the challenge? Here’s a little incentive…

Sometime between now and next Sunday (12/18) post a response to this blog entry about your experience with the challenge.  If you do, you’ll be entered in a random drawing to win a package of DaySpring thank you notes (a handy thing to have this time of year). Each response is one entry, so feel free to post throughout the week. If you’re not already a subscriber, you’ll need to post your e-mail so I can let you know if you’ve won.

Have a great week of gratitude and thanks-living!

Photo by tshien used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Thankful for Tea and Good Reading!

For the past several days I have been dealing with the annoyance of my biannual sinus infection. It seems to come calling every Advent and Easter. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is the fact that as a pastor I tend to be busier during those two seasons of the year, and I also come into contact with a lot of germs. It seems like half the population of Central Pennsylvania is coughing and/or sneezing and sniffling right now.

When energy and resistance are low, I’ve learned to try to nip the situation in the bud with a quick visit to my family practitioner and an antibiotic. Heaven forbid I should cough and hack during Christmas eve service! I also try (ha!) to get as much extra rest as possible, ingest as much vitamin C as practical, and drink pots of Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Sinus Soother Wellness Tea.

It seems to speed the healing when I slow down and sip a warm cup of tea and read a good book. Quite often I’ll find myself dozing off, and that’s alright because sleep is one of the best things to restore health and repair damage at the cellular level. I’ve learned over the years that if I keep pushing myself, I’ll only end up sicker for a longer period of time.

Good reading material another thing I’m thankful for today. I usually keep two or three books in circulation at any given time, a combination of vocational and pleasure reading. Right now I’m enjoying these selections:

The Gospel According to Starbucks: Living Life with a Grande Passion by Leonard Sweet. We’re using this book for discussion at Coffee, Tea, & Theology, Trinity’s book group. Sweet suggests that like Starbucks, Christians need to recapture a true passion for the good news. He uses the acronym E.P.I.C. (experiential, participatory, image-rich, connecting) for how this might be accomplished. Our group is enjoying both the book and the conversation and sense of community. Good stuff!

Living Spaces: Bringing Style and Spirit to Your Home by Marlee Ledai. My mother gave me this book, and I’m just now getting around to reading it and enjoying it thoroughly. Ledai is an spiritual director, life coach, and author. The book deals with appreciating one’s home as the place where God and the reader have taken up residence. Room by room she invites one into an intimate exploration of hearth, home, and soul. In fact, each chapter features a “soul project” activity deepen and personalize the concepts therein.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. My oldest daughter gave me her Nook, and this book was on it. Since I enjoy a good thriller, and the movie is coming out December 21, 2011, I decided to read it. It is a page-turner (well, not with the Nook, even though sometimes I’m so engrossed in the story that I try to turn a page instead of click forward). It will be interesting to see how the film compares to Larsson’s novel.

Finally, here’s a link to a wonderful blog post I read this morning. I follow Alex Blackwell’s blog The Bridgemaker, and I encourage you to read “The Truth about You.” It won’t take long, but you’ll be glad you did. There’s a message here we all need to hear and share. It deals with loving yourself so that you can in turn love your neighbor. Click here to read Alex’s inspiring post.

Well, it’s nap time. I need to work on feeling better because tomorrow is Sunday, and the pastor needs to be on her toes (or at least not croaking like a frog). If you want, share a note about what you’re reading right now and your favorite tea or hot beverage.

Peace and blessing and a grateful heart!

Photos by Harsh Patel, photographer and Celestial Seasonings used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

 

 

 

Thankful to Hug my Child

Today, I am simply thankful to be able to hug my youngest child and know that she is sleeping safely in our house. My oldest daughter is half a world away, but thanks for Facebook, Gmail, and Skype I can at least see and chat with her.

The reason I’m so thankful to simply be able to hug my child is because life is so very, very fragile and fleeting. This week in central PA, eight young people lost their lives in terrible car accidents–both in the afternoon right after school and within a 24 hour span of time. Five students were from the same high school in New Oxford, and the other three were members of the same family. The community is numb.

Over 5,000 teens age 16-20 are the victims of fatal car accidents each year in the United States. When your child heads out the door to school you don’t think it could be the last time you will see her. Yet we never know. We only have the promise of the present moment.

My heart aches for the parents of these eight young men and women. I can only imagine their pain. For now, for this day and this moment, I am among the lucky ones, but the reality is that could change in an instant.

No matter how much you are irritated by what your children may or may not do, be sure to tell them you love them every time they leave your presence. Never take their lives for granted. They are precious. Life is precious. Part of thanks-living is always remembering just how fleeting and fragile our existence really is. Hug your child. Kiss your spouse. Tell your parents how much they mean to you. Remember your friends and tell them how important they are.

Photo by Julie McLeod used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

 

 

Thankful for the Gift of Music

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

~ Berthold Auerbach (1812-1882)

I am thankful for the gift of music. Like Auerbach says, music has a cleansing and regenerative effect. It is a common language to which all humans can relate and understand. Leonardo DaVinci even claimed that one’s “soul is composed of harmony.”

Listening to various kinds of music has been found to help reduce stress, boost productivity, assist in studying, enhance exercise, and reduce pain. There’s no doubt that music has incredible power to heal, to bring people together, and to communicate when mere words fail.

Think of the vast variety of musical genres and instruments. Surely a person can find something that “washes away the dust of everyday life” be it jazz, classical, country, praise, rock, or other styles. I find myself drawn to many different styles of music, ranging from classical to jazz to alternative rock and folk.

Right now I’m listening to a CD by saxophonist Chris Potter entitled (appropriately enough) Gratitude. The album is a tribute great jazz saxophonists. Of the title track, Potter says, “‘Gratitude’ sums up the theme of this CD. When I wrote this, I was in a particularly ungrateful, lousy mood. Writing this tune brought me back around to a more positive state of mind.”

Yes, Chris, I can understand how it would bring you back around. Music is powerful medicine. Music is the rhythm of life. I am so thankful for music and for those who bring it to life.

What kind of music sings to your spirit and makes you soar?

Click here for a YouTube version of Chris Potter, John Scofield, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette playing “Unspoken.” Enjoy!

Photo by Tim Geers used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

 

 

 

Three Things in Three Minutes…Ready, Set, Go!

Ready, set, go…in three minutes or less name three things about today for which you are thankful.

1.

2.

3.

Could you do it? What did your list yield? Were there surprises? Was it easy or difficult? Did it seem natural or strange to do this?

I am thankful for

1. Six months today with my amazing husband,

2. My family (immediate, blended, and extended),

3. and God’s movement in my life and the world.

There. That wasn’t so hard, was it? If you’re like me, you could have kept going.

Naming our blessings on a daily basis is one way to build thanks-living “muscle.” The more we name and appreciate our blessings, the richer and fuller life becomes. By focusing on the positive, the negative seems less onerous and consuming.

Consider adding this short exercise to your day. All it takes is three minutes to identify and name three daily blessings for which you are thankful. Regular thanksgiving contributes to the practice of thanks-living.

Photo by LollyKnit used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

 

 

This is the Day!

“One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly, until he knows that every day is Doomsday.”                         – Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)

If not now…when? If not here…where? If not fully…how? All each one of us really has is the present moment. There are no guarantees of more, yet we plan, fret, fume, and strive for more. Preparation is a good thing to be sure, but it should never eclipse the act of living right now, right here, this day.

This week try to walk in the present moment. Enjoy the gifts of God. Treasure your family and friends. Breathe deeply, love largely, and give thanks frequently.

Click here to watch a lovely YouTube video meditation on “This is the Day that the Lord Has Made.”

Photo by mikeyskatie used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Grace: For all Occasions

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

~G.K. Chesterton

Yes, saying grace isn’t just for meals and bedtime. May every breath you take be a hymn of praise and a prayer of thanksgiving. Saying grace is always appropriate and an integral part of thanks-living. Sprinkle your prayers as liberally as your would salt and pepper over the gifts of your day.

Sabbath blessings!

(Photo by Mr. Kris used under Creative Commons License. Thanks! Be sure to click the link and read the explanation for the photo. It’s powerful!)

 

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