Adventures in Thanks-Living

Living the gift of life one breath at a time

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Enough

Akio Takemoto cc

Enough! Enough already! Lord have mercy! Christ have mercy! Lord have mercy! What’s going on, people?

This is not the way I would normally start a blog post, but these are the thoughts running through my head against the backdrop of this week’s Revised Common Lectionary gospel (Luke 10:25-37) and my social media newsfeed. Basically it’s a verbal mash-up of who’s my neighbor and who’s acting like a neighbor versus brutal public murders of black men and police officers, anger and hate-filled rhetoric flying willy-nilly in all directions, and competing claims about what will make America great again. Lament seems the only viable response.

And yet…

Jesus calls us to action. He calls us to show mercy, to go and do likewise. Sure, Jesus wept and grieved and mourned for the brokenness of the world in which he walked; however, he was not stymied by the enormity of it all. Sure, he wanted his father to take the cup of sorrows and woes away from him, but he was willing to act. He was so willing, in fact, that he died a horrible death as a political and religious insurrectionist–crucified.

Jesus’ words in this week’s gospel lesson ring so true in light of this world’s pain, anger, and fear:

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” — Luke 10:36-37

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Dallas law enforcement officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, and three others whose names have not yet been released died, having fallen into hands that robbed them of their lives.

Who are their neighbors? Who will rise up and show mercy and go and do likewise to stop this senseless violence, this systemic racism, the fear and hate? Who is willing to take small steps each day to look neighbors in the eye, to get to know the stranger, to work for justice and mercy and peace? Who will be courageous enough to realize that we all have stories, that some of us have privilege that has been stolen from others, that we are all beloved children of the Creator, and that we are stronger and made whole in interdependence? Who will take the risk? Who will walk the Jericho roads of Dallas, Atlanta, St. Paul, Baton Rouge, and so many other cities and towns and notice the fallen and beaten?

If not me, if not you, then who?

Lord, have mercy. Move our feet and hands to action and our hearts to love.

Photo: Akio Takemoto, Creative Commons

 

 

Moving Day and a New(ish) Adventure

Paretz Partensky cc

Dear Friends,

It’s been a crazy busy year, and it’s time to simplify. For several years now I’ve tried (with mixed results) to keep two blogs going, to write weekly for the Stewardship of Life Institute, to write periodically for other publications, and to write and edit a hefty portion of the communications for the Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA (my call and vocation as a pastor). I also completed the first draft of my first full-length novel in November (thank you NaNoWriMo!). Thankfully, I have an amazing husband and awesome family who support my “word play.”

A lot of my writing is on the topic of stewardship, and trying to keep too many writing projects in the hopper is simply NOT good stewardship of time, energy, and resources. To that end, 2015 is the year of writing more simply. This means that all of my writing will be migrating to my blog onewritelife.com effective tomorrow, December 31, 2014.

I hope you’ll follow me there and continue to read about gratitude, thanks-living, stewardship, faith, and writing. The coffee will be brewing several times a week, and fresh prose will await. Let’s live life fully one word at a time in 2015.

Good-bye Adventures in Thanksliving. Hello, One Write Life! Hope to see you there!

Sharron

Photo: Paretz Partensky, Creative Commons

The Gift of Connection & Community

No man (sic) is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. — John Donne, from Meditation XVII

Jacobean poet John Donne’s powerful words still ring true today, although humankind still strives for distinction and personal space. However, for the one who practices the art of “thanks-living,”the joy and the meaning of life are found in the connections forged among us. The meaning of life is expressed in community and communion rather than the glories of individualism and singular achievement.

“I did this” or “I made that” the human mind is apt to proclaim. The truth is that nothing is completely original, and we all build upon the lives, creativity, and experiences of others. We, too, will leave a legacy for good or ill upon which our successors must build.

Yes, that’s correct–“we.” Because we do not live in isolation. Even Thoreau in his Walden woods cabin could not completely separate the individual and his efforts from the joys and delights of a shared creation. The same sun and moon and stars that shone on Walden Pond still shine on all of us today. The same life-giving rain and nurturing soil belongs to all creation, not to you or me alone. Nothing can truly be held only by the individual, despite our illusions to the contrary.

We may build fences and wall and fortresses, but they will crumble and fall eventually. Robert Frost knew this when he wrote the poem “Mending Wall,” and said “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out,/And to whom I was like to give offence./Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…”

We are created to be our best in various constructs of community. We form family units, schools, churches, clubs, cooperatives, and any number of other groups that gather around shared purpose and goals. Together we are stronger than the isolation of our individual parts. When we break down walls and remove barriers, amazing things happen. Life and love flourish if given the most minute of opportunities.

One small example is our backyard garden. In all probability two new raised beds would have remained a dream without the joyous self-giving of our friend and neighbor, Debbie. She brought her tools, knowledge, energy, and laughter to the effort. She generously brought alpine strawberries, Egyptian walking onions, and black-eyed Susans to be planted. Other neighbors and friends, Ida, Audrey, and Creta gave their extra tomato and onion plants so that we now have an abundance to share with others.

Our little backyard garden, still very much a work in progress, is not something that we can claim as “ours.” It is the gift and product of community, the fruit of connection, and a harvest of true blessings.

Questions to Ponder

What strands of connection and community are you weaving into your life?

Who gives to you and to whom do you give?

What harvest of blessings might you celebrate during this season?

Photos by Linda N and steppnout. Thanks!

Here’s a wonderful reflection on gratitude from fellow blogger Paul Mark Sutherland of GYAtoday. My thanks to him for sharing. Enjoy!

GYA today

Fall arrives in the Northern Hemisphere tomorrow, September 22, 2012. I love fall. But, I’m not in a hurry for it to arrive, I will happily wait one more day and enjoy today. That’s because today, September 21, is one of my favorite days. Besides being the last day of summer, it is also World Gratitude Day, which was established globally in 1965 and has been slowly gaining steam.

To commemorate World Gratitude Day, I have compiled my 50 favorite quotes on gratitude and appreciation. Since I painstakingly etched them on a parchment scroll, I thought I should share them. So, I have unfurled the scroll below for all to see. Collectively, they all lead back to the same benefits, but they each have their own subtle nuance or shade. Hence the title, 50 Shades of… oh well, you know what I mean.

This collection is not all-inclusive, of course, so…

View original post 50 more words

Moving Day

What a week! It’s been one replete with blessings, heartaches, work, and worry. It has also had bright moments of joy lavished with laughter and seasoned with love.

Daughter the Elder and I moved Daughter the Younger into her dorm room on Thursday. The minivan was completely loaded, but it all fit nicely into her space (see photo above), and she’s not contacting me much, so that means she’s doing o.k. No news is good news when it comes to the college freshman on the first weekend.

Is it easier the second time around? No, not really. At least one knows what to expect, but it’s still an emotional day. You want your child to soar. You want her to do well, make good friends, be inspired to learn, grow as a scholar and person, and have fun, too. You just want it to be good.

Yes, there were a few tears, although I held it together until we got to the highway. She’s ready. I’ll be fine. It’s all good. I am thankful she has this opportunity, and I’m grateful to have had this day with both daughters. Even the requisite trip to Taco Bell was alright.

I am so thankful to have spent this day with two young women whom I love so very much. There’s only one problem now; it’s way too quiet around here. Sigh.

The Power of Blessing

Want to really make a difference in someone’s life? Offer them a blessing. Let them know through your words and expression how much you care about them and  their well-being.

Adrian, a retired gentleman in the congregation I serve, offers me a blessing as he exits the building each Sunday. He probably doesn’t realize it, but his blessing means a lot to me. “Drive carefully and be safe going home,” he says with a firm handshake. I can tell by the look in his eyes–one of kindness, caring, and concern–that he means it. And I do feel blessed when I finally get into my car and turn the key. The fact that someone has wished me well with a simple act of blessing makes the journey homeward both more intentional and more joyous.

Think about it. We receive so many negative messages as we move through our days. We pass like ships or collide like bumper cars as we hurry and worry and scurry about. A blessing possesses real power to transcend the negative. A blessing provides common ground even between or among the most different of folks. A blessing pours healing balm into the wounded heart and calms the weary soul.

Don’t believe me? Try it. Bless someone close to you. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate. A simple “You are important” or “May you be blessed this day with the goodness of God.” You can wish someone wellness, safety, security, peace or whatever seems right. You possess the power to bless, to make someone’s day better, to bring joy, happiness, and respite from suffering.

I give thanks for Adrian’s blessings. I am thankful for the lesson he teaches me each week in the power and importance of blessing others. The gift of blessing is free, and it is yours and mine to share prodigally.

May you be blessed this day with peace, love, and hope. Be safe now! Be blessed!

Photo by Sahaja Meditation used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Be Real! Be You!

What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet this is often just what we also fear more than anything else . . . . Little by little we come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. — Frederick Buechner

It’s called being vulnerable, transparent, and real. Like Frederick Buechner says, it’s what we really want, to be accepted for who we are. Unfortunately, fear all too often prevents us from embracing our true self–with all of our gifts, talents, failures, achievements, and imperfections.

Western culture and advertising are good at telling us what we don’t have and what we need to make us feel better about ourselves, look more attractive, be more financially secure, attract the person of our dreams, have an amazing body, and be wittier and more appealing. The idea is to cause us to want and to feel like our wants and desires are really our needs.

We are bombarded by somewhere between 500 and 3,000 advertising and marketing messages each day, all of which appeal to our need for acceptance, love, and personal betterment. No wonder we edit ourselves for public viewing! I don’t know about you, but I’m no super model; in fact, my youngest daughter wants to submit me as a candidate for “What Not to Wear.” Now Google and other sites on the Web are tailoring advertising specifically to my searches and browsing history. Oh, brother!

Thankfully, I have reached an age and stage where I really like the real me more than the edited versions of my younger years. What I’ve discovered by trial and error is that most of the time when you accept who you are and start feeling comfortable in your own skin, not only will others be more likely to accept you, but they’ll also feel more comfortable letting you meet their own authentic self.

You, dear friend, were uniquely created, and there is no one exactly like you. You were created for a purpose, you have a reason to exist and much to give to the world. If you haven’t stopped editing your innermost self, please consider doing so now.

Only when you let your real self shine through can you achieve what you are called to do and be who you are designed to be. Drop the masks, quit the posturing, ignore the ads, forget the perfection you will never achieve, and let your beautiful soul shine through.

Live, my friend. Live life in your own wonderful skin. Learn, laugh, love, give, share, and be real. Be you and believe that you are here for a purpose. Don’t settle for anything less than the real you. Give thanks for who you really are.

Thankful for Slow Saturday

I promised myself a slow day, and I have enjoyed just that. This morning I slept late for the first time in quite a while (9:00 a.m.). I made coffee, enjoyed it, and finished laundry at a leisurely pace. Mr. Husband and I took the dogs for a long walk at the cemetery overlooking town and the surrounding hills and valleys. It was breathtakingly beautiful today. I tended the garden, and picked basil and tomatoes.

I did a little work and finished my sermon. I stayed hydrated and relaxed. We made a wonderful supper together: pasta with fresh homemade pesto (recipe below) or homemade Alfredo sauce, a lovely salad with cucumbers from our garden, and peach sundaes made with fresh local peaches for dessert. We enjoyed a leisurely meal with good conversation. Now I’m winding down and hoping for a good night’s sleep so that I can feel rested for tomorrow.

It was a lovely slow day. Did I accomplish as much as I would have liked to done? No. But that’s o.k. I am content.

How did you spend your Slow Saturday?

Fresh Pesto

Two heaping cups (press down) of fresh, washed, and drained basil leaves

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 to 2/3 cups Parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best)

8 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped (use less if you’re not a garlic fan)

1/3 +/- cup extra virgin olive oil (add oil to get a pleasing consistency)

freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Process in a food processor until desired consistency is reached. Mix with hot cooked pasta. Any extra can be put in small containers (press out air bubbles to avoid discoloration) and frozen. Will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. I put a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto to prevent discoloration.

Use as a sandwich or wrap spread. Mix with a little mayo or plain Greek yogurt in pasta or chicken salad. Spread on fresh artisan bread, top with a slice of homegrown tomato, sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese and broil. Yum.

Photos by zoyachubby and diekatrin used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Slow Down!

There’s absolutely no reason for being rushed along with the rush. Everybody should be free to go very slow. ~ Robert Frost

It’s finally Friday! Are you still scurrying around in a frenzied fever pitch? Is your to-do list all too handy? Do you have yourself booked solid for the weekend? Are you speeding through life as fast and furious as your little human self will take you?

Why? What’s the rush?

Think about it. You know the guy who tailgates you for several miles until he finally gets the clearance to whiz by you with an evil glare? You shake your head and drive on. Guess who ends up in front of you at the next traffic signal? Yes, that’s right. There sits Mr. Speedypants in all his grumpy glory. You just know he’s fuming. All that fuss and increased blood pressure for one car length’s advantage. What a pity!

You, on the other hand, are free to take your time, to enjoy the day, to treasure the moment. Unless you’re more prone to behave like Mr. Speedypants, that is. I will admit that I have my speedypants days, more often than I’d like to acknowledge.

But here’s what I’m learning. Speeding through life is not worth it. Savoring life moment by moment is better. Being mindful enough to slow down and really live, to truly appreciate what it means to be drawing breath and taking nourishment, is a much more thankful way to live.

You are free to go slowly and deliberately through life. You really do have a startling degree of choice about whether to rush about like an angry tornado or move gracefully and calmly through your own life.

What might it take to slow down and savor your one precious life?

  • Do you need to do a better job of saying no to excess commitments and obligations?
  • Do you need to learn to pare down your wants and live beneath your means?
  • Do you need to take all of your vacation time and quit worrying about whether your job will be o.k. without you?
  • Do you need to unplug and take a tech Sabbath?
  • Do you need to simply take a real day of Sabbath rest on a regular basis?
  • Do you need to put family and friends above money and stuff?
  • Do you need to reconnect with the natural world?
  • Do you need to lay off the fast food and enjoy some slow cooking with fresh, local ingredients?

What else might you need to decrease the speed of your days and increase your capacity for thanks-living?

I certainly don’t have all the answers, and I am a work in progress. Right now, however, I pledge to make tomorrow (Saturday) a day where I am free to go very slow, to focus on living, giving, and sharing. How about you? What can you do to enjoy a slow day, month, year, or rest of your life?

Photo by dannysullivan used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

In Praise of Home Grown Tomatoes

I am thankful for home grown tomatoes–those orbs of deliciousness that taste so much better than their bland grocery store counterparts. If you grow tomatoes you understand. For weeks you watch them hanging green on the vine, and your mouth begins to water at the thought of tasty sun-warmed fruit on bread with mayonnaise, or in Caprese Salad or in salsa or in sauce or in juice. Maybe the best way to enjoy one is to bite into it like an apple, fresh off the vine.

As the old song goes, “There’s only two things that money can’t buy–true love and home grown tomatoes.”

Not familiar with “Home Grown Tomatoes”? Here’s a link to a YouTube version by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. Enjoy! Oh, and as you’re eating your next home grown tomato, don’t forget to give thanks.

Photo by Dave Stokes used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

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