It may seem strange, in the midst of all that is horrible and awful in the world right now to take a moment to pause in gratitude. But I find that gratitude grounds me. It helps me gain the peace and strength back to stand up to what is hard and unjust in the world. In the midst of pain, taking time to remember that there are still good and beautiful things centers me. It reminds me to see all of life, not just those things that are hard. It helps me to recall me that the world is worth fighting for, that life is worth fighting for. Gratitude reminds me that in every moment there is more to be thankful for than to fear, more good to be found and lived than we can imagine. It puts me back into this moment. Now. Not what has happened and not what will happen, but this moment. For it is in this moment that we find God, and with God, we can step forward into anything.
So it is from this place that I choose today to take a moment to pause in gratitude. The first thing that I am grateful for is the beautiful trees I see from my office window:
I am grateful to be "home". While I miss many people and places in Ohio, there is something about being home, seeing the familiar hills, the familiar trees, being with the people I've loved for decades and whom I love still. There is something wonderful about driving the familiar highways, about the hills and evergreen trees, about the sunshine the way it is in this place which feels almost miraculous. I missed this place, and I am incredibly grateful to be here once again. I have not yet remembered how to take the everyday sun for granted. I have not yet remembered how to underappreciate the unique smell and feel of the air here. When I drive out here I feel a sense of peace and "home" like I experience no where else. For this I am truly, deeply thankful.
I am grateful for the connections I made in Ohio. Some of those people are "forever friends" and for them I am intensely appreciative. They saw me through the hardest time in my life, and I will never forget that or take that for granted. I was not my best while I was there. A crisis like we went through can, and at times does, bring out the worst in us. And for those who understood that and were able to stand by me at my worse, who never wavered in their care, who put aside judgment in favor of love, who knew that sometimes all we need is a smile or a hug, I am unbelievably and eternally thankful.
I am grateful for the folk at Bethel. You all continue to be my extended family. I love you all so very much. It makes me happy to be able to go out and sing with a few folk the last few weeks and visit with a few others and just be in that space and feel that even though I am no longer working there, that it is still a home for me. For Sarah, who mentors me and supports me and for all the Bethel folk, thank you!
I am grateful for the people at Clayton Valley. You have embraced me and my family with such fullness. We feel we are "home" here, and that, too, is an amazing gift. You are still coming to know us and yet you have shared yourselves and your trust and your faith with us. It is an amazing honor and privilege to be working with you!
I am grateful to my family-by-marriage who adopted me and support me despite the fact that I am no longer married to your son. I appreciate each of you - Don, Pat, Cathy, Scott, Veronica, Lassen - for being who you are and for continuing to be family. I am grateful for your words of wisdom, comfort, support, for your care for my kids, for the love that you give to one another and the care I see you live for the world. I have been so blessed to be part of your family, and for that I will always be thankful.
I am grateful to my family-of-birth which supports me in physical as well as emotional ways. For the time, energy, work, presence, care that you all give, I am grateful. You have your challenges, and yet you find time to support me in mine. Cindy, I am truly gifted to have you as my sister.
For the friends I have returned to, I am deeply grateful. I am tempted to name you all, but out of fear that I would forget to mention someone, know that as I write this you each go through my mind. I again am so deeply thankful to those who put aside judgment in favor of friendship. You are amazing and I appreciate each of you. I will say that in this moment I am especially thinking of and grateful for Rich, Anneke and Kirsten.
For the friends farther away, around the country and around the world with whom I interact on facebook or on the phone more than in any other way, I am so grateful for your continuing faithfulness in the face of distance and time. I know it takes time out of your life to connect with me and I feel blessed everytime you do! Leslie and John, you are especially in my thoughts today.
I am grateful for moments of reconciliation. This last year has provided some very unexpected reconnections and moments of healing for me, and for those I am so deeply thankful. A relationship that had burned and died 20 years ago was healed in an unexpected encounter last spring. And my gratitude about that is beyond words. Thank you, Tom, for reaching out and taking the time to talk with me. It was pure grace for me.
I am thankful for the wise and gracefilled people with whom I am blessed to interact. Today I am especially thankful again for Sarah, but also for Jack, Charie, Will, and yes, Mark. The grace each of you shows in adversity, the wisdom and strength each of you demonstrate daily, the modelling you do for me about how to walk in this world - for all of that I am grateful.
I am thankful for facebook connections, and today especially I am thankful for those connections to people I have not met in person or whom I have had only limited personal contact with, but whom I am growing to know. I love when you are brave and share yourselves with me. You give me the courage to do the same.
Finally, for today, I cannot go without giving a very personal thank you to David. Thank you for loving us enough to follow us out to California. Thank you for helping me care for my children and for loving them as you do. Thank you for your affection, for your affirmations, for your faithfulness and steadfast loyalty. Thank you for your generosity, the little surprises you bring to me in the form of mochas and flowers, etc. I am grateful for you.
On this day of gratitude, I find I am also grateful for the challenges life has thrown my way. They have helped me grow. They continue to help me grow and deepen, so that I can be a better pastor, better friend, better parent and better partner. My list could go on. But for now I just want to say thank you. On this hard, hard day, I am grateful.
And now, as one of my benedictions says: You have fed us, God, now send us forth, to do your will, to bring justice, grace and compassion, to make the world the place you would have it be. Amen.