Saturday, November 30, 2013

Day Thirty

The call and response in yesterday’s song asked us “where is the light?” and then answered, “the light’s inside of me.” Often in this time of year, and at many times in our lives, that outside light seems dim, and the only place we can seem to find a spark is deep inside of ourselves. 

We hope that this thirty-day practice has helped you to find and brighten that spark of deep gratitude within yourself. As we stare now at December’s blank pages, and move out into the unwritten days of our lives, only we can decide whether we will use that light to lead us – whether we will approach those days with gratitude. 

On the last day of our November practice, we invite you to find that daily gratitude reminder you set for yourself, way back on day one – maybe it was a quote, or an image, or a chime on your phone, or a spot in your house. Find a way to make that gratitude reminder last a little longer. You might put the image in a frame. Or set the phone chime to repeat daily for the next… eleven months or so. 

We invite you, today, to make the choice to keep this reminder with you throughout the whole year. In doing so, may you take the first step not towards living a life that’s fully written out with plans, goals, and guarantees for good things to come – but rather towards living a life that recognizes how the light of gratitude can lead, no matter what may come.

With gratitude,
Rev. Ken & Lee

Friday, November 29, 2013

Day Twenty-Nine

We can't banish darkness, real or metaphorical, from our lives. When we try to do this within ourselves, in our relationships and in society as a whole, we can become awfully cruel.  The equation of darkness with depravity is a most damaging belief.

We need the dark to grow, to sleep and to teach us that everything takes a rest for awhile. The addiction to all things sunny and bright is surely that, an unhealthy attachment to an idealized world that few of us will ever inhabit. And even if we could live there in that imagined place, it would certainly be very lonely, because the minute others join us, we'll start to see shadows and want them gone.

This is a dark time of the year.  So may it be. As Carl Jung wrote, "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."  Whether we perceive darkness in our internal or external atmospheres, the goal isn't to banish it.

The images and experiences of brightness that bring comfort this time of the year aren't blinding flood-lights, they're the candles of the Menorah, the burning Yule Log, the lights held individually person by person that light up a Christmas Eve service.  Each of these symbols a reminder that we can become conscious in and with the dark.  We can remember what our friends The Friends say  (in a wonderful way to describe that which is of God in each of us)--"The Inner Light."

Gratitude can be this inner spark, the reminder of the light in us.  With this life-giving power, we can appreciatively illuminate our place and the place where others stand as well. As we prepare to bring this month-long gratitude practice to a close tomorrow,  what have you noticed in yourself in your practice this month?  How can you be grateful to yourself for your capacity for gratitude as expression of The Inner Light in you?


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Day Twenty-Eight

Today, I have a constant craving for mashed sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top. Bring. It. On. 

I’m sure you have your own cravings that pop up around the holidays. Craving and abundance are two sides of the same coin. We tend to want more, yet when we stop feeding the craving, we realize what we need is already within and around us.  As k.d. lang sings: “even through the darkest phase... always someone marches brave, here beneath my skin.”

Each Sunday at WellSprings, we say “there is nowhere else to go, there is nowhere else to be, so let’s be here together, now.” For our Thanksgiving Day practice I invite you to share this simple grace around your table at mealtime.

We are grateful for this day, the only one we have. 
We are grateful for this moment, which is always, always new.
We are grateful for this place where we gather, its shelter and its hospitality.
We are grateful for the precious time we have, with the ones with whom we sit.
We sit together now to share in this moment, and to realize its deepest blessings.

From me to you, please enjoy your sweet potato casserole – or its equivalent! – on this great day of presence and rest.
- Lee

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day Twenty-Seven

The day before the holiday that animates this month-long practice.  If we're traveling may we all be safe, and also mindful of the many others who share the road with us.   Perhaps tomorrow we'll be reunited with people we don't get to see very often.  Reunited and, perhaps, it will feel so good.

And maybe tomorrow our hearts will turn to those who are missing.  Those we have loved who have died. When we look around the table or the room, we don't see them.  And in seeing their absence, there  is sadness.  Wherever we may be in our grief is where we are. Could be that our grief is raw, or is complex, or has been fully integrated into our lives, like one length of fabric in a fuller garment.

For me, my heart opens to my mother who died young and unexpectedly twenty-one Thanksgivings ago. My grief is part of who I am, and fully bound up into my life.  I have often turned to this poem "Late Fragment" by Raymond Carver to help express my experience of mourning.

And did you get what 
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

I have always loved those two words "even so"--they're an acknowledgment that life has its sorrows, disappointments and sufferings, that death is an inescapable part of life, and that to know love is to know loss.  And, even so, the poet writes, there still is belovedness. Even so is a grace note that doesn't cancel out the pain of loss, but can contain that loss, and hold it in a grateful loving remembrance.      

If you are missing someone today, who are you missing?  If we're grieving, may we mourn, and may we be comforted.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day Twenty-Six

It’s been a privilege to write these reflections while taking WellSprings’ Listening to Our Lives Springboard, meeting weekly with a small group for spiritual growth – about a dozen members of our congregation – to talk about the timeless themes that faith communities have wrestled with for thousands and thousands of years. 

It’s fitting that last night, we were talking about God – what that word means for us, how it completely repels some, how for others it is the core and source of our days, and how for many it provokes every other feeling in between. 

Many people get hung up on the noun “God,” and how to define it. But last night, one of the questions we asked together was, “what if God is more like a verb?” What if those places where we see God, or recognize the holy – at the bedside of a sick friend, through the power of the rainstorm, in the sounds of a baby’s coo – are what matters more? What if the constant presence and availability of those holy moments is what we can trust, and have our faith in? 

In today’s song, Audrey Assad sings: “Your worries will never love you. They’ll leave you all alone. But your God will not forsake you.”

We all have the power to decide who God is to us. So who is your God? Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to choose from a menu of options – I’m asking you to reflect, for today’s practice, on what kind of God you could trust. Is there a faithful presence of some kind, in your life, that you are grateful for? That, in some sense, has loved you, and that you could love in return?

As the answers to these questions begin to come to you, consider writing and sharing a gratitude prayer based on today's reflection in the comments below.

- Lee

Monday, November 25, 2013

Day Twenty-Five

Over the last number of posts, we've been writing about how gratitude is a form of intentionally chosen resilience in the face of the suffering of the world. Giving thanks is a powerful reminder that we can live more justly and compassionately.  In grateful, conscious contact with the many gifts of life we deepen our capacity for healing and wholeness.

Today's song is a prayerful hope that we can change.  One day, we may study war no more, as the Hebrew Scriptures say.  In your experience, who has most meaningful called forth this kind of life-giving vision?  Who are you most grateful to for their work towards peace and wholeness?  This might be a notable leader, a Dr. King or Gandhi, or maybe someone with a lesser known name, but who has still worked diligently for a transformed world.  Or maybe it's an organization or group of people.

Today, please express that gratitude  in some tangible way.  Perhaps teach a child about a legacy of hope left by those who came before you. Maybe make a monetary donation to a group that works to create peace and justice.  However you say thanks, please offer your appreciation for those who are working to ease the suffering in our world and expand the space for life to flourish. In expressing gratitude, we're helping to make one day become closer to this day.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day Twenty-Four

Have you ever felt trapped? I have. Trapped by financial circumstances, trapped by a job, trapped by family, relationships, expectations of who I was supposed to be – all sorts of things I felt I couldn’t control.

It’s a common feeling. But it’s a trick. It covers up a deeper truth – we are never trapped, but we may have to give something up to get off the broken road.  

I’ve had lots of visions for how I thought my life would go. Many of them have not happened as planned. Some of them, I am now sure, will never happen. And yes, some of them were denied to me unfairly, in ways I did not have the power to control.

Along the way though, I’ve learned that those plans didn’t need to work out for me to be worthy, to be happy, or to be beloved. Every time I felt trapped with no way out, looking longingly at a path closed off to me completely, I was eventually able to let go (and those italics are deliberate). Eventually, I was able to turn around, away from the place I had my eye on. Once I did, lo and behold, there was a whole other world in front of me. 

The chorus of this song contains some powerful gems – one of them is: “you don’t need to move, love has come to you.” 

Just like yesterday’s post, today we are practicing gratitude as an act of resistance. When we’re grateful for the life we have, we claim it as our own. We can keep on working to make it better, yes – but we never need to assent to the idea that we are not worthy, or not beloved, just because our life doesn’t live up to an ideal vision.

Today, offer gratitude for your power to turn around. What might it be time for you to turn away from? How can you remember to practice gratitude in that act?

- Lee