Every Day is a Day for Singing

Today is January 12, 2017! This day is always a day that makes my heart heavy. Seven years ago, my friend Renee, her husband Ben and Ben’s cousin Jon were in Haiti when the earthquake hit. While they were in Haiti and before the news of the earthquake reached us, I was sitting with my Diaconal Ministry Formation Event small group when we got the news that they were indeed still in Haiti. That morning, we found ourselves listening to Ben’s song “Mourning into Dancing”. Then that afternoon, we all learned about the earthquake and that Ben, Jon, and Renee hadn’t been heard from yet. For the next several days, I along with my friends found ourselves glued to social media and news outlets as we waited to hear more. Then Thursday morning, we received the news that Ben had lost his life in the earthquake.

For the last six years since the earthquake, I begin and end this day by listening to Ben’s song “Mourning into Dancing.” It includes these words from Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” It is the song my small group played as people walked into worship that Thursday afternoon after Ben’s death was confirmed earlier that morning. It is a song that takes my breath away but also is a song that reminds me of the ways that Ben still lives on through his music.

Grief is a strange thing, isn’t it? It has a way of hitting us in the most unusual places. It can be as simple as a smell or a favorite item or book. Yet in the midst of grief, I find myself so very thankful for the people God has placed in my life. Because together, we are able to hold each other in the midst of life’s joys and sorrows.

Earlier this morning, a friend shared this quote from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross,

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.

I believe that is why Renee (and Jon) continue to tell their story through Renee’s book “A Witness” and through their ministry to the wider church.

Losing someone we love is so incredibly hard, but there is hope; hope that we will one day see each other again. And that, my friends, is a hope that I find myself clinging to today and all the other days that my heart and soul are weary.

And don’t mind me, if you walk by my office and hear me belting out to Ben’s music, because as my friend Bryant said earlier, “If Ben taught me anything, he taught me that every day is a day for singing.” So with a heavy heart and soul and as I remember Ben and all the Haitians who lost their lives that day, I will continue to sing proclaiming the promises of God; promises for today and every day.

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The Transformation of Gratitude

Well it is October 31st and 31 Days of Gratitude are over! I don’t know about you, but October seemed to fly by. But it was pure joy to share with you all of the ways that I am thankful and want to show gratitude in this world.

The gratitude list for this month included rain as a reminder of our Baptisms, the changing of the seasons, food and shelter, Baptism and Holy Communion and so much more. Sometimes it can be so hard to give thanks and gratitude in this broken world, but that is exactly what God calls us to do. “Be joyful always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances.”–1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Hopefully this series will help you to remember to do just that. I also would recommend Ann Voskamp’s Book “One Thousand Gifts.” Ann writes down gifts she sees in her daily life and keeps them in a note book. The list of 1000 plus gifts in her life is scattered throughout her book. It seems to me that when we take the time to give thanks and gratitude to God for all God has provided, we all are changed…for the better.

“The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”–Robert Holden

And as this series comes to a close, I leave you with these beautiful words: “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”–William Arthur Ward

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More Gratitude

The weekend always seems to get away from me and then I forget to post. I don’t know about you but I am tired and weary. I have had to step away from social media in light of the political elections and everything else that is going down. I can only take so much violence etc in this broken world.

I would much rather reflect on the ways that God blesses me in the midst of all the hard news. I am thankful for awesome friends and family. I am thankful and grateful for our youth who marked their first communion milestone yesterday. I am grateful for a bed to lay my head when I am weary. I am thankful and grateful for so much. What are you thankful and grateful for in these days?

Take some time this week to reflect on the ways that you are blessed. I started keeping a weekly list on my phone and it is always such a joy to go back and look at the ways I was blessed in a week. It changes my attitude for the better.

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Stories

Did you have a favorite children’s book growing up? Maybe it was Dr. Seuss. Or maybe it was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Or maybe it was the Where’s Waldo books.

One of my favorite things about this time of year is watching the kids come in with their Halloween costumes. Often times those costumes are based off of their favorite movie or even book characters. Last night, I saw Harry Potter and many other characters from books. I myself even went as Where’s Waldo from the Waldo books.

The thing about children’s books is they often have this way of capturing life or helping us escape with them to a fictional place. The words on the page help us to hear and tell a story. I have always been a lover of books. In fact, my “to read list” has gotten so long that I am not sure if I will ever catch up to it!

Today I am thankful for children’s books and the stories we hear each week in worship. The Spark Story Bibles we give to our younger sunday school students and the Spark Bibles are filled with beautiful images and stories that we hear in worship, Confirmation, Sunday and Wednesday school and so much more.

I am grateful and thankful for all the ways we hear and live out stories in our lives. Stories shape who and whose we are.

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JOY!

I thought that since I wrote about delight yesterday, I would write about joy today. Joy and delight often go hand in hand, don’t they? According to the online dictionary on Google, joy can be defined as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” It can also mean “rejoice.”

I love this definition. It reminds me of watching kids at Bible camp learning about God, making new friends, and so much. It reminds me of children rejoicing and praising their God as they sing from the tops of their lungs. It reminds me of parents and grandparents who are proud of their children and grandchildren. It reminds me of the many ways that joy exudes from every fiber of our being when we let ourselves fully rejoice in our God.

Tonight is our annual Fall carnival. I love watching the kids stream in. They full of so much joy (and delight) as they show off their costumes. And in seeing their joy (and delight), I cannot help but be thankful myself. Joy is contagious, isn’t it?

Where else do you see joy in your every day? Today, let’s give thanks and gratitude for all the joy we see in the world. Because in the words of one of my favorite Psalms; Psalm 30; “Weeping may come for the night, but JOY comes with the morning.”

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Delight

Delight–“to please (someone) greatly or a great pleasure

Just the other day I was talking with a friend about those things in our lives that bring us delight. What are those things that bring you delight? For me, I find delight in holding an infant, listening to children playing and giggling, in coffee and/or lunch dates with friends, through the relationships I have been gifted in this life and in so many ways.

Delight has this way of bringing about joy in this life and in the world. Delight is a gift given to us through many and various forms by a God who loves us immensely. Often that delight comes through those very things and places and people that bring us joy. But sometimes that delight comes through the most unexpected places and people.

I love how Mayo Angelou captures delight. She writes, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

butterfly

This week give thanks for those people and places that bring you delight. And take some time to enjoy that delight!

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Catching Up (Days 20-24)

Life sometimes has a way of getting busy and getting away from us. So here I sit, finding myself catching up on four days of blog posts of thankfulness. I hope you have been and are enjoying this series this month.

There is so much I am thankful for our Western ND Lutheran Youth Organization. I spent Thursday-Saturday with our LYO Board and gathering. I am so proud of this group and all they do to help our youth grow in their faith.

I am thankful for our community of faith that is made up of so many different generations. Together, we can learn and grow together. It was pure joy to spend yesterday morning in our intergenerational activity hour. We had all but a few generations represented. I hope that you can join us for the next gathering in November. I loved watching all the teaching and learning that was taking place.

I am thankful for the ways that social media connects us in this world. I also am thankful for the ways that social media can bridge the gap between generations. We had a small turnout at our social media event but those that were gathered learned so much. We all agree that face-to-face is always better, but it is nice to be able to connect through social media when we are not together.

I hope that you too are finding ways to be thankful this month along with me. See you back here tomorrow!

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Music

One of my morning routines and rituals is to turn on my Pandora station and jam out to my fave Christian music station. There are also days I pull up Mumford and Sons or another station. And during Advent, I love to pull up Christmas music.

I have never considered myself a musician. In fact, I don’t believe it is one of the gifts that God has given me. But I see so many around me who have these gifts. Our vocational intern who is helping lead music on Wednesday nights. Another young adult who is helping lead music on Sundays. Our cathedral choir, our handbell choir, our worship groups, and so many others.

Each of these groups bring the gift of music into our lives and into this community of faith. So today, let’s give thanks for our musicians; old and young alike who praise God through instruments and song.

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Quilts, Love, and a Community of Faith

This time of the year always finds me thankful for a house and a roof over my head especially as the nights become even colder. This summer, while in New Orleans, for the ELCA Churchwide assembly, my friends and I encountered many homeless individuals as we were walking to the convention center from our hotel. It breaks my heart to see them not have a place to call home.

One of my favorite stories to share from that week is a story and a gift given by the youth and young adult voting members of our church. On Thursday, as we went out to do our God’s Grace in Action days, we were given a sack lunch in a very nice lunch bag. The youth decided to ask for donations of those bags. Many of us had traveled by plane and just didn’t have extra room in our suitcases. The youth took those lunch bags (as well as the other bags we had been given) and filled them with food, socks, etc and distributed them throughout the city of NOLA.

“And when you fed the hungry, you also fed me!”

This weekend, we presented our vocational intern with a beautiful quilt made by our quilters. When I left my previous call to come to First Lutheran, the quilters there gifted me a quilt. We give tie blankets to those being baptized. In each of these instances, those quilts serve as a reminder that we will always be wrapped in a community of faith no matter where we go. God’s love will always wrap us in love through the people and places God places in our lives.

On cold Fall and Winter days in ND, my quilt is a visible reminder of the warmth of God’s love and that I am always wrapped in a community of faith. You too are all wrapped in a community of faith too.

So today, may we give thanks and gratitude that we are never on this journey alone. May we give thanks that we will always be called and claimed as a precious and beloved child of God. May we give thanks that we will always be wrapped in a community of faith who will walk with us and wrap us in their prayers and love.

Thanks be to God!

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Four Days of Gratitude

The weekend got away from me and I didn’t get a chance to post the last three days of gratitude so I am going to combine today’s post into Days 14-17 so I can get caught up! 🙂

Friday, I had the opportunity to take a few of our 4th-6th graders to Camp Metigoshe for Friday Night Live. It was a fun weekend and lots of fun. The kids got to play gaga ball and participate in a photo scavenger hunt. They even capped off the night using the Faith 5: Read. Talk. Share. Pray. Bless.

On Saturday morning, I drove back to Minot after our youth were picked up from camp by their dad. On the way back to Minot, I found myself taking in the beautiful Fall day and giving thanks for the harvesters I saw still out harvesting their land. There is something so incredibly holy about watching farmers harvest the land they have been called to steward.

Then yesterday, we had the opportunity to officially welcome our vocational intern. It was a joy to pray for her and to wrap her in the beautiful quilt that our quilters made for her. It was even in her favorite color–Red. It is such a blessing to learn and grow together.

And today, I am thankful for all that happened this weekend. I am grateful for our youth, for Camp Metigoshe, for the Faith 5 that helps equip families to talk faith and values, for the beautiful quilt given to our intern and everyone who promises to pray for and wrap her in their love this month.

Today and everyday there is so much to be thankful and grateful for. Giving thanks today and always! See you back here tomorrow!

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