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Together in Spirit: Gratitude

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The Reverse Bucket List

An exercise in gratitude from Rev. John Allen

A few years ago as I was scrolling through facebook one night, a phrase caught my eye. “The reverse bucket list.” I clicked.

The article described a fairly simple practice. We know about the traditional bucket list. A list of things I haven’t done, that I want to do before I die. The reverse bucket list is simply, a list of everything that I have done.

I decided that I would undertake this exercise during a long flight to Arizona during the first week of January. Air travel seems to make me pretty introspective. Up and away from the ordinary things of life. Around total strangers who don’t know me from anyone else.

I took out a journal, thinking that at this relatively early point in my life I would only need a page.

But once I started, I filled page, after page. I kept remembering new things. Or entire new categories.

I found the exercise to be incredibly powerful.

Just as one example, I wrote “ordained as a minister” on one line. A thing that seems like a simple fact of my life now. And I remembered how just a short few years ago, that accomplishment felt like a distant star to which I was always reaching.

Sitting on that plane I remembered the day it happened. I could almost again feel the weight of the hands laid on me. I could faintly hear the hymns.

I listed my visit to Niagara Falls. Not so far away really, but when I was a young kid looking at pictures of it in a book, it might as well have been on another planet.

As the list grew and grew, I felt myself continually returning, back to a time before these things had taken place. I felt the wonder, thrill, and excitement of them all over again.

And I was filled with gratitude.

Give it a try, make your reverse bucket list. See what an abundance has drifted into the background of your life. And give thanks to God, from whom all blessings flow.

Together in Spirit: Hope

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A Photo by Karen Hall

Finding Hope in Daily Routine

I have walked through this tunnel countless times.
In summer, it is a welcome refuge from the heat of the sun. I linger to appreciate the coolness on my skin.
In winter, it is desolate and cold. I walk quickly fearing the dark.
On a dreary, rainy day, I approached the tunnel feeling the apathy and uncertainty that has come with our current world. Lost in my own thoughts, my face covered in a mask, my only purpose was to avoid other people who might be too close for comfort.
Suddenly, this glorious light appeared at the other end.
It stopped me in my tracks.
From the dark there is hope.

Together in Spirit: Trust

By Together in Spirit

A Prayer by Alex Hasha

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised. Job 1:21

Lord, when you brought me into this world, I knew nothing but my own needs. I had no thought except for my comfort and sustenance. I had no ability to give, only to take. You provided abundantly for my needs. You filled my mother’s and father’s hearts with love, and they carried me through my helplessness.

I am not that different today, Lord. I live in a comfortable house I did not build. I eat food I did not grow. I work with technology I did not invent. I still give 10 thoughts to my family’s needs for every one I give to my neighbors’ needs. Thousands and tens of thousands of people worked to create every object I touch and every bite of food I eat. You arranged the world so that they unfailingly give me my daily bread just for talking on the phone and writing words on pages. How amazing and wonderful and frightening that is!

When life was more predictable, it seemed I could rely on myself to get what I wanted. I focused on doing my thing, and the castle walls of my security grew steadily higher and wider. I thought that I was the builder, but you created the community that lifted stone onto stone.

Lord, under the affliction of this pandemic, you have pulled down that veil of illusion. I mistook the predictability of the world’s responses to my habits for proof that I was in control. Now I know viscerally what was always true: that you control my life, and you will not be tamed. You are wild, and dangerous, but loving.

How much separation from community magnifies its value! How I wish I could do as much for it as it has for me! I imagine that I should be doing something bold and heroic to erase this pain. But that’s just the old fantasy of being in control. Instead, I’m just me, with the same limited skills and ideas I had before, hopelessly set in my ways. I don’t know what to do!  

 I should trust you, Lord. Though the world has changed alarmingly, I am still receiving everything I need. Though what I have to offer seems so insufficient, it flows through other hearts, minds, and hands where it merges with something bigger, amplifies, and transforms. I’ve seen the unreasonable abundance that returns to me, so why do I doubt that you can amplify my efforts to create abundance for others?

Lord, I will put my trust in you. I will start right here and put one foot in front of the other. If someone asks me for help, I will listen for your voice. I will take good advice. I will try to serve your Goodness in the best way I know how. I will use my best judgement, which you gave me to use, but I will not wait for a certainty that will never come. I trust you will correct me if I do the wrong thing or don’t try hard enough. Because what you have already done, have always done, and will continue to do, is so amazing. May your name be praised.  Amen.

Together in Spirit: Trust

By Together in Spirit
A Psalm and a Prayer from Meredith Hall
“At this unusual and challenging time, I have found great comfort and inspiration from reading from a daily devotional, which offers great quotes and scripture references, such as this Psalm and prayer. I am constantly amazed at how the pages come alive and address each day’s joys and difficulties, offering great wisdom, comfort, peace and perspective. They have been a highlight and source of strength each day – especially during 2020.
Together in Spirit is FCC of Milton’s way of inviting the church community to share short reflections of life with each other. One of the best parts of being a community of faith is the way we learn from one another’s journey. Contact for more information.

Together in Spirit: Trust

By Together in Spirit
Inspired by Nature
by Niels Krejci
“My faith is at its best when it is like the wait for the nectarine tree blossoms. I trust that they will come, because I have seen it happen time and time again.”
Together in Spirit is FCC of Milton’s way of inviting the church community to share short reflections of life with each other. One of the best parts of being a community of faith is the way we learn from one another’s journey. Contact for more information.

Together in Spirit: Gratitude

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Finding Gratitude During this Crisis

by Emma Brewer-Wallin

I recently heard an interview with David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, that is really helping me think about gratitude during this time of crisis – because how can this be a moment for gratitude when so many lives and livelihoods are ruined?

He says, “I don’t speak of the gift, because not for everything that’s given to you can you really be grateful. You can’t be grateful for war in a given situation, or violence or domestic violence or sickness, things like that. There are many things for which you cannot be grateful. But in every moment, you can be grateful.”

What is helping you be grateful in every moment (but not for everything)?

Listen to the full conversation here, and leave your answer in the comments on Facebook:

David Steindl-Rast — How to Be Grateful in Every Moment (But Not for Everything)

Together in Spirit: Gratitude

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Defining Gratitude by Edith Neil

Gratitude…what exactly does that mean? I went to my dictionary for the official definition.

It reads as follows: “Being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”  Some of the synonyms include thankfulness, appreciation, gratefulness and thanks.

I also wanted to see what the Bible has to say about gratitude and thankfulness. The Psalms are full of references to thankfulness. Psalm 50, “Offer unto God thanksgiving…” Psalm 95, “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving…” Psalms 105, 106 and 107, “O give thanks until the Lord…” All are very meaningful, and fit right in to the dictionary definition.

One of the things I have noticed while walking around my neighborhood are the drawings hanging on fences, doors, and in windows thanking people for the bravery they are showing during this COVID-19 pandemic. There are hearts, rainbows, and other messages of support. I have seen many stories in the paper and on the news about these heroic people. These all touched my heart, and I wanted to make my own tribute to those people who are out there keeping the mail and groceries delivered, the police and firemen who are doing their jobs under difficult conditions, and the men and women who are still working in those businesses considered “essential.” Since I am a quilter, I made a small quilted red heart to put in my window. I live on the 5th floor of a condo building, and I don’t know if anyone has even noticed my efforts to honor these folks, but I know it is there and it gives me comfort and reminds me of how grateful I am for all the work they are doing.

I have been making cloth masks and donating them to one of my quilt guilds. My cousin Jackie is a nurse, and I know how much these are appreciated. She has some of the masks that I made, which gives me comfort knowing that this simple act of kindness can make a difference in the life of someone on the front line.

The highlight of my week is the Sunday morning church service. I am grateful that my church has the technology to be able to livestream the service on Sunday morning. While I miss being in the actual building, I can experience the warmth of our congregation, while watching the service online. And the music makes a joyous thing even better. Both John and Emma’s messages have been right on point and have given me the inspiration and insight into understanding God’s love for all of us.

A while ago, the women’s group read the book Proof of Heaven written by Dr. Eben Alexander. There were three lines in the book that really stood out for me. They were: “You are loved and cherished. You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong.”  Those words have stayed with me, and I have them posted on my refrigerator door. They remind me that God is always watching over me and that these difficult days shall pass and things will get better, and for that I am ever grateful.

Together in Spirit: Gratitude

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Music that Calms Us from Kate Dobin

When my kids were babies, I sang to them often. It was just as much a way to pass the time myself as it was to calm them. As is likely common, I would revert to songs of my childhood – songs whose words will never leave my head no matter how many years go by without recalling them. For me, those always seem to be songs I learned in children’s church choir. In the past few weeks, as I once again seek a way to calm my children and a way to pass the time myself, these songs have returned. I share two of these songs with you all. These songs fill me with gratitude for the gift of these simple times, and for the reminder that God is with us – Day by Day.