It worked again!

Several years ago, I had a creative idea for worship on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It happened to be a moment when there was some anxiety in the congregation about members and friends whom we weren’t seeing anymore. And I thought that while Christ the King is the actual holiday- this church family needed an infusion of gratitude, gratitude for their church family in particular- not just felt, but expressed. So we celebrated Thanksgiving rather than Christ’s kingship that year.

And this is what we did- Every worshipper got three colorful thank you note cards in their bulletins.

We read from Phillipians 4:8… about thinking on excellent (pure, pleasing, praiseworthy, etc.) things. And then I explained what I had planned for the day. The main event for the day was the writing (by everyone present) of three thank you notes.

  1. One note to someone present that day, for whom particular appreciation is felt.
  2. One note to someone absent that day, for whom appreciation is felt and whose presence is missed.
  3. One note to God.

Before the note writing, however, three or four verbal thank you notes were offered to prime the pump for the writing of the whole.  I gave thanks concretely and directly for a person or people in the community for whom I was feeling particular appreciation that day.  Then others stood up and did the same.

After the verbal thank yous were spoken, a mix of music began to plan and everyone was invited to take up pens and write.  The mix was 11 minutes long and it included:

Thank you, by Dido-  (Wow!  What a video!)

Thank you, by Ashanti-

I want to thank you, by the Mighty Clouds of Glory

Not the typical music heard in that sanctuary, but it set a nice tone for the activity.

I encouraged people to seal the notes to church members/friends in envelopes and write the name of their intended recipient on the outside of the envelope and place those notes in the offering plates for addressing and mailing the following day.  I encouraged them to keep their note to God as reminder of their gratitude.

And a huge pile of colorful notes made its way back to the church office and were scattered through the community the week of Thanksgiving.  It was MARVELOUS.

I repeated the exercise while working as temporary supply in a congregation recovering from a difficult season in their life together.  And again… though it was a deviation from the norm in every sense– it worked BEAUTIFULLY.

And so, when I found myself responsible for leading worship in our Emergent service, where everyone sits at table, and is accustomed to contemporary worship— I thought… “It’s time to do it again!”  And so we did today.  And I wish I had taken some pictures.  It worked beautifully once more.

I usually beg, borrow, and steal creative ideas for worship.  I am grateful to God for the inspiration to create this exercise several years ago.  And to repeat it twice more thus far.  I shared this idea back when I first used it.  That blog is now locked down and inaccesible.  So I’m sharing it again.  Perhaps too late for use this year (what with Advent starting the Sunday AFTER Thanksgiving!) But perhaps someone will stumble upon this next November…


(Each time I’ve done this I found the PERFECT cards for it at Target… I’ll be darned if I can find them on-line however… The worship coordinator today found them there too!)



I’m not, generally.  But somehow in late November I get a crafty itch.  And decide to buy foam and glue and googly eyes and glitter and what not… And then I get half way into the project and remember… oh yeah… I’m not crafty.

I say this as the Thanksgiving projects are underway, but not complete.  And as glitter clings to me and is taking up residence on my keyboard (thank goodness it’s a covered keyboard.

But the family time is a gift.

And I’ll surely have another crafty stretch for C’s upcoming birthday.

And then I’ll be ready to hang up my crafting hat for another year…

Playing along with the RevGals… for my 21st consecutive blog post!
1. What is your cure for the “mulleygrubs”?
Never heard this turn of phrase before today… if it is the same as “mulligrubs” Google tells me it refers to a despondent, sullen mood… Sleep is usually a good cure.  Prayer focusing on gratitude and surrender.  A phone call to any number of the lovely people in my life.  And… being of service to others… sometimes in spite of myself.  That basically always does the trick.  Self-absorption is usually at the root of despondence… for me.  Getting out of myself is its cure.
2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving?
We will be here, this year, in our new (to us) home.  We are hosting friends who live a bit over an hour north of here.  Most details are yet to be figured out, but I know that they are bringing a me-friendly pie.  And that makes me happy!
3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?
Again… not positive yet… there will definitely be turkey (perhaps we’ll brine again…), and probably sweet potato and green apple stuffing (that’s the one staple T-giving dish in our married life, and maybe wild rice casserole (a staple from Kev’s family).  I’d like to make a modified version of my mom’s applesauce muffins… those were a growing up staple… and I love them.  They taste like Thanksgiving to me.  I suspect we’ll make brussel sprouts– probably with bacon.  If not brussel sprouts then something else green.  And I imagine there will be gravy.  And our friends are bringing pumpkin pie.  That’s probably enough…
4. What do you wish could be deleted (or added) to your traditional Thanksgiving day?
We don’t exactly have a traditional Thanksgiving day.  Every year, it seems, we’re somewhere different with someone different.  So, I guess I’d like to establish some Thanksgiving tradition.  Maybe that’s what I’d like to add.  I hope to add some crafts this year too– may do some crafting with C this weekend.
5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?
I am immensely grateful to have a call.
I am immensely grateful for the experience I had teaching in a seminary last year and for my marvelous mentor there.
I am immensely grateful for this house that feels more like a home than any house we’ve ever lived in.
I am immensely grateful to be and have a co-pastor.
I am immensely grateful for my generous, gentle, patient, playful husband.
I am immensely grateful for my healthy, growing, vibrant, articulate, delightful daughter.
I am immensely grateful for the massive network of loving family and friends I have scattered all over the world.
I am immensely grateful that several loved ones will be able to be here for C’s birthday weekend and my installation.
I am immensely grateful for the generosity of family members and church members.
I am immensely grateful for progress in my spiritual life.
I am immensely grateful to have ENOUGH.
I am immensely grateful for my breath.
So, so grateful.


Three times.

That’s the number of times I’ve been pulled over since moving to the great state of Indiana.  And the number of written warnings I’ve received.  Not the sort of thing one likes to broadcast, but here I am writing about it on my public blog.

The first time I ran a stop sign on the way into my daughter’s school parking lot. Brain was shut off partially because I had been following directions of crossing guards at the previous two intersections– who often waved me through stop signs… and… I guess, because I was focusing on safely parking and getting my daughter in the school building without hitting others cars or children (it was the second week of school, I believe.)  I’ve never run that stop sign again.  Nor will I.

The second time I was driving 35 mph in a 20 mph school zone, minutes after dropping my daughter off at school.  I was on autopilot and didn’t realize I was still in the school zone when I let my speed climb to the normal cruising speed for the street.  I was grateful for just a warning.  And I am SUPER careful in school zones now.

And tonight, I was driving without my lights on.  How on earth was I doing this?  Well, end of a long day at the end of a long week and I drove from a meeting at a parishioner’s house to the church to accompany my colleague on a venture to pick up her phone.  Turned off the car.  Turned off the lights. Got out of the car and she told me to head home because a custodian was still there and she felt safe handling it on her own.  Got back in the car.  Turned it on.  And clearly didn’t turn the lights back on.  And minutes later lights were flashing behind me.  And I hadn’t the foggiest idea why.  A very nice cop figured my car must be new (it really is still pretty new to us… and I’ve driven it at night very little!) and wrote up a warning.  I’m guessing I won’t do that again.


In all three of these incidents my brain was either shut off or wandering… well… actually wandering.  I can get so lost in my head that my attention to the physical world around me fades away. I honestly think this is at the root of all three incidents.  (And perhaps a bit of bad luck, too… the number of people I’ve witnessed making the same mistakes– the first two anyhow– and NOT getting pulled over is staggering.) This is part of why a regular yoga practice is important for me.  I need to do things that get me out of my head and into my body.  A lot of times my mind is whirring even during yoga.  But sometimes, I focus only my breath and the present moment.  And usually I leave yoga more aware of my body.

These warnings are disciplining my driving tendencies, but they also invite me to cultivate greater attention to the present moment.  What are some practices that help you with this?

The Grind

I had forgotten how it goes– How you’re prepping for Advent and Christmas while simultaneously getting ready for the teaching you’ll do in January.  How that teaching in January and February will be combined with preparations for Lent and Easter. How time just keeps rolling and you always feel behind.

Of course it is most intense in year one.  And this is only week seven of this ministry.  But… I am also remembering how desperately I always longed for that week after Christmas as vacation.  And now am looking to that week and the one after as my best hope for attending to those pesky dissertation revisions that are so desperately needed.

And for the past week or so I’ve been extraordinarily tired.

So despite feeling behind and a bit overwhelmed– Friday will be a true day off.

And by God’s grace I’ll get through tomorrow.

And by God’s grace I will revise my dissertation– at some point.

I must remember to plan vacation and study leave.  I must remember that the church and its future belong to God and not to me.

I must practice what I preach and keep working and resting in balance.

May it be so.

The Songs We Sing

MaryBeth prompts:

“NaBloPoMo Day Eighteen:

What’s your go-to shower song? (Or other serenade scenario music) Why do you belt this song?”

Hmm… I sing a lot.  All the time really.  I remember Jason G. losing his cool with me in the second grade because I was always humming under my breath.  “Really?” I replied in disbelief.  It was totally unconscious.

And I’ve never stopped.

What song do I sing in the shower?  Whatever song is looping through my head at that moment.

At the moment a fragment of a hymn two elders from my congregation were trying to recall while we drove home from presbytery is looping in my head– and occasionally spilling out of my mouth. “How lovely Lord, how lovely…”  I don’t actually know more than this… sigh.

Last Thursday morning it was a song from the musical my daughter is preparing for… until a conversation replaced it… mercifully.

But I did sing in the shower this morning.  Fragments of “Pixie” by Ani DiFranco… a song I excerpted in my reason sermon.  After a night of lousy sleep “Nobody likes their job.  Nobody got enough sleep.”  felt good to belt.

Sometimes songs are planted from conversations or worship services or even from walking through a grocery store… but sometimes they seem to come from nowhere.  And if they are in my head, they will come out… eventually.  Most certainly in the shower.  Often the songs that come from nowhere are trying to tell me something… if only I’ll attend.

Someday I ought to write down every song that pops into my head. Am I the only one who almost always has music playing in her brain?

I think this might be why I don’t often listen to music.  I enjoy listening to music, but I don’t feel the need because the music never stops.


Several weeks ago I lucked into a solo yoga class– twice actually.  I was the only student to show up for a Saturday yin/restorative class.  And the teacher seized the opportunity to help develop a home practice for me to work on some particular bodily issues with which I struggle.  For a few weeks I did this practice twice a day every day.  Since I’ve started blogging again, the practice has dropped down to about once a day most days– and I’ve missed a few days altogether recently.

It’s a short practice- 8 poses basically.  And none of them are all that dramatic.  But having just done the practice after two days of missing it, I can feel in my body the difference it is making.

While practicing this morning, I remembered to turn my head in the opposite direction of a psoas twist.  It was subtle movement, felt like nothing to do it, but it was astounding how much it deepened the stretch.  I’ve had this experience repeatedly in yoga practice– tiny, barely perceptible movements, micro-movements as I’ve heard them called, transform one’s practice.

I tend to like to make big changes, take big steps, do big things.  But this practice is reminding me that tiny, intentional shifts make a profound difference.  I even think the minor shift of adding a simple, daily yoga practice to my life is what opened up my spirit to blogging again– micro-movements within micro-movements.

I remember when I first started driving I would jerk the car between lanes on the highway, turning the steering wheel much further than necessary towards the lane I needed and then whipping it back to avoid the guard rail.  At some point I figured out I only need to tap the wheel.  My sister commented on this once “When did you figure this out?  I remember you used to do it very differently.”  I couldn’t answer.  I just realized, eventually, that micro-movements suffice.

I think I am living my way into the same realization in my spiritual and vocational life. Intentional, micro-movements, are the key to the transformation that will fuel the service to which I am committed.


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