My UnThanksgiving Memo for a Manifesto

Costco chaos, Fred Meyer frenzy and madness at the local mall is just another reminder to me of what I have dubbed as UnThanksgiving. Not to sound “unholidayish,” but the craziness and the rush is starting to create an anxiety level in me that does not lend itself to being grateful for tomorrow or the next 27 days 6 hours 49 minutes and 52 seconds left until Christmas arrives. Thanksgiving is a noble holiday in which President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” You can read the proclamation at the end of my blog post. It is quite moving.

The rush paralyzes and holds my productivity captive

No praise is found on my tongue only cranky thoughts and phrases.

I get an aversion to doing anything to move ahead for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

It robs my joy and I start complaining and become “unthankful.”

That’s what is happening on the inside although only those closest to me would know that my outside face doesn’t match what’s brewing underneath. I know it’s getting bad when I start to leak on strangers oozing unthankfulness. I am trying to live more honest and tell myself the truth. I want with my whole heart to be more grateful in the midst of the chaos.

I’ve learned something however rather significant this past week about gratitude from a course I’ve been taking by Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection. Let me see if I can summarize briefly how it has impacted me. I don’t always feel grateful, and so practicing gratitude is the key to joy being released in my life. It is the cornerstone of cultivating thankfulness in my heart and spirit, it is contagious! This has helped me so much and has created a pathway to understand more of what gratefulness actually looks like. Because I am more aware, even today, I had a stunning moment when an eagle flew so close outside the window carrying reeds of grass to build her nest. It was magnificent and I was in awe. It was a moment that caused me to worship! I realized that my “awe” was cultivating gratitude.

What I’m learning is that It’s not about capturing gratefulness in the big events in life, it really is about the little things.The little things that lead up to the big things. To keep my awareness moving ahead I’ve decided that I am going to create a Thanksgiving Manifesto to defeat my “unthanksgiving” attitude. I know I am not alone in this, will you take a few moments and write your own manifesto in your journal and then share it with me? I’d love to hear!

MY THANKSGIVING MANIFESTO

I am reclaiming gratitude in my life. I will no longer allow circumstances, disappointments and sadness over things I can’t change to rob my joy. I choose to practice gratitude daily even if I don’t “feel” like it. I will embrace the gift of confessing the incredible blessings that come to me from the moment I open my eyes each morning to the time I lay my tired head on my pillow each night. 

I choose to proclaim the creed of thankfulness from God’s word;

“I will come into His presence with thankfulness (Ps. 95:2)

And I will “Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Ps. 100:1-5).

In all that I do, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col.3:17)

This is my manifesto of thanks so I can flourish and restore my joy and peace in the midst of all that would speak otherwise!

AMEN

 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN PROCLAMATION

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm

When You Need Someone To Fight For You

I’ve decided I don’t want to listen to the news anymore. It makes me want to tear my hair out and vomit. It makes me grieve, my heart ache for the injustice that happens daily in our world, especially to children. Innocent children who suddenly are robbed of their childhood and receive heartless wounds that no human being should ever have to endure.

One story has been haunting me since I first heard it when I was driving home the other day.  The radio news announcer matter of fact read the story of an 11-year old foster child boy that had been found handcuffed to a porch shivering in the cold with a dead chicken tied around his neck. I gasped, and screamed out loud in the car. I could in that moment only pound heaven’s doors with my question of, really God? Why so much hurt?

The worst of it is, one of his caretakers was a supervisor for social services. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Isn’t she the one who is supposed to help rescue these children from harm and then insure protection, not be the one who commits the crime? It is utterly disgusting. And to be honest, it’s hard to give grace to someone who administers that type of cruelty to children.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this story has impacted me on such a deep level. I can’t stop thinking about it.

I can’t stop thinking about the fear and terror that little boy was experiencing.

The smell of that dead chicken around his neck.

The decaying and attraction of pesky flies flying around his body.

His inability to shield his face or plug his nose because he was handcuffed to the porch.

I can’t stop thinking about the enormous humiliation he faced.

I can’t stop thinking about his confusion of trying to understand why the people that are supposed to love and protect him would subject him to such harsh cruelty.

I can’t stop thinking about the tears staining his little cheek and his cries that were silenced and made to endure this torture.

It makes me weep and rage at the same time. What is his future? Will he ever know what it is like to be really loved? To have a normal childhood? Who will fight for him? These questions are all unanswered and all I can do right now is pray for him and the other children that were in that house.

As I reflected on why this particular story has triggered me, I came to this conclusion. I think it bothers me so much because it is a story about humiliation, tragic and horrific humiliation. This should never happen to anyone. No one deserves that experience no matter what they might have said or done. The punishment outweighs the offense by a million miles whatever it might have been. It is plain unjust.

Have you ever been misunderstood and humiliated by someone in authority who was supposed to protect you? Someone whose power was misused to heap shame on you to make themselves feel better? We may not have such an extreme experience as this little boy has had, but each of us probably could retell a story or two of feeling like we’ve been handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken around our neck.

It hurts.

The smell and memory still lingers.

The pesky flies remind us of the shame that has been draped around us screaming, “Because of what you did, you are a bad person.”

And we wonder, “Really God? I was trying to do the right thing. I not only got the handcuffs slapped on, but humiliation on top of it. It’s not fair, it sucks and I’m having a hard time not being paralyzed because of it.”

It is in that moment God comes in the picture and fights for us. Joseph, Job, Hagar, Paul, and many others found in the pages of the Bible experienced being handcuffed to a porch wrought with humiliation. God showed up and became the deliverer and set things straight. He promises to fight for us in the midst of injustice.

We might be in so much pain it’s hard to hope, but God won’t fail.

We may fail or make mistakes but God doesn’t shame us.

Others may deem us unlovable, but God loves us, unconditionally and extravagantly.

We might be judged unfairly but God’s grace is outrageous.

Others may break their promises but God’s promises are true, always.

We might have a hard time trusting others because we’ve been hurt, but God, He has proven to be trustworthy.

If you ever find yourself handcuffed to a porch and experiencing being misunderstood and humiliated because of someone else’s actions, take heart. God is working in the background. It doesn’t go unnoticed. He will fight for you and be your defense just as a little boys cries finally attracted the attention of a neighbor and he was rescued.

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble.?I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me.?Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.?I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!” Psalm 91:14-16 (Message)

 

(picture taken from http://insideevs.com/electric-to-the-rescue/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth of Where I Belong

Picture 327Even the wife of a pastor can at times feel lost and struggle with what it means to belong even in her own church. Does that surprise you? I was talking with a friend today and she affirmed to me that it was okay to just be myself. What a relief! I am opening up the vault of vulnerability to say that even leaders can’t live up to their own expectations and at times can feel displaced, not enough, and wonder how they fit, especially after a wilderness season.

I shared in my last blog I’ve been ruminating and reflecting a bit more lately and so bear with me as I continue with this theme. As I went to sleep last night and confessed my jumbled emotions to God, I asked him to sort them out for me because I can’t. I learned a long time ago that my emotions unlike my heart can’t be trusted. They seek to lead me astray with lies and can cause me to slip into a state that doesn’t choose to trust and believe God.

This morning I carried this baggage into church with me stuffing the lies and overriding my hidden emotions with a smile. That’s what leaders do isn’t it? I am not saying that I was faking it 100% but I was determined to practice what I had surrendered the night before hoping that my tattered emotions would follow my obedience. And God surprised me this morning in a way I didn’t expect.

But isn’t that just like him?

We surrender.

We trust.

We believe.

And He surprises us again with His extravagant love.

I was standing and chatting with another woman when one of our staff joined the conversation. With a big smile he asked us to give him a word, any word. At first, I wanted to laugh because it reminded me of the father in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding who claims he can trace any word you could give him to Greek origin, of which he was of course proudly Greek! I thought for a moment and blurted out the word believe. After my heart-felt conversation with God last night, it was the first word that popped into my brain.

He proceeded to hand me an enormous bar of chocolate, the kind that comes in a brick and looks like an oversized postcard. On the wrapper it had a warm cozy picture of a room with a fireplace. It actually said, Merry Christmas! In his broken English (it is his second language) he told me with enthusiasm that the word believe meant that I was to be a light, just like the fire in the picture that was lighting up the room. I am not sure all the way of the connection between the word believe and the light, as I was trying to follow him as he excitedly shared with me. He was determined to help me understand that he wanted me to hear that I was to “be a light” as he repeatedly pointed to the fireplace in the picture.

I do know that God was speaking to me directly in that shared encounter. It was a link of something that happened last month around the word “light” when I was at a retreat. God reminded me in a room full of women standing in a circle with candles lit that despite the dark wilderness that I have found myself in at times over the past few years, his plan for me is to not forget that he has called me to be a light. He is the reason that I have life and light and His desire is for me to live out what I told this man this morning, that the origin of my name Cynthia, actually means, reflector of light.

It may sound simple, but it was profound to me and resonated in my weary soul. God gently reminded me through an act of kindness that whenever I feel displaced or not enough, His love is my home. His love is where I belong no matter what’s happening in the back story of my life. It is His love that keeps me sheltered and because of that I choose to believe, I can trust and I can be His light to the world.

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (Message Bible)