Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gratitude: Prayer Waves

This week. I am grateful for social networks on the internet. This week I have prayed for people I don't know but I know about through blogs and facebook. I have prayed for people in life's deepest sorrow during this time of year we insist should be sugar coated and joyful. I have prayed God's peace on each situation and each person involved. I have prayed for others who wait in ICU's and hear sad news that I don't even know about.

I wonder how much the "prayer traffic" has increased over the last few years since we began sharing prayer requests in ways other than printed newsletters and phone trees? My gratitude for these technological developments is not simply that God hears more prayers these days or people feel more prayed for. It goes beyond that.

I am grateful because the reminder to pray without ceasing comes via email and on facebook throughout my day. My prayer life is being changed. I am being changed. My relationship with God is being changed as I examine whether these long distance prayers are prayed in faith that God is indeed present everywhere and will respond to our prayers. So, this week I am grateful for the interwebs and the equipment that allows me to connect with others around the world and with God.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Church Gratitudes

This week I have been thankful for all the people who keep the ministries of Oak Grove running smoothly: for those who care for and teach our children, for our awesome youth director, for our talented music director and those he directs, for our trustees and everyone else who keeps our building in good shape, for those who lead adult Sunday school, for those who handle our finances, for those who welcome, for those who help with a million clerical and communication details, for those who prepare for worship each week, for those who offer comfort and hospitality though gifts of food, for those who organize and carry out our missions, and many more I've failed to list.

The list above seems pretty generic, but each category represents real people who give of themselves and through whom I am blessed each week. I love all of you and I'm so glad God has put me in the midst of you.

Have a blessed week and I'll see you Sunday!
Pastor Liz

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Deeper Gratitude

Okay, I felt a need to get a gratitude posted this morning, but I don't feel like I came even close to doing justice to the gratitude I feel toward Caleb's birthmother. This gratitude for the person who brought an end to my pain and made my greatest dream come true runs deep in a way I have never been able to fully explain. My friends who have also experienced the gift of a child through adoption get it, but we all have a hard time finding the words to express it.

I think deep may be the best word I can come up with. Deep because it is always with me, everytime I look at my son. It doesn't get pushed aside with the busyness of my world or the "I wants" that often make us forget to be grateful. Deep because it feels like it comes from far inside my heart - that my heart is bigger than it looks from the outside or in an xray. You Harry Potter fans will get it when I say my heart feels like one of those magical tents that look small and ordinary on the outside but are huge and beautiful on the inside.

This gratitude runs deeper than any other in my life. As a pastor, I probably shouldn't say that. I should say my gratitude to Jesus for the gift of his life, death and resurrection runs as deep, but honestly it doesn't.

So as I work my way through this Advent of Thankfulness, I wonder what would happen if I nurture and foster my gratitude for the gift of Jesus so that it too runs deep.

What is the absolutely best gift physical or otherwise that you've received? How deep does your gratitude run?


Family Gratitudes

This week of the year is always poignant for me as we remember how our son came into our family on this very day 18 years ago. I love to tell the story, so if you haven't heard it, and want to know ask me sometime.

At some point today, we will watch the video of the placement ceremony held in the hospital chapel. I heard that later that week at a church meeting, our pastor told the story of being a part of the service where there was grief and joy all stirred up together so that we were beaming and crying all at the same time. The moment Caleb's birthmother placed him in my arms is etched in my memory forever and has greatly influenced how I understand God's sacrificial love for us.

This week, I am grateful for our son Caleb, and for his birthparents who gave him life, and then made a loving sacrifice and gave him life with us. I'm grateful for all of our family and friends who supported us through the dark years of infertility and who celebrated with us when Caleb came into our lives. I am thankful to God for the blessings poured out on us through all these people. Thank you Lord.

Bonus: Here's a link to the song Rik played and sang at the placement ceremony. I've never been able to get him to do it again in public. He says it would be just too hard.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Today, I'm thankful for a vocation that actually expects me to spend a whole morning delving into scripture. No matter how familiar the passages are, I always find some new insight or viewpoint. I get so excited to share what I've learned. The hardest part is pairing 4 hours of study down to a 15 - 20ish minute sermon.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Thanksgiving

Dear Oak Grove Friends,

I discovered an interesting phenomenon that happens for pastors last week. While everyone else was planning Thanksgiving meals and family gatherings, I was working on Advent and Christmas worship planning. I was also aware of the importance of not skipping Thanksgiving. I don’t mean the big turkey dinner, I mean the season of giving thanks. This year I have much to be thankful for here at Oak Grove and I wanted to make sure I took the time to be thankful. Yet, at the same time I was looking ahead to Hanging of the Greens, Advent Sundays, Victorian Christmas and Christmas Eve.

Our theme for Sunday School and worship this Advent is “Christmas Gifts that Won’t Break: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace.” As I began to contemplate each of these gifts in this weird melding of Thanksgiving and Advent, I wondered what would happen if we carry our sense of thanks giving right on through Christmas Day. What if we take time to thank God for these gifts of hope, love, joy, and peace and for the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ?

What if we are careful to take an attitude of gratitude with us into the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparation? Will it change the way we deal with the frustrations that are bound to come? Will it redirect our focus as we consider gift giving and receiving and who really needs our gifts? Will it change the condition of our hearts as we welcome the Christ child? I believe it will.

Many of my friends keep gratitude journals either privately or more openly on facebook or blogs during the month of November. I have decided that I will keep a log of that for which I am grateful as a spiritual discipline this Advent. Perhaps you will join me in this endeavor by leaving comments or starting your own gratitude list.