Living in the Moment

One of the greatest gifts of ministry is gaining the opportunity to see though the eyes of those who we encounter. If we are able to be unencumbered by our own concerns, schedules and preconceptions, then we are able to truly receive that gift. Not an easy task, given the demands of our day and the increasing expectations of family and work.  Yet, so incredibly rewarding in broadening our perspective and fostering gratitude when invited to walk in the experience of others.

Small and petite “Ruth”, now 94 and suffering from dementia, is currently living with her daughter and her family.  Unlike so many who are hit by this mental deterioration she is able to remain in a home setting cared for by those who know and love her best. This being my second time, I am prepared for what is in store. Greeted warmly first by her grandson,  Ruth meets me with the most beautiful smile. “Oh you came, so very good to see you!”  “Yes, I am here to bring you communion today”, I said. “Really?! That is so wonderful and so very kind of you! What is your name?” “Elizabeth, I am from Resurrection and St. Paul parishes.” “Thank you…this (pointing to her head) doesn’t always remember everything very well.”

Sitting down, we talk briefly as she tells me how she is doing. “Had a good night’s sleep, and they feed me well here. And, the sun is shining!” Ruth who doesn’t remember even long term names and relationships is content merely to know that she is surrounded by family. Due to short and long term memory loss, Ruth is pressed to live in the moment. As she asks me my name again, I place my card in her hand.
“This is yours to keep, my name is here. I will be coming every week with communion.” “Wow, I didn’t know that anyone did that. You know, I haven’t been able to go to church for some time. I can’t remember when..” , she said pausing and looking off. “Can I give you anything in return?”
“That’s ok, that is why I am here. When you can no longer get to church..church comes to you! And no, my gift is being here with you!”, I exclaimed.
“This is the best! What do I need to do?”, her joy and excitement now showing.
“Let’s pray together, and then you can receive Christ.”

With the sign of the cross, all of a sudden I lay witness as her memory comes flooding back. Each word flows from her lips and she is fully present aware of the sacredness of this time and space. Her humble act of contrition spoken, we pray the Our Father together. Placing the Eucharist in her mouth, she closes her eyes and bows her head, her body remembering the motions of a lifetime of faith. In parting, she followed me to the door asking if I was to come back again.
“Of course! I am looking forward to it, you are the best part of my day”, I said.
“You too!”, she said with a smile and a wave.

Reflect:

Is my life so scheduled that I can forget to savor the moment? Could there be an opportunity to share or receive Christ today with someone I meet?

Peace,

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Sowing Gratitude

Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7

About this time of year many of us take a moment to reflect on all of our blessings and the things that we have to be grateful for. Yet, why is it that gratitude so often has become such a seasonal pastime or a clever marketing cliche hung up on our walls? And, what about the challenges and trials we face, are we ever thankful for those? I’d venture to say that most likely we do more complaining than we ever do praising God for his constant companionship and the smaller things in life in experienced difficulty and joy.

In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

Growing up, though I never had everything I thought I wanted,  I always had all that I needed. A life lived in gratitude began not, however, from suddenly receiving the perfect gift or from an act or two of kindness, but from constantly witnessing it in the lives of those closest to me. For my mother, more than an acquaintance put on for social norms, gratitude was sown much like the soybean and cotton fields she worked on with her family.

As a small girl, she would awake shortly before 4 am, dress and quickly head for the barn. Though she might not have been ready, the cows were and she understood the great responsibility for their care and that of family. Breakfast depended and waited on the cows being milked, the eggs collected and chickens fed. And while she worked rather than bemoan the lost time in bed, she would often dream of the warm biscuits and pan gravy that would accompany her morning efforts.

With an assortment of hand me downs and few things of her own one might incorrectly assume that she simply never knew the difference. One pair of new shoes a year were not the result of an expectation but rather of a summer’s hard work out in the field.  And blessings, well they were recounted on the front porch under the stars listening to stories of health and financial storms weathered and new possibilities on the horizon. Sunday service was then a true celebration, a time to give thanks for all that God had given and to share that with their neighbors in need.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind,  for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:8-9

I thought of this spirit of gratitude last weekend as my family and I worked to collect food for our local food pantry drive. Home from college, my son had decided that there was no where he would rather be at 6:30 than out in the cold with me greeting parishioners with bags in hand.  Joining us a bit later my husband and youngest arrived too and my heart felt full. This was the legacy of gratitude that had been passed on to my mother then to me and that now I could leave to my children.

“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way” 1 Cor. 4-5.

This is none more evident than at the close of day when we gather together as a family to pray. Going round in a circle, from oldest to youngest we offer up our prayers of petition and praise. Any guests that happen to be present are also invited to share. In this way, all things big and small in our lives are brought before God and one another. It has become such an important part in our lives, we have even have had call ins when one of us is away.

Wherever you are today, God is calling you near. If you long to hear His voice, begin with a moment of gratitude for something, however small, that you are truly thankful for. Odds are this will be followed by other things perhaps forgotten or overlooked in your life. Then you are invited to share these occasions with someone else. Become a sower of gratitude today. You need not know or see all its effects to realize that gratitude is a gift that cannot be contained but overflows in many expressions.

A Blessed Thanksgiving to you all!

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