Category Archives: gratitude

Eating My Words

Conversations with my chef friend, Penny Cameron

1996, West Windsor, New Jersey

Me: How can it cost $5 for a loaf of decent bread?

Penny: Make your own in a bread machine. It’s easy.

Me: Not likely.

2000, New Hope, PA

Me: Genuardi’s is out of the good chicken stock again.

Penny: Make your own. It’s easy.

Me: When pigs fly.

2001, September, New Hope, PA

Me: Sugar free applesauce is almost impossible to find.

Penny: It’s easy to make on the stove and freeze in ice cube trays. Even better, can it – apples are cheap right now.

Me: I don’t I have an inner farmer to channel.

Since those conversations, I’ve done everything Penny suggested. I’ve made my own chicken stock for almost 20 years. I’ve canned applesauce and more for almost a decade. I’ve channeled an inner farmer enough to become a teaching gardener, showing preschool children how to grow and enjoy herbs and vegetables.

Penny died just a few months after my applesauce complaint – liver failure. Whenever I take a chance and try to grow or cook something new, I feel her spirit surround me. What a beautiful way for the Spirit to show me how to eat with intention and thanks.

Generosity in Giving

I will try this day to…exercise generosity in giving

My twentieth summer, I worked at Dockside restaurant in Alton Bay. One day, a stranger with a bed roll and backpack came in for lunch. He was thin, and his clothes were frayed. After giving the menu careful consideration, he ordered a cup of chowder and a glass of water.

The cook/owner, Lois, took one look at him through the kitchen window, and said in a low voice, “Oh Lord, someone looking for a handout.” I wondered if she would refuse to serve him, ask him to leave, or just send out the cup of soup and hope he left quickly and quietly. After a minute or two, she rang the bell for me to pick up the order. Lois had put pasta bowl full of chowder and three large pieces of grilled bread on a plate, garnished with a mini salad. “He’s hungry. Take it on over and don’t charge him for it” was all she said.

When he was down to the last piece of bread, he began counting out coins to pay for his meal. I told him the owner took care of it. He said thanks, asked for her name, and left a while later.

On the table was a remarkable mandala drawn in pencil on a clean napkin; on the bottom, the stranger had written these words:

Thank you, Lois. You are a gift from the universe.

Food for the body given on a plate, food for the soul returned on a napkin: Generosity in giving going both ways.

[For the full prayer, click A Morning Resolve above.]

 

Charity

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence… [A Morning Resolve, Forward Day by Day]

Charity isn’t a virtue if it means giving the least amount of money possible to maintain the appearance or feeling of moral superiority above those who receive it.

Charity is a vice if writing a check is a way to avoid seeing the poverty of others.

True charity is building half a bridge out of my God-given resources, trusting that the rest will be built out of someone else’s need.

True charity is knowing it’s an honor to cross over from either side, and a blessing to meet friend or stranger in the middle.

 

Great Soul

Cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence; exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God.

Magnanimity: Loftiness of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness or pettiness, and to display a noble generosity. [merriam-webster.com. Merriam Webster’s online dictionary]

The other day, I tested a new product: window markers. Since my drawing abilities are somewhat limited, I drew a simple heart in red. It wasn’t very noticeable through the storm splashed, February filthy window.

Passing my office door a couple of days back, I noticed a new mark on the floor.

Had someone Sharpie’d a heart on my carpet? That’s what I thought, until I looked up.

The unremarkable heart on my window had cast its colorful shape.

Perhaps magnanimity is just the same: standing in God’s light in all our imperfections and in all circumstances, casting a reflection of love so much bigger than ourselves.

[For more on this prayer, click A Morning Resolve above. A Morning Resolve, Forward Day by Day, inside front cover; Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement. www.ForwardMovement.org.]

Cultivating Cheerfulness

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence… [A Morning Resolve]

A good person, but not someone you’d want to go out for a beer with.

That’s most of the people I knew during my doctoral years at Princeton Seminary – faculty, administration, and students. There were notable exceptions, maybe 20% of the total population altogether. It isn’t as if the other 80% weren’t interesting, sincere, intelligent, or well-meaning: they were. It’s just that they weren’t particularly fun to be around outside a classroom. They were serious people with serious things to ponder and accomplish, and they had little time or patience for shared laughter and fun. Did I come across the same way?

As there were no classes on cultivating cheerfulness, and very few professors capable of teaching such a class if there had been, maybe a different kind of mentor was needed- someone who was comfortable enough in the non-academic world to help those who weren’t. It’s not just learning the social skills to talk with a wide range of people: it’s seeing in a stranger something of value, even before beginning a conversation. It’s knowing that there’s a whole wide world of fascinating people and ideas to explore, and being grateful for the opportunity to do so with whomever happens to be there at the time.

To lighten someone’s day, and to get a kick out of the world in general – that’s a spiritual gift worth cultivating.

Anxiety

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking.

Anxiety is trusting that something horrible is waiting just around the next corner. It doesn’t rely on current circumstances, and is deaf to the voices of hope and reason. It requires no particular hardship, and is the constant companion of an amazingly diverse group of people. It steals life’s laughter and joy. It is the pandemic that disturbs sleep, churns the stomach, and constricts both heart and lungs. It may not bring death, but it certainly diminishes life.

I think anxiety is a symptom of something much deeper, like the fever and chills that come with the flu. It grows from my deep fear that I might end up someplace where even God cannot find me. I wonder: can I ever be so lost and alone in the universe, that no one can bring me home?

Until I am ready to ask God this question, I’m unable to hear the answer, and anxiety invades my life. Once I give voice to my deep fear, I can hand my anxiety over to God. It will be returned to me, transformed into something just as immune to current circumstances: peace.

The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:5b-7, NRSV)

[For the complete prayer, click A Morning Resolve above.]

 

 

 

Discontent

A Morning Resolve

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking…

I’m a big believer in taking time to acknowledge the disappointments that life brings instead of pretending they don’t occur or that I don’t care. They do occur, and sometimes I care a great deal. But acknowledgement isn’t the same as letting such things take up permanent residence in my head, heart, or soul. Life’s inevitable imperfections can only lead to discontentment if I invite them to stay instead of showing them the door.

Today, when I notice the imperfections in my home and the inconveniences life brings, I’ll call them by name and give them a nod. Then I’ll thank them for coming and usher them out. With them gone, there’ll be plenty of room to live the simple, sincere, and serene life God offers. I’m content with that.

[Wareham WaterPhotograph by Jared Fredrickson, 2018]

Rock and Pond

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere and serene life…

[A Morning ResolveForward Day by Day, November 2019 – January 2020, inside front cover; Forward Movement: Cincinnati, Ohio. www.ForwardMovement.org]

Chalk Pond, New Durham, New Hampshire:

It’s a sizable rock,  jutting far enough into the water to see the fish and turtles that don’t come right up to the bank. Sitting there most any day, I see the sun dance on the breeze blown water, throwing light in all directions. On clear nights,  the water stills to a mirror; the rock connects the stars in the sky to their reflected images: heaven above and heaven below on full display. In such a time and place, I am serene.

But if I make the shift from being serene to living a serene life, where I am in this shifts from rock to pond. Pond life grows and changes constantly, and remains mostly unseen by those on the outside. Its surface is moved by whatever the day brings, and that movement plays with and scatters whatever light comes its way. When the day’s activity falls into night’s calm, the pond becomes a living reflection of the starlit heavens – active and alive inside, serene enough to be a small starlit heaven on the outside.

Lord, help me make of this day something that fosters life in its activity and reflects your light in its stillness. Help me live this day a serene life. Amen.

chalk_newdurham

 

Sincere

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life…

[A Morning Resolve, Forward Day by Day, November 2019 – January 2020, inside cover]

Merriam Webster’s definition of Sincere

A. Free of dissimulation: Honest

B. Free from adulteration: Pure

C. Marked by genuineness: True

[www.merriam-webster.com]

I will be who I am, fully and completely. I won’t offer a false version of myself to others. I will be faithful to the world and those around me, as best I can. 

When others share their true selves with me, I’ll do my best to be worthy of their sacred gift.

[For the full prayer, click A Morning Resolve above.]

Simple

I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life…

Simple and easy aren’t interchangeable. It’s simple enough to learn a basic crochet stitch, but not easy to crochet an afghan. It’s easy enough to memorize the Jesus Prayer [Lord, Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me (a sinner)], but letting go of all other thoughts and feelings to pray it isn’t so simple an act.

Simple and simplistic aren’t the same. Simple is when what is beside the point or tangential is removed, revealing something’s true nature. Simplistic is when something’s true nature is interpreted as less or fundamentally different from what it is.

So what am I praying when I say I will try this day to live a simple life?

  1. I’m asking God to help me avoid the simplistic version of reality that makes God and others objects in a world of my own making. Instead, I will recognize that I am an infinitely small and infinitely beloved creature in God’s holy creation – and so is everyone else.
  2. I’m praying for the strength to do today’s sacred tasks without complaint or resentment, and the wisdom to recognize and leave undone everything else.

Isn’t that more than enough?

[Forward Day by Day, A Morning Resolve; front inside cover, November, 2019-January, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement; www.ForwardMovement.org. For the full prayer, click A Morning Resolve above.]