Our first child was born
at 10:30 on a Sunday morning
but the rest of them had the good sense
to avoid putting their Dad under that kind of stress.
This week grandchild number three
gave us a little warning
and she, her mom and dad,
are all doing well.
So I am filled with gratitude.
Which is great
because gratitude is what I want to zero-in on
today — and not the ten wise and foolish maidens
in that story from Matthew.
So here goes,
a kind of litany of gratitude.
Whatever lake, river, stream, ocean, waterfall
or fountain is the one
you call home,
lake water is that element for me
whose voice I can hear
whose eyes I can look into
whose touch calms and inspires me.
Water is the sacred wine of the Earth —
the conduit of the holy
bleeding into the soil, the air,
Water. Lake water.
I am grateful for it.
I am a child of fields and forests
who grew up on land once covered
by trees or prairie grass.
Now it is an expanse of furrowed farms
where corn and wheat and soy beans
grow and get stored in silos
the size of downtown office buildings.
sassafras, oak, beech, hickory, locusts,
and maple trees
formed a canopy over the steep hillsides
and ridges where I played.
While the aroma of hogs and cows
spread like jam over dark soil in the spring
is a powerful olfactory memory,
right next to it
sits the autumn scent of
new wet leaves
on top of last years dead ones
melting into the deep rich forest floor.
For others it might be vineyards
and the Boreal constellation
of birch, poplar, and conifers
and the aroma of fruit trees
letting go of their sweetness.
I am grateful
for forests and fields.
Green. Brilliant spring grass green
with canary yellow dandelions by the thousands;
and dark spruce green,
and pale ivy green,
and the thirty-seven shades of green
seen on any summer day
looking out your window
So many shades of green, but not
Dark brown dirt
and dingy brown corn stalks
and milky coffee mud-puddle brown
and rippled rough tree-bark brown.
Shades and shades of green and brown.
But also blue — blue sky and water
so many shades of blue
layered from the horizon to
I am grateful for color.
I am grateful for touch.
My dog’s muzzle nuzzling my cheek.
Katy’s hand just reminding me she is there.
A hug on Sunday morning at the door
that says, “I’m happy to see you.”
Silken soft wood worked to velvet smooth,
and the warm soft freshness
of a newborn’s head.
So much to touch
and to be touched by…
I’m grateful for touching
and being touched.
Oh, and imagination —
what would the inside of our heads
be without the ability to imagine?
It would be dark chaos and echoes of to-do lists
and just a lonesome emptiness.
But imagining light when surrounded
by any kind of darkness —
whether it be the time-of-day darkness
or the human kind of darkness — is life saving.
Imagining the faces of those we haven’t seen
in a long while is a certain kind of pleasure.
Imagining how the dead
would smile and nod their head
at something we know they would have loved,
is bridge across time.
Imagining a solution to a problem,
or in my case, imagining a new character
who presents a problem
to the other characters
in a story that is full of imagination.
Or imagining a sermon
when all you’ve got is the Ten Maidens story
to work from.
I am grateful for imagination.
A dog, a cat, a naked mole rat;
a friend of old and
those who are new;
the blood that runs through family
and the family that isn’t blood;
those we gather with…
and the gatherings we count on
to see one another.
I am grateful for all of that.
I am grateful for
the God who whispers when I least expect it
and clobbers me when I most need
to understand something I’ve been resisting.
The God whose small light
illuminates the deepest darkness
and whose great lights
shine from the beginning of time
all the way to now.
The God who holds me
and knows me by name
even as it holds the Milky Way
and breathes love on Neptune.
in whose wisdom
and love and presence
I am somehow able to sit with hope
even as others I know well
seem so hopeless.
I am grateful for
and the hope which that God
has put in my pack pocket
to carry always.
And one more, though I could go on and on.
I am grateful for the cosmos
our teeny tiny planet
is swallowed up in.
The one whose stars cannot be numbered
and whose dark matter can’t be seen
and whose beginning is only a theory
and whose mysteries are more in number
than the sand.
that makes my smallness feel okay
and whose beginning and end
makes everything else
on this this planet of ours
seem like just a few more ticks on the clock
and somehow, makes it all feel
So you have heard me say this before,
especially at funerals:
Gratitude heals grief.
Not all at once but over time.
And we have grief —
oh, do we have grief.
You and I have lost so much over the years.
We probably can’t even count
the number of family and friends
we have lost to death,
and others we simple do not get to see
very often, if ever.
But on top of all of those loves,
those of us who have added a few years
here and there,
have lost parts or functions of our bodies —
things that hurt now that didn’t use to
or don’t work now
that used to work just fine
or capacities that are limited
but which used to seem limitless.
We grieve, whether loudly
or quietly to ourselves,
for those parts of ourselves.
And for anyone listening
who isn’t that old yet,
use that imagination I was giving thanks for
because you have lost bits and pieces too —
just not so much that you can’t deny it yet.
Anyway, we have grief.
We look around and listen
to the way our world is
and the way our nation is
and the way our town is
and the way our neighborhood is
and we can remember
when we thought we would be better than this.
So we grieve for what we had hoped for
or believed in
or simply desired
but know is beyond our reach.
Grief is the counterweight to joy
and we have joy too,
but joy doesn’t come
in the same abundance as grief does.
Maybe sometimes it does
but I think grief runs through life like water
and joy visits us
like the sound of water
moving in and out of earshot.
But thankfully, gratitude
Even what begins as an all encompassing grief
gets whittled down over time
when it is held in gratitude.
What once felt so painful
we had to live in a fog to get by
mellows with gratitude
so that we can begin to remember
the one or the thing that was lost,
but now remember it or them
There will always be grief
for those we loved most
but one day
we will suddenly realize
that our grief is held in our gratitude
rather than the other way around.
So gratitude — what we are thankful for —
is not just a nice sentiment
that comes around once a year
with turkey legs and gravy.
It is an active ingredient
in the life of those
who wish to live life more abundantly.
Without the capacity to call up
and raise up
we will have a much smaller,
more brittle, and
much less abundant life.
Thus my whacky
and highly personal list
of things I am grateful for.
I hope in the course
of my spewing forth gratitude
that your gratitude has been kicked up
like dust in a whirlwind.
I hope that my strange little list
of Thanksgiving thanksgivings
poked you to think about yours
and if not, that when you go home
and are waiting to turn on the Bills game tomorrow night,
you will suddenly remember
this litany of thanksgiving
and be rocked into your own.
Now finally, I am grateful for a message
I receive this week, from someone in another state
who worships with us each week
through our YouTube videos.
Serendipitously, or maybe not so,
this person emailed me
a list of what she is grateful for
on the very afternoon I was writing
this sermon about gratitude.
She wrote that she is grateful for:
“…drawing down of the Holy and (those) being present with her through the years. Simple presence.”
“…picturing the ground laden with fallen persimmons ready to be pulped for the harvest pudding
(and a 1964 State Fair purple ribbon winning recipe).
And ”…for the gift of closing my eyes,” she wrote, “and listening to Lisa’s soul through her fingertips. She may replay “When Summer Ends” anytime she wants for me!”
I am grateful this little community
of Trinity Place
than we even imagine.
I am grateful to you.