April 15, 2014

...much rather write a song about it.

Today's post is written by songwriter, author, singer and friend of FUMCR - Celia Whitler.

I would love to say living a life of gratitude daily is easy but it is much easier for me to write a song about it.

One of my favorite quotes about gratitude is from John F. Kennedy, As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words but to live by them.”  I’ve always believed gratitude played a huge part of my life.  I sometimes can see all I have to give thanks for in my life but more than give thanks, I know that the time I am grateful each year, each day, each moment, is by the way I’m living gratitude.  Gratitude has been said to have molded and shaped the entire Christian life not merely by emotions and thoughts, but by actions and deeds.  I understand that as people we are to be grateful. I have glimpses of gratitude when I sing the song For the Beauty of the Earth or Hallelujah with our Lives and I am reminded.  When I receive an act of kindness, no matter how small it may seem, unexpected or sometimes even undeserved at the time, I’m reminded.  When I see God at work, the Spirit on the move, Jesus’ words lived out, I’m reminded.  When I see a breathtaking sunset or hear the words whispered in my ear, “I’m sorry,”  I’m reminded.  Countless other moments bring me to realize how thankful, grateful and in awe of deep real gratitude I am ... and then it’s gone! I’m on to the busy, the distracted, the pace of a world and life I’ve chosen.

Robert Emmons,
a world leading expert on gratitude says gratitude is a virtue and we should devote more energy to cultivating an attitude of gratitude.  That we should consciously practice gratitude in our lives.  One thing Emmons points out that I love and struggle with is that sometimes it is the concept that gratitude is difficult for some of us because it requires us to recognize our dependence on others... to humble ourselves and become a good receiver.  I agree as I am a much better giver than receiver.  But I believe gratitude must be both.. the giving and the receiving for it to be an integral part of our lives. One cannot exist without the other.

I learned when I studied the word gratitude, that there are two basic thoughts about gratitude.  First, there is a state of gratitude, a feeling or emotion we get.  Second, there is a trait of gratitude, how frequently people actually feel gratitude.  And I believe there must be a third, a dedication of gratitude, a way of living grateful.  We must be set apart by the way we choose to live a life of gratitude.  To dedicate my life to gratitude means for me, to make it my sacred purpose to devote wholeheartedly and earnestly to recognize and live gratitude in my life.  When I do so, I find the presence of God in all things. I find the sacred in the small gifts both received and given. I begin to see life in abundance rather than a life of scarcity.  That full or empty, I’m grateful.  In dark difficult times or joyous times, I’m grateful.  When I have little or more than I know what to do with, I’m grateful.  It’s the choosing; I ask God to strengthen me when I falter, to remind me when I forget, to help me not only sing this song in my life but most importantly, live the song of gratitude and to that I say Hallelujah!

See more of Celia in action on her YouTube Channel - Celia Whitler Music

This post was originally published in the April/May 2014 edition of the First Connections Magazine by FUMCR.  
See the latest issues here!

April 1, 2014

Gratitude for the HAPPY People!

Submitted by Glenda Hanks, FUMCR

I have been trying my best to keep up with the thank yous in our year of gratitude.  It’s not only been a challenge to think of who to thank, but also a lot of fun.  I find myself constantly on the lookout for who I can thank!  Most of the time it comes easy because there are so many wonderful people out there~ just being themselves, but making our world a brighter place.   

For instance, we have a new mail carrier.  I seldom see him because I’m at work, but the other day he had already been by the house, and I had a card that I hadn’t gotten in the mailbox yet.  I darted across the street to give him my mail and said, “Oh, I almost missed ya!”  He looked up with a  smile and said, “Well, we can’t let that happen.  I’ll make time for you!”  It was a pleasant conversation, short, but it touched me.  Most of our mail carriers will wave, but never actually engage in conversation.  

The next day, I left a note in the mailbox for him, thanking him for taking the time to be cheerful and make a difference.  The following day, I had a note in my mailbox from him saying “Thank you for the kind note, God is good!”    

Look for the cheerful people!  They are out there, and probably wouldn’t mind being thanked or appreciated. 

March 11, 2014

We are Thankful for the Children...

Whitney Worzer contacted the staff at FUMCR last week to tell a story. During the Ash Wednesday Service at the church last week, her 4-year-old son, Andrew, wrote the following "thank you" note to God:

She, in turn, wrote the following thank you note to FUMCR:

Whitney also added:

I am so proud and humbled by my church and my 4-year-old teaching me and growing my personal faith on a daily basis. 

I began bringing him to worship with me every Sunday since he was 6 weeks old. Originally, it was primarily because I was an overwhelmed first time mom and needed to shower, get dressed and get out of the house at least ONCE a week.

But that routine has lasted the past four years and our church was the one place I could go in public and be surrounding by love and understanding where I would not be judged or turned away for having a cranky kid.  

It is not said enough, but THANK YOU FUMCR for being a community of faith that not only welcomes children into worship and the many other aspects of our life together, but for being a community of faith that helps nurture both parents and children together so that we all may remember to say Thank You God!

Do you have a story of gratitude to share with FUMCR?  Contact us via the Year of Gratitude Hotline at 503.583.2219 (leave a voicemail or send as a text message), or you can send an email to info@fumcr.com

February 18, 2014

The Risk of Gratitude

By Rev. April Johnson Bristow


One of the first notes of gratitude I sent this year was to three women who are active with Kairos Prison Ministry.  Two of the women are members of our church and the other one is a clergy sister in the North Texas Conference. 

I had just received an email with the latest issue of FaithLink, a great UM resource for preparing and teaching faith-filled lessons on relevant contemporary topics.  The issue for the week was “Helping People to Rejoin Community after Prison.”  When I saw the title, I immediately thought of these ladies who have a great compassion for prison ministry.  I forwarded the FaithLink to the ladies with a few words of gratitude for their work in this very difficult but much needed area of ministry.

Well, I didn’t think of it again until yesterday, when I was going through my mail.  I noticed a thick envelope with multiple stamps on it.  Whenever you see multiple stamps an envelope, you know something important is inside.  I immediately looked at the return address to see who sent this chunky envelope.  I saw the name and the address and I knew who it was from!  It was from one of the ladies.  Every year at least two of these ladies verbally invite me to participate in a weekend long prison ministry experience.  The way things have worked out, the timing had not been right for me to participate.  Usually, they ask later in the year and my calendar would not allow me to take a whole weekend away. 

My heart stopped for a moment because I put two and two together and I kinda knew where this was heading.  If there was a camera in the room, you would have seen me begin to open the envelope in slow motion.  Yup, I was right!  It was an application (not just an invitation…an application!) to participate in a weekend long prison ministry experience in October.  Darn these faithful, persistent FUMCR women!

Of all the places that I have been and things that I have done in ministry, it is prison ministry that causes the most fear and hesitancy.  Not that I have avoided it, but it just hasn’t worked out for me to go and honestly, I have been alright with things not working out.  This time, the invitation came in January, when my calendar for October only showed the birthdays that were populated from Facebook friends.  No events, no conflicts, nothing to excuse my way out this time! 

I chuckled because the last paragraph of the letter asked me to “prayerfully consider serving as a team member.”  Well, as a matter of faith, I don’t have to pray long on this issue.  I don’t believe in tying God up with prayers that have already been answered in God’s word…remember the scripture about least of these in Matthew 25:34-45?

So, I just wanted to warn you brothers and sisters, because I don’t remember this being mentioned in a sermon. 

Writing a thank you can open you up to more blessings, more challenges and more opportunities to grow deeper in your faith! 

I offer you the same advice you would no doubt offer me:  Accept the challenge!  Express gratitude! Write the note! See what other blessings God has in store for you! 

January 22, 2014

Finding Gratitude Between the Extremes...

by Francy Collins
Website Administrator, FUMCR

“You think it’s just another day in your life. It is not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. - Brother David Steindl-Rast

In Clayton’s sermon on Sunday, he said the Year of Gratitude is not just about writing thank-you notes and certainly not about writing the right number of notes. It is about practicing the spiritual discipline of gratitude in order to make it a way of life.

My family takes some incredible trips to beautiful places, and I appreciate God’s hand in these amazing places. Then when we return from many nights in a tent, far from civilization, I appreciate my kitchen and my bathroom and my bed and the roof over my head and (you get the idea) . . . . Two extremes. My challenge is to find gratitude in the routine times.

My days can be so filled with things to do that I sometimes forget to appreciate why I do them, what I’ve done, what someone else has done for me, what God has created and set in motion for me to experience. I need to pause, to change my view, in order to recognize, unwrap and appreciate the gifts given to me: gifts of time, relationships, experiences and, yes, the stuff that makes my life comfortable.

Thanks to Teresa Parsons for sharing this video that helps me pause and remember to cultivate gratefulness in each moment of time, wonder of nature and bit of technology.