Category Archives: Spiritual Formation

Gifted and Grateful – Part 2

If all that we have is a gift from God (Psalm 24:1a), including the gifts we each are given by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:3&6); what is our proper response to this? I believe it is gratitude.  In Christ Jesus we are invited to live a life of gratitude – to “give thanks” in all circumstances (I Thes. 5:18). Do you do this?  It is easier written than accomplished, that is for sure.  But living a grateful life and practicing the basics of gratitude is something we can aspire toward.

In her book Grateful Diana Butler Bass suggests that gratitude can be both an emotional response and an intentional choice.   We feel grateful in response to things that happen in our lives.  That feeling leads us to want to express thanks and appreciation.  Much more than being a transaction of debt or duty, our gratitude comes from our response of having received a gift.  This gift may have come from a friend or family member, or from God.  We express gratitude in return as a natural expression of what we feel.

But gratitude, according to Bass, is also an ethic or choice.  We practice habits of gratitude (such as volunteering, giving, worshiping) that further instill a spirit of gratefulness in our being.  By making the choice of gratitude we begin to live a grateful life.  Gratitude then grows within us, as a part of our being, and is naturally expressed in our interactions with others, including God.

If we wait to engage gratitude when we feel like it, leaving it in the emotional response only category, the frequency with which it is expressed may suffer.  However, if gratefulness is cultivated as a practice – a daily choice – then it will become a more known quantity in our life.

I frequently engage in an ancient spiritual direction practice called the examen, or examination of conscience.  In this practice one collects all that has happened over a period of time – let’s say the past day – and reflects on it.  One of the questions I use in my practice of the examen is: “What am I grateful for?”  I will then list off those things, giving thanks for each of them.  I will also sometimes ask: “What am I not grateful for?”  Forming that list creates the opportunity to ask why, and consider if I might choose another response.  I bring this time of reflection to a close with a final question: “What, if anything, is God inviting me to do or be?”  That is, in response to my gratitude, or lack thereof, am I being directed, or re-directed, to respond in some way?

By practicing the examen I am making the effort to look at life through a lens of gratitude.  When I do, I am reminded of the many gifts I have been given.  Gifted and grateful are two fundamental actions of stewardship involved in the practice of faith.

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“Gifted & Grateful” – Part 1

I believe I first took a spiritual gift inventory nearly thirty years ago.  I discovered then, and have had it reconfirmed since, that my primary spiritual gifts are administration, leadership and teaching.  What are yours? Do you know?

Psalm 24:1a says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”.   I take this to mean all that we have in this life is a “gift” from God.  This includes not only our material possessions, but also the abilities we have been given.  The Apostle Paul writes about these abilities in the New Testament, calling them gifts from the Holy Spirit (See Romans 12:3-8, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11-16 and I Peter 4:10-11).  These spiritual gifts, found in each follower of Jesus, are given for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ (the church), so that through the church we can be engaged in God’s mission. Continue reading

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A Century Ride and Other Goals

Five years ago I was given a bicycle by my family for Father’s Day.  I began to explore our city’s public trail system and found that I enjoyed this form of exercise.  Five years, two bike upgrades and a lot of miles later, my mental health is better and I’m in much better physical shape.  I gradually began to push myself to take longer rides, leave the People Trail for county roads, and learn more about road cycling.  In time the challenge of attempting a century ride began to creep into my thinking.

A century ride is a cycling ride of 100 miles or more completed within 12 hours, and is considered something of a rite of passage in the world of recreational cycling.  Think marathon for a runner.  While not at all impossible, attempting such a feat does require some preparation and training – which, in turn, takes time. So, blessed with a Sabbatical this summer, and the time to train, I set a bucket list goal of completing my first (and quite possibly only) century ride. Continue reading

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Framing a New Picture – Part 2 (Passage Ways)

4B8C31C8-CB8E-478A-8F14-3E70BDBF2385One of the things that continues to catch my eye as we traverse the lands of Scotland and Ireland are the many photogenic passage ways that come into view. I’ve included a few pictures in this post to illustrate what we’ve seen.

Initially these registered as scenic paths or walkways leading us toward a new destination or discovery.  But in time I came to see the deeper passage ways pilgrims

of faith have followed in their pursuit of hope, answers and reassurance in life’s challenges. Truly we are not so different today as we continue to seek paths to God and our own faithful discipleship.

These moments in time are helping me reframe my thinking along the way as to how  to articulate the One who is “The Way” to others in our world filled with round-abouts (something Europe loves) and dead end choices.

I invite you to identify the everyday passage ways you see before you today and consider the paths you are choosing.

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Finding a Sabbath Rhythm

Sabbatical Display This summer the congregation I partner with in ministry and I have been given a gift.  It’s the gift of a sabbatical.  By definition a sabbatical is to be a time of rest, renewal, reflection and refreshment.  It shares the same root as the word  “sabbath”. My understanding of sabbath is, in part, a disruption of the normal routine in order to be able to live a different rhythm.  Just as the sabbath invites us to stop, worship, rest and rejoice – breaking the weekly rhythm of work and production; the hope of a sabbatical is to also live into a new, or different rhythm in order to pay attention to new and different things.   One who has observed sabbath is ready to re-enter and re-engage in the routine of life, knowing that he or she is not at the center of keeping the world spinning.  So is the hope of a sabbatical – to re-set one’s perspective and allow a refreshed and reinvigorated engagement in vocation for the next season. Continue reading

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