Tag Archives: friends

Life on Loan

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children. — Native American Proverb

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it… — Psalm 24:1

“You’re not in charge!” Most human beings I know chafe under such an imperative statement. Sure we’re in charge, each one of us, right? Do you remember the Bon Jovi song “It’s my Life” and its siren song to individuality: “It’s my life/It’s now or never/I ain’t gonna live forever/I just wanna live while I’m alive…”? This song has inspired people of all ages and become an anthem to the idea of controlling one’s own life and destiny.

It’s true that we don’t live forever on this earth, and it’s laudable to desire to really live instead of go through the motion, but it is not true that this life is ours to do with as we please. Our life is a loan. We didn’t dictate our birth , and we’re really not completely in charge of our terminus post quem. And what we do while we’re here–every choice and decision–matters and affects the course of our journey.

Our choices and life paths also affect others, an important point to ponder. How we treat our bodies affects how long we may potentially live, how much we will have to invest in health care, and what our quality of life will be. How we treat our economic resources affects our security, the futures of those we love, and even the future of our community and our nation. How we treat our earth may potentially affect everyone. We are, in effect, “borrowing” the earth and all its resources from future generations.

Yes, we live on borrowed time with lives that are merely a loan. Each breath, each day, everything is pure gift, but the gift is shared. Our gift of life is lived out in community for good or for ill. How will you enjoy your gift, steward your loan, and care for what is not yours forever?

Thanks-Living Action:

1. Ask yourself what kind of world you would like to see for your children or your children’s children. If you do not have children of your own, what kind of world would you like to leave as your legacy?

2. How can you be a better steward of your time, talent, and resources?

3. What does it mean to live life as gift?

Finally, ponder these words from a sermon delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Ebenezer Baptist Church:

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. … This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.”

Photo by Damanhur, Federation of Communities. Thanks!

The Power of Blessing

The love and affection of the angels be to you,

The love and affection of the saints be to you,

The love and affection of heaven be to you,

To guard and cherish you.

May God shield you on every steep,

May Christ aid you on every path,

May Spirit fill you on every slope,

On hill and on plain.

May the king shield you in the valleys,

May Christ aid you on the mountains,

May Spirit bathe you on the slopes,

In hollow, on hill, on plain,

Mountain, valley and plain.

— from the Carmina Gadelica (484–577)*

There is real power in blessing one another, and it’s a  power we too often fail to harness. In a world that can weary and batter the soul, a blessing offered in love and truth restores and revives the spirit.

A colleague in ministry posted on Facebook how her young daughter came to her after a particularly difficult day and offered her a blessing. This intuitive child understood the power of blessing her mother, a simple yet profound act that this mother and pastor will ponder in her heart for years to come even though her daughter may remember it only from her mother’s recounting of the story.

When was the last time you offered someone a blessing? When was the last time you received one from someone other than a pastor, priest, or rabbi?

The world would be a far better place if we would reclaim the art of blessing one another. Blessing transcends the boundaries and forges connections. Whether you actively practice a life of faith or whether you simply believe in the inherent goodness of creation and humankind, try adding one simple blessing a day, even if it is only one whispered under your breath–a silent wish that someone will have a good day, a good life, and all good things. Bless the one who cuts you off in traffic. Bless the emergency responders when you hear the fire alarm or see the flashing lights. Bless your life’s partner and your children. Bless your parents. Bless. Bless. Bless. You cannot go wrong wishing good on another.

*From Wikipedia: The Carmina Gadelica is a collection of prayers, hymns, charms, incantations, blessings, runes, and other literary-folkloric poems and songs collected and translated by amateur folklorist Alexander Carmichael (1832–1912) in the Gaelic-speaking regions of Scotland between 1855 and 1910. (Thanks to Daniel Clendenin of Journey with Jesus for posting this lovely poem/blessing!)

Photos by Bless_Pictures and Evelyn Giggles. Thanks!

Seeing Sunflowers

The question is not what you look at, but what you see. — Henry David Thoreau

It is August, 2006. Dianne and I are taking our two middle-school-age children to summer camp. Dianne is making good time in her green sedan, deftly navigating a series of uncrowded eastern North Dakota highways. We haven’t known each other long, a few weeks at most, so this Sunday afternoon drive provides plenty of opportunity to move beyond the surface-level chatter that so often marks the early encounters of a developing friendship.

Despite the flow of easy conversation, I am distracted by the fields of ripening sunflowers that we pass along the way. Myriad bright yellow flowers dance with the breeze, exuding happiness, signaling summer, and signifying joy to me. The sight of row upon row of these butter-yellow beauties turning their heavy heads upward toward the sun captivates my imagination. I can’t take my eyes off of them.

To Dianne the sunflowers symbolize something entirely different–the reality that winter will soon return to the prairie with icy blast and frosty roar. I have not yet experienced a North Dakota winter, so Dianne’s association with these lovely golden flowers is a foreign one to me. Winter seems far away; August means humid, sweltering dog days and languorous summer nights to this Southern girl. A daughter of the prairie, Dianne also sees sunflowers in economic terms, as a crop to be monitored and assessed rather than the subject of a tourist’s photo shoot. Yes, of course she appreciates the sunflower’s beauty, but she “sees” something different, something beyond my field of vision on this bucolic August afternoon.

It is January, 2013, and I am sitting in my home office in Pennsylvania. I have just returned from North Dakota. It was not a pleasure trip, although it is always good to visit friends, breathe the prairie air, and revel in the vastness of the land and sky. This time I went to help lay to rest my dear friend Paula, to assist in honoring her life’s work and faith witness, and to mourn with friends and family her sudden and too-early passing. It is winter. It is cold. There are no sunflowers to cheer the spirit. Only snow and sadness cover the stalk-stubbled prairie fields.

I now “see” too keenly what Dianne sees in the sunflowers. The glorious brightness of the blossom is not the ultimate end. Winter comes with its darkness and desolation. Snow casts a funereal pall across the quiet earth. And winter comes also to our lives, as loss and loneliness cover the naked soil of the soul.

Yet winter will yield to spring, and a fresh crop of sunflowers will push their hardy shoots through the fragrant, freshly-turned prairie soil. Yes, the sunflowers will return again–hopeful, bright, trusting. And riotously joyous, always joyous. As the psalmist reminds us, “weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5).

I’m told that North Dakota farmers are planting fewer and fewer fields of sunflowers. Nationwide; the USDA forecasts a drop of about eighteen percent in sunflower acres planted. It’s a crop that must be shared with birds, and there haven’t been as many price insurance options in recent years. Other crops promise better yield and more favorable return, so naturally there may be fewer fields of flowers. Farming, like life, is rife with risk. The only truly certain thing is the present moment, and each moment is a seed of hope ready to be sown.

I will again plant sunflowers this spring in Pennsylvania. In fact, I will plant more than last year’s few token plants. I want to see an abundance of those sturdy stalks balancing massive flowering heads, heavy with seed and promise. Planting and tending them is an act both of defiant joy and of fond remembrance:  defiant joy from “seeing” them not as a harbinger of winter and desolation but rather of creation’s beauty and God’s abundance, and also as a fond remembrance of my Dakota days and some very dear friends.

Reflect:

What do you “see” when you gaze upon a field of sunflowers? What might you need to “see” differently?

Photos by travelmanitoba, DJ Flickr, Daniel Knecht, hulio82, and one sharp eye. Thanks!

Digital Sabbatical

Dear Readers and Friends,

I am away from my computer for a few days–a tech sabbatical, if you will. Actually, I have traveled to North Dakota for the funeral of a very dear friend who left us unexpectedly and much too soon. While I treasure any opportunity to visit the prairie and the folks who have such a special place in my heart, this visit is a bittersweet one. My friend, Paula, was a pillar of the community, a force for joy and living life to the fullest, and a woman of deep faith. She knew how to live a life of thanks-living and she did it well. She will be missed by so many people. She touched so very many lives. She leaves behind a legacy of joy, love, faith, and relationship. My heart goes out to her family.

Treasure the ones you love. Get to know the folks you don’t know. Relationships matter. Stuff does not. Faith is important–no matter how you find its expression in your life. Time is more valuable than money. Be the person you are created to be. Laugh. Love. Live. Life is short.

Peace and blessing. I’ll be back on January 1, 2013, to begin a new year of thanks-living. I hope you’ll join me for the journey!

Peace and blessing.

Sharron

Alert & On Guard

Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly….Be alert at all times. — Luke 21:34, 36a

Read: Luke 21:25-36 (Yes, this is the same reading as yesterday, but it bears re-reading.)

Ponder:

“Sometimes it seems as though we spend our lives waiting. Daydreaming about an upcoming vacation, worrying over a medical test, preparing for the birth of grandchild-our days are filled with anticipation and anxiety over what the future holds. As Christians, we too spend our lives waiting. But we are waiting for something much bigger than a trip, bigger even than retirement or a wedding: We are waiting for the return of Jesus in glory. Advent heightens this sense of waiting, because it marks not only our anticipation of Jesus’ final coming, but also our remembrance of his arrival into our world more than 2,000 years ago.”  — Anonymous

Reflect:

What lies heavy on your mind and heart today? What worries are you harboring and nurturing? What needs to be let go so that God can infuse your very being with expectation, hope, and joy?

If you find yourself hurrying through this season with too much to do and not enough hours in the day, do something quite counter-intuitive: sit still and do nothing. Simply be. The to-do list will still be there, and maybe some of it will turn out to not be worth doing anyway. Maybe some of it doesn’t even matter in the grand scheme of the cosmos.

Be alert. Be ready. Watch for those “God-sightings” in your home, during your worship and time with friends, and even waiting in the check-out lane at the grocery. An encounter with the Divine might be just around the corner or down the next aisle. Look for God in the ordinary and extraordinary. Trust me…God is already there.

Thanks-living:

Consider calling up a friend to go for coffee or tea. Make a date with your spouse, partner, or significant other. Make special time to spend  one-on-one with your child or children. Write your parents a letter. Attend an extra worship service or Advent event in your community of faith. Find one thing to do that requires your complete presence and attention. Put those to-do lists aside and experience some joy and anticipation.

What I Did:

Last night my spouse and I were invited to have dinner with friends. Sure there is more work to be done in this season than we have hours for, but we gladly accepted their invitation, and what fun we had! Not only did Liz prepare an amazing meal, but we had conversation, laughter, and a rousing game of “Words with Friends” that we’ll savor for days to come. Thank you, Liz and Tom, for giving us the invitation and permission to simply “be” for an evening and enjoy the gift of friends and fun. Truly the love, grace, and spirit of our Lord was with us all.

Photos by paralog and Minette Layne. Thanks!

Thanksgiving with the Girls

This blog began last November as a way to increase gratitude and turn everyday life into a lifetime of thanks-living. I wanted to learn to live more gratefully, fully, and simply and encourage others to do likewise. The journey has been one both of learning and celebration. We may have a national holiday here in the USA called “Thanksgiving,” but living with gratitude and thanks all the time sure does trump a single day’s remembrance.

But since it is “Thanksgiving Day,” and since I have so much in my life for which to be thankful, I don’t want to neglect the chance to be especially grateful right now in this present moment.

For the first time in many years my mother and both of my daughters were gathered with me around the table. Our dear friend Debbie joined us, too. I was able to cook up a traditional family feast without massacring the turkey or ending up with lumps in the gravy. It was a good time; however, it came at a price.

My mom took a lot of risks to fly up here. Her health has been tenuous for a while now, but thanks to the good folks at Delta Airlines and her friend, Greg, she braved the journey. It has been wonderful to have her here, and she even made us one of her awesome pecan pies for dinner.

My wonderful husband also paid a price. It is his tradition to travel to New England to be with his family at Thanksgiving. Pastors have a tough time getting away at Christmas, so if you want to spend a holiday with family Thanksgiving is the window of opportunity. Because my oldest daughter had surgery and could not travel, Mr. Wonderful Husband suggested I stay home with her and have a holiday with the girls. When I mentioned flying my mother up, he was completely supportive because he realizes how precious time with family is and how seldom I am able to see my mother (who lives in Tennessee) and have both daughters home, too. I am grateful that his family understands why I stayed home this year.

So the day has been joyous. It has been fun. It has been a bit bittersweet, too. Gathering around a table spread with all the good foods that have been a part of my (and my daughters’) childhood, with my mother seated next to me, with prayer, laughter, and much joy has been better than any Hallmark sentimental moment.

I am thankful for family. I am thankful for traditions that bind us together. And, I am thankful that on occasions tradition can be broken or altered through acts of love and caring that are truly gifts of the heart. Thank you to my family–all of you–for the gift of this Thanksgiving Day.

What about today meant something really special to you? To whom do you need to say a special word of thanks?

And as my Thanksgiving gift to you, here’s my recipe for Tipsy Taters (a decadently delicious take on candied sweet potatoes)

Tipsy Taters

You will need–

Enough cooked and sweetened yams for the number of folks you want to feed (or a large can or two of yams)

1 egg

brown sugar to taste (I use about 1/4 cup with sweetened canned yams or more for fresh)

spices to taste (I use cinnamon, ground cloves, and nutmeg)

somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 cup Kahlua or other good coffee liquor

2 to 4 tablespoons melted butter (margarine won’t cut it–don’t even try)

Mash and mix these ingredients and place in a greased casserole dish.

For Topping (get ready to sin and sin boldly)–

Mix together brown sugar, sweetened flaked coconut, and chopped pecans using enough to liberally cover the contents of the dish. Melt 1/2 cup butter (again, no margarine please) and Kahlua to taste. Pour melted butter and Kahlua over sugar/coconut/pecan mixture and stir until you have a lumpy but not overly moist mixture that can be sprinkled liberally over the yam mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes (topping should be bubbly and browned but not baked to a crackly crisp). Enjoy!

Bridge Over Life’s Troubled Waters

You never know when life will throw a curve ball in the midst of a smooth inning. One minute things are looking just ducky, and the next minute you are dealing with a crisis for which you are patently unprepared. It might be diagnosis of a major illness, an accident, the death of a loved one or friend, the loss of a job, a natural disaster, or any combination of nightmarish components. In short, it only takes one instant for life as usual to shatter like glass at your feet.

I’ve been there; perhaps so have you. My curve ball was a breast cancer diagnosis on the heels of a traumatic divorce that left me a single parent in a vulnerable financial state. At the time, I could barely fathom how to pull myself out of the muck of my predicament. Thankfully, other people could see more clearly, and family and good friends came to my aid. While no one can carry another person’s load, my friends, parishioners, and family journeyed with me–forming a bridge of solidarity between despair and hope. It was their faith, their hands, and their prayers that carried me across. I am so thankful for each one of them. I am where I am today because of the many relationships that formed a net of security and safety against the onslaught of suffering and fear.

Now it is my turn to be there for others whenever possible, however possible. We live in a world marked by suffering. Right now, well over a million people have had their daily existence altered by Hurricane Sandy in the northeastern United States. Some people have lost everything; their lives will never be the same. Sure, some day life may be better, but right now that horizon is nowhere in sight. They need that bridge that you and I can be–in prayer, through dollars given to relief efforts, and in messages of care and support. You and I, all of us, can send waves of prayer and healing intentions out to those in need in addition to tangible forms of aid. We can seekto stop rash judgments, blame, and negative energy that works against hope and  healing. We can make a difference.

Tonight the congregation I serve is hosting a screening of The Line, a new documentary film by Linda Midgett, presented by Sojourners. This 40 minute film tells the story of four people who have fallen below the poverty line–plunging from lives of hope and promise to days and nights of fear and anxiety. As their stories make quite clear, there are very few of us who don’t walk this line and who aren’t immune from falling below it. All it takes is one major illness, one job loss, a divorce, an accident, or a natural disaster to change life forever. The thing that separates this film from others I’ve seen is that it does offer hope., and it lays claim to a better future for all people by inviting everyone to the table to engage in dialogue about how to fix broken systems and outdated policies. It is a gem of a film. If you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to spend 40 minutes of your precious time watching it and thinking about it.

As for me, The Line and the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy remind me of how grateful I am to have had a bridge to walk, crawl, and be drug across in my own needful hours. I am so thankful for the many hands that would not let go of me, for those who insisted that I get back up and start walking on the other side to a place of greater strength and stronger faith. You all are living proof of the strength we bear when we journey together. So, today I give thanks for you–family, friends, and colleagues. I give thanks for health. I give thanks for a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear, a car to drive, and work that is meaningful and delightful. I give thanks to the Creator of the Universe who loves me and is there for me no matter what. There is so much for which to be grateful. I could count blessings all day long and still not run out of reasons and people for which to be thankful.

Yes, the waters of trouble and suffering may run high and dark, but tides ebb and the sun rises again, and always life is still very, very good. Never, ever take your gifts and blessings for granted. Count them carefully and joyfully. Thank as many people as possible. Look for ways to be a blessing to others. Do something each day to make this world a better place.

What can you do to brighten your own part of the planet? What one thing can you do right now, today, to make someone’s life a little better? Please share your thoughts, intentions, and ideas. Blessings to you!

Photos by c.mcbrien, sojo.net, and theps.net. Thanks!

The Gift of Connection & Community

No man (sic) is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. — John Donne, from Meditation XVII

Jacobean poet John Donne’s powerful words still ring true today, although humankind still strives for distinction and personal space. However, for the one who practices the art of “thanks-living,”the joy and the meaning of life are found in the connections forged among us. The meaning of life is expressed in community and communion rather than the glories of individualism and singular achievement.

“I did this” or “I made that” the human mind is apt to proclaim. The truth is that nothing is completely original, and we all build upon the lives, creativity, and experiences of others. We, too, will leave a legacy for good or ill upon which our successors must build.

Yes, that’s correct–“we.” Because we do not live in isolation. Even Thoreau in his Walden woods cabin could not completely separate the individual and his efforts from the joys and delights of a shared creation. The same sun and moon and stars that shone on Walden Pond still shine on all of us today. The same life-giving rain and nurturing soil belongs to all creation, not to you or me alone. Nothing can truly be held only by the individual, despite our illusions to the contrary.

We may build fences and wall and fortresses, but they will crumble and fall eventually. Robert Frost knew this when he wrote the poem “Mending Wall,” and said “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out,/And to whom I was like to give offence./Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…”

We are created to be our best in various constructs of community. We form family units, schools, churches, clubs, cooperatives, and any number of other groups that gather around shared purpose and goals. Together we are stronger than the isolation of our individual parts. When we break down walls and remove barriers, amazing things happen. Life and love flourish if given the most minute of opportunities.

One small example is our backyard garden. In all probability two new raised beds would have remained a dream without the joyous self-giving of our friend and neighbor, Debbie. She brought her tools, knowledge, energy, and laughter to the effort. She generously brought alpine strawberries, Egyptian walking onions, and black-eyed Susans to be planted. Other neighbors and friends, Ida, Audrey, and Creta gave their extra tomato and onion plants so that we now have an abundance to share with others.

Our little backyard garden, still very much a work in progress, is not something that we can claim as “ours.” It is the gift and product of community, the fruit of connection, and a harvest of true blessings.

Questions to Ponder

What strands of connection and community are you weaving into your life?

Who gives to you and to whom do you give?

What harvest of blessings might you celebrate during this season?

Photos by Linda N and steppnout. Thanks!

The Friday 5 + the Saturday 7 = 12 Thanksgivings

Yes, I can do math as long as it’s simple math! I did not write yesterday because we were in the car for 10 hours on the way home from Tennessee. Since dear husband and step-son are away for the weekend doing their Boy Scout thing, my daughter and I stopped at our local quick mart and each bought our favorite pint of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and settled in for a Mother/Daughter Movie night. We watched the Coen Brother’s rendition of True Grit on Netflix, followed by a couple of episodes of Dr. Who. The combination of chocolate bliss and travel fatigue knocked me right out for a solid seven hours of sleep. It was a meaningful trip and a wonderful night of time spent with the youngest daughter.

Sometimes Thanks-living means being present enough to live in the moment, making choices that perhaps are not the most logical or efficient but that carry the most relationship capital and time/love investment. It is a necessary challenge to balance thinking and living between head and heard.

So without further commentary let the thanksgivings begin…

1.  Mother/Daughter Movie Nights (My daughter gave up time with her step-sister and another friend to stay and watch movies with me. Thanks dear daughter!)

2. Time with Parents (I had some precious time with my father and mother this week. I am particularly grateful for the time my mother spent sharing stories of her childhood. I’ll write more about that one later.)

3.  Safe Travel (Other than the senior citizen from Florida who veered her “land yacht”  into our lane so close that I could feel my skin crawl and the Big Rig driver who almost clocked us, we had an uneventful and safe trip. Whew! Thank you, God!)

4.  Lunch with my Cousin (I always have a blast with my cousin who lives in Chattanooga. Like me, she stays “busier than a bird dog scratchin’ fleas, so I am especially grateful that she took time out of her day for a long, leisurely lunch filled with laughter and catching-up-conversation.)

5. Dinner with a Good Friend (My mom and I had dinner with a dear friend and former neighbor at Wally’s, a local Chattanooga restaurant specializing in Southern home cooking. Again, it was a time filled with laughter and good conversation.)

6. Facebook (Yup, as annoying as it can sometimes be, I am grateful for this social networking tool that allows me to keep up with family, friends, and colleagues. Technology is neutral; how we choose to use or avoid it makes all the difference.)

7. Amazing Teenagers (From the high schooler who has identified an amazing potential weapon in the fight against cancer to the homeless teen on Long Island who won a national science prize for her discovery about adaptability in two marine animals, I am amazed at the gifts and talents youth have to offer. Our job as adults is to encourage, support, and avoid squelching their dreams. Click here for more on these amazing stories.)

8. The Joy of Finding Great Clothes at Second-hand Stores (While I was in Tennessee, I stopped at a local non-profit’s resale shop, where for under $10 I picked up three like-new items that would have totaled about $150 if bought new at their name-brand retailers. I saved money, I gave a second life to three items of clothing, and I circumvented the consumer stream. Cool!)

9. My Laptop (I bought this laptop from a local computer store in North Dakota on a clearance special. It’s a Dell Vostro 1510, and it it a bit too heavy and clunky, but it is sturdy and meets all my computing needs. Best of all? My total investment was under $400. It is essential for my work and writing, and I am so thankful to have it.)

10. Health Insurance (I am so fortunate to have a good health insurance plan made possible as part of the benefits packages provided by my husband’s and my congregations. As a cancer survivor, I would have a difficult time finding coverage otherwise. One of my daughter’s friends, a working actor who lives with diabetes, just tweeted that he cannot find any plan that will cover his preexisting condition when he ages out of his mother’s plan next week. Something has to give with our healthcare system!)

11. Steel Cut Oats and Green Tea (Both of these foods are among my favorites and are healthy choices offering significant dietary benefits. Based on the reality of #10, healthy food choices are especially important. Click here for a quick trip through the 10 best and worst food choices from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.)

12.  Simply Being Alive! (I give thanks for another day and another opportunity to live life to the fullest, loving my family, friends, and neighbors, and reveling in God’s good creation.)

It is my prerogative to make this list of thanksgiving into a “Baker’s Dozen” (but with no calories or fat), so…

13.  I am thankful to you for joining me on this thanks-living journey. Please take the time to post at least one thing for which you are thankful this very day. You guys rock!

Photos by Jason Riedy, stonysteiner, and theseanster93 used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

 

 

Why Relationships Matter

Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow. –Swedish Proverb

One of the joys of my vocation is the privilege of walking with people in joy and in sorrow, sharing laughter and tears. There aren’t too many vocations that allow that kind of interaction as an integral part of the “job description.” In fact, one of my seminary professors reminded me that a pastor is one of the few persons who has an automatic invitation into peoples’ lives.

Even pastors are finding it more difficult to forge those meaningful relationships. People are busy. Not everyone is willing to welcome a “stranger” into their home and life. We are taught to be more suspicious and careful. We build protective walls based on past experiences with woundings and disappointments. We are wary creatures.

Despite Facebook “friends” and Twitter “tweets” that offer instant connection and a sense of relationship, it is still important to reach out and develop face-to-face ties with others. Forming a web of friends and a community of support can provide a safety net when the going gets tough and a party when a celebration is needed.

After having our basic needs for shelter, food, and safety met, the most important thing in life is relationships. We find meaning in relationships and are able to understand ourselves better when viewed through the mirror of others. Relationships add a layer of richness that no amount of money can buy or “stuff” can satisfy.

I count myself rich in relationship. I have a wonderful spouse, amazing children, and a fine extended family (including my husband’s folks). I am blessed with friendships forged throughout the years, some of whom are geographically close and others who live far away (yes, I’m grateful for Facebook and e-mail).

I have been blessed to serve some delightful faith communities, too. I realized again how lucky I am this afternoon while sharing home communion with a parishioner and her daughter, while working with our parish administrator, and during our Thursday night Bible study. Although I’ve only been a part of this community for only six months, they have welcomed me with open arms and hearts. We’re having fun, and we’re building a strong relationship web.

Remember that Beatles song that went “Can’t buy me love, everybody tells me so/Can’t buy me love, no no no, no”? That’s why relationships matter. They’re priceless! I am a lucky woman.

I have more than enough “stuff.” I have a good roof over my head, plenty of healthy food (and chocolate and coffee, too!). I have reliable transportation. I am wealthy as a citizen of the world. But most of all, I am rich in relationships, love, friendships, and experiences. Thanks to all of you — from Facebook and Compact friends to family to fellow faith journeyers and others I’ve met along the way. You make life not only worth living, but a true joy and delight. And, YOU matter!

Thanks-Living Activity

Why not make some Swedish paper hearts using these instructions from The Guardian? Click here for instructions. Give them to your friends and family for Valentines Day with a note telling them how much they matter to you.

Photo of Swedish Paper Heart Basket from http://www.guardian.co.uk. Thanks!