Bucket Lists and Gratitude


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Our Living Waters for the World Mission Team from Pioneer Memorial Presbyterian Church led worship this morning.  It was such a gift for me to sit and worship and not worry about leading the congregation.  This became quite evident when I totally muffed up the reception of new members – just another attempt on my part to let folks know that one doesn’t have to be perfect to lead worship!

Back to bucket lists and gratitude… Keven, one of our missionaries, shared about how going on a mission trip has always been on his bucket list.  In the process of checking that off his list, he realized that instead of having a bucket list, he needed to have a gratitude list.  Indeed!  Keven recognized during his week in Honduras that the people of Arenales lived with a sense of gratitude rather than “what more?”

I think that is the difference of living with a sense of abundance and scarcity.  Are you always looking for what is next?  Wanting more?  Wishing you had (fill in the blank)? That sort of thinking is scarcity thinking.  That is bucket lists gone bad!

Or, are you content with what you do have?  Knowing that somehow “all shall be well.”  This isn’t just wishful thinking – this is how God calls us to live.  Remember the story of the Israelites and the manna?  They were told they’d have enough for the day.  Instead, they decided that if they collected more than they needed they would have security for tomorrow.  Didn’t quite work out the way they planned.

Sometimes the search for security is a dangerous thing.  It makes us fearful.

  • “Maybe if I buy this gun, I’ll be safe”
  • “If I could get this next job, everything will be alright”
  • “If we can have this amount in our reserves we won’t have to worry”

And this is where my friend Keven comes in.  I think he has it right.  Bucket lists are great!  I have plenty of things in my own bucket that I would like to accomplish and/or experience.  But if my bucket list keeps me from being grateful for what I already have then I have lost site of the bigger picture.  I think we need to start those gratitude lists – that is biblical too!  Offering gratitude for what we do have might just remind us of God’s faithfulness.

Bucket lists and gratitude.  Scarcity and Abundance.

I’m off to work on my list, how about you?

Next Right Thing


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Blurgh.  Ever had one of those weeks?  Where you wish you could swallow the words that came spewing forth – the words that tear someone down rather than build them up and make you look really stupid?  Yeah, it has been one of those weeks for me.  Oh, I’m not beating myself up (anymore!) but I’ve been thinking about that in light of this song by Seth Glier.

Do the next right thing.  The truth for me – and for you – is that we will always be messing up.  I hate that!  But there is always next time – that is not an excuse to do whatever we want but it is the freedom to move forward.  For me, that is the beauty of an act that takes place in our worship each week at Pioneer.  We recognize that the very reality of being human is that we don’t always do the next right thing but we are given a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to try again.  If I could only be as generous with myself as the Holy One is.  Doing the next right thing is a way of seeing and being – not simply floating along for whatever comes next.  It takes time – and awareness – and confidence.

The next right thing or the next thing right…may it be so.

Epiphany – A Prayer for the Journey


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This morning at Pioneer we celebrated Epiphany and marked the day by choosing a star word – a simple cardstock star with a word written on it.  I loved tying this practice into our celebration of communion – sustenance for the journey – word and Word.  We did star words two years ago and it has been fun to hear the stories – and see the stars.  The intent behind this practice is to provide focus for the journey – a way of practicing awareness of God’s movement in one’s life.  There were some giggles when folks shared their words after worship (not a requirement).  One group suggested we start a support group for those with difficult words. Hmmmmmmm. More about star words later…

I closed my reflections with this prayer from Jan Richardson and a number of you asked for it.  I hope you’ll take some time to peruse Jan’s beautiful work in word and image.

For Those Who Have Far to Travel
An Epiphany Blessing

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions
beyond fatigue
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know;
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel

to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.

Kickstarter, Warren Buffett and the Church Budget


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It has been a slow start back to work after the craziness of Advent and the first eleven days of the Christmas season.  Today I found myself a tad overwhelmed by an overflowing desk, some tedious demands, and, oh yeah, another Sunday approaching!  My mind floated from idea to idea as I deleted emails, updated the to-do list, and reviewed the 2012 preliminary budget report (it was a good year Pioneer!).  And, like many of my colleagues, I found myself wondering (and worrying?) about the 2013 budget that will be finalized this month.

Then I drove home.  My wonderings continued…

kickstarterOn ScienceFriday, they were discussing how Kickstarter (a crowd sourced funding platform) brought about a number of scientific projects this past year.

Lately I’ve been joking (maybe?) that faith communities should start their own version of Kickstarter for their ministry projects. But then, who would fund the toilet paper?


I don’t think I’m all that off track.  We do our own version of Kickstarter already in ways small and large.  Yesterday I read a thread on Facebook about great fundraising ideas for youth groups as they get ready for next Summer’s trips.

When I arrived home I caught up on some reading and learned that “America’s wealthiest gave less in 2012.”


No surprise with that news either but it makes me wonder.  I’ve long pushed the notion that our giving should not be dependent on what we get out of it…that stewardship is a response to what God has given to us – “all that we are and all that we have belongs to God.”  I’ve preached this message more times than I can count but our life together is changing – as much as I don’t want to admit it.  I think we do need to think creatively about our giving – and our asking. More than anything, I want folks to give and not think that I am nagging them!  Until then, here is what I’m pondering…

What if…

  • folks understood that it is really hard to budget for an organization when you don’t know what is going to come in!  Too often the folks that say we should budget on faith are the same folks that give according to how well their own needs are met (and are happy to tell me about it!)
  • we explore “all-year” stewardship with ongoing Kickstarter-like requests for new curriculum, materials for mission, staff salaries(!), etc.
  • pastors and finance teams had some sort of crystal ball to know what was going to happen in the year ahead.
  • people weren’t so afraid to talk about money!

So those are my thoughts – what am I missing?  How off target am I?

Seeing God

I challenged our congregation yesterday to practice seeing God at work in our lives.  We’ve been exploring how God’s Story and Our Stories intersect and yesterday’s text was the Matthew passage on the transfiguration.  Mountain top experiences of God’s presence are real but like Peter, we can’t pitch a couple of tents and live on the mountain top forever.  We can’t even bottle the presence of God and somehow carry it with us when we need a quick refresher!

Instead, we need to practice seeing God moving in and out of our lives when the mountain is miles away.  Each person received a 3×5 card to track their sightings.  Here are a few from my day:

  • The staff at the urgent care who cared for a woman who was dealing with an ankle injury – and some sort of dementia.  Their patience and tenderness was such a gift to me as I thought of my own mom and what would have been
  • K2s gentle spirit
  • people who carry you when you can’t do it yourself
  • a surprise package in the mail that brought great laughs

To be honest, life has been anything but a mountain top of late.  The sermon I preached was as much to me as anyone else.  I’m not thinking that practice makes perfect – but it certainly makes me more aware of God’s consistency and faithfulness.  Hesed, I believe is the word for it!



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A former congregant shared this quote with me years ago – after I preached what I’m sure was a drop dead amazing sermon.  Just what a preacher wants to hear, eh?

I’d rather see a sermon any day than hear one

Or maybe they are exactly the words a preacher wants to hear.  Today I preached on God’s story and your story and the intersection we too often overlook.  I challenged people to take the risk to connect to God and each other.  Jacob’s refrain after realizing God is indeed surrounding us even in times we don’t expect:

Surely God is in this place and I did not know it

And then I saw it happen:  Will returned from the Upper Room, our worship experience for younger children, during the final hymn bypassing his family and walked to the choir loft where he delivered something to Lois.  Connection.  It is in those sorts of moments that I love the church, even with all its faults and idiosyncrasies.  Will, an 8 year old, a valuable part of Pioneer and Lois, and 80 something year old, a valuable part of Pioneer – connected.

Let me say it again – you have to risk to make those connections.  You have to risk being vulnerable.  You have to risk showing up which means might mean giving up an extra hour of sleep. I think being connected to God and connected to each other makes a difference.  I saw it happen today.

Thanks Will.  Thanks Lois.  Thanks for a great sermon.

Thank you


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I started Lauren Winner’s book, Still, today.  She quotes a wonderful poem by W.S. Merwin called Thanks.  It was a reminder to me to do just that:

  • time away
  • the sound of waves and promise of love that never ends
  • sunsets that glimmer
  • sunrises (from the comfort of the couch!)
  • K2 & JP
  • generosity
  • smarties
  • home made salsa
  • books and journals and colored pencils and doodles
  • Presence
  • space
  • laughter
  • hours in the pool – hours!
  • memories
  • my brother
  • truth that is stronger than
  • sun-touched skin (even with 30 spf!)
  • really good coffee
  • space to be



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I drove what was my mom’s car, this time she was in the passenger seat, to help her get her Ohio ID card.  Nope, not a driver’s license – she gave up driving last summer.  It seems like forever since my brother and I noticed that things weren’t quite right.  We thought – maybe wished – it was just a normal part of aging but when some trusted friends started calling we knew we had to do something. Since then she has gone through days of testing, given up her gorgeous home and view of the Pacific Ocean (from a distance, but still!) moved across the country and settled into a 2 bedroom apartment.

Today was another marker on the journey.  Giving up one’s driver’s license can’t be easy.  I can still picture the sign my mom had made that was tucked inside the little trashcan that sat on the floorboard of her Dodge Dart Swinger.  My dad picked me up from school, tossed me the keys and there it was:  “Good Luck, Kerri, I know you can do it!”  And I did.

Now I’m driving my mom’s car – another generous act on her part – and encouraging her as best I can as she walks through some challenging times.  Today was a gift.  We chatted and laughed as we filled out paperwork, wandered through Target, and checked out the knitting store near her place (maybe now is the time to finally have her teach me how to knit the Scottish way!).

I’m never quite sure what each day will bring – but I suppose none of us ever do.