Attitude of Gratitude: Day 22 – Being loved

Today I am grateful for being loved.  Not just me, personally, being loved, although I am most certainly grateful for that.  i am grateful for Doug and the kids and my big boisterous family  and all my friends and the love they all give me everyday.  But what I am really grateful for is witnessing the difference being loved makes in the lives of people.   Today I witnessed a very sick woman being tenderly cared for by a neighbor.  The look of affection and concern in the neighbor’s eyes and the look of love and gratitude in the eyes of the sick woman were truly something to behold.  I witnessed a daughter wrap her arms around her elderly mother and keep her warm in the cold as they walked to the car from the supermarket.  The smile on the mother’s face was worth a thousand words.  I heard numerous people call and check on loved ones to make sure they were ok in this weather.  I watched parents greet their children as they jumped off the school bus and into their parents’ arms. I got a text today from someone who loves me just saying “Hey — how is your day going?”

I often think that love is a lot like prayer — they are both very simple things that anyone can do no matter what their educational background, economic situation or physical capability.  But we have made them both  so very complicated. We think we have to read all kinds of books and go on retreats and be a theological expert to know how to pray.  But really, prayer is just speaking honestly from your heart to God. The same is true of love.  We complicate it, and psychoanalyze it. And over think it.  But really, it’s just about considering the welfare and happiness of another to be as important as your own.  I witnessed these small acts of kindness all day and it dawned on me — THIS is what makes the world go round.  This is what heals broken hearts.  This is what helps someone face the difficulties ahead.   Love changes everything.  We need it like we need air and water.

I was blessed on this very cold day by the examples of warmth and love that were all around me.  And for that, I am so very grateful.  And a little changed as well!

Attitude of Gratitude: Day 21 — Having Enough

Today I am grateful for having enough.  I have to admit,  I was not always grateful for this.  In my youth, I, like so many, didn’t want to have enough.  I wanted to have A LOT! I came by this desire not only societally, but genetically.  My father was a tremendously hardworking and ambitious man.  And he also, in his youth, wanted to have A LOT.  He started off as an office boy with Paris and Pert Advertising Agency, which later became known as Gardner Advertising, and worked his way up to President.  When he was first hired as an office boy, he made $12 a week.  This was not nearly enough for him. He wanted more. So each week, he would sell chances to his fellow office workers and raffle off his paycheck.  A dollar a chance.  Thirty or forty people would buy a chance each week; one lucky worker would win the $12 paycheck  and my father would walk away with three times what he would have made had he just deposited his paycheck in the bank.  Brilliant.

I started out in life with not nearly the financial drive or creativity that my father had, but I still wanted a lot.  Doug and I had big dreams in our twenties and thirties. But we also felt a strong pull toward ministry and work that was not financially lucrative.  Still,  we did what we could to try and have it all.  Having finally accumulated a nest egg, we did our due diligence, hired a recommended financial advisor, and invested it in the stock market — in October 2000.  The rest is history.  We lost it all in the stock market crash of 2001.

That experience made me start to reevaluate my goals and attitudes about what I wanted.  After much prayer and reflection, Doug and I came to the conclusion that we were just not meant to have a lot.  We were meant to have enough.  Not a penny more, and not a penny less. Just enough. And that is what we have always had (whether we thought so or not!). I realized that my drive to have more was my way of being the captain of my own ship, of being in control.  But the truth is I am not in control of my life.  None of us are, no matter how much of an illusion of control we have created around us.

To really follow God meant I needed to learn how to trust my life to God.  All of it — even the money. And not in a pie-in-the-sky kind of way, thinking I never have to do anything because God will provide and take care of everything .  That is just naive.  And it has been Doug’s and my experience that God answers money prayers late and with little attention to detail!  Trusting my life to God means that, on a soul level, I believe God will provide what it is I need for the day.  I must continue to do my due diligence — work hard, save my money, and give proportionately to the poor.  But if I am being faithful to my call to follow God, God will give me what I need.  This hasn’t always been easy.  I’ve spent a sleepless night or six worrying about how we would ever pay for college for three children. Or what would happen to us in retirement. And I had to admit, in the end, that the answer to those worries then was ‘I don’t know”.   But we kept plugging away, working, saving and giving to the poor.  Trusting that all would we well.

Some days have gone better than others.  Sometimes we have had more than enough, sometimes barely enough.  But the operative word in each of those days was ENOUGH.  And part of having enough was focusing on belonging to God rather than on being God, trying to control my destiny.   In the end, so much of what I worried about never materialized. The kids are fine.  They have all been educated.  Doug and I are more than fine.  We are blessed beyond belief, with our family, and work we passionately love.  Our life doesn’t look anything like I imagined in my youth.  But in so many ways, it is so much more than I could have ever imagined.  And not because I have a lot.  Simply because I have enough .

Attitude of Gratitude: Day 20 — Richard Rohr

Today I am grateful for Richard Rohr.  Richard Rohr is a Franciscan Friar and a prolific author and preacher.  Rohr’s perspective on God, faith, justice and being human has been one of the most influential perspectives in my life.

I met Richard over 20 years ago.  I was a full time stay-at-home mom. I was still Roman Catholic. Some friends of mine were going to Staten Island for a retreat that Richard was leading and asked me to go along.  I have to be honest, I was way more interested in a few days away from parenting than the actual retreat!  So I agreed.  What happened over the next few days was nothing short of life changing for me.  Richard spoke about God and faith and being fully human in a way that spoke right to my heart.  Never had I ever heard anyone speak with such understanding about the experience of women in the church.  And never had I heard anyone express the unconditional love of God in such an accessible and profound way before.  Richard and I made an instant connection, and I suggested he meet Doug, my husband, who, at the time, was a director of Video Production for Paulist Press.  What developed was years of collaboration between Doug and Richard making videos of his amazing preaching.

I met Richard at a point in my life that St. John of the Cross would have referred to as “a dark night of the soul”.  My faith was in great turmoil and I was struggling with many doubts.  It was Richard Rohr who lit the path for me that guided my feet back to God. And it was Richard who opened my mind enough to explore the Episcopal Church.  For that I will be forever grateful.

Richard continues to be, for me,  one of the most authentic voices of faith in our present time.  He currently is having a great influence in my parish, St. Thomas Episcopal Church.  This year, our parish is reading Richard’s book “Breathing Under Water:  The Spirituality of the Twelve Steps.” We are studying the book each month, chapter by chapter.  The discussions have been amazing.

If you are searching, asking questions about God, about the meaning of life, about how to live as an authentic person,  I can’t recommend Richard Rohr highly enough.  If you are interested in learning more about Richard, click here . And click here for a list of Richard’s books.

Attitude of Gratitude: day 19 — Time Alone

Today I am grateful for time alone.  There was a time in my life,  for 20 years or so, when I was never alone.  Life with three kids was busy!  We were blessed to live in the village of our small town and the Fisher house was the gathering place.  There were always multiple friends of our kids sleeping over.  Saturday was always the busiest, because they would sleep over and then all go to Sunday School together the next morning. I remember on those Saturdays nights, Doug asking me, “Ok, who’s here?  And where are our kids?”   They were wonderful years, and I enjoyed every one of them.  But they were noisy years. Getting time alone for contemplation and finding some soul space wasn’t easy.

Our kids are grown now and, for the most part, on their own.  Life is not any less busy, but now I do have time for soul space; time to be with what is and enjoy the silence.  Today was one of those days.  It was delightful to spend time alone in the beauty of the newly fallen snow and just be.   There is a sacredness to the quiet that is hard to explain.  It makes me feel deeply rooted in the here and now.  And that rootedness changes everything.

 I was afraid of these days way back when, when I would think of what life would be like without the bustle of full-time motherhood.  I thought I would never adjust, and maybe be overwhelmed by the loneliness. None of that happened (which showed me what a waste of time it is to worry about things that may never happen!).  Once I let go of the fear of what the aloneness would be like,  I was surprised to find there is great contentment in the silence and aloneness.  I found that God was waiting for me in that aloneness.

Perhaps your life is in that noisy phase that I experienced all those years ago.  Or perhaps you are newly alone, challenged by the fear of being lonely.  Where ever you are in life,  I invite you to embrace the alone time.  God is waiting for you there.

Attitude of Gratitude: Day 18 — Facebook

(Let me start by apologizing for no post yesterday.  I was away with no internet access.  But I can say that I was grateful for a break from electronics!)

Today I am grateful for Facebook.  I know — I can hear some of you already saying “WWHHAAATT??? FACEBOOK?!?”  I have to admit, I like Facebook (which is why, my daughter tells me, teens are running way from Facebook in droves — because old people like me are now on it!).   I know there is a lot wrong with it.  I am aware of the danger of being constantly plugged in and continually living out loud. And I know that some things on it are far from appropriate. All those things are true.

I don’t love Facebook across the board.  But I really love my group  of Facebook friends.  I am grateful for Facebook because my friends post some of the best and most inspiring things each day.  Like this story about my friend, Rob Wright, Bishop of Atlanta, and his ride with local sanitation workers to mark Martin Luther King Day (King’s last action was to stand in solidarity with striking sanitation workers in Memphis)  You can read the story about Rob Here.  Or the fascinating article my friend Linda posted about teaching mindfulness in low income pubic elementary schools. You can read all about it here .   Or the wonderful quotes that are posted with equally wonderful pictures — like:

Be content with what you have; rejoice in how things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Lao Tzu

Love that!

Sometimes the posts just make me laugh — like the one my sister posted about women:

Women are Angels.  When someone breaks our wings, we just continue to fly — on broomsticks.  We’re flexible like that.”

Made me laugh out loud!

Sometimes I just love looking at my seminary friends’ pictures of their beautiful children, or college friends’ pictures of their children’s weddings and grandchildren. I get to see pictures of my grand nieces and nephews (some of the cutest little people on earth!) and keep in touch with my very grown up and very busy nieces and nephews all over the country.  It would be impossible for me to keep in touch with all these people without Facebook.

And then, of course, there is always the added bonus of occasionally posting something that embarrasses my kids :)!

All of these things make me grateful.  These friends and their posts help remind me that good things are happening everyday and good people are working to bring the kingdom into this world.  They remind me of how blessed I am to be connected to so many different and interesting people.  And they remind me to laugh everyday!  Life is short.

So for all these reasons, I am grateful for my Facebook friends and our vehicle for staying in touch,  as imperfect as it is!

Attitude of Gratitude: Day 16 — Intentionality



Today I am grateful for intentionality. More specifically, I am grateful for the intentionality of this blog.  When I decided to do these 30 Days of Gratitude, I intentionally chose January because of how long the winters are here in New England and how difficult it can be when the cold sets in and the days are so short.  I thought I would do this to help people stay positive and keep the focus on the good around them.

Little did I know I would be writing these posts for me!  Today is another in a long string of grey days.  I long for the sunshine.  And any other January, I would have let the grey get to me.  But knowing I needed to write this blog each day has kept me faithful and on the lookout for the good things in my midst.  It has allowed me to see so much that would have escaped me without the intentionality of being grateful.

It’s easy to get caught up in the negative, in what’s missing, what’s not going our way.  It takes intentionality to stay focused on the goodness that is all around us.  Gratitude is the key to recognizing that goodness.  Today I am grateful for that awareness.

Attitude of Gratitude: Day 15 – Martin Luther King






Today I am grateful for Dr. Martin Luther King.  Psalm 119 says “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path…”.  I love that verse, but I am also aware that, yes, God’s word is a lamp for our feet, but more often than not, it only lights a few inches of path at a time!  We still have to be willing to take that next step in the dark, trusting God will be there to light the way.  Dr. King spent his ministry taking step after step in the dark.  But he was grounded in the love of God and the promise of that love for ALL people, no exceptions.   That grounding gave him the courage to speak out, to trust his instincts even when it seemed the world was against him.

There is a great story about the March on Washington and Dr. King’s speech.  There had been so much that needed to be done to plan the events of the day, the Dr. King didn’t get around to writing his speech until the night before. He was given recommendations from civil rights leaders and church people and union leaders and community organizers about what should be in the speech, all of which he took with him to ponder as he wrote.  When he rose to speak the next day, he started with the manuscript he had written, filled with all the ideas of all the different factions.  But in the middle of his speech, the great singer and King supporter, Mahalia Jackson, shouted out to him, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin — tell ’em about the dream!”  Dr. King heard those words from  Mahalia Jackson, and put down his manuscript and spoke extemporaneously about his dream that one day people will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  He gave one of the most famous speeches ever given, a speech that was a key moment in the civl rights movement of our country.

What if Dr. King had not trusted his instincts ?  What if he  was too afraid to take that step out in the darkness and held firm to the plan and his manuscript, instead of speaking from the depth of his heart and soul about his hopes and dreams for his people and our country?  Where would we be?  Dr. King trusted in those few inches of lighted path that God provides, believing there will be enough light for the next step.

It can be scary to risk, and trust what is deepest in our hearts.  I know in my life, I not only sometimes have had trouble trusting the light will be there, I’ve insisted on holding the lamp myself!  But today I am grateful for the example of Dr. King — for his courage in the face of uncertainty; for holding firm to his convictions, putting the common good above his own well being, even in the face of death; for reminding me that I am because we are — my joy is tied to the joy of all my fellow humans.  Thank you, Dr. King. Thank you.

Attitude of Gratitude: Day 14: The Inherent Goodness of Humanity

 Today I am grateful for the inherent goodness of humanity.  We don’t hear much about humanity’s inherent goodness.  Spend any amount of time watching the news and you would think all that is out in the world is man’s inhumanity to man.  But there is so much more out there than just the bad stuff.

I spent this morning writing almost 100 thank you notes.  They were written to people who had donated to our annual appeal letter for our parish food pantry.   I was struck by the fact that I had never met the vast majority of people who gave to the appeal.  Many were from different parts of the state and the country.   But somehow, our letter found its way to them, and they were moved enough to care and give what they could. I was touched by all the little notes written on the response envelopes; things like “I wish I could give more…”  or  “How else can I get involved?”  or  “thank you for all you do..”.

I have worked in the business of people for a long time now.  I have known people from all walks of life, all different races, religions, economic backgrounds, varying levels of physical and mental capabilities.  And what I have found is that people WANT to do good. People are looking for their lives to have meaning, and, more often than not, that includes caring for others and some kind of service.  All they need is an invitation, an opportunity to do good.

Today I was moved by people caring for other people — people they have never met and probably never will.  People who wanted the best for another who is a stranger.  That is inherent goodness.  And I see that goodness all the time.  And for that, I am so very grateful.

Attitude of Gratitude: Day 13 — Sabbath


Today I am grateful for sabbath, a day of rest.  For many clergy people, Monday is the new Saturday.  It’s our day off.  It’ not easy to get a day off — not easy for anyone these days.  In our plugged in, always in touch world, it can be very difficult to unplug and rest.  But it is so important. Rest is the way we recharge ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually.  

So today I am grateful for time to unwind; for the company of loved ones; naps; reading; good friends who check in; my puppy Quinn curled up next to me; living in the now and being present to the day.  And I am most grateful to have gainful employment from which to need a sabbath. 

How do you take use your sabbath time?

Attitude of Gratitude: Day 12 — Silence


Today I am grateful for silence.   This is an unusual development in my life, gratitude for silence.  Silence is not something that comes easily to me  (I know, there are some of you out there who know me who are reading this, saying, “Ya think????”)  First of all, I am a hardwired extrovert.  Can’t help it.  Second of all,   growing up as the youngest in this wordy, articulate family, I learned quickly how how talk and I did it often!  I had to keep up with all those big kids!

There comes a point in life, though, where words just don’t cut it, especially when it comes to things spiritual.  The first time I noticed this was when I was a stay at home mom.  I remember going to see my spiritual director at the time, and in the most calm way possible, I expressed that I was about to lose my mind!  The chaos and noise of raising three kids was a lot, and it made it difficult for me get centered in any prayerful way.  The isolation of staying home and lack of adult company was also a challenge.   I was finding it hard.  Very hard.  My director suggested approaching my stay at home parenting as a contemplative exercise.  It seemed paradoxical at the time, but I had learned by that point in my life that when a paradox was present, God wasn’t far behind.  So I gave it try.  I used nap time as a time for sitting in silence (15 minutes of it, at least – the rest of the time I napped as well!).  I intentionally tried to be present to what was, whatever it was.  Staying present to the moment was a Godsend.  In many ways,  contemplation and silence saved me during those stay at home years — and I am SURE it saved my kids from having a really loony mother (or at least a LOONIER mother 🙂 )!

 This phase of my life is another really busy phase.  I have lots of different roles, lots of different demands of my time.  I also experience another kind of isolation at times, now that my children have left the nest and I have much more time alone. And the awareness of the impermanence of life is so much more real at this age.  Once again, it is going to the silence that saves me.  Taking 20-30 minutes, just sitting in the presence of God, not thinking anything, not having to accomplish anything, makes all the difference in the world.  Not every sitting is perfect.  Some days go better than others.  But my very wise, present day spiritual director (I’ve had some great mentors!) tells me on a regular basis that the fruit of the meditation is not in the silence itself.  It’s in your everyday life.   Sometimes I sit and my mind is like a monkey circus, filled with to-do lists, or worries, or sometimes just  the continual loop of song lyrics!  I’ll get off my cushion and think “well ,that was a waste of  time!”  But God doesn’t need us to be perfect.  God just needs us to show up, to sit in the silence.  To be present.  God does the rest.  Somehow in the midst of all the chaos and stress and worry, God finds a way to quiet my soul, to quiet my mind, to let me know God is present.  And it makes all the difference.  Somehow, those few minutes of sitting keeps me in touch with that hum in the universe that vibrates underneath it all, that holy hum that lets me know as, as Julian of Norwich said, that “all will be well,  and all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  Thank you, silence.