Monthly Archives: November 2015

Gratitude as resistance


There was a stretch of years in my 20’s when I struggled with whether or not one could be authentically grateful in a world with so much injustice.  The more aware I became, the more tainted were the ‘blessings’ I enjoyed.  Gratitude, it seemed, involved temporarily closing one’s eyes to the bad stuff and giving thanks that, despite it all, me and the people I most love have got it pretty good.  It didn’t help that our national holiday of Thanksgiving could also be told as a story of disaster and loss for American Indians.

But I no longer think this way.

Specifically, I no longer think that gratitude is a betrayal of solidarity with suffering.  At least it doesn’t have to be.

The people who have taught me most about this are, predictably, those whose lives are way harder than mine.  Through their witness it has become clear that gratitude is not an act of partially closing one’s eyes, but rather an act of opening one’s eyes to a deeper reality that no act of injustice can take away.  Suffering can actually make one more grateful, and the decision to live a life of gratitude is as powerful an act of resistance there is against all that’s wrong with the world.

Just coming off of a learning tour of Palestine and Israel, I’m carrying some heaviness with me.  We witnessed some hard stuff, as so many Palestinians are living at the edge of a bearable existence.  But I join with the Palestinian friends we made, and people everywhere, in cultivating gratitude as an act of resistance, an act of survival, an act of purifying the soul so easily polluted with despair.

For beauty – Thank you!

For breath – Thank you!

For friendship – Thank you!

For love.  For love.  For love.  Thanks be to God.

May your week of giving thanks open your eyes to the wonder of existence, and may our gratitude radiate and overflow and multiply throughout this grief-stricken world.

With gratitude for each of you and the gift that you are,



Hospitality as mission

Yesterday our church building was open from early morning until evening, filled with poll workers volunteering their time to help with the elections, and neighbors taking a break in their day to vote.  I did not have to technically leave work in order to vote.  One more advantage of living close to church.

At a couple points in the day I walked outside the office area to watch the flow of people and strike up a few conversations.  I spoke briefly with a woman outside handing out voting guides.  She was the mother of Council member Shannon Hardin, who had been here briefly before moving on.  She mentioned that Senator Sherrod Brown had been at the church earlier in the morning, rallying the troops and no doubt doing any promotion he could do for his daughter Elizabeth, who also won a Council seat.  She mentioned how much she enjoyed looking at the flowers outside the church.  Another woman commented on the rain garden, impressed that the church in concerned about environmental stewardship.  I saw our handicap parking spaces being used, noticed a few elderly people using the handrail on the sidewalk leading up to the front entrance.  The elevator probably had its busiest day of the year.

Yesterday our church building was a gathering place for the neighborhood, a public space for making decisions that will impact our city, county, and state.  Having a space where this can happen has taken the efforts of individuals and committees to make and maintain our building as a safe, beautiful, and welcoming place.  In our church budget we separate out funds that are spent for the facility, and funds spent on mission, but yesterday facility and mission were intertwined.  Part of our congregational mission is to be a place of hospitality.  Beginning in January we’ll begin hosting an afternoon after school program sponsored by the CRC, the Community Resources Center, providing space for trained workers and 30 neighborhood kids to do school work and have playtime.  Hospitality is mission.

Abbie and I just finished a significant bathroom remodel.  Along with being an improvement for our family, we also talked about this being a good step in giving dinner and overnight guests a more pleasant experience (if you saw the prior state of the bathroom you’d know what I mean…)  Hopefully this was more than just a mental trick we played on ourselves to justify spending all that cash on our own house.

CMC is in the middle of considering a couple remodeling projects of our own – hopefully this isn’t news at this point!  I like to think of this as not just spending money on ourselves, but as an investment in the mission of hospitality for all who come through our doors.