You know why you’re thankful, but do you know how to show it?

Expressions of Thanksgiving

Some people express gratitude with hearts and hands. How do you show your thanks?

“Have you seen those sour-pusses in the choir?” One of our church teens was grumbling at me as if he had proof that Christianity was a lark.  Another teen came to my rescue in a way that cracked me up. She said, “If your heart feels like smiling, why not inform your face!”

I was thinking about that teenager’s humorous comment and the state of our hearts today while reflecting on Thanksgiving. Sometimes our heart is filled with gratitude but we don’t always express it well. Sure, once a year we sit big-bellied around the awesome fruits of a bountiful fall harvest and name the reasons why we’re thankful. But how do we let our thankful hearts inform our daily living? How do we say “thank you” with our hands as well as our voices?

Some people volunteer or make donations to special causes. Others express their gratitude by signing-up for a special walk or run to bring attention to a good cause. Still, others channel their gratitude into opportunities to extend forgiveness to others. It’s been said, after all, that “thanks is for giving.”

I’d like to hear from you. Please offer a comment and share with others how you let your thankful heart inform your life and your actions?

Thanksgiving Blessings!

Mark

Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to God with songs of praise! – Psalm 95:2

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A $20 Blessing

Posted: October 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

20 dollars

Do you remember, as a kid, how thrilled you were to tear-open a birthday card and discover money in it? Oh, the joy you felt when a one dollar bill slipped from the card and floated down to your lap! I recall as much as a twenty-dollar bill dropping out from a card, my hand quickly snapping it back and stuffing into my pocket for safe keeping away from leering older brothers.

I was reminded of that twenty-dollar delight this morning when I showed-up at one of my favorite coffee shops to do some writing and realized that I had forgotten my wallet at home. The barista at the counter tallied up my order – a 16 ounce latte and an apple-cinnamon muffin. An instantaneous moment of panic washed over me when I reached around to my backside for my wallet and felt only, well, my backside. No wallet. Just an empty back pocket. Dread!

Quickly, though, I remembered that I had been carrying around a folded-up twenty-dollar bill in my front pocket for days. These days, I tend to use my credit card for most purchases. It’s a great way to build up points for travel. It also means that cash, when I happen to have it, can hang around in my pockets for weeks.

Not only did I have enough cash to pay for my coffee and muffin, I had enough to pay for the postage on the priority envelope I needed to send from the post office on my way home. What a relief to have twenty-dollars on me today.

It got me thinking, though. What a blessing twenty-dollars is. In this day and age of automatic payments for everything from salary to purchases, donations and other forms of gift-giving, I sometimes forget the value of a buck. Not only is twenty-dollars in your pocket a lot of money when you’ve forgotten your wallet, it’s a lot of money, period.

$20 will get you and your sweetie two movie theater tickets to see latest blockbuster in Cleveland. The popcorn and Goobers will be extra.

$20 will get you and your buddy a couple of upper bowl tickets to a Cleveland Browns home game . . . if you can stand the heartache.

$20 will pay your Netflix streaming bill for almost two full months so you can watch Season 2 of Stranger Things with me and the rest of the world on October 27th.

$20 is more than double the U.S. federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which hasn’t been increased since 2009.

$20 dollars would mean the world to someone living India where, according to Business Insider, the minimum wage is a mere 28 cents an hour. A minimum wage worker in India would have to put-in over 70 hours of work to slip a twenty-dollar bill in a birthday card for one of his children.

$20 will buy a pair of winter gloves and a hat for a child of a low income family here in Cleveland.

$20 will purchase a warm blanket or, if you shopped carefully, a good coat for one of the thousands of women and men living on our city streets or in our shelters.

Please understand, I’m not trying to pack your bags for a guilt trip, here. It’s just me. I’ve been rethinking the value of twenty-dollars ever since I forgot my wallet this morning. I feel just a little more appreciative of the money in my pocket, plastic or paper, and for both its buying and sharing power. I was blessed by the reminder. Blessed to have forgotten my wallet.

By the way, Sunday is my birthday. If you’re still looking for ideas, I’ve got a suggestion.

– RMG

WHAT GIANTS ARE YOU BATTLING THESE DAYS? Young David didn’t just defeat Goliath, he disclosed Goliath’s false power and those who had mistakenly put more faith in the giant than they did in God! In part two of Conquering Giants, David’s strengths are lifted-up: superior imagination and superior faith.

How are we in the church using our imagination and the conviction of our faith to bring down the giants in our world and in our lives?

– RMG

Conquering Giants – Part Two: Sticks and Stones

Missed Part One? Click here to watch: The Bigger They Are

In a world of bigotry, hate, and white nationalist marches, the story of David and Goliath has great impact. Not only did David defeat his nine and a half foot giant, Goliath, he disclosed Goliath’s weaknesses, and the foolishness of false powers.

I preached part one of Conquering Giants on August 20, 2017 after the tragedy of Charlottesville and the ant-hate marches of Boston and around the country the following week. I pray that you find some hope and empowerment in watching it, as we all pray for healing and peace in America today.

– RMG

LINK: Conquering Giants Part One – Video

Video  —  Posted: August 25, 2017 in Uncategorized
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Cleveland’s Erie Street Cemetery provides wonderful green space in our growing downtown, and it connects us to our past.

Cemeteries and the dead who rest in them, connect us to our past. They tell the story of who we have been and who were are. Over Labor Day Weekend 2016, vandals tried to destroy that connection for our community by severely damaging the gravestones and markers of some of Cleveland’s most historic figures. On Tuesday July 18th at 11am, thanks to the dedication and support of a number of groups, we  restore that connection.

 

 

 

NEWS RELEASE: REDEDICATION OF ERIE STREET CEMETERY

Tuesday July 18 at 11:00am a celebration of the Erie Street Cemetery Restoration project will take place on the grounds of the Erie Street Cemetery.

WHEN ORGANIZATIONS JOIN HANDS SUCCESS HAPPENS!

On Labor Day Weekend in 2016, Erie Street Cemetery, Cleveland’s oldest cemetery established in 1827 was badly vandalized. In October, Jennie Jones, Regent, Moses Cleaveland Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution requested permission from her chapter and the Ohio State Daughters of the American Revolution to determine the extent of the damage to the remaining eleven tomb stones vandalized and to assess the possibility of DAR chapters in the NE region of Ohio joining together to repair the tomb stones. John Cimperman and the Early Settlers Association, already committed to maintenance and protection of the cemetery quickly became the umbrella organization for this extraordinary volunteer effort. The total cost for the repairs of the original damaged tombstones was $2,350.00. The project became a much bigger community effort!

The response was remarkable! The cost of $2,350.00 was divided among the following DAR chapters: Moses Cleaveland, Hannah Luther Bosworth, Martha Devotion Huntington joined forces with Peter Navarre Chapter U.S.D. 1812, Molly Chittendon, New Connecticut, Shaker and Western Reserve-Lakewood. The Western Reserve Society of the Sons of the American Revolution chapter also joined the group. The enthusiasm and generosity of all involved help to raise more funds than requested, to support ESA’s on-going support and safe-keeping of Erie Street.

IMG_2975Because of the historic importance of this cemetery, Old Stone Church joined with the above organizations to help raise funds for the repair of the weathered tomb of Samuel Aiken, an early member of the First Presbyterian Society Bible Society and their first called Pastor.

A celebration will take place on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at Erie Street Cemetery. Members from each of the organizations involved will be present to place American Flags and flowers on each of the repaired tombs including the tomb of Samuel Aiken. Dr. R. Mark Giuliano, Pastor of Old Stone Church, will lead the ceremony and deliver the invocations. Nancy Schirm Wright, State Regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution will deliver brief remarks. The Cleveland Grays Color Guards with the Western Reserve Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Color Guards will process and post the colors. The entire group will return to Old Stone Church for a celebratory luncheon.

This yearlong effort to repair the damage done by vandals at Erie Street Cemetery has become a celebration of the contribution of so many who went before us. Lorenzo Carter and his wife are buried here as well as American Indians and 168 veterans from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The cemetery is an important historic site in downtown Cleveland.

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Saturday morning, I finally got a moment at the end of an otherwise hectic week, and in the midst of busy Old Stone marriage preparation weekend, to bring my thoughts into focus for my message today. I was a little torn because I wanted to attend the women’s march that was scheduled to happen outside of my Public Square condo at the same time but was pretty sure that particular moment would be the one and only time I would have to write my sermon.

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“Eutheos” – the “immediately”that the gospels keep talking about is that moment when everything finally crystallizes for us. It’s that moment when you know that you can longer sit in your armchair working on a sermon while there are 15,000 on your front lawn crying out for justice.

As the crowds started to gather beneath my window – 15,000 people according to the Cleveland Police – I was quickly distracted, however. Of course, I kept getting up out of my chair to take some photos to post to Facebook and Twitter, but there was something else drawing my attention toward the Square. I saw an elderly woman carrying a sign that read: “Feminism? I Can’t Believe We’re Still Having this Discussion!” I saw a little girl about 9 or 10 years of age with a sign, too. Her’s read: “I don’t want to live my life in fear.”

But the sign that really spoke to me was being held by a young woman in her 20s – she was about the same age as my daughter who lives in London. Her sign read: “This is what happens when you tell a woman to calm down.” It made me chuckle at first. I’ve known for years that you don’t tell any woman to “calm down,” especially the strong women in my life. But then I started thinking about my daughter, and the kind of world she is living in today, and all the things that Jesus promises her, and you and me: a world of peace, equity, justice and compassion. I thought about my grandmother, my mother and my beloved, Beth, and all the things they have worked so hard for throughout their lifetimes. The things they have endured, and they Christian faith and strength they have exhibited. I saw the grand dame of Cleveland, the Old Stone Church watching over the rally the way Old Stone has watched over so many of the historic events in our great city with a steadfast faith and with prayer.

It was then that I felt an acute sense of urgency about the day: I needed to be on the Square, and I needed to be there now. It’s where Jesus was going to be. And it’s where Jesus wanted me to be. My sermon, if I was going to have one at all, could wait. Besides, it is absolutely impossible to write a sermon about any biblical topic while there are 15000 women, men and children on your front lawn marching in solidarity against misogyny, racism, homophobia, racial inequality, religious intolerance, bigotry, nationalism, abuse of power and fear – in other words, all the things Jesus himself preached against and lived and died in opposition to.

Let’s not forget, Jesus was that amazing, 1st century, radical, cosmopolitan Jew who crossed just about every line and human division you could possibly name in order to reach us: religion, nationality, gender, ability, illness and disease, class and economy. And in the end, he crossed the line between life and death and restored us to God and God’s unwavering grace, all the while, holding out for us the promise of life eternal and life abundant.

I imagine that’s why those early fisher-folk responded to the call of Jesus with such a sense urgency, too. Simon-Peter and his brother Andrew, James and John, the sons of Zebedee dropped everything to follow Jesus – fishing nets, boats, even family. They followed “Immediately” says Matthew. Immediately they dropped their nets. Immediately they left their father.

In Hellenistic Greek the word is “Eutheos” – just to let you know that I’ve done a little homework here. It’s a word that shows up a lot in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) – especially that one with the awesome name “Mark”, which uses the word “Eutheos” no less than 40 times in 16 short chapters. Mark’s gospel says that after Jesus was baptized, “eutheos” – “immediately” he saw the Spirit of God descend on him. And after that, “eutheos” – “immediately” the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. It’s like the gospel writers want us to understand that now that Jesus is in the world, the kingdom of God is in our very midst, in the here and the now. We are a “Now Testament” people: Jesus calls and “eutheos” – “immediately” people follow.

Sure Simon-Peter, his brother Andrew, James and John, probably knew Jesus before that day at the docks. They had time to mull over, or consider who Jesus was or what his mission in the world was going to be. After all, Jesus lived in Capernaum at that time. Matthew’s gospel says that after John had been arrested, Jesus moved “up the lake” so to speak – to the small fishing village of Capernaum – a town of only about 1500 or so. Capernaum was a place where folks easily knew each other. They bumped into each other at the docks, in the market, or in the synagogue. I’m sure they knew Jesus before that historic encounter when Jesus actually called them.

But something happened that day, didn’t it? Something clicked there by the boats, the way Jesus’s call clicks in all of us – it stirred a sense of urgency within them until finally moments of indecision were replaced by a need to get up and go with Jesus; an acquaintance had now become a relationship of commitment. Eutheos!

Being a child of the church and a preacher’s kid, I wrestled with my call for a long time before I felt that sense of urgency. It’s been said that everyone likes sausage, but no one likes to know what goes into making the sausage. That’s how it was for me as a preacher’s kid; As a preacher’s kid, I had the insider’s view of the church – the late night phone calls, the grumbles and complaints, the gossips, the relentless committee meetings, the board meetings, the Presbytery meetings – none of them ever seeming to go anywhere! From my perspective, being a Christian seemed like you were always working on a great ship, the church, that never left dry dock, and I didn’t want any part of it. I wanted to get out and sail! And besides, everyone who had little or nothing to do with Jesus – the non-Christians in my world – seemed to be having so much more fun than the Christians!

And if you know me, you know that as a teen, I wanted to be a rock star, or an urban planner, a homesteader in the North West Territories, hunting, trapping, fishing – anywhere, doing anything else but with Jesus in the church.

But one day, Jesus got me. He shook my bed in the middle of the night and told me it was time to get up! It was time to tell people about just how much God loves them, and the world. It was time to tell folks the truth: there is a better path life than the one they’ve been living. So I got up, and Jesus made me a fisher of people, too!

Friends, sometimes God’s “Eutheos” – the immediacy of our call as Christians – comes quickly – kind of like those who have experienced love at first sight; other times it doesn’t arrive until we’ve wrestled with God and the inner voices for a while, or walked in relationship with God for a bit. But in the end, I believe, “Eutheos” – the “immediately” that the gospels keep talking about is that moment when everything finally crystallizes for us. It’s that moment when we know that we can no longer sit at home in the armchair working on a sermon while there are 15,000 people outside your front window crying out for justice, trying to find and build strength in one another and to spread a little light in an otherwise dreary world.

Maybe eutheos is that moment when you finally decide that you’ve got to get up and out of bed on Sunday morning and come and worship God, and not just because God needs you there, but because you’ve been overwhelmed by a sense of urgency about your own need to be there. Eutheos is that seaside-moment when you feel Christ calling you away from the safe and the familiar, the easy or the comfortable, and invites you be a part of the new and the now that he himself is ushering into the world – the “what should be and what will be” – the kingdom of God here on earth.

May God bless you today with a sense of urgency in your own life. May God strengthen you and bless you with courage so that you can drop what you are doing, come and follow Jesus and his word and become a fisher of people, too.

-RMG

Clarissa Pinkola Estes offers us this eloquent and powerful charge – amazing sustenance for the good work to which we are called. 

image002“My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people. You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes
American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.