Unnoticed Gifts

Recently, my husband and I were hiking one of the trails at Pinckney State Park. As we walked along, I looked at my feet and the path ahead of me, making sure not to trip or stumble. We walked and talked and, as my husband is in his first year of his medical residency, we soaked up the quality time we were getting to enjoy.

As we were walking along, my husband commented on all of the sounds around us. It struck me, because I hadn’t given a single thought to those sounds. As soon as he made this comment though, it was as if it all came alive and I heard what he was talking about. Birds singing, a stream trickling over rocks, wind through the leaves – it was beautiful and spoke to a place deep within me. So, how had I not even noticed it before?

So often I get focused on tasks, on what I am doing or where I am going, that I don’t pause to notice all that God is doing around me. No matter where we are or what we are doing, we are surrounded by God’s undeniable goodness – yet so often it goes unnoticed. Our society is one that values productivity and efficiency – getting as much done as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, being in that mindset leaves no time to pause and accept the gifts that God has left for us all throughout our day. The gift of the warm sunshine on your face, or the gift of hearing the laughter of children. The gifts of quiet in the morning before anybody else is awake, or the gift of excitement and anticipation for an upcoming event. So much of what we experience is truly a gift from our Heavenly Father, yet so much of it gets overlooked.

Since the hike, I’ve been trying to do a better job of pausing to really experience all that God has for me in each moment. I get distracted and wrapped up in my to-do list and constantly have to turn my mind back to appreciating His gifts. What else could be more important than accepting a gift from the maker of the universe? How blessed are we that we daily get to be the recipients of something so wonderful? My prayer is that we can take time to appreciate these gifts more each day.

-Sarah Chaffee, Director of Christian Education

Sounds of church

I had the last Sunday off. Pastors don’t get many of these, and this particular Sunday off I was not traveling or far from home. In fact, I was prepping for a five year olds birthday bash so if ever there was a time I needed church it was now. Off I went to my neighborhood church. I sat there, in the pew, no knowing a single person in the room, and smiling like an idiot. I was so dang happy to be in church.  The ritual of folks greeting one another while the pianist played some brilliant prelude that probably only 15% of the people really sit and listen to but that 100% of the people would miss if it weren’t there. The service began with an announcement about an event they were having for young families in the community and how people need to sign up and help. Doing something way bigger than what you can do on your own for no other purpose than to be kind and welcoming in your neighborhood. I’m in. 

The first song began and I tell you I almost wept (okay, maybe a couple tears slipped out) at the pure joy of being able to be vulnerable and worship the God to whom I have devoted my life to serving. I wasn’t up front, with potential eyes on me, thinking about what I was going to say or do next. I was simply singing and worshiping and receiving the spirit which I have apparently been stiff arming lately. I sat back down and continued to smile like an idiot. 

Further in the service I experienced my favorite sound of church. It happens in communities that still use glass communion cups. It is amplified depending on the cathedral vault of the sanctuary ceiling. Well, lucky for me this church had both going for it. We finished drinking of the cup and there was this communal clinking of small cups being placed in wooden circular cut outs. It is the sound of a community which has shared a sacrament. It is the sound of a people being sent out to live into the covenant which Jesus proclaimed. It is a loud communal clinking and it was one my favorite sounds in the whole world. 

I walked forth from that worship feeling as if I had experienced something tangible. I walked to the parking lot feeling a new sense of peace. My troubles were not solved, but I did not feel so alone in solving them either. The echo of a community worth of clinking, was still ringing in my ears.

Ah, the sounds of church. 

-Darcy Crain-Polly
Associate Minister 

Serendipity

My wife, Laura, and I had the good fortune of being able to travel west to Montana in July and enjoy the amazing beauty of Glacier National Park where we have come to love the wildness and magnificence of the mountains and forests. It was wonderful trip.

On one particularly rainy day, Laura and I decided to travel from the east side of Glacier Park to the west side of Glacier Park to pick up a few things we needed. We decided to travel to west via Route 2, just south of the Park, and return by way of the Going to the Sun Road, a gorgeous road that winds its way through the middle of the park. On our way over, as we were driving through a very steeply forested hills, I caught a movement coming toward the left side of our car. I quickly braked and then, to my great surprise, saw a beautiful young female wolf slow down and move around the back of our car, across the road, and down into the forest on the other side. I could hardly believe my eyes!

When I recovered from the shock of seeing a wolf in the wilderness, I noticed a small pickup truck behind me had stopped as well….So I drove on to a pull-off area a short way up the highway to let the pickup truck pass by. When I did, the pickup truck also pulled off and pulled up beside me. There was a young Native American man driving the truck who rolled down his window…as I did ours…and said to us, “I’m so glad you pulled off the road so we can share this moment with one another!” With that, we proceeded to talk about our experience of seeing the wolf, how unusual it was to see a wolf, especially in the daytime, and what the symbol of the wolf means in Native American spirituality. The young man told us he was leaving for a 4-day personal retreat and that seeing the wolf was a special sign to him.

When we were back on the road again, Laura and I talked about how serendipitous and meaningful it was to share the wolf moment with this total stranger. We were aware of how the brief sharing and telling of the story together connected us to one another in a significant way which made the wolf experience even more real and more significant. It was a special time.

Reflecting on this now, I think being part of a community, in particular a church community, does this for us. It gives us a place where our common story is told and shared, and thus made more real and significant.

Blessings….Bob Livingston