Gratitude and Joy

October 29th, 2014

“One of the most profound changes in my life happened when I got my head around the relationship between gratitude and joy,” writes Brene Brown in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life. She had always assumed that joyful people were grateful people because of all the blessings in their lives. But instead, she discovered the following through her research:

  • People who described themselves as joyful, attributed their joy to their gratitude;
  • Both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were tied to a belief in human interconnectedness and a power greater than us; and
  • While happiness was explained as a human emotion that’s connected to circumstances, joy was understood as a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.

St. Paul illustrated the joy that comes from a spiritual practice of gratitude when he wrote the following words from a jail cell: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice…do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:4-6).

Paul reminds us that gratitude is as much an attitude as an emotion. It comes from a determined commitment and intention to notice the blessings of life, and to focus on the good even in difficult circumstances.

After Chernobyl, Tania Luna was a young refugee forced to flee her native homeland of Ukraine. Her family was so poor that even the smallest good she experienced seemed like a great blessing. Finding a penny made her feel like a millionaire, and a homeless shelter seemed to her and her family like a hotel. As a grown woman she is doing better now than she ever dreamed, but she reminds us that joy and gratitude often have little to do with external circumstances, but everything to do with attitude and perspective. Click here to listen to her short compelling story:

On Sunday Nov. 23rd at 7:00pm we have the privilege of honing our spiritual practice of gratitude by hosting an interfaith Thanksgiving Community Service with other congregations in Burbank. This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know our neighbors in faith through worship and dessert fellowship time afterwards.  What joy we might know–not just once a year, but on a regular basis–if we looked at all the blessings of our lives, no matter what our circumstances, no matter how big or small, as reminders of God’s abundant grace!

 

In gratitude,

Pastor Gretchen Bingea

Putting our Faith into Action

October 3rd, 2014

On a busy day last month I had several meetings one day, including a Synod event in the evening at a church in Canoga Park. I decided not to stop for dinner, especially since the host of that last meeting said she’d have pizza and drinks available. Yet when I walked in the room it was obvious that no food would be provided. Not having eaten anything since noon, my stomach was growling and I wondered how I would ever make it through the next two hours—plus the drive home—without food! Of course I survived just fine. But it got me thinking about the millions of people who live with the reality of hunger on a daily basis. One in eight persons in our world is chronically malnourished and in the United States, one out of five children lives in a family that struggles to get enough to eat.

In the prayer we pray together most often, The Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to “give us this day our daily bread.” This is not just a prayer for ourselves but for “us,” meaning all of God’s children everywhere. And over the next couple of months, we as a church have the opportunity to put our faith into action in several different ways:

  • On Sat. Oct. 4th we will again be supporting Lutheran Socials Services (LSS) Community Care Center in San Fernando Valley through the “Walk to End Poverty.” You are invited to participate either as part of our American Lutheran Church team of walkers, or by donating pledges. Visit www.lsswalk.org.
  • On Sun. Oct. 19th we will be observing Bread for the World Sunday during our 10am worship. Through our prayers, music and message we rededicate ourselves to ending hunger in God’s world. Following worship there will be the opportunity to participate in an Offering of Letters to our elected officials, as we learn about ways we can participate in the democratic process to influence our government to create hope for hungry people.
  • On Sat. Nov. 8th from 9-1pm there will be a Goodwill fundraiser in our parking lot to benefit Burbank Temporary Aid Center as they prepare to help local families in need during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Although this is over a month away, now is the time to start cleaning out your closets.

What a privilege for us who are nourished not only in body but also in spirit through the grace of God, to share the good news of God’s love by sharing our abundance with all in need.

Your partner in the Gospel,

Pastor Gretchen