A Word of Encouragement from Richard

Thanksgiving is a time when the word “gratitude” becomes spoken perhaps more than at any other time of year. We are asked to be grateful. Some families have traditions where they go around the table, and each member shares something for which they are thankful. Clergy persons like me encourage our flock to make gratitude a priority, not just on the fourth Thursday in November but all year round. Then someone flips the switch, and suddenly it’s Black Friday.

I remember studying Armenian in Yerevan, Armenia, during the summer of 1998. The noun for gratitude(երախտագիտություն) is one of the longest words in the Armenian language. Sure, there are 16 letters plus words here or there, but this was one we needed to know.

As language students, thousands of miles away from home, we were dependent on the hospitality of others for most of our basic needs. The ability to communicate our gratitude in word and deed was crucial to our experience. We needed to know how to say we were thankful and be understood. It was also important to show thanks in a manner that matched the length and psychological impact of such an important word. As we learned how to say “thank you,” we learned how to be “grateful” in another culture. Getting “thank you” right became as important as spelling and pronouncing “yerakhtagitut’ yun”.

Is there anything we need to learn or relearn about gratitude before we meet up with our family and friends next week?

–Richard Lowell Bryant

The Evolution of Ho, Ho, Ho (A Poem)

He he,
He haw,
Miss MinnHEPearl.
No.
He hi,
Hi he,
Ho hi,
Hi ho,
Ho he,
He ho,
Ho, ho, hi
‘ve got the world on a string,
sitting on a reindeer,
Hi, ho, hum,
Ho, hum, he,
Ho, hi, ho,
Hi, ho, hi, ho,
it’s off to gift we go,
no. No. NO.
Ho, ho, ho?
Yes, we go, go go.

–Richard Bryant

Publicity Photos

I’m just saying,
those publicity photos on the wall,
will not do at all,
I’m just saying,
the 80’s called,
they want their stringy hair back,
the late 70’s called,
those faux dusters still look slack,
the misspelled names department phoned,
the wampum, hawgs, and dawgs have all gone home,
I’m just saying,
these goatees will not do,
the bad facial hair department called you,
you might want to take these down too,
I’m just saying,
the next time they call,
tell them you’re already on the 21st-century ball.

–Richard Bryant

 

*image courtesy Trip Advisor

10 Tips for Better Living

A Pet I Love

1. Change the windshield washer fluid in your car. Yes, this is both a metaphor and a practical admonition. Work on clearing obstacles, smudges, and other icky things blocking your vision. You will be happier and safer.

2. Make all of your expressions of thanks, from the drive-in window to the condolence line, equally sincere.  Gratitude needs to multidimensional and felt for the person hearing the words “thank you” to know you mean what you say.

3. Learn to love a pet.  Love is hard.  A dog or cat (for example) will work with you as you learn.

4. Become a better conversationalist. This means work on your listening skills. Learn how to ask better questions.

5. Don’t let healthy admiration become idolatry.

6. Take care of your body, mind, and spirit.  We need you.  You matter.

7. Wear comfortable shoes.  The journey is long.

8. Keep a record of your days. Whether you call it a journal or notebook doesn’t matter. Leave a record of your time on Earth.

9. Find a way to give joy back to the other people. How can you serve others, give back, and enrich the lives of others in unexpected ways?

10. Take fewer selfies. Share more pictures of the world around you.

–Richard Lowell Bryant

5 Things I Love About the United Methodist Church

1. I love the way we can say the Nicene Creed one week and ask for testimonies the next. Our lives are living examples of the liturgy. Whether it’s printed in a bulletin, hymnal, or our DNA, we bring the “work of the people” to church and the wider community.

2. United Methodists worship with every generation of Methodist who has gone before us. We also understand that our presence in this place is impermanent. We are called to have our horses, cars, and saddlebags ready for the next move. There is a place beyond our comfort zones that needs the liturgy, hymns, gospel, and message. We all must be ready to see them timely delivered.

3. I love coming to church with other people who know where I am in life, where I’ve been, and are praying for me without my having to ask. The work of the people* is undergirded by embers of prayer, stoked day and night.

4. I love the United Methodist Church because we try to do the right thing. This is because, at our core, we are not fundamentalists. We never have been. Since our arrival in the United States, Methodists have been marked by their moderation. Our vision of Orthodoxy, mixed with the common sense of the quadrilateral, might be one of the greatest theological achievements of the late 20th century. We want to do the right thing by God and our neighbors.  Alienation isn’t in our genes.

5. There is always room on some pew for you, your family, and your friends in our church. No one will be turned away. I love the United Methodist Church because we don’t lock our doors figuratively or literally to anyone. If the door is closed, knock. I will come to let you in. If all the seats are full, I will give you mine.

*The word liturgy, derived from the technical term in ancient Greek (Greek: λειτουργία), leitourgia, which literally means “work for the people” is a literal translation of the two words “litos ergos” or “public service”.

–Richard Lowell Bryant

Important Ideas to Remember

1. Listen to the people around you. Honor their journeys. Your life will be better for it.
2. Pass on the kindness you’ve received.
3. Let your Thank You really mean, “I am grateful”.
4. Take fewer selfies. Take more pictures of leaves, trees, and clouds.
5. Stay hydrated.

–Richard Bryant