“Living Gratefully” by Will Ramsey and others




My message today is about “Living Gratefully.”  Just two weeks ago I was on retreat with men from the Seekers Church, ie., Jake, Vincent, Richard, Keith, Kevin, Peter, David N., David L., and Bill. As I look around many of them are sitting here this morning. Over the course of the weekend we experienced deep gratitude as we shared stories about our lives.  So much was my exuberance that I asked Celebration Circle for the time to share our experiences with the entire family of Seekers.


Today me and some of my brothers are going to talk about our experiences with 

  • Gratitude and Joy
  • Mindfulness and Intention
  • Suffering and Pain
  • Contentment and peace


Today I our scripture readings we heard Paul say in

Galatians 1:11,12–…the good news….came to me through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Galatians 2:20…It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me.


Now this Jesus is the same one who


Luke 7:14-16–….He (Jesus) said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”  So he who was dead sat up and began to speak…Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us,” and, “God has visited His people.”


I feel like God continues to visit his people as he did us during our time together and the Holy continues to visit my heart.  This moment is a chance for me to say with my brothers and sisters that I am valued, appreciated and welcome.  Acquaintances are becoming friends and maybe even chosen family.  I can play and enjoy the moment and still be responsible, loyal, dependable and helpful.  It is ok to take care of myself.  By loving me or the Jesus in me more I can love others.


Peter is going to share one story about our mindfulness and intention.



From Peter Bankson–May 21-23, 2010


As I think about the men’s retreat at Still Point two weeks ago on the theme of Gratitude, I’m grateful for the clear evidence I experienced of trust and good will that filled our time together.  Here’s one example:


After lunch on Saturday several of us wanted to take a hike. The weather looked OK but there was a chance of rain, and we didn’t want to spend the whole day inside. We talked about whether to walk down to the lovely waterfall just above the Shenandoah River or up to the lookout at the Appalachian Trail. Since some of us had been to neither, and others had recently been to the waterfall, but none of us had been all the way up the hill for a long time we decided on the “scenic overlook.”


As we started up, I was aware that we’d decided that we’d rather be together than take two separate hikes. We hadn’t really talked about it, but for me, that made our hike time together in the forest, rather than “time off” from the retreat. So, six of us set out for the “scenic overlook” that was clearly marked on the map.


After following the map for about half an hour, we’d come to a steep place on the “Power Line Trail.” We could see what looked like the top of the hill high up ahead. The trail, clearly marked by the poles and wires of the power line looked really steep, and by then we were wet with sweat. But the end was in sight, or so we thought.


Then we came to a clear trail off to the left, one that wasn’t marked on the map. It was steep too, but the shade of the tall forest made it look a bit cooler. It seemed to head up to our goal more directly than the Power Line Trail. We decided to take it even if it wasn’t on the map. We knew, you see, that the map hadn’t been updated recently and we’d passed lots of evidence of trail improvements on our way up from Still Point.


For about 10 minutes we followed the shortcut deeper into the woods, expecting to break out onto the ridge around every “next corner.” It was tough going, but the trail was clearly marked, and we were together, most of us deep in conversation as we walked side-by-side on the trail.


Then, with no warning, the trail ended. There was no trail through the leaves, no clear marks on the trees; no underbrush cut away, just a very small clearing in the middle of the forest. Clearly, we had come to the end of the trail. There was some good-natured conversation about the Army ranger who used to be able to read a map, but we were all together and in good spirits. Should we go back, or head off up the hill, “bushwhacking our way directly to the crest of the ridge where the “scenic lookout” beckoned? We talked about the options, the time it would take to circle back on the known trail, the sense of adventure waiting if we headed off into the bush, the choice to split up or stay together as one group.


While we weren’t all of one mind about exactly where we were on the map, we did have a couple of compasses and could agree on which way was up (toward the top of the hill.) And we were clear that at this point it made very good sense to stick together. So we headed south, together, picking our way through the underbrush. It was tougher going, and the conversation dropped off to what might be called “coordination grunts:” “Watch out for that vine!” No sign of a trail over here.” Can we catch our breath for a minute?”


When we hit the top of a ridge and peered into the very steep valley on the other side without any sign of the trail, there was a more urgent conversation about just where we were. We know we were inside an triangle about a quarter mile on a side, but the map wasn’t very detailed and exactly where in that triangle wasn’t at all clear … or rather it seemed clear to several of us but not the same place to any of us.


As far as I was concerned, although we didn’t know which way to go to get to the “Scenic overlook” we did know which way to go to get back to the trail. And more important we were together and still in pretty good spirits.


So we decided to head back to the trail – north by the compass, and we headed off into the thicket again. After about 10 minutes, just as it started to rain pretty hard, we stumbled onto a scenic overlook! Not the one we’d been heading for, but a break on the ridgeline with a long view nonetheless. We’d reached our goal… or had we? It wasn’t the scenic overlook we’d imagined, but it WAS a scenic overlook, unexpected but interesting in its own way.


At that point we were faced with a choice, to accept the success of what we’d stumbled onto, or go home grumpy and unfulfilled because the outcome didn’t fit our plans. As the rain got serious there was more good-natured conversation about “watch what you pray for…” and we headed south again, bushwhacking toward the familiar Power Line Trail. A few wet minutes and we were on familiar ground, following the power line in the driving rain, sharing rain jackets to keep warm, beginning to let the tension take its course toward laughter or upset stomach.


Getting home was quick. We knew the route and the rain kept us moving. When we crossed the threshold into the dry living room at Still Point, the air was filled with the aroma of fresh nachos. Bill Wilson, who’d volunteered to cook for all of us for the weekend and who’d decided to stay back for some quiet time of his own, had anticipated our hunger and created a man-sized snack. Warm room, dry clothes, a great snack, and a shared adventure.


And all of it built on a solid foundation of trust and good will. What a gift!


Will continued: Back at the cabin we had delightful conversations that took us places that surprised us.  Vincent will give a glimpse of that experience as he talks about his attitude of gratitude.



From Vincent Shepard–May 21-23, 2010


On the men’s weekend I felt safe.  I shared things I have never shared with anyone.  It was like I got a new sense of freedom having everything out in the open.  I grew up with four sisters and i always wanted a baby brother to take care of, bully and play with.  It was a great weekend.

As Christians we should be in a state of constant gratitude to our creator for the fact He has brought us out of a life of sin.  We must remind ourselves of where we were before and where we are now.  I consider the men here at Seekers my brothers.  I am grateful to Seekers.  Without your support I would be on the streets.  I cannot place a monetary value on this.  If it was it will be priceless.  The best way to express my gratitude is through service to the community and to others outside the community.  With this I think God is well pleased.


Will added: The cold water also gave me the experience of connection with a brother, along with fear and how it can all change in an instant.  I hate cold water.  When I followed Keith to the pond in the softly falling but steady rain the water looked uninviting and scary.  After I jumped in and shared Keith’s perspective it all changed.


Keith will share what he saw that afternoon.


From KeithSeat–May 21-23, 201


[Summary:] Among many valuable insights from the retreat, the thing that I want to emphasize is gratitude for what is, not conditional gratitude which depends on everything being just the way I would like it to be.  When the hike Peter told about was getting ready to go the sun was shining and the pond was really calling to me – many of you know how much I love the water.  But I wanted to be part of the group and went on the hike, which as you heard ended in steady rain.  So when I got back, I could have been disappointed not to have the warm sun to offset the cold pond water and chagrined at the change in weather.  But instead I was able to be grateful for the pond in the rain and went ahead to swim, with Will and a couple of other guys.  And it turned out that it was a marvelous experience, even in cold rain and cold water.  Each rain drop as it hit the pond created a large bubble that floated on the water, which we would not have noticed had we not been in the water looking at the bubbles at eye level.  It was a wonderful moment and we were grateful.  Moreover, there is something particularly bonding about braving cold water together!


I identify with Eckhart Tolle in his book, The Power of Now, when he asks, “How do I support a movement [or find a call] to stop deeply unconscious humans from destroying themselves, each other, and the planet, or from continuing to inflict dreadful suffering on other sentient beings.  Remember:  Just as you cannot fight the darkness, so you cannot fight unconsciousness.  If you try to do so, the polar opposites will become strengthened and more deeply entrenched.  You will become identified with one of the polarities, you will create an enemy, and so be drawn into unconsciousness yourself.”


So what do I do?  I return to the lectionary, where the family of God’s people are reading the words of wisdom for today.

I Kings 17:24–…the woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of god, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.”


Will concluded: Living gratefully will create a life of attraction and they will know that we are people of the Holy, One Truth, many paths.

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