It’s only just the dawn

October’s chill is falling, fog is rolling, and crickets sigh. A train is on track with mourning’s blight and wheel clack in the mid-of-night.

There’s always something moving, even a drowsy lark.           There’s always changes coming, even in the deepest dark.

True mercy can’t be kept apart from the shadows of life and love. Mercy stretches her arms to embrace the whole sad world and breech the great divide.

 There’s always someone walking, in the sweaty heat of life.    There’s always someone moving, shifting between dark and bright.

 Wandering souls aren’t lost, when they remember their cause. They hold tight to hope in the darkest night or the cold of an early frost.

 There’s always someone trying, to tell you what you’ve done.    There’s always someone saying, you’ve lost and it can’t be won.

 There’s a train that travels in mercy and it fills the world with grace. On this train all are welcome – it’s no matter of beauty, wealth or place.

There is One who says you’re accepted. There is One who’s paid the price. This is One who banishes the darkness and ushers in the morning light. 

Don’t heed those words of worry. Don’t let them hold you down. Wait for morning’s promise and find you’re standing in the sun.

Look to the east and keep on walking – you’re walking in the sun.

 There’s always something moving, even a drowsy lark.          There’s always mercy coming, even in the deepest night.

The journey’s not yet over – it’s only just the dawn.

Copyright Tara Eastman 2016

Yellow is a happy color

What is your happy color? For me, I love the color yellow. Year’s ago, I even remember a song called, “Yellow is a happy color” written and produced by Charlie Peacock that lifted up the value of the color yellow.

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There are days that call for things that draw our attention to bright spots. Truth be told, even in the darkest of places, there always is a source of light. I don’t say this from a position of idealism or blindness to the hard and difficult things in life. I don’t say this not having experienced the pain of loss or grief personally.

However, and maybe particularly during a dark times, I think its important to look for glimmers of brightness.

For me, it’s like choosing what shoes I’m going to wear on a given day. Yes, I consider what I have ahead of me. Do I anticipate a informal or more formal day at work? What does the weather look like on the forecast? How long is the day going to be? All this taken into account, I tend to choose what fits best, and gives me a bit of brightness to accompany me with each step I take.

Some days, I choose my yellow moccasins, others I pick my shiny red clogs, and some days I wear my tall, waterproof, black boots – and instead of shoes, throw on a colorful scarf for warmth AND color.

Looking for color, brightness and light is a means for me to find my way in the midst of challenge, difficulty and grief. Looking for light does not deny the hardship, but sheds some brightness upon the path ahead.

Where do you see light today?
Where does color help you throughout the day?

May you be aware of the light that is always present and may your path be dotted with color to dot your days with hope.

Hope in cups of Joe

It’s hard to pin-point what is so comforting about a hot cup of coffee, or tea for those who prefer it. On a damp January night, there is something soothing and restful about hot coffee at a small Greek diner I just discovered.

The staff was friendly and conversational – but not too conversational. The food was simple and delicious and all the customers said hello to each other as they entered and exited. All ages and genders were present and all seemed to have a sense of feeling at home in this space.

But I digress, back to coffee.

One thing that all the people gathering in this place had in common was (you guessed it) – COFFEE.

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Some used sugar or yellow packets of sweetener and some used cream – but all who gathered had a hot cup of Joe steaming on the linoleum topped diner table.
The coffee warmed our hands as well as cleared the fog of thoughts and concerns from the day now behind us. To be fair, the coffee I consumed was well over one cup of Joe – I had chosen the bottomless cup.

This, I have to say was an excellent choice and one I am grateful for.

Perhaps I’ve stumbled across a place similar to the old sitcom Cheers, where everyone knows your name. This remains to be seen. But as far as the coffee is concerned, the bottomless black cup with one sweetener was balm for my soul.

Cups of Joe should always be bottomless and offer a cup to go, just as this diner did.
Overflowing cups of coffee are something we all need from time to time.
Who would have thought that hope would show up in a simple ceramic cup.

May your cup always be filled to the brim.
May your coffee always be hot.
May your hands always know warmth.
May you be aware of hope in everyday places –
in your haves and have-nots.

Where did hope and comfort surprise you today? Please share your response in the comment section below.

cupofjoe

USE WHAT YOU HAVE

What happens when you combine canvas, acrylic paint and an open invitation for people to come and create? Community happens.

Earlier in 2015, I was in the midst of considering a practical way to prayerfully observe the season of Advent and my first inclination was to do something creative. In my own heart, I was longing for some space to rest and reflect upon the season of Advent, where hope, peace, joy and love reside.

Through the social networking site, Meetup, I started a group called, “Buffalo Artists Share” and set some dates for a group to gather at a local church to work on an Advent mural project. (For the lesson plan on how to make a canvas mural, email: taralamonteastman@gmail.com) Church members as well as folks from the Meetup group were invited, over a period of three weeks to come and paint, eat some lunch and get to know each other. The most engaged participants in the project, turned out to be from the general public.

Over four weeks, the painters painted all four sections of the mural and the mural also was used to compliment the devotional time for pastors in the Niagara Frontier Conference, as well as being used in Christmas Eve worship as a means of reflecting on where the hope, peace, joy and love of God can be found. Because we “used what we had”, the community of St. Mark and Good Shepherd Lutheran Churches was able to connect with the surrounding community of Buffalo both inside and outside of our church and Synod walls.

Adventmuralweek4

For the season of Lent, another community art and spiritual life project is being planned. For five weeks, stories of Jesus life will be shared and people are invited to come, to listen, and to create images based on the story they hear. At the end of the five week sessions, dubbed “Artful Prayer”, the group will celebrate with a pot-luck dinner and reveal their creations.

Adventmural2015painters

In a time where pastors, parishioners and churches are looking for answers to the questions of how the church can grow; it might be good to take stock in what they already have. Every church might not have a visual artist on hand, but you probably have knitters, woodworkers, cooks, and teachers. If you ask around, I’d bet you find a painter too!

Adventmural2015pastors

The people who cross your doorstep are our churches greatest asset in helping to build relationships with people on the other side of our church doors. If you long for a place of warmth and hope, you may be surprised to find it in the faces of the people that you already see on Sunday morning. The interests and gifts we already have are the gifts God gives is to share to help build communities of faith that make a difference.

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Use what you have, yes, you do have it!

This article was also published on the Upstate New York Synod Website here: Upstate Update

Why gratitude matters

Gratitude is defined in the dictionary as: “a feeling of appreciation or thanks.” Gratitude is a feeling, that often is overlooked in the everyday business of life, but we feel that gratitude is a powerful tool that helps us to notice beauty and take note of how it can be a source of inspiration and hope – even in the most challenging of times.

In short, we feel that gratitude matters.

So, gratitude and taking note of it’s influence in life is why this website exists.

Through the platform of this website, it is our hope to develop a space for people to share how gratitude impacts people’s lives and to help cultivate space for them to express these feelings through art, story and community development.

If you think that gratitude matters, or would like to learn more about how it can make a difference in you life, please join us at gratitudematters.net for the adventure that waits.

Because, we believe that, for us and for you, gratitude really does matter.