Friday, November 23, 2012

The Discipline of Thanksgiving

Enter into the Holy One's gates with thanksgiving, And into God's blessed courts with praise: Give thanks to our Creator, and bless God's name. For Jehovah is good; God's kindness and affection endures for ever, And God stays faithful to all generations.  -- Psalms 100:4-5 (ASV - paraphrased)

The American holiday of Thanksgiving has always been a little bit of a mystery to me.  It's a good thing in that it reminds us to be thankful.  At the same time by it happening only once a year, it is implied that being thankful once a year is adequate.  This is far from the truth.  I'm in the midst of a great gratitude experiment, and am finding that being thankful is a powerful spiritual discipline that has changed me.

More than two months ago I caught a program on PBS about how to find happiness.  One of the items the lecturer suggested was keeping a daily listing of five things for which you were grateful.  I started then.  Since then I have been swamped with messages from a large variety of sources that being grateful is vital to maintaining sanity, managing anxiety, and finding happiness.  The more I practice thanksgiving the more things for which I find to be grateful.  Being grateful has become nearly a minute by minute activity.  With the gratitude comes a mindfulness about the extensive interconnectedness of creation and life.  I am learning to "pull back the curtain" on the negative and scary things that an anxious mind can create, and instead look for the positive side of each thought/event for which to be grateful.

When we take time to be thankful with just a brief whispered phrase of gratitude to God for whatever crosses our path we are remaining in constant relationship with God.  Instead of frantically begging God for solutions and answers to desperate petitions, prayer changes into pouring out one's thanksgiving.  This change pries open our clenched fists surrendering our control back into the trustworthy arms of a God who has been faithful to all the generations clear back to Adam and Abraham.

I'd encourage you to work diligently at finding the things to be grateful for in life.  Start your own gratitude experiments.  You can start as I did - by just sitting down with a little notebook and listing five things in the course of a day I was thankful for.  Not too soon, however, you will start noting very small things from a droplet of water to the smell of coffee to a bird's call to the large saving graces bestowed on us daily for Jehovah is good -- always!

Wise and Trusting God, help us in the huge element of being grateful.  Through all that you give and all that you bless, aid us in knowing it is you carrying us forward.  In Christ's name.  Amen.

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