Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

What does gratitude actually DO?

Monday, November 20th, 2017

What Gratitude DOES….

As Thanksgiving approaches with all it deep feelings around gratitude, I have been thinking a great deal about two things.

First, how do we continue to speak to gratitude, to list our blessings, even the one’s that come in broken circumstances?

And second, if we can somehow attach our souls, open our souls to gratitude, how would we then live? In other words what does gratitude DO in our lives?

Imagine a Thanksgiving table…

  • Round I … what are you thankful for?
  • Round II … and what are going to do with that?

Gratitude is an emotion, true. But it is also an action. Powerful to witness those who feel that deep gratitude for the gifts life has to offer, and then in turn move that gratitude out there into the world in all kinds of life giving ways.

If I believe life is fundamentally good … even in the broken places.  If I notice the gifts … even when times appear dark.  Then maybe it is time, with a smile, and with my beloved, to ask what is it that gratitude DOES?

A thankful soul is a giving soul.

Our Money Is Our Story: Welcome to Black Friday

Friday, November 29th, 2013

It is easy to bash the rampant consumerism of Black Friday.  Fed by a scarcity mentality that has people lined up outside Walmart at 5:00 AM less than 24 hours after the blessedly slow rhythms of gratitude, connection and Thanksgiving, the day is indeed ripe for the bashing.  (Juxtapose the photograph from Friday morning below to a photograph of gathered families Thursday night)

But if we are to hold to the concept that our intention is what is most important, the bashing abates a bit.  A mom who can only afford a given gift for a beloved daughter if she is first to Walmart in the wee hours of Friday morning may well be more spiritually evolved than the sluggard who plans to shop for her children at CVS sometime Christmas eve.

Where we need awareness I would hold is to understand a simple differentiation between compulsion and intention.  A loving intention to serve those outside of ourselves is far different than the driving compulsion to get more stuff.   On the outside, both may look the same.  However on the inside, each tells a very different story around money and a very different story around spirit.

Thoughts on Thanksgiving 2012

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

“Life is Gift.”  That is where we left the service on Sunday.  And that is no small thing, no give away line.

It starts with a critical claim – the cost of ingratitude is great.  Ingratitude contracts lives, darkens perceptions, dulls senses.  It lowers us quickly into the role of victim, and the anger and apathy that victimhood engenders. The question of “What are the costs of ingratitude?” deserves to be hammered around a bit. I imagine the costs so often escape our attention and that there may be a great deal of value in putting words around those costs.

Gratitude however occupies far different terrain.  Gratitude I imagine is a subtle art, harder to practice than ingratitude.  A case in point … I wrote recently to our board a note of gratitude.  What struck me in writing it was a dawning realization of what I witnessed that Sunday but failed to notice until retracing my steps, figuratively, that day.

There were of course the speakers at NewChurch LIVE Sunday, a mother and her son, who found words to share the experience of Hurricane Sandy and, crazy to say, the uplifting observations they were witness to in their town, a town where 95% of the homes suffered flood damage.  And there was more … people connecting, tears of support and shared grief, hands extended to help – all outside the arena of the actual service.  All inhabiting this orbit of a small church.

It is not that any of that in itself, taken in isolation, was overtly, dramatically profound.  It only became profound when I noticed it.  And maybe that is the lesson this Thanksgiving.  Notice it.  We function so often on “auto” that we fail to see that already is.  And what is is Gift.

 

The Hope To Which We Are Called

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

As we enter Thanksgiving, much leaves me in awe at the incredible blessings with which life abounds. The challenge is that problems/ angst/ stress remain loud. Blessings, like God, are still and quiet.

There are of the course the material parts of life to be thankful for.  With NewChurch LIVE I am thankful for the overwhelming generosity of donors, the clear vision of leaders,  the work of paid and volunteer team members, a continued tradition of inspiring music, amazing congregants here and scattered across the country.

And there is something more for which I am thankful.  In Ephesians 1, we read these words by one of the founders of the Christian Church, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you.”  I am thankful for the Hope to which we are called.

You know, why else do this, build this church thing, unless in some way we were all called to a unique hope.  Words around that probably of necessity fail.  But maybe the concept points to a deeper heart motivation, a deeper “knowing” that resonates with a Heart far larger than this particular church.

I don’t believe we start the journey “knowing” what exactly that hope is.  I do believe we touch it – glancing blows here and there – as we seek to serve.  This mirror’s God’s spirit, a spirit that fails to arrive in a mechanistic, prescribed fashion.  As Christ noted, spirit like the wind, blows where it will and we are not (thankfully!) given to control it.

What we are given is the ability to respond to it, to acknowledge, and allow spirit to accomplish, over time, its works of shaping our lives.

The hope at the Heart of what we are doing is a loving world, one in which selfless endeavor finds itself transcendent over the fevered pursuit of “stuff” and “accomplishment.”   The heart of stone becoming the heart of flesh.  The hope of heaven becoming the hope of the world.  Christ born anew into the world as Spirit, as Hope.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

 

“‘Hope’ never adds up but the blessings do.” Anne Voscamp

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

I enjoy this line from Anne Voscamp’s book “1000 Blessings.” So many of my hopes are attached to the word “more.” I hope for “more” of this, or that – relationship or stuff – believing that in “more” I will finally discover “enough.” That kind of hope is actually hopeless.  Like the millionaire who cooks the books for that extra shot of money, I find myself addicted to the femoral “hope” of attaining “more,” and that “more” will mean I am “complete.”

My Prayer:  I am nothing without you God.  I am nothing without what You already placed in my life – today, this Sunday morning – which in the end is enough – blessings and breaking.  

I can strive but let that striving Lord be from service, be from love, be from a giving that does not care about receiving but only in the Gift. 

The Core of Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

We grow into an orientation of gratitude.  I imagine there to be many ways to chart that course.  Maybe one way plays off  of our Thanksgiving theme this year.

Step One: What We Have

Children seem to start with simple orientation of a need to “have.”  As one author noted, there are basic needs – “havings” – safety, food etc….  What parent doesn’t remember the “snatching” stage.  From a Christian New Church perspective, important to note, that this may well be a necessary and formative stage in maturation.  It appears there is something in the human psyche that needs to “have.”

Step Two:  What We Have Is The Point

Step Two is when we become far more conscious of our “having” and that endeavor comes self consciously to center in our lives.  I know as a parent, this stage is the most difficult for me to witness my children go through.  Watching them scroll through the web or stroll through the mall in search of “stuff” that supports their identity as they see it is often painful.  And, it needs said, in our culture, one in which we often are define ourselves by what we have, this stage maybe is a necessity or at the least, unavoidable.  But don’t allow growth to get arrested here!

Step Three: What We Have To Give Is The Point

Step Three is when “To Give” arrives.  Identity moves from “out there” as defined by the “stuff” we have accumulated to the heart, to the soul.  We see our gifts as gifts of spirit and connection.  This gift what we have to give.   I am not sure we can arrive in this place without at least some orientation towards what is spiritual.  Maybe we don’t arrive here without a realization that Step One and Step Two somehow failed us.  And important to note that at this point a certain  self identity begins to rest deeply in our souls.  We may “have” a great deal of possessions or not.  That no longer is the point however.  The point is what we do have, we have our always had – a deep gift of a caring soul reaching out to God and reaching out to others.

Imagine

Imagine the world created out of a belief that “What we have to give is the point.”  Really fun to think about!  Take time this Thanksgiving to have that conversation.  It certainly seems to orient one towards the holiday season and the deep spirit of humble gratitude that paves the way for Christmas.    New worlds get born from there!

What do you have to give?

Getting Ready For Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

This morning in getting ready for Church, I am sitting in my office thinking about what does it really take to get ready for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, in this denomination, is the very core of worship.  Why is that?  I think the process is two fold – a first step – awareness of what we have – followed by a second step – awareness of what we have to give.  That is something to come open to.  What is that you have …. to give.

Because we all do, we all harbor this “thing” that was the point of God creating us.  Often largely unknown, ignored, or unlived in this life it still stirs.   When we take moments to worship in the spirit of thanks and gratitude for the blessing, we can feel its gentle presence.  Why?  As Emanuel Swedenborg phrased it, “Because the divine nature intimately affects everything with good and with blessedness.”  (Heaven and Hell)

Last night I was able to witness one of those moments.  I was privileged to preside at a 50th Wedding Anniversary/ Renewal of vows. To watch Mary Ellen and Paul socializing after the service, “working the crowd” with obvious joy and gratitude for the gold that was their life, was to watch a prayer of Thanksgiving literally unfold on a beautiful night at Pen Ryn.  They are living in what they have and in what they have to give – to each other, to their family, to their community.

So getting ready this morning is about clarity – clarity about a very simple, very profound message.  What we have is nice.  What we have to give is the point.