2019.11.24 Gratitude


My great-grandmother Crabtree taught me that at the end of each day a person should count their blessings. Count your blessings one by one, count with thanksgiving before the day is done. That was her spiritual practice, one I don’t remember as often as I might. For it is clear that gratitude is the cornerstone of faith. From the Buddha, and the Bible, through to Br. Stendhal-Rast, the message that a grateful heart is key to a fulfilled life rings clear as day. This thanksgiving week we turn our hearts and minds to the things for which we are grateful.

There is no closer bond than the one that gratefulness celebrates – the bond between the giver and the thanksgiver. Everything is a gift! Grateful living is a celebration of the universal give-and-take of life, a limitless yes to belonging.

Can our world survive without gratefulness? Whatever the answer, one thing is certain: To say an unconditional yes to our mutual belonging of all beings will make this a more joyful world. This is the reason yes is my favorite synonym for God. – Brother David Stendahl-Rast OSB, Ph.D.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is difficult to think about much other than survival without our basic needs attended to, so I begin today’s reflection by recognizing the privilege from which I speak: having a roof over my head, food in my belly, clothes on my back, meaningful work, and a network of loving support.

I take none of those things for granted and promise to do my part to ensure that all people have access to those very same gifts and more. My accounting of gratitude this morning is no way meant to diminish or dismiss anyone’s struggles, particularly the struggles many face during the holidays. I speak about my gratitude today, because it is anchored in and stems forth from my faith community and is strengthened by our commonly held convictions.

Today, I find I am grateful for the struggles and disappointments I have endured, they have taught me to be resilient, patient, and forgiving. They have taught me that no bad thing lasts forever and not to linger long in despair.

Today I am grateful for knowing that happiness can’t be found in a bottle, or a pill, or a catalog, or by owning what the neighbors have, but can only come from a deep, lovingly cultivated well of peace.

I am indeed grateful for the multitude of teachers who have graced my life, from Mrs. Shelldoll in first-grade at Smiley Elementary, to my Doctoral advisor who pushed me to think harder and write better.

I am grateful for my marriage which will celebrate its eighteenth year in 2020, I am each day filled with gratitude for a child that love and scientific advances made possible. I am grateful that those who need reproductive support have access to the help they need to bring children into this world. Let us work toward the day when all reproductive health will be covered by insurance so that financial resources will not stand in the way of fulfilling anyone’s dream to create loving families.

I’m grateful for resisters of every shade and shape who remind us daily that there is nothing normal or right about racism or economic injustice. I am grateful to those people who make soup and visit neighbors who are ill or old. I’m grateful for the sunrise each day and the reminder that no matter how badly we might screw it up – there are some things beyond our control.

I’m grateful for school principles and teachers who have the patience of Job, who dig into their own pockets to resource their classrooms and bring extra lunch in case a child in their care is hungry.

I’m grateful for churches, like this one and like so many which create spaces to celebrate birth and death and everything in between. I’m grateful to have grown up in a church that fed and welcomed people and taught me to do the same.

I’m grateful to have a sense of purpose, for the staff and volunteer hours that all of you put in to make this place hum. I’m grateful for each penny you give and grateful every Sunday when each one of you files through these doors to be here in the flesh, together a living reminder of the love of God in the world.

I’m grateful for things to look forward to – as hairy as the holidays can get, I do love Advent and preparing for Christmas. And when the time comes, I will be grateful that they are over – that is a rhythm I can trust; reliable rhythms are worth their weight in gold.

I am grateful for a rich friendship with Rabbi Steve and for FCC’s partnership with Shir Shalom because that in and of itself is exactly as it should be – religious communities intimately woven together in love and the pursuit of God’s vision of Shalom.

I am grateful to have landed here, by the grace of God, with like-minded people who share a vision for the earth and all its inhabitants. I am grateful for the social gospel of Jesus Christ and the way it informs our living together.

The good news is that grateful hearts are also generous hearts. So take those generous hearts into the week ahead and count your blessings one by one.