Organic Thanksgiving, organic joy

Gratitude EDIT large Oct 20 2016 well worn pathWith Thanksgiving arriving this week, I have had gratitude on my mind. In general, gratitude is like a annoying presence that I could not get rid of – although for many years I tried to do just that, but my anger was no match for it.  Ultimately I surrendered and now I am glad, well – grateful – that I did so.

Joy is also a constant companion. Happiness and joy are not the same at all. Once I got that message, I realized that joy was ever present, even in the midst of sorrow. Joy was like a less annoying presence, in fact almost invisible, until opened the door of my heart to usher in gratitude. It all sounds so hackneyed, so cheesy, but it is true. Now I am far from being little Miss Sunshine, if you know me in real life you know that I am easily irritated and typically irascible. Yet, bubbling away on a kettle within me is the ridiculous concoction of joy and gratitude that often steams its way out of me.

It is a mystery to me, but this week, I would like to talk about it more because it all distills down to one thing… We choose both gratitude and joy, no matter what order you experience them, but making those choices are not always easy.

Holidays are often opportunities for manufactured versions of both things… and ticking time bombs of distress as a result, given the family and/or social situations of many of us. May both gratitude and joy be yours this week, in the most profoundly organic way possible, found in the most unexpected places.

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Just not always

Mary-Oliver-Quotes-1To everyone who thinks that this is some dark, brooding, portent of a post – I can promise you that it is anything but. I found this snippet from Mary Oliver and it clicked. What was I looking for? I was looking for something about gratitude – from Mary Oliver.

Remember that sometimes the very richest and most meaningful gifts come wrapped in the most terrible paper at the most awful time. Of course when we are in the midst of anger, terror, sorrow, fear, and pain, it is not possible to remember this. At least not consciously.

May your Thanksgiving – or your ordinary Thursday for those of you not in the US – be full of good things. And if it is not, cling always to hope and know that gratitude and good will come.

We try to be grateful, we feel grateful – just not always.

*Here is a an interesting review of the book that contains this poem. 

Thanksgiving and εὐχαριστία

images-1As a Roman Catholic, I am ever reminded that when we come to the table for Eucaristia, which means thanksgiving. It is about what we give – and not what we get. Sacramentally speaking, we don’t “get” or “receive” communion, we enter into it offering our gifts, turning ourselves over to God. That’s the idea anyway, I’m not always so good at that part. Withholding comes a little bit too naturally to me, but I’m trying.

Today I am thinking about how gratitude is always an exercised choice. Often best made, when you are simply going through the motions. After doing so, many years ago, I found myself surprised as I realized that I was truly are grateful.

At the Thanksgiving mass, we typically get a prayer to use at our table. Today we received a copy of this prayer, asking us to reflect with it today, and as the week goes on. Written by Howard Thurman in 1959, these words are a gift at any time of year.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I wish you peace.

A Litany of Thanksgiving
by Howard Thurman

Today, I make my Sacrament of Thanksgiving.

I begin with the simple things of my days:
Fresh air to breathe,
Cool water to drink,
The taste of food,
The protection of houses and clothes,
The comforts of home.

For these, I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

I bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that I have known:
My mother’s arms,
The strength of my father,
The playmates of my childhood,
The wonderful stories brought to me from the lives of many who talked of days gone by when fairies and giants and all kinds of magic held sway;
The tears I have shed, the tears I have seen;
The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye with its reminder that life is good.

For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I finger one by one the messages of hope that awaited me at the crossroads:
The smile of approval from those who held in their hands the reins of my security;
The tightening of the grip in a single handshake when I feared the step before me in the darkness;
The whisper in my heart when the temptation was fiercest and the claims of appetite were not to be denied;
The crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open page when my decision hung in the balance.

For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I pass before me the mainsprings of my heritage:
The fruits of the labors of countless generations who lived before me, without whom my own life would have no meaning;
The seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams;
The prophets who sensed a truth greater than the mind could grasp and whose words could only find fulfillment in the years which they would never see;
The workers whose sweat has watered the trees, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations;
The pilgrims who set their sails for lands beyond all horizons, whose courage made paths into new worlds and far-off places;
The saviors whose blood was shed with a recklessness that only a dream could inspire and God could command.

For all this I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I linger over the meaning of my own life and the commitment to which I give the loyalty of my heart and mind:
The little purposes in which I have shared with my loves, my desires, my gifts;
The restlessness which bottoms all I do with its stark insistence that I have never done my best, I have never reached for the highest;
The big hope that never quite deserts me, that I and my kind will study war no more, that love and tenderness and all the inner graces of Almighty affection will cover the life of the children of God as the waters cover the sea.

All these and more than mind can think and heart can feel,
I make as my sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee,
Our Father, in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart.