The month of November is the time each year when we are reminded to think about that for which we are thankful. Gratitude is a powerful thing, especially if we don’t limit it to one holiday a year!
We can start with our attitude. If we begin the day thinking about those things, people, circumstances for which we are grateful, it has the power to change how we face the day, how we treat people and how we view the circumstances that come our way. A friend of mine recently suggested on Facebook that instead of reaching for a book or a pill when we wake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep that we should pray prayers of gratitude. She is much smarter than I and has actually done a fair amount of research on the subject. She said that in various cultures and in different times in history there was this idea called “segmented sleep” where when one would wake in the night it was accepted that it was a time to “check in” with God (Psalm 119:62, “At midnight I rise to praise you…”). She goes further to talk about what actually goes on in the brain when people make this practice of prayers of gratitude and praise their own. My summary of what she wrote is that it is good for us!
Diane Butler Bass has written a book called, Grateful: the Transformative Power of Giving Thanks. In it she challenges the reader to go beyond the idea of being grateful though feeling indebted. She talks about a gratitude that is transformational to our lives and the world around us called “gift and response.” She says, “It is an invitation to receive gifts, live more simply, graciously, and freely, attuned to our own hearts, our neighbors, and the common good. Many of us were taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive, but the truth is that we must first receive in order to give. As a result we choose to care more freely, fully and deeply…practicing gift-and-response gratefulness will empower both personal and social change.” (page xxiv).
The call to give thanks is all over scripture. In Philippians 4:4-9 the exhortation to give thanks is mixed in with prayer, rejoicing, setting our hearts and minds on good and noble things and experiencing the “peace of God which surpasses all understanding .” I suspect that if I were to be more intentional about expressing gratitude in my prayers and meditations each day that they would overflow into my attitude and my actions and would even change how I view others. What do you think? I wonder what would happen if a lot of us committed to this intentional gratitude in our lives? What would our church be like and what would be the impact on the people who come and are a part of our church? How would being a church that practices gratitude impact the community? I believe that we could see some transformation.
Let us be thankful to God for all that has been given to us. Let it be more than words we share around the dinner table on a particular holiday. Let gratitude for the gifts of God permeate our lives in such a way that we are all transformed. Thanks be to God!
Grace and Peace in Christ,
Printed in the November Tapestry issue.