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Giving Thanks (from October 11, 2015)

Wouldn’t it be great, if at the end of our lives all we had left to say was “Thank You”?

That is not to suggest we would have lived lives free from challenge or difficulty or sadness, or pain.

Everyone faces hardships,

Everyone lives with disappointments,

Everyone goes through experiences that break our hearts,

Everyone has times that leave us soaked in tears.

There is a way to live, that wise people know about,

and which all major spiritual traditions, including ours, teach.

The way to live,

that has been proven to result in reaching the end of life with a thank you on our lips,

is the way of gratitude.

A wise teacher named Timothy Miller, in his book “How to Want What You Have” wrote:

“ Gratitude is the intention to count-your-blessings every day, every minute,

while avoiding, whenever possible,

the belief that you need or deserve different circumstances.”

It is easy to get out of the habit of gratitude, if I get caught up in the soul-killing habits of entitlement, greed, and envy. Another wise teacher, Edward Hays wrote:

“It is important not only to be grateful to others but also to be grateful for others. We need to cultivate a gratitude for others’ giftedness in the same way that we appreciate a beautiful sunset or a smile from a loved one. Others always seem to have been given gifts in life that we desire, and so it’s easy to be envious. Riding sidesaddle with envy is a dangerous practice: I would be happy if I had what he or she possesses. By contrast, giving thanks constantly and in all circumstances liberates us from envy.”
We are, each of us here, alive.

We have memories of times, and places, and people, for whom we are grateful.

We may also have feelings of grief and sadness, for the absence or the end,

or the loss of some of those times, places, and people.

We can feel grief, but that need not overpower or wash away our basic gratitude for all we have cherished.

Even when we are feeling sad, or lost, or afraid, or alone,

at least we are alive to feel these things.

At the heart of the present moment we are in, is the gift of being alive.

A gift that is made up of many more gifts.

The gift of memories. The gift of being here and now. The gift of sharing in the human experience of being alive.

Thomas Merton, another of my favourite spiritual teachers wrote: “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us — and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

Earlier in the service I suggested 3 g’s we might use with our family and friends, to open up conversation during this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I think they are worth coming back to:

Gratitude: name something in your life you deeply appreciate, and would not want to live without.

Make a quiet prayer of thanks for that gift.

Grief: name something, someone in your life that you remember with fondness,that is no longer physically with you.

Make a quiet prayer of thanks, for that gift, and for the experience of cherishing a person, or place, or something, so deeply.

Grace: name something in your life you have appreciated, and you are now willing to pass along for the good of others.

Make a prayer for thanks for being in a place in life in which you have gifts to offer to others.

Take another moment to think about how you might give this thing away.

There may be times when we don’t feel like feeling grateful. We may need to practice gratitude, even if we are not feeling it, to wake ourselves up again to the fullness of life, which includes the experience of gratitude.

These three simple g- questions may help us.

Returning to the practice of gratitude can re-awaken joy and help it stay alive in our hearts.

Joy is not the same as temporary happiness.

Joy is the capacity, I think, to see the goodness in life, to rest in the awareness that God is the source of that goodness, and to look for ways to pass the goodness along.

Wouldn’t it be great, if at the end of our lives all we had left to say was “Thank You”?

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