Discipline of Gratitude

By Melodious Monk

One November many years ago, our first president proclaimed: 

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country…” 

Following in Washington’s footsteps during a difficult time for our nation, Abraham Lincoln said this:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.” 

Fast forwarding to our generation, the late Henri Nouwen, a man who seemed to know and cherish man’s universal purpose to glorify and give thanks to God, left us this advice. “In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint…the choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious.”

Each day, and especially today, we can continue the generations-old tradition of choosing to place our thanks and trust in the loving “great disposer of events” as president Lincoln affectionately worded our creator.  I hope that in some way, my small offering of thanks today, together with yours, can join myriad legions of angels to help guide all of us to taste some inestimable blessings.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit:  Artist’s depiction of George Washington praying at Valley Forge. (Public Domain)

Late Have I Loved You

by Artist Eye  

One summer night when I was a child I made a wish. I desperately wanted my life to change. I wanted to live in a “free” country. I can’t honestly claim that this was any kind of a prayer. As I remember that night it was definitely in the: “wish I may, wish I might” category. I guess I’d be the first person to explain to a child that wishes and prayers are very different entities but the other night as I watched another summer night sky fill up with stars I was grateful that the unequivocal desires of my heart were heard up in heaven.

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Of Thee I Sing

 
On the 4th of July, my sisters and I inevitably woke to the sound of popping fire crackers. A quick peek out the window revealed our father in action. He crouched low, put match to wick and ran, hugely amused with himself. It was his day and our day, and I suspect my mother loved it that way. Some years we went to my uncle’s farm for an afternoon picnic. A wagon was hitched to the tractor and we piled in, lugging a charcoal grill, hot dogs, potato salad, and baked beans slow cooked in molasses and brown sugar. We enjoyed a bumpy ride over uneven pasture land to some scenic spot my uncle had selected, leaving semi-interested cows in our wake.

In the evening, Dad took us to a local fire-works display, hosted each year by the volunteer fire department. The firemen raised money by selling such things as cotton candy, peanuts in the shell, and green pepper and sausage sandwiches. We pitched pennies at white china dishes and enjoyed numerous games of ring toss, then spread blankets on a nearby hillside for a great view of the fireworks.

We grew up small town, Middle America and were taught to love our country. My parents, who lived through the great depression and subsequent war years, understood the privilege (and fragility) of liberty.

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Thanksgiving

by Renaissance Girl  

It’s here.  The holiday for eating turkey and pie and gathering with family you haven’t seen in a long time, and falling asleep after dinner in your chair. The first “unofficial” Thanksgiving feast was celebrated 391 years ago near what is now Plymouth, MA. A small gathering of men and women who had survived their first winter in the “New World” and successfully harvested their first corn, thanks to the Native Americans who taught them what they needed to survive. Only half of the original Mayflower crew survived — half. That’s roughly 50 people! They planted their feet here, and planted their corn….and here we are today. In a country, and particularly a state, with such a great legacy of perseverance and triumph and complete dependence on God. And amazingly, almost 400 years later, we continue to celebrate this day — this act — of giving thanks. I feel moved by that this year — perhaps on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, and the Presidential election, and the obvious need our country has right now for firm soil and trust in God. Or perhaps (with all due respect and love to my family) I’m old enough now that the turkey and pumpkin pie and laughter around the table doesn’t seem like the end of the story. My small gratitude’s of a warm home and friends to share with, are part of an eternal song of thanks. I’m adding my notes to the melody the Pilgrims added to, the song in the air that reminds us. “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1Thessalonians 5:18
Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Late Have I Loved You

by Artist Eye  

I’m still thinking about the consent of the governed. “Consent” means to give permission and voting voices my support, but I think the idea of standing together on the same principles is more cogent. There are so many places in the world where the voices of the governed are afforded no power, where abuse of power is met with silence, or where man’s inhumanity to man fosters a propensity of the soul to flee the body because there is, practically speaking, no place to stand. Ours is a government which bids us, as we “mutually pledge to each other,” to hold the principles of freedom in common, in consent. And so to stand, each under the same sky, each gazing up into the same heavens, where-in are hid our mutual treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and the Blessings of Liberty.

Late Have I Loved You

by Artist Eye  

Its easy to be cynical when politicians debate. Having been born not in these United States and having known a society which did not hold certain Rights to be unalienable, I can also be sentimental about freedom. I know that neither of these impulses, cynicism nor sentimentality, however, belong to a heart thrown open to the love and the mercies of God. So, I am searching for that stance, open to the heavens, standing accessible, giving consent as the governed to a greater Government, which while it may inform my vote in November, is not limited by the outcome of any earthly election.

Proud To Be An American

 I had the privilege of marching with Spirit of America Band in two 4th of July parades on Wed.

The band was comprised of present members and alumni from the past 10 years.  For many of us “oldies” (I’m 63), marching in parades was in our blood. It all came back, and there was tons of grace for us to give our all.  I heard a comment from the sidelines….a man said “They really exemplify the Spirit of America….there’s a difference with this group!”  I was so proud to be a part of it, and hope in some small way, we made a difference.