Faith Matters: Wake up the sun with gratitude
With the holiday season just around the corner, beginning this week with Thanksgiving, we are once again encouraged to think about gratitude.
Growing up in London, England, I initially found the whole idea of Thanksgiving rather perplexing after I came to the US. A national day of gratitude? Why only one day? What about the rest of the year?
Many years ago, my Grandmother, who raised me, died the day before the holiday. I was living in Salt Lake City at the time and the next day, Thanksgiving, I found myself on a plane bound for London, dazed and distraught. It was a heart-breaking time.
The following year, back in Utah, I was in no space to celebrate as Thanksgiving approached. The pain of loss was so intense I could barely get out of bed on the anniversary of the passing of the person who had acted as my sole parent.
As the years passed I healed, but I haven’t forgotten my beloved grandmother Margot, or Cooee, as I called her. I now view Thanksgiving differently, for while it might simply be a single day, the opportunities to live in a continuous state of gratitude are endless.
C.S. Lewis said, ‘I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least.’ I don’t think any of us would like to be labeled a crank, misfit or malcontent, so perhaps it’s best to adopt an ‘attitude of gratitude.’ This isn’t difficult when things are going well. But when I’m worried, or other emotions cloud my thinking, it’s a state that’s hard to achieve. At those times, I’ve found Philippians 4:6 to be helpful, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’
Ah, thanksgiving as a way of being! A way of connecting with God during tough times. A way of giving thanks in advance for answered prayers.
Buddhist monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hahn, provides another sentiment I’ve found useful during challenging situations, ‘Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile and sometimes your smile is the source of your joy.’ Just as I may be disconnected from my joy or my smile, I may be disconnected from my sense of gratitude. Yet the act of smiling can return me to joy and the act of reciting a prayer infused with thanksgiving can recharge my ‘attitude of gratitude.’
Psalm 57:8 encourages us to begin each day with a zest for living. Wake up, my soul! Wake up, my harp and lyre! I will wake up the sun. How beautiful to be so excited about the possibilities of a new day, not because it’s a national holiday or because our lives are perfect, but because gratitude is a choice we can make at each moment.
Unity co-founder Myrtle Fillmore said gratitude is one of the “qualities of the soul” and encouraged people to spend time in ‘thanks-giving’ each day. Her husband and co-founder of Unity, Charles Fillmore, agreed by saying: We increase whatever we praise. The whole creation responds to praise and is glad.
However you spend your Thanksgiving, may it be a blessed day. If you’d like to deepen your experience of gratitude, I offer the following prayer: Thank you, God, for giving me another day to see, appreciate, and praise all that I take for granted. Thank you, God, for all the blessings in my life, big and small. Thank you, God, that I am awake, alive and blessed. Thank you, God, for waking up my soul. In gratitude, in joy, and in expectation of even more blessings to come, I will wake up the sun. And so it is. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Mitzi Lynton is the lead pastor of Unity of Tempe. Services are at 10:00 am on Sundays at 1819 W. Drake, Suite 101, Tempe AZ 85283. All are welcome.
Rev. Dr. Mitzi Lynton Guest columnist