On Gratitude

It is more than being thankful as our mothers taught us.  Henri Nouwen says it well: “Gratitude is not a simple emotion or an obvious attitude.” Read the entire quote on today’s Daily Dig from Plough Publishing: http://www.plough.com/en/subscriptions/daily-dig/even/october/daily-dig-for-october-29

I have only begun to appreciate the riches of maintaining a grateful stance.  As Nouwen says, it is a difficult discipline, but it is one of the most rewarding spiritual practices of my life so far.

In a recent class on spirituality, our teacher recommended exploring the practice of gratitude.  I raised my hand eagerly to give a small testimony about the benefits if this discipline.  I was surprised by suddenly tearing up and my voice quivering as I said, “It will change your life.”  At that moment I realized just how much it has transformed me.

If you want to begin this practice, you can start by identifying things and people and events for which you are grateful.  Most days we can find something good, if only to have clean water to drink or a bed to sleep in.  It is a start, and it can be fun.  Challenge yourself to find five gifts every day.

If your first attempts are about obvious pleasures and benefits, that is all right.  You are practicing.  But don’t stop there.

Go deeper.  Look for the ways that hardships are drawing you closer to God.  Give thanks for some good you had in the past but do not enjoy in the present.  Search for the child inside someone who seems only bitter.  Contemplate the engineers and artists and farmers who enabled you to drive a smooth road, sing a favorite song, eat a hearty meal.  Spend time gazing at the cross, opening yourself to all of the gifts that it has to offer you.

After the habit has taken root, you can go deeper still.  Open yourself to whatever God wants to show you.  Trust that goodness will emerge, and you will see it.  As you view the world around you with gift-seeking eyes, there will be moments when you feel a connection with all that is.  These are holy moments, each one a unique, unhurried connection with the Divine.  They are not achieved, only given.

It begins with giving thanks.

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