Tag Archives: Gratitude

Guest Post by Sarah Jackson: Places Everyone

My peers will remember a particularly nasally song from the early 1990’s entitled Place in This World, by Mr. Michael W. Smith and a certain Amy Grant (I love you, Amy!).  The chorus lyrics have brought me to self-pitying tears well past my adolescent years–

 “looking for a reason…roaming through the night to find my place in this world…”

Who am I?  Why am I here?  And for that matter, who are YOU?  And why are you here? Here’s a scary nugget of truth: The more uncertain I am of my present place, the less appreciative I am of anyone else’s.

There are many remedies offered for this lost-ness that range from career-counseling, to words of affirmation, to small groups, to adventure challenges.  But nothing has soothed the wound like GRATITUDE.

I read something the other day:

 “Every occasion for gratitude is in some way a recognition that we belong to the world and to our fellow beings, that we exist in the community. Practicing gratitude can restore us to our rightful place in the world.”*

What is it about a walk at twilight, or a leisurely dinner with friends, or intimacy with one’s spouse that hits our “re-set” button so?  The appreciation that overwhelms us at these events is awe…gratitude.  It centers and calms us.  It reaches into pits and pulls us out.  Or conversely, it brings us gently down from high places, to meet on level ground those we have clambered over.

Thomas Merton says, “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything.” So, we know he gives good gifts like twilight, but what does this say about crisis moments?  How can those bring us reckoning? I have to believe that practicing awe means that we can find our rightful places in awkwardness and pain, as well.  We can find our places by digging for goodness in the heap of ugly.  We find our places when we touch broken people and allow them to touch us.  We find our places when we recognize Love in the Other.

Gratitude, then, helps us belong.  And as we belong, awe will grow until we cannot stand for anyone to be excluded from this belonging.  Arms are opened, invitation is extended.

And so, we fall in place.

 (*quote from Alan Jones and John O’Neil, in their book Season of Grace: The Life-Giving Practice of Gratitude)

Guest Post by Geoff Whiteman: “What if Your Life Calling IS Gratitude?”

It is an awkward question.  We live in a self-help world—we spend most of our time anywhere but here, anytime but now.  We find fulfillment in what might be, not what is.  We crave plans and products.  We are convinced that the solution is in something or someone else.  In short, we pray a dyslexic Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to change the things I cannot accept…” Therefore, we consume with reckless abandonment. Yet what if we could stop?  What if we could receive the present moment with full acceptance?  What if the aim and means of our life was gratitude?

It could be argued that gratitude is the essential duty of the Christian life.  As Alexander Schmemann said, “Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.” You might even say we are most ourselves (most fully human) when we are grateful.  When we see beauty breaking into the most mundane moments of our day—that is gratitude.  Being obsessed with the past is nostalgia, not gratitude.  Being fixated on the future is fantasy, not gratitude.  Gratitude is elusive, hiding openly in the present moment.  When we are not in the present moment we cannot know gratitude; and when we are distracted, afraid, compulsively consuming, or self-centered we are not in the present moment.

How can we foster gratitude as a way of being?  Three thoughts come to mind.  First, gratitude seems to incubate in solitude, stillness, and silence—to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46: 10).  I could say a lot about silence, but that seems ironic.  Second, it seems to grow in the dance of receiving and offering—especially with those we are closest to.  Common courtesy is essential.  It is an odd phenomenon, but as acquaintances grow into friendships and blossom into meaningful relationships, something changes and we assume that we have arrived at some level of permanence.  While it is important to realize that those in our life will stick it out with us, we grow comfortable and dispense with the simple intentionality of common courtesy (which had set the conditions for the relationship to grow in the first place).  Finally, gratitude blossoms and bears fruit when we live our present life firmly rooted in the future life of the Kingdom.  When we face our personal trials and tribulations with the courage and good cheer of those who have found heavenly peace and conviction that Christ has overcome the World (John 16:33).  When we find that hope, we find the freedom to fully grieve.  It is the avoidance of grief that often fuels our reckless consumption, yet this grief transforms our denial into acceptance and gratitude.    So stop and show up. Be still and kind.  Weep with God.  Receive the gift of gratitude.