The following content is excerpted from a sermon I did at Temple Of The Living God on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I thought it fitting to include it here in the “Wisdom of the Elders” blog series because it poured forth after a meditation at my Shustah class there one afternoon. I offer it here – to you – with gratitude for your continued interest in, and blessings for, the information that is brought forth from Spirit each month. Your feedback and words of encouragement are most appreciated, and continue to feed my soul. This month we will look at the Attitude and Spirit of Gratitude.
I don’t know how many of you reading this are “old enough” to remember Robert Schuller’s “Hour of Power” that came on every Sunday morning on TV? I remember as a teenager growing up in my parents’ house having the TV on in the background and listening to Robert Schuller's "Hour of Power" while we all went about our morning rituals. He always began with the verse (Psalms 118:24): "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” I never understood how he always looked so ... rejoicingly-full (my made up word) when *in my eyes* there was so much wrong with the world. I felt for sure he was too rich to know what regular folks went through and probably too rich to do anything but rejoice. Then he would go on to say "Be thankful unto Him and bless His name" (Psalm 100:4). I would mutter under my breath & call him names like “Suzy Cheerleader”, & secretly roll my eyes at him when my mom wasn’t looking. Now I'm sure he and his family had their challenges as well, just like the rest of us and the rest of the world, but he never one Sunday appeared to be “suffering”.
One thing I learned and I still remember from my Buddhist studies is there are no degrees of suffering. Your experience, no matter how painful, or terrible, or devastating, is not in any way less or more than the suffering of another Being. There is an infinite energy of Universal connection with all other Beings in this time & space, and it is because we share the ripple effect that when one person suffers, in a sense we all suffer, because we ARE connected - no matter where we are in this world by that “Web that has no Weaver”. The same could be said for universal Peace; the same could be said for Gratitude. And so this month, let’s look at the Attitude & the Spirit of Gratitude, and how we can move from a place of ‘suffering’ or lack, to one where we can do as Robert Schuller did every Sunday morning: rejoice and be grateful.
Here’s an exercise for you to do if/when you can take/find the time: On a blank sheet of paper, write the title: “My Imperfect State”, then draw a line down the middle, and on the left side of the line, jot down all the things that bothered you this morning when you woke up, that bother you today as you are reading this, this week, this year, this lifetime even… Include on here all the people, circumstances, or situations that really test your patience, your faith, your last nerve. List them all on your sheet of paper; just 1 caveat: you have to stay on the left side of the line. You can flip the paper over if you'd like, but always, always stay on the 1 side of that line. Put them all here, as we're going to get rid of them once and for all, and you don't want to hold on our skip any of them.
Now looking at that list (or thinking about what you would have written if you had written them down – or had enough paper AND time to list them all), what on earth do you have to be grateful for when you have this list in front of you - with all the things that are wrong in your world? How can you have a spirit of gratitude when your day to day world is far from perfect? And if you can't feel (or don't have) the Spirit of Gratitude, how could you even possibly have an Attitude of Gratitude? Let me ask you this: what does gratitude look like? What IS the Spirit of Gratitude? And perhaps more importantly, what is YOUR personal definition of gratitude? Let’s look now at gratitude from a Body-Mind-Spirit perspective:
Definition of Gratitude
Gratitude by definition is "the spirit of being thankful". When you feel grateful, you feel "thankful for what somebody did for you, and (physically) you're also pleased by the results". This of course is according to Merriam Webster. So if this is the definition of #gratitude, there's really no reason to be thankful for any of the things that you just put on your list, now is there? Those things that you put on your list are not things that you wanted, asked for, or even prayed for! Yet in the Bible it says: "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1st Thessalonians 5:18). And in Acts 24:3 we read: "In every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude".
As an ICU nurse, every shift that I work, I have patients & family members who pour their hearts out to me, about the pain & grief of illness or death. These 2 passages are often very difficult for the people I talk with when they're going through situations that bring them no peace, leave them feeling abandoned or forgotten, or are far from joyful. Those circumstances create nothing but heartache, despair and suffering. I am therefore very careful when I try to offer words of encouragement, because in those moments of suffering it is very hard to think that there is anything in their circumstances that they could possibly be grateful for. And trust me; the last thing they want to hear is that others are worse off than they are, that it is the will of God, or that they have to be grateful for it.
Now let’s look at gratitude from the Mind perspective. According to the psychology experts, gratitude from a psychological perspective “is a short-term experience of the emotions around being thankful”. When we are thankful (or grateful) we express it through our facial expressions: that same joyous facial expression that Robert Schuller had every Sunday on TV. We see it in the laughter and smiles around us, we glow, we radiate, we hug, we cheer people on, we encourage, we even cry tears of joy sometimes. In the Bible it even says we dance. When you came through those Temple doors this morning, deep inside, perhaps unbeknownst to you, from a Soul level, you probably had a moment of gratitude for the freedom and the ability to choose to spend your morning here with your Temple family. You could have been anywhere else, but you CHOSE to be here today, and for this we are grateful.
The spirit of gratitude can leave us speechless with joy. It is a wonderful state to be in and one that we all strive for. It is brought to our awareness even more so around this time - this week of Thanksgiving - as we gather family and friends together to feast & celebrate those things & people that we are grateful for. Today we will celebrate with potluck after service; we will feast on all the goodies everyone brought to share. Yet, there are people here in our town - in our land of plenty - who don’t have anything to eat, and we pray “Give us this day our daily bread”. We mumble about our Florida “cold snap” or our notorious heat and humidity, yet we have the ability to adjust our thermostats as we see fit, where many remain homeless and without shelter from the elements, the security of 4 walls, or a roof over their heads. On Thursday, around the Thanksgiving table we will pause to say thanks for the year so far, for being able to get together, the food before us, etc. And then there’s the next day, “Black Friday” (which reminds me of a joke I recently read: “What is Black Friday? The day where we trample each other for sales exactly 1 day after being thankful for what we already have” – author unknown). Having the Spirit of Gratitude or an Attitude of Gratitude is not a state that should be experienced or emphasized on only 1 day of the year, annually on Thanksgiving Day. It is a state that should permeate every waking moment of every day.
Neale Donald Walsch just did a webinar series last month about gratitude and he says: “It is your job is to be grateful for every circumstance & every situation in your life no matter how imperfect it appears to be". He tells the story of how he lost his job, his home, his family and his health all at the same time, and in his despair he talked to God over & over again. Many times he had these “Conversations with God” (which, by the way is how his book with the same name came about), until one day, I guess you could say God ‘talked back to him’, and he finally understood the reason behind his circumstances & the meaning of his imperfect state. And that is I quote: "Only in a room full of darkness can a candle experience its own light". He explained that it’s very hard for us to see the “perfection” behind losing your home, your family, your health, you name it – all those imperfect things on your list – but once we can see beyond all that, then and only then can we be released from the pain of our sufferings. He says: ‘If we pass judgment on our daily life challenges & make them wrong, or resist them, we end up feeling trapped by them & cannot see the possibility of having a life of joy’.
Do you still have your list there in front of you? Take a look at your list again – look at everything that you’ve listed on the left side of the page; all those bits of darknesses in your life. Be reminded that in a room filled with darkness, all it takes is the spark of a single match to bring in the Light, and ask yourself: how can I lighten the load of all the burdens I bear? How can I move forward from feeling trapped in a place filled with despair and suffering, to one where I can walk in blind faith, with grace and ease, knowing that there IS Divine Order in all things? How can I shine a light on this darkness of my life? I invite you to see yourself being that Light. And as we close with Josh Groban’s video song “Thankful” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPDimGnpv4g), I pray that you will remember always that our strength cometh from Above and Below. I pray for God’s Divine guidance in your life, and for peace in your heart. See, feel and know that your darknesses can be transformed into blessings and opportunities, instead of adversities and calamities, and give thanks that it is so.
Audrey Steele, L.Ac.
Licensed Acupuncture Physician
Creator Source, Infinite Spirit:
We are so grateful for everything that you have given us – not just those gifts that we perceive as our blessings, but the opportunities and challenges that remind us to walk in faith.
Thank you so much for the loved ones in our lives,
For the many ways in which we are cared for and supported.
Thank you for the many ways we can serve and give to others.
Thank you for the rich tapestry of colors in creation,
For the beauty which is all around us,
For the skies and the ever changing cloud formations,
For the breathtaking sunsets and early morning mists.
Thank you for walking with us through the seasons of our lives.
Grant that we may continue to grow in our grateful enjoyment of your abundant creation, to the honor and glory of your Name, now and forever. Amen.
(adapted from: lords-prayer-words.com )