On a recent morning I woke up earlier than usual and took my cup of coffee out onto the back deck. It was quiet other than the morning bird calls. As the sun rose, the colors of the sky brightened and became a rich mix of blue scattered with white, gray pink and purple. A gray-blue heron flapped its great wings and settled next to the pond to watch for its breakfast. The greens and blues and multicolored flowers felt like a gift spread out for anyone who noticed.
Philosopher Marilynne Robinson said, "This little garden, earth, implies an act of creation which was radically, for us incomprehensibly, free."
Gifts such as this lovely morning create a momentary surge in us, an impulse of awareness, and thankfulness stirs spontaneously in us. We want to express our gratitude. I was reminded of a friend who once said that she felt sorry for those who don't know God, because they don't know who to thank for those times of quiet joy.
Thomas Merton said, "To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His Love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him."
Many of the Psalms joyfully sing with gratitude. Just read Psalm 104 for example. A song of gratitude addressed to God: "You make springs gush forth to the valleys; they flow in between the hills. They give drink to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. On their banks dwell the birds of heaven; from the branches they sing their song....I will sing to the Lord all my life, make music to my God while I live." Just reading the psalm lifts one's heart and draws it to gratitude!
One can just imagine the psalmist walking along a river or gazing at the sky and seeing the hand of God in all that is. The care for the animals, and birds and the fish of the sea as well as humankind. Becoming aware that God is so much greater and more loving and benevolent than we as humans can comprehend. He/she lived, at least for a moment, in the awareness of the gifts of God that surround us and impact us.
There is much in our society that discourages us from such moments of gratitude. Instead of suggesting that we give thanks, much of the ads we see tells us of all that we don't own but should. The point of much of the entertainment and advertising we see intend subtly to convince us that we don't have enough; that we need more or different or newer. This is the attitude that leads us to guard what we have from others. It looks past what we have to what we don't have and tells us we should get more.
Gratitude, on the other hand, causes us to recognize the giver behind the gift, the person who took time to call, to send a note, to make a dinner, to offer a compliment or an encouragement.
A grateful heart is more likely to be open to recognizing needs and injustices. The grateful heart is a compassionate heart. Actions born out of gratefulness are not forced but free; acts of compassion that don't grow out of a sense of duty, but out of the joy of responding to the gift of love and our desire to share that gift. When gratitude is the source of our actions then our giving becomes another kind of receiving.
The Apostle Paul said, "Be filled with gratitude...Sing thankfully in your hearts to God with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Whatever you are doing, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:15-17)
May our days be filled with gratitude for the joy of knowing the source of all being who knows us and cares for us and for all of God's children!
Pastor Nancy Becker