In -Sight: Gratitude

I am not a fan of cliches, or bumper-sticker slogans.  But when I pay closer attention to them, I can see that they sometimes arise from, or point to, something larger.  And so it is this year as I see and hear the cliche, “Thanksgiving is thanks living.”

I pause over this phrase and instead of being left with, “Oh, no!  Not again!” I walk through the words like a doorway and find some important things to recover and to use in my spiritual formation.

First, I remember that gratitude is the primary response to grace.  Thanksgiving is living with the spirit if appreciation alive in my soul. Gratitude is a sign that I no longer consider myself to be the center of the universe, but rather understand that I am the blessed recipient of God’s grace and the generosity of others.  Thanksgiving is thanks living in response to grace.

Second, I remember that thanksgiving can exist in the dark places, tight spots, and tough situations.  Why?  Because God is with us!  And because (as the saints put it), God uses everything.  I learn and grow through consolation and desolation, through good times and bad.  Thanksgiving is thanks living open to the whole of life.

And third, I remember that what I have received can be shared with others.  Others can drink from the wells God has enabled me to dig on my journey (cf. Psalm 84:6). I am not on the earth for myself alone.  Thanksgiving means thanks living for the sake of others.

Next week, we will celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family. A cliche cannot do it justice, but it’s not a bad place to start.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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