by Rev. Naomi King
Opening Words: Whatever may be our condition in life, it better to lay hold of its advantages than to count its evil. – E. H. Chapin, Universalist minister
Introduction/Theological Reflection: Uneasiness with difficulty can make us quick to insist on focusing only on the positive. Yet it is also true that cultivating our sense of wonder and gratitude help us endure difficulty and, where transformation is possible, change those situations. Returning to gratitude, we return to trust and sense of being loved and loveable. Faith and faith development begins with knowing and cultivating that sense of trust, that sense of being loved and loveable. Without it, the more difficult stuff we meet corrodes and embitters, transforming us into suspicious, stony-hearted people. Every day we make choices to cultivate trust and love through practicing thanks giving. Every day we make choices about making gratitude and wonder so much part of who we are and how we live, that we can never speak of our day without giving thanks.
Personal Story: One day, meeting up with some friends, we shared what was going on in our lives. Partway through my story, one of my friends interrupted, exclaiming, “Some of us lead lives of blessing. Others, like you and Job, are cursed.” Three things happened: I realized I had fallen into the pattern of relating my difficulties without naming my gratitude; I felt a deep kinship with Job; I felt kicked in the shin by friend. My other friends held their breaths waiting to see how I would respond.
Days of difficulty and days of blessing coincide; the question is what we make of them. My friend who interrupted my story had told a similar story of challenges and obstacles without a whole lot of expressed gratitude. So, too, did some of the others. It was a pattern and we followed it, not even consciously editing out the awe and wonder and gratitude that also happened during the same days of challenge. I found my thanksgiving before I responded, which wasn’t hard. After the surprise and shock and – yes – anger of interruption, I was glad to be recalled to retell my story from the place that helps me survive and transform the difficulties, from gratitude and wonder.
A Prayer: Hashem, your abiding love is a continuous source of joy! Present in times of trial and present in times of celebration your steadfast love endures! How wonderful it is to waken to your presence in the sweet fragrance of food fresh from the hearth! How wonderful it is to find your presence in the sharing of stories, one generation with another, stitching together the way of continuous love and the way of continuous thanksgiving! All our days and all our nights we meet blessings! All our nights and all our days may we give thanks for these blessings more numerous than all the stars. Amen.
A Spiritual Practice: Tell the story of your day to someone you trust and love. Attend to that person’s story. Where are the blessings in these stories? Where is the thanksgiving? Retell them until you find the connections that hold both difficulty and wonder.
Closing Words: Choose the way of thanks giving, not just in easy times or when the cornucopia is full. Choosing thanks amid the rubble, amid the trials, amid the challenges is a true thanksgiving, where we meet the Presence of Love, and know we are not alone.
Rev Naomi King lives, laughs, and ministers with City of Refuge Ministries, in south Florida and everywhere digital.