Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our Thanksgiving holiday is a time when we Americans focus on being thankful for our blessings. Our tradition of gathering with family and friends for a big dinner on this day makes the blessings of family, friends, and food to eat some of the first that come to mind when we think about the things for which we are thankful.

My family usually gathers in Ohio at Thanksgiving time. Because I grew up in Ohio and first experienced the wonders of God’s creation here, I’m always thankful to be able to spend some time outdoors in my first “eco-location”. The reminder of those earliest experiences of wonder – the bird calls, the light in November, the particular sorts of trees and plants – are a reminder that no matter what our circumstances or where we go, there are some elemental things for which to be grateful. Even when we are far from “nature”, when we find ourselves in suburban sprawl or urban density, there are reminders of the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. The plain fact that we exist and that the world exists, that there is something rather than nothing, is the stuff of wonder.

Our diocesan Stewardship Commission is now called the Commission on Gratitude and Generosity, reflecting the spiritual importance of cultivating grateful hearts, which produce generous spirits. We cultivate grateful hearts by doing daily what the secular calendar calls us to do once a year: intentionally looking for the things in our lives for which we can be grateful.

As we cultivate grateful hearts, we find ourselves becoming more whole. Gratitude for the relationships we have with God, with other people, and with all of creation makes us more aware of the nature of these relationships and of the way God, human beings, and the rest of creation are interconnected. The generosity of spirit that results brings us to deeper love; it brings us to a more profound reverence toward God, a deeper compassion towards other people, and an expanded concern for the way we care for creation.

When we enter into the spirit of Thanksgiving, we become aware of our relationship with creation; we become aware of the impact of our choices on God’s creation, on the other people with whom we share our planet, and on our spiritual connection with our loving Creator God. And that's a wonderful thing to celebrate today and every other day of the year!