By now the leaves are mostly fallen. Today when I look up I see pearl gray sky through bare branches. The squirrels in my yard are fattening up. Winter birds arrive. A cold front presses down from the north. Thanksgiving is in the air.
So I wish you a lovely Thanksgiving, a day of heartfelt gratitude for blessings received in the course of this year.
I wish you not merely a day of heartfelt thanks, but a season of thankfulness.
Yet even a season is not enough. And we know it.
I pray for you, and for me, too, a lifetime of unbounded and deep-reaching gratitude. Starting now, starting today. Gratitude that flows, unstoppable, as from a wellspring, upward and outward, rushing out into ever wider circles.
I pray for you, and for me, too, an irrepressible spirit of gratitude that defines our way of life. I want us to be known as people of gratitude.
The word gratitude, I notice, comes from a Latin root meaning grace, a “feeling of thankful appreciation for favors or benefits received,” says Webster.
The related word gratuitous means an unbidden grace, a favor or good given “without cause or justification.” Pure unbidden grace pouring upon the precarious realities of being alive.
Yet if I give thanks only for the good, what merit is there in that? Giving thanks for the unbidden graces is easy.
So I think back to the challenging parts of my year.
I give thanks for the financial insecurities of an itinerant life. For the days and weeks when my phone does not ring, for the many times I encounter my insignificance, when what I really want is to have my brilliant ideas and words and initiatives accepted and recognized for the great good I perceive in them.
I give thanks for empty harvests after long labors. I give thanks, too, for the loss of dreams that have simply vanished. And for the times and circumstances when I am impelled to lean with all my might into God.
I give thanks for everything within me, and within my aspirations, that is fragile, vulnerable, not yet fully formed, and still unvoiced.
I give thanks for all within me that is uncertain yet gentled by the Holy Spirit. I give thanks for all that is held tenderly, and reliably, by unseen hands.
And I give thanks for all within me that is waning, dimming, and solemned in a shroud of holy silence.
I give thanks for the Mystery, who is God, deep at work within me.
I give thanks for my people downtown, who valiantly seek God, whether they can name their seeking or not, as their bodies yield to disease or old age.
I give thanks for those who, stripped of material wealth and opportunity, find hidden reserves of trust and even joy in God, hidden, who abides with them.
Thanksgiving, I notice, comes not in the season of spring—the season of regeneration and the bursting forth of life. No, Thanksgiving comes in the season of autumn, the season of receding of life, the season of settling into the earth, the season when the last sweet fruits are plucked, and then consumed.
Thanksgiving is a spiritually worthy celebration, a spiritually necessary celebration, which invites me to enter personally into a more honest and intimate conversation of self with the larger world.
For what do you give thanks?
Your list will be personal, unique, tracing this particular portion of your life’s journey into the Mystery, which is God.
And your list, like mine, will also be universal, connecting your heart with the heart of the world, with the heart of Jesus, with the very heart of God.
Let’s be thankful together. Let’s be known as people of gratitude. By God’s grace, our expressions of gratitude will purify the intentions and the heart of this world … which God still so loves.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on the nature of God’s calling.