Monday, November 23, 2015

Giving Thanks Means Saying Yes

- Daybreak at the Desert Retreat House -

The other evening I happened to be watching a TV sitcom in which each person seated at the table at a Thanksgiving Dinner was asked to share something for which they were especially thankful. The problem was that no one at the table was especially thankful for anything. It had been a pretty miserable year and so everyone at the table was “taking a pass” on the “giving thanks” part of Thanksgiving.

While I’m sure that if they dig deep enough,  most people could probably come up with at least something for which they are thankful, but to be honest I am not really sure that Thanksgiving means giving thanks for all the “good stuff” that happens in our lives. I believe that giving thanks goes well beyond putting our seal of approval on the events of our lives that have gone well for us – good health, a nice family, a good job, a nice house, money in the bank, a good grade on the paper.

In fact, many times our life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to - people get sick or have an accident, the house burns down, a relationship is ruptured, or they lose a job. On the surface, these are hardly occasions for giving thanks -  no seal of approval on these events.

Furthermore, while the events of everyday life may not be all that “bad,” more often than not they are often rather routine, mundane, and even boring - doing the laundry or the grocery shopping or sitting all day at a computer at work are hardly the kinds of things people usually share around the "Thanksgiving” table when asked to express their thanks.

But I look at Thanksgiving through a different lens. As I see it, giving thanks is more about embracing life as it happens rather than putting a seal of approval on events that turned out the way you wanted them to happen.

I think St. Paul gives some pretty good advice in one of his epistles when he says:

Be thankful in all the circumstances of life.

The truth is that very little if anything in life is under our control – most of the time life simply happens, it comes to us, and very often it happens far differently than we might have wanted or expected. If “giving thanks” means being grateful for the things in life that happen according to what we plan or desire, it's no wonder that we might have a hard time giving thanks, And since most of our everyday ordinary life is routine and probably somewhat boring,  if we are thankful only for the exciting things in life, we may indeed all “take a pass” when asked to express the reasons for our gratitude.

 As I see it, even sickness, loss and pain have a way of making me more vulnerable and open to others; and when I open my mind and heart to life as it comes to me, I am always surprised at what can happen- the simple act of sitting quietly in my garden on an early-winter morning in the desert turns into an awesome experience of mystery and transcendence, the smile of a little child in a super market turns into the face of God.

Come what may, I am utterly convinced that we are all upheld by the power of abiding Love flowing in and through everything that has being. We all belong to each other and we are never alone. So of course I have plenty of reasons for giving thanks. I am thankful in all circumstances of life.

Eckhart Tolle put it this way:

Always say yes to the present moment.
Say yes to life and see how suddenly it starts working for you rather than against you.

Giving thanks means saying “yes” to life.

Meister Eckhart once wrote:

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is
Thank You,
it will be enough.

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