My summary of last Sunday, after the Installation service: “What a lovely day with too much gratitude to begin naming names. But I am deeply moved and grateful! Thanks be to God and God’s people!”
Why then is it so easy on other days to tally up negatives and number one’s gripes, disappointments and resentments? I’m not sure, but…
Todd Jensen’s “On Gratitude” is a contemporary expression of a much older suggestion that we give up making those proverbial lists of what we are missing or don’t like. I think Jensen used the grade school example of negative numbers: how in the world can anyone count what he or she doesn’t have?
I know someone who has made his life be about all of the losses. Everything life should have provided him, but has not. What he’s been cheated out of. What he needed, and deserved, but never got…
Folks, we often get too focused on what we don’t have, perhaps because it’s easy to do! All the things we’ve lost. What’s missing. Or that which we never found. What we expected, but haven’t received.
You know the drill; it’s well-rehearsed and goes like this: “I lost my marriage, my best friend, my house, my dog, all my grandparents… And all those were gone in less time than it took to acquire them.
And I still can’t figure out how I lost my favorite shirt? Where could it have disappeared to?” …Maybe it was actually the shirt off your back (whether by that you mean your financial or emotional support).
Even if you aren’t a particularly aggrieved person, you’ve probably lost more money than you can afford.
And how are you doing on that laundry list of dreams you had when you were young?
And eventually, even our memories start to slip.
Sheez, since this is a church reflection, let’s not forget all the faith we’ve lost along the way too.
Jensen’s program is not a new idea, even if it’s recently regained some popularity, even become “a spiritual practice,” properly renamed — with due gravitas — Gratitude. The 1897 hymn taught: “count your blessings, count them one, two, three. And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
A couple of years ago, I suggested as much in a sermon one Sunday, and Bobbie Benjamin posted something she was thankful everyday for over a year afterwards.
Adam Sherr’s postings for each of the days of lucky year 2013 are essentially a running list of what he is thankful for. What is “luck” after all, but an unearned benefit that we’ve recognized and are feeling grateful about?
Yes, sometimes all at once, all the wheels fall off one’s covered wagon and life feels like a calamity. But focusing on blessings makes a difference. Why? How? There is some interesting scientific study of the phenomenon going on.
But it’s as easy as remembering that you can choose with whom you want to live as your closest friends and neighbors. If you count the things you’re missing or that you’ve lost, then you sentence yourself to live with what you don’t have.
But when you count what you’ve got — even if the list is as modest as “this day that I’ve been given, the next heart beat that just happens and the breath that I will take, the clothes I am wearing, the possibility of starting over and trying again” — you’re putting yourself in a different and better place.
Begin to recognize what you have, rather than obsess on what is missing. Realizing those things that are yours, you can see all you have to share with others (another experience that makes life better)…
So, after the installation, I am not only grateful for you all. I make one more promise: to keep the ways you bless and add to my life near me and my heart in all our service together.
See you in church,