Updated: Nov 8
November for me means celebrating Thanksgiving; that often seems like America’s most overlooked holiday. Coming from New Zealand where celebrating Thanksgiving doesn’t happen, we were delighted to find a holiday with no gifts or great fuss—just a time to get together with family and friends and be thankful! What could be better than that?
Yet somehow, it gets sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, both of which seem to take on lives of their own—Halloween is over now, and Christmas is everywhere on display. I don’t know about you, but my life is beginning to feel the pressure of all that needs to be done before “the holidays”. I want to slow down and focus on making this month of November a month of gratitude.
Would you like to join me?
So, what is gratitude?
How can we practice it?
Why should we?
“Gratitude,” says Thomas Merton, “takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder.”
“Gratitude”, says John Milton, “bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that forever change how we experience life and the world.”
One of my favorites: A. A. Milne: “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
Gratitude may be the simplest thing to give, and yet it can profoundly affect both the giver and the receiver.
Have you ever considered that everything you are and have is a gift from God? Every breath that you take? Every morsel you eat? Every time you reach out with a kind gesture? Every longing? Every day dawning with new mercies and possibilities?
And then there are the people in your life: a simple "thank you" can make a world of difference to your spouse, to your child, to the person who serves you at the store…
So many things in our daily lives give us an opportunity to reflect gratitude.
The apostle Paul tells us, “…always giving thanks to God the Father in everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20
Gratitude on a “good” day may flow easily, but what about those times when the sky is grey, the people in your life are being “unhelpful,” and you are overwhelmed with too much to do. What about when you have suffered a loss? What if your life feels lonely and empty of purpose?
My friend Jeff Savage shared with us recently the practice of holding both hands out, one holding grief, the other gratitude. His encouragement is to recognize both/and, rather than either/or. The loss, and grieving it, is real and important—so don’t deny it or try to stuff it and pretend all is well. On the other hand, there is always something to be thankful for, if you are open to look for it.
I wonder if gratitude itself can be a mini resurrection—if turning from a moment of anger or sadness to say “thank you” itself brings new life. A change of focus, an openness to be surprised. You may find God in places where you do not expect Him!
Here is something else to consider. Sit with this for a while and respond to God’s invitation to you:
all this time
the Sun never says to the Earth,
“You owe me.”
with a love like that:
it lights up the whole sky.
(Fourteenth century Persian poet Hafez)