Walking Our Faith: The power of giving thanks
Last week I received an email from Mary Minchow. She shared that she had also given up wine. In its place she discovered a talent for painting, and she shared a few of them with me. She was able to uncover this talent by giving up something that until that point had meaning for her.
Here is what she had to say about the gift of giving up: “Yes an unexpected, undeserved, gift from God! Amazing how when we empty our vessel of bitter wine, He fills it with honey. How fortunate we are to be raised with this notion of “giving up” earthly pleasures so that we can prepare ourselves for something better … the eternal, lasting joy that only Jesus can provide.”
There are three paths we explore during Lent: giving something up, giving thanks and prayer. Last week we discussed how to give up something that keeps us from having a closer relationship with God and from being the best God created us to be.
What I discovered when I gave up wine and political talk shows is that in giving up these obstacles we create space to give thanks, to recognize the good in our lives and give thanks to God for all we have.
This week a childhood friend from Florida visited to ski. As we drove into town my friend remarked on the morning light against the mountains. He pointed to the snow-covered trees and said to his son, “Look at this beauty.”
Gratitude lists have become so commonplace that even my daily planner makes room for noting three things. How often do I forget to fill in the blanks? And yet when I am in the midst of a bout of depression, I find simply counting three things for which I am grateful, just on my fingertips, grounds me and puts my life in perspective.
Does God care if we give thanks? When I was doing my morning devotions today I read this stanza from Psalm 69:
“Then I will praise God’s name with a song; I will glorify the Lord with thanksgiving; a gift pleasing to the Lord more than oxen; more than a bull with horns and hooves.”
God treasures our thanksgiving because as we name our blessings, we acknowledge him as the source of all we have and all we are. Giving thanks is an act of worship. When we count our blessings, we realize we have more than enough, even when we feel we don’t. This opens our heart to open our hands to help others.
When we understand we have all that we need in this moment, we can let go of our fear of the “other.” In our country, the other can be those who are richer or poorer, locals or immigrants, those who don’t share our religious beliefs, values or politics. We live in fear that our country is changing in ways we don’t like.
Instead of holding onto this fear, we can greet that person who is different from us with love and compassion. Bishop Robert Barron suggests we practice giving without judgment. For instance, if we see a homeless person, give without considering how they will spend that money. Look them in the eye, acknowledge their humanity, see God in them.
When I attend Mass, I received Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This week I looked up the definition of Eucharist. “Eucharisteo” is a Greek word which means thanksgiving. It contains the Greek word “charis” which means grace, and “chara” which means joy. When we give thanks, we receive God’s grace and joy.
At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, broke the bread, gave thanks and said, “Do this in memory of me.” When we share God’s grace and joy with others, we become the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.
The tragic mass killing in New Zealand this week is a reminder that hate is born of fear of the other, of those that are different than us. When we practice giving without judgment, with grace and joy, we realize there is no other, we are all children of God.
As I finished this week’s column, I received an email from Rabbi Ruth Gelfarb of Synagogue of the Summit. I include her letter below.
To our Muslim Neighbors
Heartbroken, I awoke today to news of another act of white supremacist violence, this time the murdering of at least 49 Muslims at Juma’ah /Friday prayers in Mosques in New Zealand.
May you, our Muslim brothers and sisters, know many of us stand with you and surround you with love today.
May you know that we will continue to build bridges of mutual understanding, tolerance and peace.
May those who were murdered Rest In Peace.
Rabbi Ruth Gelfarb
Synagogue of the Summit
Suzanne lives in Breckenridge. Her books can be found at Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco. You can reach Suzanne at firstname.lastname@example.org
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