A Word from Our Pastor 2014 December

A Word from Our Pastor
“The Secret of Joy”

During this holiday season, we can all become overwhelmed with activity – seeing family and friends, shopping, entertaining, note-writing, donations… whatever you do to try to make the Christmas season meaningful for the people and things you care about. Of course, it is impossible for you to fully experience the holiday season if you are exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. So it is important to think (and practice) things to do so that you can be fully engaged with the people you spend time with.

For those of you who were present for our Thanksgiving service, I want to re-emphasize the importance of cultivating an attitude of thankfulness. . .not just for the holidays, but always. BUT the holidays can be the best time to start. There are plenty of good reasons to be thankful. The most basic are:
1) Thankfulness is good/healthy for us. Scientific studies have shown that people who focus on the blessings of life (rather than frustrations or losses) have more energy, optimism and even stronger immune systems. Thinking negatively drags us down in many ways; the antidote is the take stock of all the things we have to be grateful for. In a specific example, if you are not feeling well and think about how much you are in pain, how tired you are, how nobody seems to care – you will feel worse than if you focus on the fact that you have a comfortable bed to sleep in, that there are medications that are making the situation at least a little bit better, and that there are at least a couple of people who are trying to encourage you. When you concentrate on the positive things in your situation, you will actually feel better! It may not change the situation completely, but it will improve it. Even when we are grieving the loss of someone we care about, we may be grateful that we knew the person, and loved them. What a gift it is that we have capacity to love!

2) Thankfulness makes life better for everyone. People love to be thanked. You don’t have to make a big deal out of thanking someone for what they have done for you, but just acknowledging that someone has gone out of their way to do something nice makes people feel good. What an easy way to brighten someone’s day. You have noticed them, you appreciate them. We all know that when we forget to thank someone, it can cause some bad feelings. So, be lavish in thanking people! It will always
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be a good choice.

3). Thankfulness is the source of joy. We all (I would guess) would like more joy in our lives. It seems to come along so infrequently. However, we don’t have to wait around for joy to appear; we can actually do something to make our life more full of joy. The practice of gratitude will result in joy. In order to experience more joy, we have to practice being grateful in the same way we might practice the piano. The more you practice, the better the result; if you don’t practice, you won’t improve. So, at the end of each day, try to make a list of things you are grateful for; try to think beyond family, friends and health, or food and shelter. These are of course, extremely important gifts, but there is so much more.

Even a trip to the grocery store can be the source of joy. Instead of thinking about how difficult it was to park, how expensive the organic brussels sprouts were, how long the cashier line was, think about how blessed we are that we have a store close by that is crammed with choices for us, that just about anything we could possibly want is on the shelf, that we can purchase special treats for those we love – their favorite fruits, or snacks, or whatever. Think also of the gifts of nature: the ever-changing sky, the colors of earth and plants, mountains, streams, all there for our enjoyment. Think of the gifts of living in the US: hot running water for your shower; clean water to drink from your tap, an electric light to help you read at night, play your video games, or watch tv; a stove (or some kind of fancy contraption) that makes your morning coffee possible. Think of the people you see each day – each person so complex, so unique, each with a story of their life’s ups and downs, struggles and accomplishments, their walk with God.

Thankfulness also leads us to God. When we deeply appreciate our surroundings, all the things that we have that make our life easier, more full of love, more full of comfort and pleasure, we realize that we have ourselves done very little for these blessings. Although many of us work hard, none of us works hard enough to have earned the amazing world that surrounds us. These blessings are the extravagant love of God. Further, when we see how much we have received, how much abundance we have around us, we will be moved to share it with others, as Jesus taught us. Perhaps that is why some of us are given so much: so that we can have the even greater joy of sharing with others.

If you would like some help with practicing daily gratefulness, just get out a piece of paper and think back on each step of your day. What sights and sounds greeted you throughout the day? How was each difficulty balanced by something good? Just make a list, and commit to thinking about this every day. You can even go to gratefulness.org for more help!

What brings fulfillment is gratefulness, the simple response of our heart to this life in all its fullness.
David Steindl-Rast
Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer

May you celebrate all the blessings that God has given us this holiday season and through the new year! I am grateful for you,
Rev. Naomi