The Rev. J. Randolph Alexander, Jr.
“In gratitude, in deep gratitude for this moment, this meal, these people, we give ourselves to You, O God. Take us out to live lives as changed people because we have shared the Living Bread and cannot remain the same. Ask much of us, expect much from us, enable much by us, encourage many through us.” The Rev. Dr. Mark Anschutz
In this litigious age we hear municipalities and institutions of all sizes and types speak of trip-hazards on their properties. These hazards might include any offset in a pavement or sidewalk that can lead to someone falling. Regular inspections take place to locate these hazards so that they may be repaired. It seems to me this is an approach we might employ to great benefit in our spiritual lives.
There are many spiritual trip hazards, common to most of us at one time or another. These can include jealousy, wanting what someone else has, or frustration at our lack of having something. Anger, that we never seem to get past, trips many people. Addiction to various substances trips up others. Guilt for something we did, or didn’t do, can knock us down. Fear of getting older can make most of us wobble at one point another. Obsession with gaining power or influence over others can land us on the ground before we know it. At various times a general sense of loss of control can send us reeling. I sometimes think of these hazards as a great buffet table, like a salad bar, where we all partake of some of the poisons from time to time.
I began this column with the prayer above from my friend and mentor, Fr. Anschutz, because it stresses so powerfully and so succinctly the importance of a great balm for our souls: thankfulness. To be grateful, thankful, if to focus on what we have already received, stressing our blessings and not our shortcomings. A thankful heart is a lighter heart, a more content heart, and a heart more at peace with itself and the world.
There have been times when I wanted to pray but I was a jumble of emotions. At those moments I simply couldn’t begin the prayer I so desperately wanted to pray. So I just started naming blessings for which I was thankful. They often tumble out in no particular order--things from childhood, relationship, experiences, faith, places where I have served, Immanuel. In those moments I am taken out of myself, I feel centered, and free. I encourage you to try this approach in times when you might find it a challenge to pray.
What would it be like to lead with gratitude, with thanksgiving, in our lives? What would it be like to have a journal or a document on our computers where we simply list blessings? What would it be like to mention these blessings in conversations, naming God as their source? I believe we would gradually be changed people.
Our great national holiday of Thanksgiving approaches. Might this be an opportunity to list some blessings? Our annual Stewardship campaign at Immanuel continues, after a very encouraging and promising start. Have you pledged yet? Have you set aside some time to name some blessings, and some of the ways you plan to give back to God, for God’s great purposes in the world, from those blessings? Our parish home, Immanuel, needs and deserves our prayers, our time, our talents, our witness, and yes, our financial support.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all,