In honor of Thanksgiving Day at the end of the month, a trend has developed that uses the entire month of November as a month of gratitude. The practice has several forms: journaling about at least five things for which you are grateful every day; posting daily on Facebook a note of gratitude; or using Instagram or other outlets to post a daily photo of something for which you are grateful. The practice is quite spiritually based. I have had countless spiritual directors who have encouraged me to use gratitude as a discipline for my prayer life – using the end of the day to give thanks for things in life as opposed to our natural tendency to look back at the day and make mental note of all the things that went unaccomplished or were hurtful to ourselves or others.
This past Sunday we gathered our pledges for the upcoming calendar year. Each year in the Episcopal Church, parishioners are asked to fill out a pledge card, letting the Vestry, or governing board, know how much income can be expected so they can formulate a budget. The pledge cards certainly serve a practical purpose. But their use can also serve a deep spiritual purpose. As I blessed three different baskets of pledge cards on Sunday, I had the thought that each of those baskets were like piles of thank you notes to God – a way of articulating how blessed we are and how grateful we are for the resources we have and our ability to share and support ministry with those resources. Each card held a story – a story of someone who feels connected to and passionate about Hickory Neck, who has been nurtured and challenged in this place, who has a unique life story, and who has encountered Christ here. As I thought of the conversations, prayers, and reflections those cards represented, I could not help but smile. There is something quite beautiful in witnessing the intimate, vulnerable exchange between God and parishioner. I felt privileged to bless that sacred act.
In the coming weeks, I have the privilege of entering into that sacred space of thanksgiving and gratitude. I have the task of thanking each pledging member. When the Stewardship Committee and I first talked about the campaign, we joked about whether my hand would be able to survive writing so many notes. There may be times my hand actually does get sore, but so far, I am nothing but grateful to be writing those notes. I have found that writing them has been a tremendous time of blessing – an opportunity for me to pray for each parishioner, to thank God for the gift of them to our community, and to send my blessings upon them. The “duty” has become an incredible gift that keeps the cycle of gratitude going.
How are you participating in the cycle of gratitude? In what ways do you cultivate a spirit of generosity, passing your sense of gratitude and blessing on to others? I look forward to hearing how you are participating in the cycle, and how God is using you to bless others.