Every month, like clockwork, one of my tasks as the parish priest is to write an article for the parish newsletter. Over the course of fourteen-plus years, I’ve dutifully cranked out an article, in spite of my suspicion that they mostly go unread. Some months, I feel inspired, and enjoy the process. Other months, I grumble, complain, and kvetch as the blank screen stares back at me, taunting me to think of something somewhat religious to say to my religious (non)readership. Occasionally, I am granted a reprieve from the task because there is an article with information so important to the life of the parish it deserves the front page of the newsletter. November’s issue granted me no such reprieve.
And so, I began my ritual of grumbling, complaining and kvetching. Eventually I stopped talking to the computer screen and began typing. The is a portion of what I wrote:
…I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get with regards to remembering to be thankful. Over the past few days, we have been painfully reminded, yet again, of the deadly power of hatred and violence. We are also (thanks to the 24/7 news cycle) constantly bombarded, day and night, by the voices of anger, fear, rage, and condemnation emanating from individuals who are our elected leaders. If we’re not careful, we take those emotions into our souls, and then become reflections of the culture instead of witnesses to the Good News.
This year, in particular, I feel as if November, with its theme of Thanksgiving, has arrived right on time. I know many people who undertake a “discipline of gratitude” every November, and attempt to take the time every day to jot down one to three things for which they are specifically thankful. The practice is a way of re-focusing attention from all that is wrong in the world, to all sorts of blessings we receive every day — things like seeing sunshine, petting a dog or cat, having food to eat, the ability to read, a good cup of tea (or in my case, coffee!), family members, and close friends, just to name a few.
And if all the bad news has dragged you down to the place where you feel disingenuous for giving thanks about anything, then may I suggest another practice? Try praying the General Thanksgiving from page 836 in the Book of Common Prayer every day this month. And by praying, I’m asking you to read it slowly and out loud. I believe this prayer has the capacity to reorient our perspective, and calm our troubled hearts…
If you are reading this blog post, and you do not have access to a Book of Common Prayer, you will find the words to the prayer I mention below. I have no grand illusions about how many folks will join me in this little 30 day (now 29 day!) experiment, but I thought I’d extend the offer here as well. I’m planning to pray the prayer morning and evening for this entire month, and I’ll share what I’m learning from this journey every Friday on this site. Please join me if you feel so inspired…and let me know in the comments.
A General Thanksgiving (BCP, p. 836)
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.