November Gratitude–building a bridge

Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.
Maya Angelou

On this Thanksgiving day,  prayer pillows and faith bridges are sorely needed.  It can’t just be about overstuffed appetites, serial football games or midnight sales starting in a few hours.

Thanksgiving celebrates a sturdy faith that spans over trouble so gratitude can cross without getting wet.  May we not lose our balance.

November Gratitude–unending breath

photo by Josh Scholten

“Flung is too harsh a word for the rush of the world. Blown is more like it, but blown by a generous, unending breath.”
Annie Dillard

Windstorms are equal opportunity events.  No one is spared.  The power goes out in large houses and small; everyone stubs their toes in the dark looking for a flashlight.  Plenty of things are “flung” in a storm including us.

There is a sense of being pelted by the gales of life in its head long rush to our conclusion.  We want to stop for a moment, face it down,  resist the momentum of it always forcing us relentlessly forward.  We can feel flung into the future, ready or not.

So it helps to think of the progression of our lives less harshly, like an exhaled breath pushing us along even when we have no energy left to keep going.  Such inspiration becomes unstoppable, unknowable, unending and infinitely generous: the power never will run out.


November Gratitude–pangs of memory

photo by Josh Scholten

Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Holidays can be painful for people who remember family conflicts or loss that caused heartbreak, especially when there is supposed to be times of togetherness, camaraderie and laughter.  Even the most difficult memories can be transformed by the balm of the passage of time, by day turning to night and night into day, over and over again, until those memories become a swirling background for the tranquility of thanksgiving.

It is possible to know joy again.

November Gratitude–for inexorability

photo by Josh Scholten

“God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.”
C.S. Lewis

Relentless, unstoppable, inescapable, inevitable, unavoidable, irrevocable, unalterable, unceasing love.  It has always been, is now, and always will be.  Intolerable as nothing I have done warrants it.

I’m discovering what it means to accept this gift of grace.  I need inexorability too–nonstop and continuously–in expressions of gratitude, forgiveness, and loving.

Never ending and unrelenting.

November Gratitude–for longing

photo by Josh Scholten

“It was when I was happiest that I longed most…The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.”
C.S. Lewis

Like the child who longs for Christmas, anticipating for weeks what that moment will be like when they see gifts piled high under the tree,  we revel in longing.  It is the sweetness of the “already but not yet”, knowing there is more to come, something far more wonderful and beautiful than we can ever imagine…

November Gratitude–a kind word

Van Gogh Winter Landscape in Schnee

One kind word can warm three winter months.
Japanese Proverb

I know how enveloped I feel when someone says something kind to me. It is like a warm comforter wrapped around me on a chilly day.  And it lasts, even beyond the winters of my life.

I just received a hand written letter (something rare as hen’s teeth these days from our younger generation) from a patient I cared for over five years ago.  He wanted to tell me he is doing well and how he had appreciated my kindness to him.  I was astonished that he remembered me and that in his letter he was uncertain if I would remember him.  Patients don’t always know how they dwell for years in their doctors’ consciousness, how they teach us and how much we learn.  I surely did remember this patient, his struggles with drug dependency, his strong urge to kill himself, and his desperate search for a reason to keep on living.

He has kept living and is doing well.  He remembered my caring and kindness.

And now I’m wrapped in his comforting words through these chilly days.

November Gratitude–Breathing

photo by Josh Scholten

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing. 
Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird

How can I appreciate something that is a constant, so predictable that it never registers in my consciousness until the moment it is rent asunder, as fragile as a web hanging heavy with evening frost?

Within that deprivation, with the realization that what I rely on for my very existence is no longer a given, suddenly it becomes the most precious thing of all.

For that ephemeral acceptance of my fragility, I am truly and forever grateful.

November Gratitude –for ingratitude photo by Josh Scholten

I have learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers. –Kahlil Gibran

There are times when darkness so thickly clouds our interactions with each other, it seems there can be no light and no forgiveness.  When the wound and hurt is so deep, even the process of healing is too painful to imagine.  How can there be thankfulness in heartache?  These are teachers we wish would take a sabbatical.

Even so, the paradox of insight that comes from the darkness of ingratitude is worth celebration.  There is light that eventually shines, even if it illuminates the night of our souls.

November Gratitude–heart with a welcome mat photo by Josh Scholten

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come–
Chinese Proverb

I need reminding that what I offer from my heart reflects what I will receive there.  If I’m grumpy and grumbling like a dying vine instead of a green tree, then no singing bird will come.  Instead my heart becomes filled with aphids and cobwebs that feed off my discouragement.

So much better to nurture the singers of joy and gladness, with an attitude of gratitude.  The welcome mat is out and waiting.  Any time now… photo by Josh Scholten