Lent 2021: Not What We Give Up But What We Live For – Part 3, Tender Mercy

holylent“This Lent needs to be not what you will give up, but what you will live for. Not how you might demonstrate your piety, but how you might live in true obedience to God. Not what you will prove, but what reproves you” (Karoline Lewis in “Working Preacher” (Feb. 26, 2017).

This series on Lent was first posted in February and March, 2017 and has been updated. It is fascinating to observe how much more difficult our lives have become in four  years. These Lenten meditations will be posted on Tuesdays and Fridays.

TENDER MERCY

What is mercy?  What does it feel like? To me mercy is cold water when I am parched or  long-awaited relief from a persistent leg cramp or walking out of humid, 95-degree Michigan heat into an air-conditioned room. Before reading the rest of this post, take a minute to try to feel what being shown mercy is like.

Before writing this post, I spent some time with dictionary definitions of the word mercy.  The one I like best is from Vocabulary.com:

“Compassion leads you to have mercy, which is like forgiveness. If you have mercy on someone, you let them off the hook or are kind to them somehow.”

Here are some questions I have about what mercy is

♥   Does mercy precede forgiveness or accompany it?

♥   Do we really “love mercy” as a value? Or do we resent mercy when the “other” seems to receive it?

♥  Does everyone recognize mercy when they receive it?  Do you have to be shown mercy to give mercy?

♥ How is the political climate we are enduring driving the concept of mercy underground?

♥   If we can’t show mercy, is it even possible to say that we have  compassion?

♥  Can we really claim to be a “Christian” or a Christ-follower if we do not show mercy?

Amy Oden says that “Mercy is the currency of the kingdom of heaven” (Working Preacher website, February 2, 2014). What does that mean? Currency makes it possible to do business with each other. Currency  is what we exchange when we receive something and what we receive when we give something. Without currency the world would be chaos. And without mercy our world is in chaos. Mercy re-orders life in the Kingdom of God.  It should re-order our families, our churches, our social justice system – and our politics.

Micah 6:8 explains how we can show mercy.

“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously— 
    take God seriously” (The MSG)  

Where can you show mercy today?  Who do you need to confront for their lack of mercy?  Our master said that when you bestow mercy you will receive it (Matt. 5:7). What greater reward can there be?

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Lent 2021: Not What We Will Give Up, But What We Will Live For – Part 2, Active Compassion

Lent needs to be not what you will give up, but what you will live for. Not how you might demonstrate your piety, but how you might live in true obedience to God. Not what you will prove, but what reproves you” (Karoline Lewis in Working Preacher (Feb. 26, 2017). This series on Lent was first posted in February and March, 2017 and has been updated. It is fascinating to observe how much more difficult our lives have become in four  years. These Lenten posts will be posted on Tuesdays and Fridays.

ACTIVE COMPASSION

The word compassion literally means “to suffer together.” Active compassion is the feeling that arises when we are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to go out of our way to relieve that suffering. Some of us have the gift of compassionate service.  Others of us, while feeling empathy, may need to be prodded by the Holy Spirit a bit to actually do something to relieve the pain of another.  

This season of Lent, the need for acting on our compassion is all around us. We need to educate ourselves about the political issues of the day and how they impact the lives of those around us. Immigration laws, health care reforms and voter registration issues are not just policies; they are calls to action for Christians. Foreign policy is not just for wonks and nerds; it is essential to how our country speaks to global issues.  Christians must take their active compassion to the political arena.

Jesus’ life was the model of compassion.  He went out of his way to speak about and relieve the suffering of others. But as, Bryan Morykon  says,

We must see Jesus always speaking with the fire of pure love burning in his eyes. He did nothing simply to provoke, nothing from fear, nothing to prove anything, nothing out of woundedness. All was from an unshakable awareness of His belovedness and for the eternal good of  the other” (Renovare Weekly Digest March 10, 2017).

We need to burn our fears, our need to prove ourselves, and our woundedness  in that “fire of pure love” and be willing to risk action. What suffering have you been confronted with? What action are you motivated to take? I have several friends who have been responsible for bringing a mother and her two young children from South Sudan to our town. They found housing, helped with furniture and clothing, gave rides, showed the mother how to negotiate our town and its services, helped the mother find a job, provided childcare for the children and helped them learn English. In addition, they raised thousands of dollars so that the mother could be trained, certified, and find employment in a health-related field. [Some time after this was written, they also supported the father’s arrival to the U.S. and helped him find a job.] They were confronted with a need and took action – and this action is a long-term commitment.  

When Richard Foster, well-known author on spiritual formation issues, turned 75 he posted a birthday idea on the Renovare website. He suggested that readers help him celebrate by giving $75 to someone in need or 75 minutes to someone who is lonely. Do you know anyone or any organization who would be blessed by $75? Think Doctors without Borders or Compassion International or your Feeding America Food Bank. Do you know anyone who would be blessed by your attention?  Perhaps COVID prohibits a visit but a letter,  phone call or e-mail or a FaceTime or Zoom visit can help them feel loved and valued.

We all have been blessed to be a blessing. How can we live that out today?

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Lent 2021:  Not What We Will Give Up, But What We Will Live For – Part 1, Speaking the Truth

holylent

“This Lent needs to be not what you will give up, but what you will live for. Not how you might demonstrate your piety, but how you might live in true obedience to God. Not what you will prove, but what reproves you” (Karoline Lewis in Working Preacher (Feb. 26, 2017). This series on Lent was first posted in February and March, 2017. It is fascinating to observe how much more difficult our lives have become in four  years.  These Lenten posts will be posted on Tuesdays and Fridays.

SPEAKING THE TRUTH

When we take on the name of Christ (as in calling ourselves “Christians”), we take on the role of a peculiar (distinctive) people. Our political environment is teaching us that being people who strive to speak the truth makes us truly distinctive. But speaking the truth is more than not lying. Truth telling is about doing as well as not doing.  We must speak out our truth, God’s truth, in every situation we are in, even and especially when it is inconvenient, dangerous, or uncomfortable.

Our truth comes from God’s word in Scripture, from the life of Jesus, from the whispers of the Holy Spirit, and from communities of worship. It comes from life experiences, especially those that caused pain and heartache. It comes from sharing our lives in community with others – people who are willing to be vulnerable and create a safe space for us to be the same. The learning from these combined experiences fills our reservoir of truth; this reservoir is waiting to be dipped into.

Some time ago, I was with a small group of women who were facing the reality that speaking our truth is difficult. One woman shared an angry outburst she had with someone who was explaining a change in policy – a change that affected work she deeply loved. Later she realized how she had injured the person. She made amends. She realized that the other person was not the cause of a problem but merely the bearer of a problem-filled message. She spoke her truth, but it fell on the wrong “soil” and with heat but no love. Now she can get on with speaking the same truth in  a meaningful way to the right people.

A second person was in the process of preparing to speak truth to someone but was concerned about not presenting the case well enough – and thus failing.  She is learning that perfect performances are not necessary. We only need a Spirit-filled heart and appropriate information to speak the truth.  Like seeds, truth must be carefully planted but God is in charge of the blossoming.

A third woman recognized that she was being called to speak the truth in several situations, but she was afraid of being viewed as confrontational. She is learning that we need to separate our emotional needs from the process of  truth-telling. If we present truths as apprentices of Jesus (accurately and lovingly), it doesn’t matter how we are perceived or whether we are liked or not.  That reality is God’s truth and Jesus’ example.

What truth are  you being called to speak to your world?  

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Going Deeper with God: Exodus 33: 18-33 – The “Afterwardness” of God

El Shaddi bannersPeterson’s book Eat this Book teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. This story about Moses from Exodus 33 teaches us about looking backwards to see God’s work in our lives.

(This post was first published on January 5, 2016. Reading these verses again, I realize that in addition to the “afterwardness of God,”  I have been thinking a lot about being “covered by the hand of God” lately.)

 Exodus 33: 18-23 (MSG)

Moses said, ‘Please. Let me see your Glory.’

 God said, ‘I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I’ll call out the name, God, right before you. I’ll treat well whomever I want to treat well and I’ll be kind to whomever I want to be kind.’ God continued, ‘But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live.’

 God said, ‘Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock. When my Glory passes by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll take my hand away and you’ll see my back. But you won’t see my face.'”

CHEWING

In the latest issue of the newsletter for the Center for Action and Contemplation, Fr. Richard Rohr talks about his battle with prostate cancer, which required (successful) surgery.  About ten days after his surgery, he found this scripture passage that describes his journey with his illness and  teaches an important principle for all of life.

He says, “In several sermons, I have used that verse [Exodus 33:23] to teach that our knowledge of God is indirect at best, and none of our knowledge of God is fully face-to-face.  God is always and forever Mystery.  All we see is the ‘backside’ of God.

“This time it was not the indirectness that hit me in this passage but the afterward-ness. My best spiritual knowing almost always occurs after the fact, in the remembering – not seen ‘until [God has] passed by.’ I realized that in the moments of diagnosis, doctor’s warnings, waiting, delays, and the surgery itself, I was as fragile, scared, and insecure as anyone would be, but if I could stay with the full narrative, all the way through, it was afterward that I could invariably see, trust, and enjoy  the wonderful works of God (mirabilis Dei) – the seeing which Moses seemed to experience as the very glory of God.

“The foundation of Jewish faith is the ability of the Jewish people to look at their entire salvation history and then trust that this pattern would never – could never change!  It was largely after the fact that the Jewish faith was formed – and gloriously transmuted into hope for the future. Only after the fact can you see that you were being held and led during the fact.  During the fact, you do not enjoy or trust your own strength at all; in fact, quite the opposite.  That is when God, for some wonderful reason, is able to fill the gap.” (From the Mendicant, Winter, 2016).

DIGESTING

♥   I am only a few months into what will be a life-long battle with a cancer of the blood cells, multiple myeloma, [now a 5-year journey] but I can already see again the “afterwardness” of the march with God through life.  Spend some time looking back at your life.  Where do you now see God’s presence in a long ago time of wonder or a time of distress?  How did that presence change the way you looked at the future? Share your stories with your children or grandchildren, as the Jews did.

♥  Rohr mentions the development of the “entire salvation history.”  Page through your Bible and think about the arc of the narrative of the Old Testament from the Creation story through the patriarchs and the exodus through the Kings and to the time of the splitting of the Kingdom and the prophets and the dispersal of the Jews all over the known world. And then page through the Gospel stories from the birth of Jesus to his death and resurrection to the Spirit’s filling the disciples to the conversion and travels of Paul and other disciples and to the maturing of the church.  How often do  you find that the people of this book did not see the work God was doing until afterwards?

♥  When a trial comes upon you of any sort in the near future, remember that Godrock-cleft (1) will put you in the cleft of a rock.  God’s hand will cover the opening because we are not allowed to see God’s glory.  But you will see and feel God’s presence, even if it is the backside of God, as time passes into the afterwards.

MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT

“After you take your place in the cleft of the rock, allow God to temporarily shield your sight, and get a glimpse of the divine design “after the fact,” [when] it is much easier to know – really know the patterns of divine love and faithfulness. This is surely why the Jewish people remind us of the importance of remembering. Until we look back and recollect for ourselves the disparate moments of our lives, so often taken for granted, faith remains largely a theory, a memorized Bible quote or a line from a sermon, a speculative hope that does not yet grip our very soul”  (Richard Rohr in the Mendicant, Winter, 2016).

image of rock from smallvillagepastor.wordpress.com

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Everything is Transformed

Some of you may know that my husband Fred died in October after years of suffering from fourth stage COPD and congestive heart failure.  This reflection is about my journey without him.

My life is “measured out in coffee spoons”* these days. Most of the time it is bearable.  I’m reading A LOT and trying to blog at least once a week. Other days, I find myself thinking often, “What’s the point?”
I miss Fred more this sixth month after his death than in past months. Perhaps that’s why I had this interesting dream last night. I had walked miles to Christ Memorial Church (where I used to work)  which now was in another city. I was supposed to help my former secretary with a huge project – tables full of piles of something that had to be arranged. When I was ready to leave, I called my childhood home (?) to see if one of my siblings or parents (both deceased) would give me a ride.
After several tries, Fred answered. I asked him what he was doing. He said he was working on a project. I asked him if he could pick me up because I didn’t want to walk all the way home. He said, kindly, “no”; that was not possible.  I would have to work on my project, and he would stay and work on his.  Then he hung up.  I was heart-broken.
When I woke up (still heartbroken), I tried to make sense of this dream. I quickly remembered reading a beautiful excerpt this week on dying and eternal life from The Divine Conspiracy in the Renovare weekly bulletin. Here’s the part that may have influenced my dream.  Dallas Willard says:

Well done, good and faith­ful ser­vant,” our mag­nif­i­cent Mas­ter will say, ​“You have been faith­ful in the small­est things, take charge of ten cities,” ​five cities,” ​many things,” or what­ev­er is appro­pri­ate (Luke 19:17;  Matt. 25:21).

I sus­pect there will be many sur­pris­es when the new cre­ative respon­si­bil­i­ties are assigned. Per­haps it would be a good exer­cise for each of us to ask our­selves: Real­ly, how many cities could I now gov­ern under God? If, for exam­ple, Bal­ti­more or Liv­er­pool were turned over to me, with pow­er to do what I want with it, how would things turn out? An hon­est answer to this ques­tion might do much to pre­pare us for our eter­nal future in this universe.

Could it be that Fred is/will be enjoying eternal life working on his own project, but I still have something (what could it be?) to do here?

As I write this, I still wish Fred could come and pick me up. That longing made me go to my “grieving wall” where I have taped several pieces of writing that ease my mind about Fred’s death. I read this by Symeon the New Theologian (922-1022) again:

“For if we genuinely love Him,

We wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,

every most hidden part of it

is realized in joy as Him, 

and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything

that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,

maimed, ugly, irreparably 

damaged, is in Him transformed

  and recognized as whole, as lovely,

and radiant in His light

we awaken as the Beloved

in every last part of our body.”

What a blessing that my husband who suffered from PSTD, illnesses, and sadness all the years that I knew him is now free from everything that hurt him and the dark and harsh that damaged him, and that the guilt he felt even while knowing he was forgiven is now transformed “in every last part of [his] body.”

____

* T. S. Eliot in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

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From My Reading – March

“Fear, shame, and guilt often make us stay in our isolation and prevent us from realizing that our handicap, whatever it is, can always become the way to an intimate and healing fellowship in which we come to know one another as humans. After all, everyone shares the handicap of mortality. Our individual, physical, emotional, and spiritual failures are but symptoms of this disease. Only when we use these symptoms of mortality to form a fellowship of the weak can hope emerge. It is in the confession of our brokenness that the real strength of new and everlasting life can be affirmed and made visible” (Henri Nouwen).

♦    ♦    ♦    ♦    ♦

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know” (Pema Chodron).

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“Sometimes people get the mistaken notion that spirituality is a separate department of life, the penthouse of existence. But rightly understood, it is a vital awareness that pervades all realms of our being” ( Br. David Steindal-Rast).

♦    ♦    ♦    ♦    ♦

“The Bible, in its entirety, finds a fine balance between knowing and not-knowing, between using words and having humility about words. The ensuing Christian traditions have often not found that same balance. What I’ve called “Churchianity” typically needs to speak with absolutes and certainties. It thinks it has the right and the obligation to make total truth-claims and feels very insecure when it cannot.  Thus, it is not very well trained in insecurity and trust” (Richard Rohr in Daily Meditation for January 31, 2021).

♦    ♦    ♦    ♦    ♦

“The opportunity of repentance John [the Baptist] preaches is the opportunity to look in a mirror and ask the question: What in me needs to go another way? When have I spoken when I should have been silent or been silent when I should have spoken? Where have I allowed being nice to take the place of telling the truth? When have I been willing to find gray areas, explain away, and ignore the parts of our common life I find to be ugly because I like some particular policy, or because it did me some particular good, or because it simply didn’t affect me?” (The Rev. Shannon Kershner, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago).

♦    ♦    ♦    ♦    ♦

I know a pastor who began his sermon after the Charleston massacre by asking, ‘How come our Bible studies in this church have not been truthful enough, intense enough, for anybody to want to kill us?’ Church, we need to figure out how to be so faithful in our life together that the world can look at us and see something that it is not. Our little congregation is called to be a showcase of what a living God can do!” (William Willimon).

♦    ♦    ♦    ♦    ♦

“A verse I had memorized in my childhood came to mind: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” [Proverbs 3:5]. For the first time, it dawned on me: there’s a difference between doubting God and doubting my understanding of God, just as there’s a difference between trusting God and trusting my understanding of God. Would I be able to doubt my understanding of God while simultaneously trusting God beyond my understanding? In a strange way, that question for the first time in my life allowed me to see G0d as a mystery distinct from my concepts of God” (Brian McClaren in Faith After Doubt, Why your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It).

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Training for Gratitude – Part 2

My favorite spiritual discipline is gratitude. I recently searched my blog and found nine posts on gratitude!  I decided that one or two more wouldn’t hurt. If invoked consistently, gratitude cancels out some of the ugliest non-loving behaviors I routinely come up with: grumpiness,  self-pity, negativity, selfishness, and being critical.

Part 2 – Exercises to Increase our Gratitude

“Gratefulness allows us . . . to nurture a keener eye that no longer rushes past the small everyday moments that make up the larger part of our lives”  (Guri Meht).

Part 1 of the Training for Gratitude post  s described the many positive benefits of building the spiritual habit of being grateful. In fact, J.P. Moreland points out in his discussion of the the value of gratitude (in Finding Quiet, The Story of Overcoming Anxiety  and the Practices that Brought Peace) that of all the personality traits, gratitude has one of the strongest links to mental health and satisfaction.

Moreland says that gratitude is not just a feeling but a positive approach to life. He recommends actually training for gratitude as an athlete trains for a track meet or a musician trains for a concert, or a doctor trains for a surgery.   The first training exercise he recommends is to increase the intensity of our gratitude – to look for more and more reasons to feel grateful and feel them more intensely every day and express your gratitude to God with ever more meaning.   Moreland notes that you will have days when you just don’t feel grateful or if you do may not even feel like you want to thank God.  But he says, “Just do it  and the feeling and sense of  gratitude will come in due season.”

I have noticed in the last year that as I pay attention to being grateful, more and more reasons to be grateful begin to appear. For example, I notice a downy red-headed woodpecker pecking away at the bird feeder and sit down to watch it. His flitting around the feeder reminds me that my daughter-in-law gave me that bird feeder soon after my husband died. That memory brings feelings gratitude for her life of service. And then I am grateful to God for the blessings of gratitude that surround the sadness of missing him.

Secondly, Morehead suggests improving the frequency of moments of gratitude each day. This really brings home the idea of “training” for gratitude as a spiritual habit. Consciously looking for things to be thankful for make seem a bit artificial, but the more you look the more you will find and the more you find the more you will build a positive approach to life.

The third training activity is span. Moreland defines “span” as the number of life circumstances for which a person is grateful at a given time.” Here is a really home-grown example of span. I have my groceries delivered every two weeks, but I can’t use coupons because the order is sent on line and I never know who the shopper is that day.  So when I received some very good coupons in the mail, I asked a good friend to pick up a few of these items using my coupons when she went to to the store to redeem hers. This time she was able to stay for a delightful visit after bringing me my grocery items. So I was able to share my gratitude to God for financial benefits, food I needed, and the company of a friend.

The last training activity is density – the number of people you feel grateful to for a single outcome or circumstance.  Some time ago the federal government sent me a $600 stimulus check as part of the first COVID relief bill. During the next few weeks, several people sent gifts of money to me, reporting that they really didn’t need the stimulus check. That Covid relief bill was one circumstance that really helped me financially because friends and relatives shared their good fortune with me.  You can believe I was GRATEFUL  for all of them.

Another example of density is the outpouring of books and magazines that were loaned or given to me when I was unable to use the library because of COVID restrictions or had to drop subscriptions because of financial changes after my husband died. At least once a week, someone brings me a book (or an armful of books). A former co-worker from Lansing regularly mails a box of books and magazines by USPS. I am grateful for the New York Review of Books! – and she is grateful because they are being recycled!

This training exercise challenges us to examine things we are grateful for and thank God for all the people who took part in making it happen.  They could be choir members who blessed you with your favorite anthem, or reporters who shared a newspaper story you were grateful to read, or members of a Zoom writing group or a Zoom spiritual formation group or a Zoom prayer group who bless you with their presence and their gifts. 

Moreland says that there are two payoffs for knowing these four aspects of gratitude:

First, it gives us eyes to see and evaluate how different aspects of gratitude are growing in our lives rather than simply attending to the general notion of gratitude to assess growth. . . Second, it gives us a way to meditate on our lives so we can engage in different aspects of gratitude. . . . What matters most is that we experiment with all this to see what works best for us individu- ally.

J. P. Moorland also recommends activities in addition to the training exercises to practice gratitude as a spiritual discipline daily:

♥  Keep a gratitude journal and write down things you are grateful every day. I began to do this a few months after my husband died to remind myself of the blessings I receive in the midst of pain. I also decided to create a Blessing Wall covered with artwork I loved from cards I received, verses of scripture, encouraging messages,  a poem my husband wrote to me 30 years ago, and even a beautiful note from Fred’s doctor about how he was blessed to know him. (I also have a Grieving Wall filled with poems and excerpts from books and Facebook posts that friends pass on to me. My favorite is a verse from a haiku: 

    “You think their dying/ is the worst thing/ that could happen/ then they stay dead.”

♥  Every month, write a gratitude letter to someone who has made made a difference in your life  and for whom you are really grateful.  If the person lives close enough, visit them and read the letter.

Moreland ends this discussion of the importance of developing gratitude by saying, “The bottom line to all this is that the cultivation of the habit of expressing gratitude to other people – but especially God – changes your life.” I can attest to that!

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Training for Gratitude – Part 1

My favorite spiritual discipline is gratitude. I recently searched my blog and found nine posts on gratitude!  I decided that one or two more wouldn’t hurt. If invoked consistently, gratitude cancels out some of the ugliest non-loving behaviors I routinely come up with: grumpiness,  self-pity, negativity, selfishness, and being critical.

Part 1 – The Blessings of Gratitude

Looong ago, I was a race-walker!  If you have a hard time believing that, it’s even more difficult for me to believe. A friend and I decided to exercise together; she had become interested in race-walking. So . . . we took a class (deciding that the rolling waddle of a race walker didn’t fit our images as an Executive Director and banker) and started training using the suggestions from the class. After walking every day for several weeks we were walking faster and faster.

It took a long time to increase our speed while still breathing comfortably, but eventually we got good enough to enter local competitions.  And in one of those I went home with a first place ribbon for my age group. (To be really honest, there were only about 6 people competing in my age group, but I was still proud of my ribbon).

I thought of that experience recently as I read the book Finding Quiet, My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace, by J. P Moreland. Moreland, a philosopher and disciple (and good friend) of Dallas Willard.  The book is helpful on so many levels, but I was really taken with his chapter on “cultivating a disposition of gratefulness.” What follows in these two posts are lessons on daily training to be grateful.

Moreland begins by quoting Robert Emmons, a leading authority on the study of gratitude:

Gratitude has one of the strongest links to mental health and satisfaction with life of any personality trait – more so than even optimism, hope, or compassion. Grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness sand optimism, and gratitude protects us from the de-structive impulses of envy, resentment, greed and bitterness.   

My goal when I was training for race walking was simple:  develop the form and stamina so I could walk faster. Moreland also begins his “training manual” for gratitude by setting  a goal: “to get to the place where we see everything that comes into our lives . . . . as an occasion for formation and growth.” Then  we can engage in exercises which help “groove” our brains and character to “take a stance of gratitude and a positive approach to life.”

Moreland quotes Robert Emmons again to describe the benefits of the regular practice of gratitude:

  • increased feelings of energy, alertness, enthusiasm, and vigor
  • success in achieving  personal goals
  • better coping with stress
  • a sense of closure in traumatic memories
  • bolstered feelings of self-worth and self-confidence
  • solidified and secure social relationships
  • generosity and helpfulness
  • prolonging of the enjoyment produced by pleasurable experiences
  • improved cardiac health
  • a great sense of purpose and resilience*

Moreland comments that psychological studies are valuable, but we don’t need them to know the importance of expressing gratitude to God. The Bible is full of examples of giving thanks to God. Here are two of them. You might want to make a list of other gratitude verses and memorize your favorite.

“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4).

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song” (Psalm 95:2).

*Robert Emmons, Gratitude Works! p. 10

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Part 2 of Training for Gratitude (to be posted on February 27) will provide specific instructions for spiritual exercises which will increase our ability to find and express gratitude.

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