The Principle of Gratitude
This month we begin our exploration of the seventh of the 10 prophetic justice principles by Rev. James Forbes (which you can find here)
#7 says Respect Other Nations and Peoples, and the spiritual principle that we are focusing on this month is Gratitude. Our book of the month is The Gentle Art of Blessing
On Sunday August 4th I spoke about The Principle of Gratitude (you can find a link to the video of the service here)
But I’ll admit to you – that was not an easy one to deliver. I didn’t feel much like doing a bouncy happy talk about Gratitude. Not after the deaths of over 30 people between the mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH. So the night before I sat on my deck – contemplating how I would adjust the message and this is what flowed through me…a poem (which I don’t normally do)
Tonight the crickets mocked me,
Quietly on the deck, seeking answers to the senseless I sat
For it has happened again.
The third (and fourth) time in just a week.
What have we become, how will we respond?
The questions haunt me,
The crickets mocked me
providing the only answer we have for gun violence in the United States of America
Crickets, the only sound I hear
BOOM – thunder and lightening fill the sky
The crackles echo the aches of my heart,
Weeping and moaning over innocent lost lives, yet again.
And then something strange,
there was no rain.
As if to say,
We’ve shed all the tears we can find,
all that is left is passing lightening and thunder
– D. Alexander
Of course, we all have times when we don’t feel like blessing or giving thanks for anything because we don’t feel like, in that moment, that anything is blessing us. But understanding the Principle of Gratitude is as simple as understanding energy. Flow begets more flow and withholding begets more withholding. So if you want it, you have to release it.
The Principle of Gratitude is an advanced principle because it is built on the premise of other basic spiritual principles. The first is, God, Infinite Intelligence, is all that there is.
“Intelligence acting intelligently” – Raymond Charles Barker
Second – because everything is connected, everything is infused with wisdom, insight or learning – in other words, everything is a gift.
And its that idea, that everything is a gift that brings us back to gratitude. Because if everything is connected (because God is all there is) and everything is intelligence acting intelligently – infused with insights and lessons for our highest good – the how do we go about receiving the gifts that are given through life’s experiences?
Gratitude is how.
You see, gratitude is about more than just the energy of blessing outwardly. It’s about the energy of receiving. When someone is giving you a gift – your natural reaction is to say “Thank you.” And it is there, in that expression of gratitude that something magical happens to the gift that is being given, the one giving it and you – all at the same time.
When you express gratitude (thank you) you fully receive the gift being given, it becomes yours. The giver of the gift is free to move on and you have claimed ownership of the gift.
So, if everything has a gift in it – what happens when we are refusing to accept it? What happens when we refuse to receive? The universe keeps trying!
Maybe, just maybe there is a gift in these dark days and moments. Perhaps there is a gift that we cannot receive because we are rejecting the package that it is coming in.
What would happen if we opened up to receive?
I propose to you that even in our ugliest behaviors as a human family – there is a gift awaiting us – when we come to it, there we will discover a “Brave and startling Truth” – that is, when we come to it.
I’ll close with this poem from Maya Angelo “When we Come to it” (excerpt)
When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe
We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines
When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear
When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.
Keep practicing my friends…
– Rev. Dr. David Alexander