Wednesday, November 23, 2011

name them one by one

My list then. Notice it includes only people this year. Fitting.

*ld. After almost a week of technological frustration, he painstakingly fixed and restored my computer. Voila. Love of my life.
*Jiao - She's here and she is as wonderful as she seems. Really.
*JLW - for being smart enough to marry her.

Also grateful for:
*Sisters in law who come in, muck out, scrub down and shine up. Brothers who show up, stay late, and are there when you need them. Brothers who call repeatedly for updates and to offer support.
*Nieces who bring in dinner, vacuum, text and call on the phone.
*B. Gomer and Keny. They can prep and paint a room quicker than you can say 'Jack Sprat'.
*My Cate, Madeline, and Faye. Gamma loves you. So. Much.
*Kody. For not cowering in the face of trauma.
*Meghan. She's alive and growing stronger. What more can I say?
*Emerson. He's alive and growing stronger. What more can I say?

And so grateful for everyone who joined us in fasting and prayer. It was a gift you gave to Meghan and Emerson, it really was. And it made all the difference.

Today there has been a lot of talk generated by scientific studies and popular media suggesting the value of keeping a gratitude journal, or making a list of things we’re grateful for and that’s not a bad idea.
Whether we write how blessed we are in our journals everyday or not, we should be in the habit of expressing thanks when we pray and also when we come to partake of the sacrament every Sunday. Those are both quiet, reflective times that lend themselves to being spiritually aware. And that’s really what gratitude is - being spiritually aware of our relationship to God, being aware of all He has given us.

The way we become aware is when we pay attention to the details of life and living. Paying attention is therefore the key to gratefulness. Its hard to be thankful when we walk through life unnoticing, unaware, unconnected. We know we are supposed to count our blessings but first we need to see our blessings. Then name our blessings. Then acknowledge our blessings. Then count them.

If we don’t do this, then we run the risk of taking many things for granted.

And then later this:

• In Mosiah 2:19-21 we learn better how we can show our gratitude.
19 And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!

20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—

21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”

What King Benjamin is alluding to here I think is that people who live out of gratitude, who pay attention to the good things that come their way, who count their blessings and express their thanks to the Lord daily - these people are also more apt to want to help others.

Living our gratitude does that. If we’re grateful we listen to friends in need, pay our tithing lovingly instead of begrudingly, we serve in callings and also volunteer. If we’re living our gratitude we are less concerned about material goods, less likely to judge others and more concerned about the well being of others. Not only does gratitude feel good, but it causes us to do good.

And then this reminder:
Now comes the challenging part.

We are to feel gratitude not just in the wonderful happenings in our lives but also in times of adversity, trials and afflictions. This is where it really gets hard for some of us.

I don’t know about you but it’s sometimes difficult to express gratitude when we are under stress, yet it is often such situations that permit significant spiritual growth.

This is illustrated especially well in a story related by Elder Marion D. Hanks about a boy and his mother, who knew the value of expressing gratitude:

“I sat at a stake conference where a returned missionary bore his testimony. He had but a short time and he chose to use one idea. He thanked God for a great, humble mother, and gave his reason. He said that as a high school boy, he [had] been sorely tried by the illness and then death of his little sister whom he had loved greatly and who had been the darling of the family, being the last of them. Their father had died. The little girl grew ill, and in spite of prayers and administrations and fasting and much concern, worsened and died in the night. The boy went into his room, locked the door, and sobbed out his broken heart to the walls because he was not willing to do it to the God whom he could not now honestly approach. In his rebellion and anger at a God, if there were one, who would permit such a thing to happen to them, he cried out in rebellion. He said he would never pray again, would never go to church again, and could never have any confidence again in a God who would permit this to happen. And in his immature but sincere sorrow, he made some rather serious covenants with himself. He stayed awake the rest of the night, apprehensive about an experience he anticipated. It was their custom, as it is in so many Latter-day Saint homes, to kneel morning and evening with the children around the mother, to thank God for the goodness of his blessings.

“He waited for that moment, knowing what he had to say, but fearing it. When his mother said, ‘Come, children,’ he said, ‘No.’

“She said, ‘Kneel down, son.’

“He said, ‘No, I will not kneel down, and I will never kneel down again.’

“She said, as I remember his words and I was deeply touched as were we all. ‘Son, you’re the oldest child in this home. You are the only man in the house, and if I ever needed a man, I need one now. You kneel down.’

“He knelt down, still rebellious, but because his mother needed him, and he began for the first time to think in terms of her broken heart and her sorrow. So he knelt, but he said to himself, ‘I wonder what she’s going to thank God for this morning.’ And his mother, knowing as she must have, the questions in his mind and the minds of the other children, taught them the gospel on their knees that morning. She thanked God for what the family knew, for the blessing of eternal ties, for direction and purpose and guidance and convictions as to the future. She thanked God that they had been blessed with this wonderful, angelic child who had brought so much to them and who was to be theirs, always. And out of her mother’s heart, knowing the desperate, critical nature of the moment, taught her own children what there was to thank God for under conditions of such stress.

“As the boy stood... he thanked God for a mother who was a heroine” (Heroism, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [25 Mar. 1959], 3-4).

This mother’s prayer of gratitude to Heavenly Father was an example to her son and to us. It illustrates how gratitude is a condition of the heart - and if expressed and felt and lived - even at such a high cost as adversity - it can purify our souls, sanctify us and develop in us a celestial character.

President Howard W. Hunter observed: “Life—every life—has a full share of ups and downs. Indeed, we see … many blessings that do not always look or feel like blessings” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 68; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 54).

On sunny, smooth sailing days I like to think of myself as an optimist. I think I have an advantage over some people. Someone once said that the reason why short people tended to be optimists is because they can only see the part of the glass that is half full, not half empty...

It’s hard to be a full time optimist in our world, though. We are so full of aches and pains, so tired and overworked, so stressed out about time and money, that the glass looms large and to fill it seems nearly impossible. To get up in the morning and to exclaim, "Zippedee do dah! It’s a fine day, bring on the challenges!" seems hokey. Especially when some of us truly struggle with adversity.

I know there are people sitting here today who have been dealt an unfair hand: they or someone they love is suffering from terrible illness, or has sustained a tragic loss, or can't get back on their feet, or can't find work or make ends meet. Their sorrow is real.

But the gospel teaches us that we find the path to gratitude even within our sorrow.

And that is tough. It’s tough because it doesn't let us feel sorry for ourselves, no matter how little we may have or how much we may have lost.

When a person is able to whisper, in the midst of pain and loss, a quiet “Thank you, Heavenly Father” this is where we see the spirit pour down. It's not a matter of giving thanks for the suffering itself exactly, but giving thanks for something that goes deeper than the suffering, giving thanks for the experiences of mortality, all of them. And when we can do that the spirit dwells with us, teaching us and helping us to cope.

To live a life of gratitude does not mean you compare yourself with those who seem less blessed or less fortunate. It isn’t about comparison. In fact, being a grateful person doesn’t spare you from adversity or sadness.

What is true, though, is that a person who lives gratefully will continue to be grateful through the darkest and most trying of times. Gratitude will buoy you up when everything else seems to be falling. It will help you see the good in the midst of tragedy, even when you cannot see any good in suffering. To be able to give thanks in the midst of aching loss is a transforming experience. There’s a wisdom that comes from that kind of attitude and we are blessed with a more open, softer heart and with an outpouring of the spirit.

To live in thanksgiving daily is an attitude that is critical to our spirituality. It is a state of being. The Lord knows this, this is why he stresses its importance.

--excerpts from an old talk I wrote on Gratitude, many moons past.

1 comment:

Megs said...

And we, mother, are thankful for you!