On being consciously thankful
Reflections on Luke 17: 11-19 by The Rev'd Glenn Empey
When I intentionally think about being thankful -- being consciously thankful for all the blessings in my life -- I find that it really makes me stop. It’s as if everything comes to a sudden halt. I think that’s because it is difficult to be thankful when we’re caught up in the flurry of life.
I suppose, for many of us, all that goes into Thanksgiving Day adds to that flurry. That would be for those of us who may be preparing a festive feast for the occasion. All the shopping ahead of time, the planning. And then there’s the preparation, coordinating things, the actual cooking, and finally getting things on the table.
These a fun times, moments for celebration with family and friends. They’re good times but especially for the main person or persons who are dealing with it all, our attention is focused on the event. I’m not saying that’s not necessary or not a good thing. Of course, you have to focus on getting everything ready. I’m just saying that for me generally, I have to stop any distraction in order to be conscious of being thankful and about things for which I should be thankful.
Actually, as I said at the beginning, it’s a bit of a corollary for me. When I become conscious about being thankful, all the flurry and whirr suddenly goes on hold; it freezes and there is this kind of peace in the eye of a storm, a still small voice in the midst of a whirlwind to quote a piece from scripture. To be thankful, I have to stop. Or by being conscious of being thankful, it makes me stop. And then I'm seized by the moment.
I don’t know if any of that connects with your experiences about Thanksgiving or about other moments of being thankful. How does that go for you?
The other evening, I was at a dinner meeting. There was a lot on the agenda, much more than a get-together for supper. I recalled when I got back home later that night that I had not formally said “thank you” to the person who had invited us and covered the cost of our meal. I wasn’t really thinking about being thankful in the midst of the heavy agenda for the evening. In a way, I was like the nine lepers in Jesus’ story in the gospel today.
I imagine those nine others in the story had lots on their minds. Maybe even their new wholeness was a distraction. There’d be so many things they could now do freely without being shamed or cast aside that they’d want to get at them. Maybe they’d want to go and show family and friends how they were each now a new person. You and I can see how they’d get caught up in the miracle.
There are a lot of clichés about being thankful and about Thanksgiving. I’m trying to avoid them. Still I wonder if our first-world affluence gets in the way of our being thankful. In the flurry and whirlwind of every day, I don’t think we’re looking or conscious of things for which to be thankful. We have so much. How does one pick anything out?
What made that one fellow in the story of healing see things differently than did the others?
It seems to me that just shifting the brain to think about being thankful instantly brings about a change. Try it for a moment. When you shift your thoughts to being thankful and pondering the things for which to be thankful, what happens? Try it.
It seems to me that worries, anxieties, concerns, even hurts and pain fall away … at least while you’ve shifted your focus from the flurry of things to a different way of seeing things. It’s like some kind of a respite in the midst of all that’s going on in everyday life. The pressures don’t disappear for good … but they do for a few moments. It seems to me that the change in attitude brings a new way of seeing things. And when you’re really focused on it, the hard stuff does fade away. It’s a point for recuperation for getting things back together into perspective.
I should take more time to be thankful.
Anyway, all I’m sharing is that for me I can’t think about being thankful and be at the same time distracted by the flurry of things around me. And, when I am in that state of being thankful, everything else seems to go on hold in some kind of peacefulness. By being in a state of thankfulness, for me I have to stop and then things just seem to go on hold, the motion freezes, there is stillness and quiet. It happens two ways. By being conscious about being thankful, I have to stop. And when I do that, the thankfulness seems to bring a state of calm. It is meditative and contemplative. Maybe moments to savour. It’s like the being apprehended by thankfulness.
These are my personal reflections about thanksgiving while trying not to be clichéd. Maybe they resonate a bit for you or maybe they can prompt some thoughts. I offer them to you for what they may be worth to you. Maybe my thoughts will spur some of your own on your own experiences.
In any event, I wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving. May our being conscious about being thankful be a prayer and meditation that becomes part of our spiritual practice on all the days when the flurry of things weighs us down or distracts us.
May we find time to pray and meditate on being thankful. And may being in a state of thankfulness clear away the whirr and flurry of life so that we see what really counts. In that way, thankfulness can be something that apprehends you.
That’s what made the one who returned to Jesus that day different from the others in the gospel story.