The Lowly Loveliness of Thanksgiving

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All of us at Good News wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Our thoughts on gratitude were brought into focus this week through a column by the Rev. Tish Harrison Warren. As one of our favorite writers, we have deep appreciation for her books Liturgy of the Ordinary and Prayer in the Night. She is a columnist for Christianity Today, and writes a weekly newsletter for the New York Times. 

What follows is a brief excerpt from this week’s article in the Times newsletter.

“The practice of gratitude is central to nearly every religious and spiritual tradition. And all of us have much to be grateful for. We get the shocking privilege of living on this planet that is uniquely crafted so that humans can be born, breathe, grow, work, harvest and create. We have bodies that know the pleasures of strawberries, guacamole and buttery popcorn. We hear laughter and breathe in the steam of hot coffee.

“The practice of gratitude teaches us, as the theologian Christine D. Pohl put it,’the giftedness of our total existence.’ This posture of receptiveness — living as the thankful beneficiary of gifts — is the path of joy because it reminds us that we do not have to be the makers and sustainers of our life. Gratitude is how we embrace beauty without clutching it so tightly that we strangle it.

​​​​​​​“To receive life as a gift is to acknowledge that we do not — and indeed cannot — hold our world together out of our sheer effort, will and strength. Most of the best things in life can only be received and held with open hands. Like the story of the Israelites receiving manna from God in the desert, we receive what we need as sheer mercy, but it cannot be hoarded, clung to or clutched. Instead, understanding all of our existence as a gift allows us to see that we are limited in our own capacity to control the world and yet we are given what we need, day by day.

“Maybe your Thanksgiving will be dreamy, full of abundant food, family, friends, and laughter. Or maybe you’ll burn the turkey, maybe you are barely getting by, maybe you will feel lonely or hurt by your family and friends. Even still, there are ordinary gifts and overlooked graces that surround us on each day of our lives.

“‘Even in these lowly lovelinesses,’ says the title character Thomas Wingfield in George MacDonald’s novel, ‘there is a something that has its root deeper than your pain; that, all about us, in earth and air, wherever eye or ear can reach, there is a power ever breathing itself forth in signs, now in a daisy, now in a wind waft, a cloud, a sunset, a power that holds constant and sweetest relation with the dark and silent world within us.’

“Thanksgiving Day softly asks us to practice thanks for the lowly lovelinesses that make up each of our lives, to take time to notice the constant and sweetest relation offered by the giver of every good gift.”

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