Practicing Thanksgiving

It's good to have this week of Thanksgiving when we're deliberate about stirring up our gratitude. For most of us, it seems like we spend much of the other 51 weeks of the year (not around Thanksgiving) consumed by the few things that aren't right rather than paying attention to the abundance of things for which we can't possibly give sufficient thanks.

An example of this, which you may have heard before, is in the picture above. In his book titled Prayer, George Buttrick wrote,

A lecturer to a group of businessmen displayed a sheet of white paper in which was one blot. He asked what they saw. All answered, "A blot." The test was unfair; it invited the wrong answer. Nevertheless, there is an ingratitude in human nature by which we notice the black disfigurement and forget the widespread mercy. We need to deliberately call to mind the joys of our journey. Perhaps we should try to write down the blessings of one day. We might begin: we could never end: there are not pens or paper enough in all the world. The attempt would remind us of our "vast treasure of content." (as quoted by James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful God, pp. 67-68)

So this week, how do I pay attention to the "widespread mercy" which is always so much greater, so much more abundant, so much more generously and extravagantly given than I am normally aware? Let's say that my awareness of God's goodness to me is normally like a sensation of being wet. On most of my days, it's not like I'm completely ignorant of it, but it's like I have a feeling of walking in a lightly sprinkling rain. I'm aware that it's there, but it's not really stopping me from going about any of my business.

But, when I stop to pay attention, I realize that although I thought that I was only walking in a lightly sprinkling rain, I'm really swimming in the middle of the ocean, flooded by God's good, undeserved gifts to me on every side. When I open my eyes to see it, I feel like I have to open my mouth (or in this case, I guess it's my fingers, since I'm typing) and do the best inadequate job that I can of saying "Thank You" to God.

Buttrick is right. Writing down the blessings of one day is a project that we can start, but can't finish.