News for October 2018

Dear Friends,

With our Harvest celebrations on the first Sunday of October, this month seems a good time to reflect on what it means to live our lives thankfully.

A Grace written by George Herbert goes like this:

‘Lord, you have given us so much.
Grant one thing more – a grateful heart’.

Meister Eckhart wrote: “If the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘Thank you’, that would suffice”. Many of us would perhaps want to question that idea, feeling that there is more to prayer than just thanksgiving, but it does remind us of the importance of gratitude.

In August there was a very interesting extract in the ‘Church Times’ from ‘Sustaining Leadership’, a book by Paul Swann. He argues that gratitude is ‘good food for the soul’, drawing on research into happiness which found that participants who wrote three letters of gratitude over a three-week period showed signs of increased happiness and decreased symptoms of depression.

‘Give thanks with a grateful heart’, we sing in one of our hymns, but we so easily forget to live our lives thankfully. That is nothing new, of course! Think of the story of the ten lepers in
Luke ch.17 v.17. Only one of those who were healed remembered to go back and say thank you.

We live in a society where we hear a great deal of talk about people’s rights. The danger with that is we can too easily forget that all we have is given to us by God. We lose sight of the Giver.

During very tough times in our lives, it can be enormously difficult to feel thankful. We are only human! Yet even on the darkest of days, if one looks back, there can be small things for which one can feel grateful – a phone call, a listening ear, a supportive hug, some good news – glimpses of light and hope.

Insights from the world of psychology reveal that whilst we tend to naturally and easily recall difficult experiences, we have to be more ‘intentional’ when it comes to thanksgiving. Apparently we only remember positive experiences when we deliberately reflect on them for 15 seconds or more.    

There is great wisdom in what is known as the ‘Prayer of Examen’, developed by Ignatius of Loyola – a way of prayer I find very helpful to end the day. Doing the Examen, you take time to reflect prayerfully on your day noticing how and where you have discerned God’s presence or guidance. It is an opportunity to review the day with gratitude – focussing on two key questions:

For what moment today am I most grateful?
(reflect on the gifts of the day)

For what today am I least grateful
(what has been difficult?).

I invite you to focus on gratitude during October – starting, of course, with harvest. Maybe, you could try using the Prayer of Examen; or you may just like to keep a journal of the things you are grateful for each day; or perhaps on your own, with your partner/spouse, or around the table at your evening meal as a family, you could share with each other three things from that day for which you are grateful.

Could we be showing more gratitude to those around us? At home with our loved ones; with our colleagues at work; to one another at church? Saying thank you costs nothing, but can mean so much to people. Let’s make October a month for gratitude.

Every blessing,

Joan