Faith Works 11-21-09
Or On the Other Hand, Maybe Not
If I were to hazard a guess that there were some readers of the Advocate today who weren't feeling too terribly thankful, it wouldn't be going out on too shaky a limb.
Given the state of the national, regional, and local economy, the odds that there are some people turning pages (actual or virtual) who are looking more for the Help Wanted pages than sprightly opinion & comment are pretty good, almost a certainty.
The parson's usual dodge, said the parson, is to suggest that everyone, no matter if they've lost their job, even if they're short cash or feeling the sting of already-burned-through credit coming due, should still feel thankful for something . . . or other.
You still have your health, even if no health insurance, says the optimist; you have the breath of life itself, says the faithful believer, which is a gift; the pragmatist points out that you aren't in jail. (Except for all our faithful jail readers – hey there, folks, hang in there!)
Thankfulness is technically something you can feel no matter what your circumstances, unless you're a corpse or at least catatonic. Medical science declares that feelings of thankfulness lowers blood pressure, supports your immune system, and promotes general well being.
Does that include forced or insincere thankfulness? Or is it one of those categories of thought and action where if you believe something, you'll start to live so much as if it's true that it will effectively become true. You can't think yourself tall, but thinking self-confidently can start to straighten your spine enough to actually add both height and the impression of height.
There's anecdotal evidence enough that if you decide to speak and act and claim to be thankful, thankfulness for yet another day, for a few basics, and for the promise of maybe something more at some possible point later, you really do end up feeling thankful right down to your ungrateful appendix.
"Give thanks, with a grateful heart" says the well-known praise song, and it's a piece of wise counsel, but what about just giving thanks, and asking for a grateful heart to warm up inside you as a result? Sometimes, you just don't feel thankful for anything, including, not just starting with, the fact of having woken up that morning. You may even be particularly displeased about that. You know you shouldn't, but it's been that kind of week, OK? (You think, grumpily.)
Which may be so, but can you concede that there is a reason, any reason at all in your life, to offer thanks: to God, to your higher power, to something or Someone beyond your own abilities and actions?
And then could you be open to feel it, to feel the effects of that decision to present a thankful attitude in the general direction of the cosmos? It would be a start.
Most areas around the county have a community Thanksgiving service, usually on Sunday night, since so many travel on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. Granville & Hebron churches band together for a 7:00 pm service, while Utica, always a step ahead, has one at 6:30 pm Sunday night, and there are no doubt others.
If you're feeling particularly un-thankful this year, my heart and sympathies are with you. There are some real challenges out there, and I wouldn't want to even hint that they are anything other than demoralizing for anyone feeling alone and pushed aside.
What I'd also like to offer is to come join one of the community Thanksgiving worship services, since there's probably one very near you, and since they include multiple congregations, it's a great time to drop in and not feel like the only stranger in the building.
And for that hour of music and singing and prayer, take a shot at being thankful, even if only for very little. It might just grow.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him what you're thankful for at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.