“Gratitude for It All” with Rev. Melanie Eyre

“Gratitutde for It All” ~ Rev. Melanie Eyre

Join us for our Sunday Gathering as as Rev. Melanie explores how Gratitude can lift your spirits and help you connect during challenging times.

Talk starts at 19:05 – Watch this talk on YouTube (high-speed available)
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A revised transcript of this week’s talk is provided below for the Deaf and hard of hearing.
Prayers, readings and songs from this week’s service are also included.

Community Circles Discussion GuideView & Download

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Opening Prayer

A Hindu Peace Prayer, from the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence

I desire neither earthly kingdom, nor even freedom from birth and death.
I desire only the deliverance from grief of all those afflicted by misery.
Oh Lord, lead us from the unreal to the real; from darkness to light; from death to immortality.
May there be peace in celestial regions.
May there be peace on earth.
May the waters be appeasing.
May herbs be wholesome and may trees and plants bring peace to all.
May all beneficent beings bring peace to us. May your wisdom spread peace all through the world.
May all things be a source of peace to all and to me.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti (Peace, peace, peace).

Community Prayer

A Prayer for healing, based upon a prayer by Teresa of Avila

May I be at peace. May my heart remain open. May I be aware of my true nature. May I be healed. May I be a source of healing to others.

May you be at peace. May your heart remain open. May you be aware of your true nature. May you be healed. May you be a source of healing to others.

May all be at peace. May all hearts be open. May all be aware of their true nature. May all be healed. May all be a source of healing to others.

 May all dwell in the breath of God.

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“Gratitude for It All” with Rev. Melanie Eyre

Nov 1, 2020

Welcome! Thanks for being here. Today we are beginning our series on gratitude.

So you may be wondering –  what is she thinking? Here we are, in the midst of noise and acrimony, 2 days before one of the most consequential and divisive elections in our history, and we’re supposed to be thinking about gratitude? Well, yes.

I think it’s a perfect time to consider how the energy of gratitude will help us as we navigate these waters. Gratitude is a way of seeing the world, a way of living, that will keep our hearts connected with the holy around us, and within us.

As Marcus Cicero taught “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” Gratitude leads us to places, to understandings, that nothing else does. It opens our hearts, our understanding, our awareness. It imbues our lives with joy and grace, and we could all use more of that.

How does a life lived in the energy of gratitude do all this? I think because it so profoundly reflects the truth that, even in the midst of difficulty and burden, we know the good remains, and we make the choice to see it. Not to ignore the rest of it, but to remain open to the entire picture.  Gratitude transforms us from victims to cocreators, to actors with a plan. Instead of leaving us clenched in fear or anger, it opens our hearts to healing, wonder, and hope.  

One of my resources in preparing this talk was Brother David Steindl-Rast’s excellent book, “Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer.” For those of you who are not familiar with the work of Brother David, I encourage you to read it, and go to his website, gratefulness.org.

Brother David is a Benedictine monk, born in 1926 in Vienna, Austria, where he experienced the horror of the Nazi Anschluss before emigrating to the U.S.

Brother David is the co-founder of the Center for Spiritual Studies and recipient of the 1975 Martin Buber Award for his achievements in building bridges between religious traditions. His June 2013 TED talk is entitled “Want to be happy? Be grateful” and I encourage you to watch it. He has written many books and currently serves a worldwide Network for Grateful Living, through the interactive website Gratefulness.org.

Brother David calls gratefulness “the spontaneous response of the human heart to the gratuitously given” and he teaches that all we have is gratuitously given.  He writes:

What counts on your path to fulfillment is that we remember the great truth that moments of surprise want to teach us: everything is gratuitous, everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is the measure of our gratefulness.”

Gratitude is not limited to being thankful for a gift you may just have received. It’s an attitude of the heart that enriches us with the willingness to see the good, sometimes even before the good appears.

In the four gospels there are 24 instances in which Jesus prays in public, and half of them are prayers of thanksgiving.  One example is the story of feeding the 4000 – Matthew 15:32. 

32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” 33 The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” 34 Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 38 Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39

What did Jesus do?  He completely ignored those around him who saw only the hunger and lack  in front of them; who knew for a fact that 7 loaves and a few fish would never feed all those hungry people.  He knew the greater fact, the higher truth, that God’s abundance surrounded them, and gave thanks knowing that it would appear and meet their needs. He approached this event knowing that the good was to come, and he expressed gratitude with that certainty in his heart. 

I don’t know about you, but so often in my life I have waited until I saw what was coming before I decided if I wanted to be grateful or not. I made it a deal, not a gift. I’ll wait and see what you deliver before I give you my gratitude. I reserved the right to be ungrateful unless what shows up meets my preconception of my greater good. 

How arrogant is that? I know what makes me happy in the moment, what avoids pain for me right then. But do I know what lessons a particular event will bring? I don’t. Many of us right now individually are going through very stressful and difficult times, our nation collectively is going through a stressful time, and we can’t see over the next horizon to know what will happen. But we express gratitude for the good because we know it is there, even if we don’t see it right in front of us.  

I remember the poem written during World War 2 by an unknown Jew in hiding from the Nazis in a cellar in Cologne, Germany. He, or she, wrote “I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining. And I believe in love, even when there’s no one there. And I believe in God, even when He is silent..” Imagine the fear and despair that soul in hiding must have felt, knowing it was more likely than not that the future held capture, privation and death. And yet, we see such beautiful affirmation of faith, determination, and hope. Gratitude affirms that this gift of creation is good, even if we humans have done so much to muck it up. The truth remains that it is good.

With gratitude, we exercise our power of choice – we see hope when we might just as well cave in to fear.  We know God is in all our moments, and we choose to act from that place.

In his book, The Science of Getting Rich, Wallace Wattles wrote that the soul is always grateful that lives in closer connection to God. He wrote that the mental attitude of thankfulness draws the mind into closer touch with the source from which our blessings come.

It is when we are in touch with that source, that unadulterated love, that our lives will transform.

It is gratitude that keeps us connected to the power of source.

As I thought about that, I remembered those moments when I felt most connected to Spirit, and I invite you to do the same. What state of your heart opened you to that connection? What energy was at work in you that made you, even for a moment, the open channel to the divine? What led you to that feeling of connection, wholeness, oneness, of balance?

For me, it is always the energy of gratitude. Not gratitude for a specific thing, but gratitude for being here, for every moment, for the healing that is to come.

For those who knew her, remember that Rev. Sydney often would close a prayer with gratitude for the healing to come. She knew that it would  – what wisdom.

These lessons come at such a useful time, as we look out at a scary and uncertain world. So much hatred, division, violence and threat of violence. In addition to a world increasingly more violent, we anticipate the events surrounding our upcoming election. Who knows what next week will bring?   Fear builds upon fear, upon fear.

It’s at times like this that I look around and I am so grateful for communities like One World – communities that exist in the belief that we are all one and our highest calling is to love. In the face of fear, despair, and desperate measures, we continue to speak of compassion, peace, a welcoming of differences, and the need to love.

Why do we do this? Many would call us just delusional, would accuse us of seeking to hide from events here at home or around the world, that we insulate ourselves by our focus on happy thinking. They say we’re just kidding ourselves, that we need to put down our organic tea, turn off the meditation music and wake up to the fact that the world is a hard, violent place.  Isn’t that ironic – we are on a path of awakening, but not to that. Instead, our path is to a truth that transcends all violence, all division, all man-made constructs of separation that keep us divided.

We know why we keep our focus on the truth that matters, and why we continue to speak of the eternal and living truths of love, forgiveness, and compassion. We know that conflict can never create peace. We cannot fear ourselves, hate ourselves, into a peaceful world.

Uncertain times like now are the times to remember these truths, and to have the courage to speak them. As Wayne Muller asks “will we be awake and alive? Will we be courageous in speaking what we know to be true?” These truths we know are not limited to times of convenience, times when we are feeling fine and unchallenged. Principles of love, peace, forgiveness are strong enough to see us through challenging times, fearful times, and indeed they are the only values that will. The universe is powered by love, which always overcomes fear. As A.J. Muste wrote – there is no way to peace. Peace is the way.

This is why I am so glad that we focus this month on gratitude, on the notion that the world is an abundant, wonderful place for which we should continually give thanks. It is – it still is, in the midst of violence and unrest. Those are challenges we face, for sure, but they do not diminish the truth we know. They only tell us our job is not done.

Does this mean we do nothing in the face of threat and violence? No – we protect ourselves and the values we cherish.  We pray and we work that the causes of division and hatred can be healed, that justice can prevail, that we may be reconciled. Sometimes when we read the news this looks like such a tall order, but we know it is possible. We know that hearts can change because each of us has seen it.

A sense of gratitude, for all of it, leads us into the place where our hearts begin to open, where we make the choice not to fear. We are grateful because we know that God is in it all, and therefore we have nothing to fear. It gives us the means to see the movement of Spirit, even the potential movement of Spirit, in all the circumstances of our lives.

A heart focused on gratitude is even more necessary in hard times, when life’s gifts may not be so apparent. I’m reminded of the story I’ve told you before, of the dark days of the Great Depression and a group of ministers challenged as to how to bring messages of hope in those times.

The year was 1929, and there were a group of ministers in New York who were working to create a Thanksgiving message in the midst of the Great Depression. They gathered to discuss how they should conduct their Thanksgiving Sunday services. Things were about as bad as they could get, with no sign of relief. The bread lines were depressingly long, the stock market had plummeted, and the term Great Depression seemed an apt description for the mood of the country. The ministers thought they should only lightly touch upon the subject of Thanksgiving in deference to the human misery all about them. After all, what was there was to be thankful for. But it was Dr. William L. Stiger, pastor of a large congregation in the city that rallied the group. This was not the time, he suggested, to give mere passing mention to Thanksgiving, just the opposite. This was the time for the nation to get matters in perspective and thank God for blessings always present, but perhaps suppressed due to intense hardship.

They were right. The most intense moments of thankfulness are not found in times of plenty, but when difficulties abound. Think of the Pilgrims that first Thanksgiving. Half their number dead, men, women and children without a country, but still there was thanksgiving to God. Their gratitude was not for things but in a greater possibility – a new freedom, a new home. It was that same sense of gratitude that lead Abraham Lincoln to formally establish the first Thanksgiving Day in the midst of national civil war, when the butcher’s list of casualties seemed to have no end and the very nation struggled for survival.

The world is a holy place – all of it. Too often we have been taught that the world is divided into the sacred and what many call the profane, or worldly. We have our regular times during the week, and then on a particular day at the appointed time we go to church, or temple, or synagogue, or mosque, and we participate in the holy. When we’re done, we’re strengthened for our jump back into the worldly, as we leave the building and leave the holy behind.

Not so. We don’t think that God is only in certain places at certain times. As Henri Nouwen said “”the spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it.”

There is no distinction between the sacred and the rest of life. This world, all of it, is a holy place. It is that awareness that moves us beyond theology, beyond theory, to practice, to real life and to awakening.

It’s not just a holy place when all is going well. It’s a more pleasant place, for sure. But it’s difficult times that call us to grow, that demand that we show up as who we deeply are. Those are gifts as well, perhaps greater gifts. Every day is a new opportunity, entirely unearned, to learn to love, to reach out, to find new dimensions to our connection with Spirit.

Malcolm Muggeridge writes,

“All happenings, great and small, are parables whereby God speaks. The art of life is to get the message.”

Gratitude opens us up to God’s message, in all events.

So what does that mean for us here? It means we continue to live life gratefully and joyfully, navigating the challenges with the help of spirit, our practices and each other.

So, we are headed into what is for many a challenging time. I invite you this week to consider, and start, a gratitude practice that speaks to you and use it this month. In the past we’ve used gratitude journals, where we pick one thing from each day we are grateful for, and write 5 sentences about it. This permits you to focus more deeply upon this one event, rather than finding 5 things and writing one sentence about each.

Take a gratitude walk – noticing on your walk the beauty around you.

Tell friends or loved ones you are grateful for them, whether they agree with you politically or not. If they don’t, and it makes you mad, list five things about them you are grateful for anyway. Don’t make that one thing the whole picture.

Find ways to discern and appreciate the good in your life, and give thanks for it. On our Wednesday calls, we can share what we’ve done, and what we’ve found.

 In her book The Places That Scare You, Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron writes “we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open … We always have this choice.”

It is a choice. We can choose fear, or we can decide to choose compassion, courage and love. These are the gifts of a life lived in the energy of gratitude, for all of it.

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Opening Song

“I Release” written by Ricki Byars Beckwith

Feature Song

“Send Us Rain” written by Nichole Nordeman

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This service aired on November 1, 2020.

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