This year my husband Tom and I are celebrating Thanksgiving twice. At the beginning of October we had the privilege of sharing Canadian Thanksgiving with friends in British Columbia. We loved not just the enjoyment of rich food and fellowship but also the times of reflecting on the many blessings in our lives. We came home with a warm glow.
I felt disappointed that American Thanksgiving was still several weeks away, but I am looking forward to that too. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite celebrations. It was not one we observed in Australia and I feel I have to celebrate it twice each year in order to catch up.
I usually make the week of Thanksgiving my gratitude week, but I so enjoyed Canadian Thanksgiving that I thought: Why not make October and November into a season of gratitude? I highly recommend it as a practice not just for your personal spiritual disciplines but for your congregation too.
Start with prayer
As I sat with my eyes closed, savoring the presence of God and the many blessings in my life, Psalm 23: 5-6 came to my mind: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
My cup does indeed overflow I thought – what a great theme for this season of gratitude
Create a focus
Next I realized that I need a focus to remind me of my blessings. Establishing any new habit is much easier when we have something to prod our memories.
I am a garden person and so it is not surprising that my focus is a garden – a small indoor garden that I am calling my gratitude garden.
I made a trip to Goodwill and purchased a frame that I thought would be perfect for this exercise. Its a fruit tree with a banana hook. Then I rummaged through my unused plant pots until I found one that fitted it perfectly. Next I chose a tea cup to hang from the hook. I planted the pot with succulents and filled the teacup with trailing plants that overflowed onto the main garden.
Last but not least I painted rocks with the words “gratitude” and “my cup overflows”. Painting rocks has become a regular spiritual discipline for me, a contemplative activity in itself but also one that provides an important visual focus for my devotional times.
Establish a practice
My garden now sits on my desk where I conduct my devotions each morning, a wonderful reminder to reflect on all the blessings in my life.
This has been an enriching and strengthening exercise for me. It was fun, it made me slow down and think about what is important at this season and each step of the process brought to mind another rich array of blessings I had to be grateful for.
As we approach the Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas seasons it is good for all of us to establish practices that encourage us to slow down, to reflect, to attune ourselves to God and to take notice of the abundant blessings in our lives.
What are ways that you could invite your congregation to slow down and notice the blessings of God in their lives at this season? How could you help them find a focus and what practices could you encourage them to establish?
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