Attitude of Gratitude

Rev. Don Beaudreault
First Parish Brewster UU
November 22, 2015

Opening Words: “Two Ways to Live”

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
Albert Einstein

Meditation: “Be Thankful”

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.

A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.

Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.

Author Unknown

Sermon: “Attitude of Gratitude”

Walt Whitman spoke of receiving “letters from God”

I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then…

In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass.

Now here was a man who had an attitude of gratitude – a sense that each moment, each person was reflective of the divine!

I apply the term “theology of the moment” to this gratitude attitude.

At this thanksgiving time, I believe all this is good advice, because it calls us to do something we so often forget: to appreciate each present moment.

Historically, our Unitarian Universalist movement has consistently spoken of our human potential by living each moment as a gift that calls us to a more profound sense of who we are and can grow to be.

Sogyal Rinpoche put it this way:

The cells of our body are dying, the neurons in our brain are decaying, even the expressions on our face are always changing, depending on our mood. What we call our basic character is only a “mindstream,” nothing more. Today we feel good because things are going well; tomorrow we feel the opposite. Where did that good feeling go?

What could be more unpredictable than our thoughts and emotions? Do you have any idea what you are going to think or feel next? The mind, in fact, is as empty, as impermanent, and as transient as a dream. Look at a thought: it comes, it stays, and it goes. The past is past, the future not yet risen, and even the present thought, as we experience it, becomes the past.

Still, we cannot escape our past or our future. The point is this: they should not control us. To use them constructively can enrich our existences of the moment.

In her book The Art of the Moment: Simple Ways to Get the Most from Life, Veronique Vienne lists some ways in which we can gain this appreciation. They include these suggestions:

Don’t wait for a second chance to get it right.
Fold your napkin carefully at the end of a great gourmet meal.
Have serious conversations with seven–year–olds.
Forget to mention that you were right in the first place.
Reframe family pictures.
Always have a kind word for people with old dogs.
Look at the world as if you were a cat.
Welcome unexpected interruptions:
They are often the prologue to happy accidents.
Think in the shower.
Find a little more time to be with friends.
Make the most of everything, one moment at a time.

These are opportunities that are predicated on human intention: that is, we set up a plan to improve our momentary awareness and hopefully, gained insight.

I would include an addendum to Ms. Vienne’s list. Indeed, “look at the world as if you were a cat” if you want to, but you also might do this from the perspective of a person you do not particularly like. It seems that some psychological pundits believe that what we do not like about someone else, is what we really do not like about our self.

The point is that these and other such moments of insight that are intentionally undertaken can be invaluable in knowing where our particular truth is.

There are other such truth-givers that happen to us in less organized ways; in fact, in quite unintentional ways.

Reflect for a moment on your own life – when you had something occur that snapped you out of your ordinary moment – and gave you incredible insight; that changed your life for an instant – or for all time.

For example: Why was that person there when you needed him/her? Why did you know the very moment you met this individual that this would be your mate, your friend, your heart throb, your comrade in arms? Conversely, why was that person there when you did not want her/him to be there? Why did you know the very moment you met this individual that this would be your bane of existence, your nemesis, your enemy, your personal spawn of Satan?

And what was it that brought everything together for you in one break-through moment of awareness? What was that feeling you had that made you tingle upon discovering the truth of a long-sought personal riddle? What was it that caused you to feel one with the universe – that moment of pure ecstasy telling you that all was right with the world? What was that great elation that swept you out of your pedestrian perspective of the world when you performed an act of kindness toward another living creature?

These are examples of “theology of the moment” that go beyond a defined, entrenched theology articulated from this scholar or that; that speak of our openness toward being more than we think or feel we are; that state the tenuousness and mystery of human existence; that urges us to wonder and rejoice, to ask “why” and to seek answers to the very imponderable reality that we are alive in the first place!

Have you not had moments like this?

They need not be explained; they need not to be categorized; they need not be uttered.

But they are there – and we can create more of them, if we but answer the knock-knock on the door and let our undiscovered self in, moment by extraordinary moment.

Let me close with words from James Gordon Gilkey

Most of us think ourselves as standing wearily and helplessly at the center of a circle bristling with tasks, burdens, problems, annoyance, and responsibilities which are rushing in upon us. At every moment we have a dozen different things to do, a dozen problems to solve, a dozen strains to endure. We see ourselves as overdriven, overburdened, over-tired. This is a common mental picture and it is totally false. No one of us, however crowded his life, has such an existence. What is the true picture of your life? Imagine that there is an hourglass on your desk. Connecting the bowl at the top with the bowl at the bottom is a tube so thin that only one grain of sand can pass through it at a time. That is the true picture of your life, even on a super busy day. The crowded hours come to you always one moment at a time. That is the only way they can come. The day may bring many tasks, many problems, strains, but invariably they come in single file. You want to gain emotional poise? Remember the hourglass, the grains of sand dropping one by one.

So, my friends, may your Thanksgivings be a time to dedicate yourself to creating an attitude of gratitude, moment by moment, throughout your lives – and in doing this may you discover more fully your spiritual essence.

Closing Words: “Gratitude should not be…”

Gratitude should not be just a reaction to getting what you want, but an all-the-time gratitude, the kind where you notice the little things and where you constantly look for the good, even in unpleasant situations. Start bringing gratitude to your experiences, instead of waiting for a positive experience in order to feel grateful.
Marelisa Fábrega