Gratitude is the very heart of the spiritual life. Meister Eckhart once said “If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” Gratitude connects us both to God and His Creation. This morning I read a brief passage in Joan Chittister’s book, The Breath of the Soul, that does a nice job of making this same connection. She writes: “When we bow our heads in gratitude, we acknowledge that the works of God are good. We recognize that we cannot, of ourselves, save ourselves. We proclaim that our existence and all its goods come not from our own devices but are part of the works of God. Gratitude is the alleluia to existence, the praise that thunders through the universe as tribute to the ongoing presence of God with us even now.”
Whenever I am out photographing nature or just walking outdoors I find myself regularly saying the words “thank you.” My gratitude is typically generated by simple things—the sun on my face, the wind blowing through my hair, a bird singing nearby, a squirrel climbing a tree, a flower found in an unexpected spot, a cloud shaped like something familiar. Simple things like these make me smile and cause me to express thanks. So do the kindnesses shown me by others—a word of encouragement, a cheerful hello, a telephone call or text message, an invitation to a meal, a handshake or a hug, a gift or even a funny tale. Watching children play, listening to good music, and reading an interesting book are still yet other things that illicit words of gratitude from my heart and lips on a regular basis.
All of these things I see as blessings that ultimately flow to me from my heavenly Father. James 1:17 says “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” It certainly helps to live one’s life with the recognition that the good things that come our way are gifts of the Creator. There are, indeed, many benefits to remembering that God is the giver of all good gifts and saying “thank you” often. Chittister says, “Without doubt, unstinting gratitude saves us from the sense of self-sufficiency that leads to forgetfulness of God.” I encourage you to pay attention to the many gifts God is providing you each and every day. Not just the big ones, all of them. Practice gratitude on an ongoing basis and notice how the giving of thanks only leads to the recognition of even more blessings and the goodness of God. Make gratitude the “alleluia to existence” and “the praise that thunders through the universe.” I promise you it will make a difference, all the difference in the world!
(I took the top image at Big Spring in Ozarks National Scenic Riverways, the middle image is my great niece Braelyn, and the squirrel at the bottom I photographed here in Henderson, KY.)