Being taught common courtesies is one of my most cherished gifts given to me by my parents. In a self-absorbed world that demands immediate satisfaction, it is more critical than ever to be able to acknowledge others with a “please” or “thank you”, and  “I’m fine, and how are you?”  Now, lots of people write little things about saying “thank you” but the spiritual truth (as always) is to go beyond the words. Resting in a spirit of thanksgiving not only renews but sustains.  However, it requires practice to learn the difference between self-congratulatory gratitude and sincere, grace-filled thanksgiving.

I try to stay optimistic about most things, finding that I am more productive when I am in that space versus the alternative– not naively blissful but positively focused.  When I ride the train in the morning, I let my mind think of the many things I am truly grateful for, and the real blessing is that it is never a challenge to find things to be grateful for.  I am talking about really letting our spirits rest in these places of grace-filled thanksgiving, which is life giving.  Merely plucking happy things to think about doesn’t ultimately lead us anywhere substantive and is really just a distraction.  That is why one the best places to find and bring thanksgiving is in the Eucharist! This wonderful moment where the Spirit of God meets us so joyfully, in part because we come to it (hopefully) fully surrendered.  We are pulled into such an immense gratitude over such an unearned grace, so that all we can do, as Richard Rohr says is, “kneel in gratitude and then stand in confidence.”  Even if our faith tradition doesn’t offer the physical Eucharist, we can find this same sense of deep and power communion with God when we seek a true spirit of thanksgiving and hold ourselves there long enough to receive that same unearned grace and love to share with others.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Dualism of Service

Contrary to what some teach, few things in spirituality are actually dualistic in nature. Put another way, it is rarely as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. However, in some ways the act of service falls into that unique category. We can only either be in service to God or ourselves—service to God’s plan and will or our own intentions, egos and desires. We distance ourselves from this attitude of service to others when we try to take control of the situation. Service is, after all, about surrender and surrendering is how we come closer to Holy. This is why service was such an important focus of Jesus’ ministry and teaching. When we try to control the act of service we run the risk of transforming our service into power to hold over others, as Pope Francis recently stated, “acting like masters rather than servants”. I have found that the lasting damage of this kind of controlled servant-hood leads to pride and arrogance instead of allowing us and others to experience the real and transformative love of God found though surrendered servant-hood.

Prayer: May I surrender to service, joyfully.