We three Interfaith Amigos have been working together since 9/11 to encourage deeper dialogue among religions in the service of more effective collaboration on the significant social and environmental issues facing us all. We strive on a regular basis to speak to the needs of the moment, and it's time now for gratitude. We are entering the season of Thanksgiving.
Pastor Don Mackenzie:
Several years ago I found myself saying that when we live our lives framed by an awareness of our blessings, we can find the resources to cope with our curses, with our difficulties. But when we live our lives framed by an awareness of our difficulties, we cannot get access to our blessings.
When we are not feeling grateful, we are more inclined toward resentment. And resentment is what happens when life contains too much suffering and sadness, when things don't go the way we had planned, when our dreams seem fragile. When that happens, we must find our way back to gratitude.
It takes practice to keep in touch with our blessings, practice through prayers, meditation and other forms of centering. What the practice gives us, in time, is a way to open our hearts, a way to get beyond the ordinary boundaries of our egos to a place where we can, in an awareness of blessings, be lifted above the difficulties that might otherwise frame our lives.
I think Jesus' practices made it possible for him to lead a life framed by his blessings, but even he lost touch with them and found he needed the resources to call himself back to an open heart.
Imam Jamal Rahman:
The Quran says: "Whatever is in the heavens and on earth extols the limitless glory of God" (62:1). The Prophet Muhammad noted that a bird, after sipping water, tilts its head not only for water to flow downward but also for praise and thanks to flow heavenward!
When we join this cosmic chorus of gratitude, we bond with our Creator. We experience hope and grace.
What if the connection to God is severed? I have sat with people who felt so brutalized by life and betrayed by God that they asked me not to mention "God" in the healing sessions. I have wondered about the mystery of bad things happening to good people.
But far more mysterious to me is the astonishing phenomenon that these survivors, in the course of healing and empowerment, of their own accord, little by little, brought God into their lives. Remarkably, they developed faith, hope and gratitude. It reminds me of the story about a penniless Bedouin who was asked if he was grateful to God. Replied the simple man, "You mean the God who has sent me poverty, afflictions, and has made me naked and made me wander from country to country?" But as he spoke, he entered into a state of ecstasy.
I have taken to heart a practice of the Prophet. In good times, he said, "Praise be to God, whose Grace brings all goodness to perfection." In difficult times, he said, "Praise be to God under all conditions."
Rabbi Ted Falcon:
Judaism teaches that even before getting out of bed in the morning, one is to speak words of gratitude.
I thank You, Living and Eternal Being, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me. Your Faithfulness is great.
I am grateful to be here now.
How different this is from our usual tendency to begin our day by reflecting on how we feel, how we slept, how late we are and the demands the day will bring. And when we look to the world, how are we to be grateful with the daily ravages of war and violence, the radical polarization, and the hundreds of thousands of our own citizens struggling through freezing temperatures after losing their homes to Sandy's powerful winds and water?
Jewish tradition urges us to begin with thanksgiving, and bring that to the world.
It was Meister Eckhart, the great Christian mystic, who said, "If the only prayer you say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough." The gratitude we bring to the world has the power to transform that world. When gratitude begins within ourselves, it is a truly powerful spiritual path.
Try using the words "thank you" when you rise and when you go to sleep. Repeat them silently and gently as a focus for meditation. Greet each perception, each sensation, each thought and each feeling with "Thank you." It's a Thanksgiving Day mantra for every day.