The writer Anne Lamott writes that the two best prayers she knows are:
'Help me, help me, help me' and 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
I think those are the two best and most prayed prayers I know too. I pray them in some form almost every day. Thank you for this day, thank you for the sunshine, thank you for my children, thank you that I have someone who loves me. Help me to show up as I’m needed, help me to think before I speak, help me to be the mother that my children need today, help me to find yes, before I say no.
These are just examples of prayers that might and do roll of my tongue. I don’t know about you, but I have complicated feelings about this weekend – about Thanksgiving and they are more complicated this year. I don’t particularly want to celebrate the occupying of land by settlers who, in the end were pretty terrible, who are in many ways still being pretty terrible to the people who lived here first.
I don’t think many of us are interested in that at all anymore.
And as with all traditions, it has been built into something else as well – a time to come together with family – however you define it – to eat together – to gather and check in on each other – a time for kids to come home for the long weekend from school to see their parents – And of course, that is not what is happening this year at all.
We are not gathering.
We are still living in this pandemic time – in a time of huddling close to home and trying to keep each other safe and it’s all starting to wear a little thin and I don’t know about you, but for me, everything feels just a little bit heavy.
But if you would prefer you can also pay attention to two other observances today: October 11 is also National Coming out Day – a day to celebrate all those who have been able to feel safe enough to Come out – be honest with themselves the world about who they truly are. And that’s pretty beautiful. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Coming_Out_Day
And it’s also International Day of the Girl Child- a day that seeks to raise issues that are faced by your girls including access to nutritious food, education, forced marriage, legal and medical rights https://www.un.org/en/observances/girl-child-day .
Just, if you needed or wanted something else to focus on.
So, as I wrote this week in our St. Brigid’s newsletter, I have begun practicing gratitude. My default particularly recently is towards cynical and slightly grumpy and that is especially acute lately and I honestly don’t want to be that way. It doesn’t feel good in my body to be irritable much of the time – sorrow and anger feel heavy to carry around. There is a place for those feelings and a time for them, but not as a default, not daily.
So, gratitude. It’s begun to feel important to me to figure out what I can be grateful for. To figure out what can I offer that: “Thank you” prayer for? It’s begun to be really important for me to pay attention to where I see God in the world and in the people around me and to give thanks for that. This morning in his sermon The Rev. Jonathan Pinkney, told us about how researchers have actually proven that practicing gratitude changes our brain chemistry and helps us to be more resilient. That our God created in us with the ability to be transformed by this practice. Maybe this practice, like prayer, offers us a way to connect better to ourselves, our Maker and the world around us.
So, every day I find something, even something little that I can offer gratitude for: the sunrise was beautiful this morning. My dog was really happy to see me when I got home. My friend sent me a text message to say that she was thankful for me, and that felt really nice. Maybe you are way better at this practice than I am – maybe your default is to always find the good – I love that in people. I want to be more like that.
It feels to me that this practice of gratitude, particularly in a time when there is so much that is scary and different – where it feels like we are really conflicted about how we as a species want to be in the world – as we are still coming to terms or maybe still learning about how Canada treats people with non-white skin and about the work that we still have to do with reconciliation, that while we do that work, we might also need to find things for which we are grateful – we might also need to search for where God is at work and give thanks.
I think about the story that we hear in Deuteronomy which feels pretty applicable to us right now.
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you. Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. Do not say to yourself, "My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.
God, as they have always done, is leading us through this time. There is the possibility of a good place ahead- a place that is beautiful and bountiful – but we have some things to learn before we can get there.
I think we are maybe learning what we have been slave to, what has held us captive for too long and it is being laid bare for us now so that we cannot ignore it. And there is a terrible wilderness where we will need to be paying attention to the dangers that exist. Maybe that is where we are now. But that there is a way through and it is with God and there is much to be thankful for along the way – and we will need to give thanks and open our hearts to where God is along the journey.
And when we get to the other side, when we get to the beautiful land, this practice will continue to be important and we will need to remember the commandments that we have been given and remember how it felt to be here now, so that we do not repeat our actions.
So that we can live a new way.
This scripture is our story. It is the story of us with God – and how we continue to need God to teach us new ways, to bring us out of the places where we enslave ourselves and one another, to notice the places that we are being tested, where truth is being laid bare for us. And it is not for us to default to cynical or to be angry that we can’t have what we want. It is for us to notice the journey that we are on, to pay attention to where God is now and to where we are headed.
We can practice now how we want to be, so that when things get better – we don’t just go back to how we were. We can be a new way, in a new place, with new knowledge that lets us be better. And I think that for me, it starts with gratitude. Intentionally opening my heart to where God is already at work, helps me to anticipate what God is doing. Learning to live with an open heart helps me to be less angry/frustrated/scared about what I don’t have access to anymore.
I believe that we are on our way to a new land, a new way of being – where we will know too much for us to be able to easily go back and I think that will be good not just for some of us, but for many of us. And today I am grateful for the reminder that the book of Deuteronomy offers to us about what God is like. That God did make a promise to our ancestors and God makes us a promise to us now – that we will never be left alone – that we can be better and that we have everything we need to learn, to love and to live into a new way of being if we choose it and I submit that it starts for us with a practice of gratitude. And so we pray: Help me, help me, help us, so that we can say Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.