by Audrey Novak Riley
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)
How many of us remember our mothers nudging us to say “Thank you” at the dinner table or reminding us to write thank you notes for our birthday presents?
We probably thought our mothers were pushing us toward good manners (and we likely thought that was as old-fashioned as the rule about white shoes before Memorial Day), but our mothers were wiser than we knew. As usual.
It’s easy in this too-busy, too-crowded, too-expensive, too-demanding world we live in to fall into a habit of crabbiness. That other driver is in our way, that kid holds her fork wrong, the checkout clerk is way too slow, that neighbor planted the wrong flowers for our climate. Crab, crab, crab.
But what if we made a conscious choice to practice being grateful as our mothers kept reminding us? That other driver is being careful, thank God. That kid is bright and cheerful, thank God. The checkout clerk chats with her customers like human beings, thank God. That neighbor always waves and says hello, thank God.
Practicing gratitude is powerful. If we make a point of it for a while, before long—as our mothers hoped—it becomes a healthy habit, a habit that has benefits far beyond good manners. Being grateful leads to being kind. Being grateful leads to being loving. Being grateful leads to being forgiving. Being grateful leads to being joyful. Being grateful means being aware of all the blessings that are pouring out around us all the time—and that leads to our drawing closer in loving gratitude to the Source of all those blessings.
Here’s a spiritual practice we can all try this month. Every day of August let’s each one of us write down three things we’re grateful for. They can be big or little. And at the end of August, let’s see if practicing gratitude regularly has made a difference for us. If you’d like to read another reflection on gratitude, check out “An attitude of gratitude,” by Lisa Plorin.
Here’s my list for today:
- I’m grateful for coffee. Thanks, whoever discovered coffee.
- I’m grateful for my mother, who was right more often than I realized, and the older I get, the more I realize it. Thanks, Mom. You were right. As usual.
- I’m grateful for all the women who care so much about our community of women. I’m grateful for you. Yes, you. Thank you for being you.
This devotion was written by Audrey Riley, a former Women of the ELCA staff member. A version of this devotion was first published in June 2015.
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