Ponderings – November 2023

Ponderings! A message from Rev Gloria

Let’s think back on our childhood … Most of us do not remember being taught to say “thank you” to other people for nice things they do or say to us. It is part of our past that obviously happened but we do not remember the experience any more than learning to use a spoon, learning to walk, or talk. Many adults with children do remember teaching them to say “thank you” to others or having other adults remind their children to say “thank you” to us for things we said or did.

If you have been in church for a while you may not remember that attending worship or providing service to others is an act of gratitude to God for what we have received or the people in our life or even life itself. We may not even think about it anymore and find ourselves just going through the actions without allowing ourselves to feel the emotions of gratitude or think of being grateful.
Expressing gratitude and thanksgiving to God through prayers, hymns, responses, and offerings has transcended Judaic-Christian thinking since the origination of the Hebrew relationship with Yahweh. Its importance has been emphasized beyond the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Bible through the writings of leading theologians. Augustine of Hippo in the 5th century, Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, Martin Luther and John Calvin in the 16th century formulated the foundation of Christian ethics with gratitude as an essential element.

As we enter the months of November and December, the focus on gratitude and thankfulness is front and center. Secularly, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving and the Church celebrates the nativity and our gratefulness for Jesus’ birth and beginning of our relationship with him as our Savior. So, I thought that focusing on gratitude and its benefits for each of us would be a great topic to ponder in the November and December Pilgrim.

Traditionally, most of us think of gratitude as being thankful to God or someone else. Yet, an experience producing gratitude repeated consistently becomes a foundation for our developed morals and attitudes. “In their analysis of gratitude, McCullough, Kilpatrick, Emmons, and Larson (2001) conceptualize gratitude as having three morally relevant functions, that of a moral barometer, a moral motivator and a moral reinforcer.”

Moral Barometer: We are able to evaluate another person’s treatment of them and if it is positive and helpful.
Moral Motivator: We are encouraged to behave in a way that is life affirming toward other people.

Moral Motive: We are encouraged to offer thanksgiving to other people who act positively and life affirming toward us.

Gratitude also benefits our life in numerous ways other than the obvious of improving our relationship with God and being polite to others. Yet, before we think about the benefits we need to become consciously aware of how much we think about the moments of gratitude that occur each day. I do not mean to simply think how grateful we are for a specific person in our life but for specific acts or words that they share with us or for our benefit. Illustrating this … Instead of saying we are grateful for our spouse or our children, we need to think about some specific behavior or words from our spouse or children that we are grateful for on a specific day and at a specific time. “I am grateful for my spouse for preparing a wonderful and healthy meal tonight that I enjoyed at the end of the day.”

So, to consciously bring gratitude to our thoughts, I have provided a simple chart that you can complete each day. This chart asks you to complete just one thought a day as a beginning point but hopefully you will start to accumulate more thoughts of gratitude as you continue with the exercise. <You can find this chart on the Newsletters tab in the November Newsletter on page 9.>

Next month, I will share with you the multitude of benefits that researchers have discovered by having a conscious awareness and daily practice of gratitude.

Blessings, Rev. Gloria