Daily Advent Devotional: Day 20 – Fri, Dec 18

Gratitude is the birthplace of joy. Or vice versa.
            Appreciation and perspective enable you to embrace whatever comes. To find resilience in hard times. To opt for creative responses to challenging circumstances. To be curious rather than angry. It cultivates compassion and connection. Gratitude permits your starting point to be one of acceptance and adaptation, of positive thinking and an attitude of hope and empowerment. You can find beauty and satisfaction even in the midst of thorny times.
            With gratitude, you cherish what is already within reach. And value whatever gifts and experiences come to fruition. You may respect your history, savor the present moment, and believe in the potential of your future. All while experiencing keen awareness of now.
Rev Gail

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. —Psalm 92:4

The root of joy is gratefulness … It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful. ― Brother David Steindl-Rast

Joy is the simplest form of gratitude. — Karl Barth

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We’re here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right. — Anne Lamott

Mon, Nov 30 Gratitude Reflection

As the month draws to a close, appreciate endings. Completions. What has come full circle, and is now finished? What does it offer to you?

         Our lives, our calendars, our cultures are filled with origin stories and also tales about how the world will end, or what comes next, when life ends. Our faith also gives us a guide as to what comes next. For instance, death is not the final state of being: life beyond death is promised to us. And yet, one form of ending is mortal death.

         Yet we have many other milestones that represent conclusion. Graduations. Retirements. Anniversaries. We create rituals around the completion of certain experiences, such as childhood, education, and work. They celebrate the past, examine history, and then name the end of this stage of life. They clear the path for what comes next.

         Endings may look like punctuation marks. Periods. Question marks. Colons that promise there’s more to come.

         We have traditions for saying goodbye. For letting go. For releasing. For mourning. For acknowledging many kinds of endings.

         Today, give thanks for endings. — Rev Gail

I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. — John 17:4

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. — Philippians 1:6

But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace. — Acts 20:24

And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something—now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. — 2 Corinthians 8:10-12

We should say in all joyfulness and cheerfulness as we retire to our beds, “I have lived; I have completed now the course that fortune long ago allotted me.” — Virgil

It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself. The freedom to lead and plan your own life is frightening if you have never faced it before. ― Betty Friedan

Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.
Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He remains as calm at the end
as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He simply reminds people
of who they have always been.
He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.
Lao Tzu

Sun, Nov 29 Gratitude Reflection

Today give thanks for promises and covenants. What contracts and agreements define your life? What vows and oaths have you taken? What promises have you made and kept? Which have you broken?

         With whom did you make such agreements, such as a marriage vow, or the choice to adopt someone? Did you make a commitment to an institution, such as serving in the military, or in another role that similarly includes an oath of service?

What symbols in your life represent these promises? Rings? Medals? Certificates? Badges? Flags or banners? Uniforms?

         Who, then, has made promises and commitments to you? What oaths and pledges have been maintained or broken by others?

         Give thanks for promises and covenants. — Rev Gail

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. — Matthew 26:26-28

Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them. But you keep the promise anyway. That’s what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway. John Green

I feel keeping a promise to yourself is a direct reflection of the love you have for yourself. I used to make promises to myself and find them easy to break. Today, I love myself enough to not only make a promise to myself, but I love myself enough to keep that promise. Steve Maraboli

Some things you don’t have to promise. You just do.
 
Rick Yancey

Sat, Nov 28 Gratitude Reflection

Pay attention to darkness. What are the gifts that darkness brings to you?

Shade provides respite from glaring light or extreme heat. Night permits sleep and rejuvenation. Shadows reveal depth.

Darkness is, in some ways, the absence of light and color. In other ways, it is the blending of many hues to create a deeper, richer palette. Darkness may be identified as the fecundity of the womb and the slow nurturing of the dormant earth in winter. Darkness is the home of starlight, the natural element through which all light moves.

What form of darkness feels significant today? The cozy dark of a beloved corner where you can tuck up and retreat? The vaulting depths of a night sky? The eternal emptiness of the unlit ocean? The secret darkness of a hiding place where a treasure might await you?

In our faith tradition, darkness is that fertile state of being, across with the Spirit moved, originating the creative dynamics that resulted in genesis. Life sprang out of darkness.

Give thanks for darkness. . — Rev Gail

He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what is in the darkness,
    and light dwells with him. —    Daniel 2:22

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
— Mary Oliver

You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.
— Rumi

Fri, Nov 27 Gratitude Reflection

Give thanks for laughter.

What makes you smile today? What tickles your sense of humor?

         Laughter alleviates stress. Laughter expresses joy. Humor helps humans cope with the most challenging of circumstances. Laughter floods the body with good chemistry; it promotes healing and resilience.

         Give thanks for what amuses, delights, or surprises you. Cherish a smile someone else shares with you, that invites you to smile back. Or the laugh that springs up from deep inside you when something strikes you in a whimsical way.

 Take time to read the funny anecdote, look at the silly photo, or watch the slapstick video shared with you by friends. Give time and space to encourage laughter. Appreciate that people share such gifts with you.

As we’ve studied as a faith community, humor is holy. Laughter is a gift: a capacity that is part of how humans are designed. When you laugh, you send joy reverberating up to heaven. — Rev Gail

Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” —Genesis 21:6

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy. — Job 8:21

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

For me, every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile. — Elie Wiesel

We need laughter in our lives. Laughter is carbonated holiness. — Anne Lamott

Humor is a prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer. — Reinhold Niebuhr

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