Sunday, November 14, 2010

Quakers and Gratitude

Life is hard. Gratitude eases that burden. It knows no limits and broadens life from the inside out. Being grateful is an important spiritual practice for me, and one that seems to take Friends by surprise at times I notice. However, I’ve learned I need to see beyond myself through noticing life’s joys and blessings and even by seeing the beautiful in the ugly if need be. It is God in our midst.

A big part of being Quaker to me, is the freedom to express myself as led- what the Light in my heart is illuminating. I find cause to give thanks in that alone. At times, I feel Friends have good news and a great opportunity to speak it. I have been gifted so much, and chances are that you have too, if you are sitting at your computer reading this today. Even in the stillness and silence practice of Friends we are free to contemplate, seek guidance, give thanks, and yes, even praise! That is a treasure in our fast paced world of today.

So often I notice we as Friends focus on the entire ill in the world, and we should unite in the cause of overcoming much ill with good. But in wishing to remake the world, it seems we can get very serious and not lift our heads up from these injustices. I think experiencing that ‘inner nudge’ toward doing good in the world is one of the most important of the avenues of religious experience, keeping in mind that one does not dwell on good works for personal gain. However, I think daily gratitude is some thing that helps to see and recognize the God within and working in our daily lives. Expressing that, for me, lifts my soul and becomes contagious when I experience others who do the same. Perhaps it is a balance. It need not be all about feeling which is fluid, but a natural symptom of the devotion of the heart.

Obviously, we are not all the same. We ought to be part of the world and give back to God for it. We should strive for peace and betterment today. But somewhere in the mix of it all, it feeds me when the Light illuminates sparks of joy- surprises and the grace of God daily. This daily love affair with God, naturally then gives cause to see the sacred in each ordinary day. The truth is, I am looking quite earnestly amongst Quakers for gratitude and joy sparks. I think there is room to proclaim our thankfulness. Our roots are Christian and I am finding many stand firmly in those roots still, and their spirituality grows strong, but all of us are able to practice offering thanks. Every little glimmer of Light changes me and I believe for those around me. This daily giving thanks and expressing gratitude in meeting also seems logical and appropriate. Gratitude makes sense of our past and connects it to today. It brings more peace for today and creates more hope for tomorrow. To me, that sounds very Friendly. So, I continue my gratitude search and my own practice of journaling them, and on the darkest of days, God makes my heart glad.

George Fox quoted this verse in one of his journals: “Thou hast put gladness in my heart.” Psalm 4:7. He continued on to write: “Praise, honor, and glory be to the Lord of heaven and earth! Lord of peace, Lord of joy! Thy countenance maketh my heart glad. Lord of glory, Lord of mercy, Lord of strength, Lord of life, and of power over death, and Lord of lords, the King of kings!”

I think George had his head on straight when it came to praise, which is so often a lost art today. I want to diligently remember who to give it to. Every month of the year lends itself to continuing the count. So, I have scribbled in my journal and given thanks for so many things lately. Won’t you consider joining me? Here are a few from my page this past week...

Brilliant leaves
Two dogs in my window
Find my childhood bible again
My treasure box of love
Holding hands watching movies
Tired Husband reading scripture
Giddy girls anticipating possible new life here with their bunnies
A warm kitchen and help in it
Homegrown music on the harp and guitar
The stately pines out my bedroom window
My Grandmother who just turned 93
Old wooden benches and floorboards
The renewing gift of silence
Every new morning


Ganeida said...

I always think of the 10 lepers; only one returned to give thanks. I think it grieves the Father's heart when we forget to be grateful for life's mercies. I try & make a practice of gratitude too. I think it's important.

Stacy said...

Jan Lyn, thank you for these words! Gratitude is such a lovely, lovely practice. I think it is one of the most important roots of a Spirit-filled life—it's not about being Pollyanna-ish but about being aware of the blessings God has given us, maybe even hunting for them, because we know they're there.

My Dad planned for years to be a missionary but then ended up with some health problems that made it impossible for him to go to the mission field. He was bitter for many years because he was so sure he had been following God's will. At some point he realized that by being bitter he was ignoring God's continuing providence. Practicing gratitude really changed him from an angry man to a more loving, tolerant, Godly man (as he would be the first to say). I almost wonder if not being grateful is a form of denial/untruthfulness—gratitude restores a kind of right relationship with God.

This doesn't mean that I am always grateful...

Jan Lyn said...

I think it's important as well, Ganeida and suppose this piece is my own little query in a way as I almost get the feeling in some circles that Friends think it is not a common practice amongst them.....

Thanks so much for sharing your family's story, Stacy. I can sympathize with your father on that one as we had a few losses all at once here about 5 years ago and it invovled loosing what my husband and I felt was our ministry for years as well. We had thought we had discerned several other events properly and God had other plans. I'm not always grateful as well and need to give myself my own reminders.....but I began this practice which I learned at a young age from a friend who died. I dredged it back up several years back, when God let me know I needed it badly in my life.

So glad our paths have crossed.

Heather said...

I needed this, Jan Lyn. I've watched several upsetting documentaries recently - I was losing sight of the good in the world, and what we can do to spread it...

Renee said...

Beautiful and thoughtful post, Jan Lyn. The Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances...not for circumstances but IN them...God knows it heals our heart and brings us joy to be grateful. His advice is always trustworthy :) Your thoughts have gently nudged me to get back to my gratitude journaling...bless you and Happy Thanksgiving. So good to read your inspirational posts again. Hope this finds you all doing well?

Julia said...

Thank you for your thoughts Jan Lyn. It always fills my heart with a calm, still joy to read your writings.

I think gratitude is a lost art in society today, unfortunately, when we are constantly spurred to strive for perfection in every part of our life. Never be content, always compare, always compete. Gratitude just doesn't fit into that picture. So we need to embrace gratitude a bit more, to relax and feel genuine joy for the little things. To open up for Gods voice to be heard.

My thanks and best wishes,

Julia Lagersten
(quaker and mother of 3 daughters, from Sweden)

Jan Lyn said...

Thank you. It is lovely to 'meet' you Julia and I think our paths cross in other Quaker circles.

What a blessing that the Lord sends people our way from all over the world. :)

Blessings on your new year.
Jan Lyn

Ellen Michaud said...

I just stumbled across this blog and I can't tell you the joy it gives me. Like you, Jan Lyn, I'm a Quaker to whom gratitude is an important spiritual practice. In fact, last year I wrote a book, Blessed: Living a Grateful Life (Readers Digest, 2011), which has since gone on to win a couple of awards. The book is a collection of women's stories that reveal the unexpected blessings in our everyday lives—blessings that once we see them engender in us a deep sense of gratitude and a heightened awareness of God's Presence in every part of our lives. I'd love to have you share your own blessings with me at

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