Take on Gratitude as a Spiritual Practice

Take on Gratitude as a Spiritual Practice

Each morning, cup of coffee in one hand and a pen in the other,

I spend a few minutes writing responses to the following prompts:
  • 3 things I accomplished yesterday
  • 2 things I need to do today
  • 1 thing I’m grateful for
  • A self-affirmation
  • A fear
  • One way I will nurture my heart/soul today
  • One act of generosity today
In Lent, many of us give something up as a way of making space for the Sacred. As we move from Lent into the season of Easter (from the Easter Celebration to Pentecost), I invite you to adopt this morning practice as a way of growing in generosity.
As Easter is a celebration of new and renewed life, so also generosity is a generative practice, cultivating new life in us and those around us. In her wonderful book “This Here Flesh,” Cole Arthur Riley writes:
Stillness makes for a capable mirror. Look down in a rough and fast current, and you won’t see a thing. Still water allows you to lean in without danger and really see yourself. And in doing so, you may remember a liberty over yourself that is easily forgotten when things are jostling about you.
Taking a few moments looking into the still water each day helps us practice resurrection. Morning works best for me, but you may find another time of day works best for you. Here are a few notes about each section:
3 things I accomplished yesterday: Too often in the “rough and fast current” of life, we don’t take time to reflect on our accomplishments. From spending time with loved ones to composing a challenging email, from fixing that persistent drip in the sink to going for a walk outside, take a moment to celebrate what you did the previous day.
2 things I need to do today: As you look ahead to the day, what items stand out as most important? Maybe the bills need to get paid or you need to reach out to a friend. Maybe there’s a work project to start, complete, or make progress on. Maybe you need to plan for an upcoming event.
1 thing I’m grateful for: Neurological scientists tell us that daily consideration of our gratitude moves us toward a happier, healthier, and more joyful place. From the beauty of the sunrise to the love of friends and family, we have so much to be thankful for. Write one (or 2!) down.
A self-affirmation: Our cultures, upbringings, and personal demons regularly tear us down and remind us of all we aren’t. Take a moment to affirm who you are. It might be, “I am worthy” or “I am loved.” Or perhaps “I do my best in the moment” or “I’m a good friend.” We all have aspects of ourselves to affirm and celebrate.
A fear: Many of us avoid our fears. Writing them down helps me get to know them better and address them consciously. The fear may be general, or it may be related to the self-affirmation; it may be large and existential or tangible and practical: “Loneliness and rejection,” “I’m a failure,” “Facing my supervisor today,” “Not having enough funds to make it through the month.”
One way I will nurture my heart/soul today: How can you be good to yourself? How can you attend to the needs of your heart and soul? Common responses for me here include meditation, going outside, playing a game with my family, reading, and talking with a friend.
One generous act today: As you move into the day, consider one small generous act you can do. You may or may not get the chance to do it, but it puts us in the mindset of looking for opportunities to be generous. Can you send a supportive text to someone? Make a financial donation to a person in need or an organization doing good work? Offer a few minutes of help to a coworker or neighbor? A small act of kindness for your partner, parent, or child?
This short and simple morning practice sets me on a course for the day that brings healing and opens me to seeing and sharing the peace and love of God with those around. Try it for two or three weeks and see what kind of difference it makes in your life.
As Douglas Abrams writes about the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu in “The Book of Joy”:
We cannot bring peace if we do not have inner peace. Similarly, we cannot hope to make the world a better, happier place if we do not also aspire for this in our own lives. The more we heal our own pain, the more we can turn to the pain of others…The goal is not just to create joy for ourselves but, as the Archbishop poetically phrased it, ‘to be a reservoir of joy, an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that can ripple out to all those around you.’

Rev. Andrew Warner, CFRE
Generosity Outreach Officer
OPTIC – Office of Philanthropy, Technology, Identity, & Communication
United Church of Christ


Generous Thoughts

Generous Thoughts is a collaborative effort of UCC stewardship, generosity, fundraising, and development professionals to provide our conferences and congregations with information to aid them in their fundraising efforts. The SNEUCC is represented ...

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