Gratitude: Sacred Visitation

by Brittany Longsdorf, Multifaith Chaplain- Bates College

Every Thanksgiving my family goes around the table and each person says something that they are grateful for before we sink our teeth into some turkey and stuffing. At times it has felt perfunctory, and eventually it became redundant. The ‘thankful for friends and family’ answer became so common that in recent years we implemented a new rule that there could be no repeats, so each person had to think of something different to be thankful for. A couple of years ago a friend of mine said they were grateful for a fork and praised other utensils around the table. Gratitude in its many forms, silly and serious, is a deeply important thing to consider during the holiday season.

This advent season, in the transition from Thanksgiving to Christmastide, I want us to consider moments of gratitude as visitations from the Sacred. When I started out in the work of college chaplaincy I became consistently overwhelmed with putting on multiple programs every week, offering pastoral care, coordinating worship, and doing higher education committee work. It surprised me that while doing the work I loved, I found my self in a very dark spiritual place. Somehow the rote maneuvers of program planning and the massive amount of logistical details to keep track of clouded my view of sacred purpose. I sought out a spiritual mentor and asked the question that had been trembling in my heart for months, “Do I even believe in God anymore?”

She responded with a story. When my mentor was a young chaplain starting out in New York City, she also felt the same overwhelming sense of distance from the Divine. She was riding a train home late one night from a program and in her train car saw a father and daughter all dressed up and laughing; it looked like they had just come home from a Broadway show. The little girl roared with laughter and held her father’s hand tightly as the train swayed on the tracks. Something inside my mentor felt the urge to just whisper a soft “thanks” into the universe. “That’s how I know there is a God”, she said to me. Moments of gratitude are sacred visitations.

When the Angel visits Mary she is full of fear, awe, and wonder. She is reminded of the wide and deep webs of the Divine that surrounds her. When we feel those deep moments of gratitude and whisper ‘thank you’ into the ear of the universe, we embody that same revelation, that sacred visitation that reminds us of our purpose and our Creator. This advent season let us readily recognize those moments of gratitude and be grateful.

Spiritual Practice:
“Moments of gratitude are sacred visitations.” Spend a few moments allowing gratitude to emerge within you. For what this day do you whisper “thank you”?
Where else is God revealed to you in the Advent season? What are the sacred visitations in your life?

DAPPLED PATH

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Refrain from posting or commenting on all social media for the day. Instead, use that time to listen to what you are hearing from others and offer prayers on their behalf.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

As we head into the heart of Holy Week, we come face to face with grief and despair, longing for “the possibility of resurrection.” I am grateful for today’s post, a poem written by Susan Oxley. Susan serves Community of Christ as Apostle for Canada and Australia.

May you be attentive this day to those who stand “stunned in the valley” and share the hope of the path that leads to life. If it is you who stands stunned in the valley, may these words bring the hope you seek.

Dappled Path
By Susan Oxley

There is a dappled path from the Valley of the Shadow into life.
Those who walk the path move from joy to tears, from laughter to silent grief
As the foliage of memory parts to let life shine through.
Dark and light lay in erratic bands across untidy days.
I am surprised into dancing, one fleeting moment of unbridled motion
Affirming the existence of joy, the possibility of resurrection,
Before shadows close again in pain. But the moment quietly echoes on.
The light illumines memories, and they drift like leaves through autumn thought.
Brilliant colors remind me of all I’ve lost, and of the bleak mid-winter.
They touch my wet cheeks with gold, then fall lifeless in the dust.
Healing laughter parts the shadows. I stand amazed at lilting notes, and wander on..
My journey leads through other lives, other sorrows, other pains
And my wounded heart bleeds afresh in passing, pausing, weeping
With those who still stand stunned in the Valley.
I touch their sorrow and murmur, only half-believing,
“There is a dappled path from the Valley of the Shadow into life…”

PETITION

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Before you begin your day of work or activity, silently offer this prayer (taken from Psalm 46:10), which is best said with a rhythmic chanting of the words and a pause for contemplation after each line. You may choose to end the day with this same prayer.

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.

Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

Today’s post is written by David Brock, Community of Christ Presiding Evangelist.
What prayers do you utter in the holy week moments of your life?

Petition
By David Brock

Our most primal prayers are those of petition, God.
In moments of panic we blurt out our brief,
passionate pleas and toss out our bargaining chips:
Protect our perfect or imperfectly parented child.
Make up the difference in our hastily prepared sermon.
Cover us as we approach our next looming deadline.

With sighs too deep for words, we plead
for a cure at the bedside of a loved one.
In a groan from our deepest interior, we join
the psalmist in a longing for cleansed heart
and renewed spirit; the prophet’s heart of flesh
in exchange for one of stone.

Please stop this interminable internal ache.
Let us see but a shadow’s promise of light
in the world’s heart of darkness, We beseech
Thee, God of grace. We are ministers of vision
who cannot see far enough on our own;
people of capacity who cannot be or do
all that is needed without each other, or you.

Forgive us, we implore you.
Give us, and the world, your beauty
for our ashes, the oil of joy for tears;
a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.