In November 2018 we had a post about gratitude titled "Spiritual Gratitude." It focused on the science of gratitude, how it rewires our brain, and how it enhances our spiritual life.
This week we are exploring gratitude once again because it is such an important part of happiness and spirituality.
Expressing Your Gratitude
Research has found being thankful increases our level of happiness. They have also found that expressing that gratitude with others shows even larger increases. In the video below they did a gratitude experiment with expressing their thankfulness to another person. Check it out and I encourage you to even give it a try.
The Benefits of Gratitude
The blog Daily Greatness states there are both intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of gratitude. Intrinsically our perspectives can change and our senses become heightened. Extrinsically thankfulness can positively impact our social connections with others just by showing appreciation for them. It enhances our focus and allows for more openness in our communication.
Amy Morin writes about the "7 scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round." These 7 benefits highlight how being thankful positively impacts our mind, body, and spirit. Enjoy the read!
What Are You Thankful For?
So the question is who and what are you thankful for? Is it your best friend, the coffee you had this morning, your neighbor, the birds chirping, the song you are listening to on the radio, or maybe the comfy shoes you are wearing. Identifying the things in our life that we are grateful for changes our perception.
I encourage you start making a list. Maybe you can quickly come up with 25 things or maybe you can start a journal and do five each day. The key is to practice thankfulness and allow it to be a bigger and bigger part of your daily life. If you are struggling with coming up with things check out Kid President. He has a list of 25 things he is thankful for.
What characteristics do I appreciate specifically about someone else?
What in my life makes my life better?
How has someone positively impacted me in the past and present?
What in my life can I not do without?
Where do I want to spend my time doing right now?
Be thankful for whatever responses come to these questions.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to all those sharing and supporting the blog.
Answer the questions above and be thankful for those things in your life.
Every year the Salina Community of Christ holds a clothing drive for three weeks helping those out in the city that need extra items. This last year they saw over 150 people come through and gave out three turkey's to families in need. One interesting situation took place this year that took those helping by surprise. There was a family in attendance whose house had just burned down. The Pastor took the family through helping them find the sizes they needed. At one point he looked up and everyone else in the room had stopped. They were all looking at the family and apparently knew of their recent situation. Some people stepped back so they had room while others began shouting out the sizes they needed. The attendees of the clothing drive searched table by table and even gave up the items they had already taken for themselves. The people provided service by searching and disregarded their own desires for the sake of others who they felt needed it more than them. This was not pity but a sacrificial love for others.
Sacrificing our own wants and desires for the benefit of something more important or worthy can be powerfully freeing. Sacrifice is an interesting and controversial issue among some groups. Let's look closer at how sacrifice can play a role in our spiritual life, what is sacrificial love, and if we should have limits of what to give.
Drum Major for Justice
Since today we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., I think its imperative we take a little time to pull him into this discussion of sacrifice. Martin Luther King believed in equality for all people. It was a cause that meant so much that he was willing to take the risks of harm, jail, and even death in order to ensure those for others. The peaceful, non-violent marches raised awareness of the injustice happening in America. He believed his sacrifices and personal harm was little compared to the worthy cause of equality. There are many ways Martin Luther King lived this out in his life but maybe there was nothing more widespread as his sacrificial love for others in the belief we are "the beloved community". This spoke through his actions in attempting to end racism and give equal rights to all. For more information on Martin Luther King please read the TIME Magazine "What People Still Don't Know About Martin Luther King Jr."
Injustice still happens in our world, even surrounding some of the same issues Martin Luther King Jr. fought for and against. It is our actions as a beloved community which can eliminate injustice and show sacrificial love for others.
Sacrificial Love and Our Spiritual Life
Sacrificial love is about giving up our own selfish desires for those of others. Agape love would be another term used for it. You are making a choice to respect and honor another individual while seeking their overall well being. This type of love is of moral integrity and is at the heart of God. Our spiritual lives can thrive when we choose to love sacrificially in the situations life presents.
Check out this video by the Bible Project describing Agape love and how Jesus modeled this in his life and ministry.
If we allow our love to expand for the well being of others around us people are impacted in creative and life changing ways. Are you currently living out sacrificial love in your work and personal life? How would you be different if you choose to sacrificially love those around you?
When we seek the heart of God by sacrificially loving those around us our spiritual lives deepen. Our own personal desires suddenly become aligned with the will of God for our lives. We listen more attentively, walk more confidently, and open our eyes to the needs of others. I love this song by Jeremy Camp "Empty Me" because it speaks to opening ourselves up to the Spirit of God in our lives.
Limits and Boundaries to Sacrificial Love
Sometimes we will go out of our way to help others. We might think if we just give more and try harder it will happen. However sometimes that is not the case. Giving can be tiresome, and emotionally exhausting, especially if it is always one-sided.
Somewhere along the way we have equated sacrificial love to giving everything for others, even if its not good for us. Sacrificial love is at the heart of God but does God want us to personally suffer from our giving? And if so how does that impact our spiritual life?
I think it comes down to us really knowing who we are and what we want. Sometimes others can take advantage of people knowing they will give if they ask. Other times people might try to shame or guilt us into actions. Sacrificial love always comes from our desire to help but it has to be our desire. If we are doing it from a position of obligation, worry, or attempt to keep a relationship than I would argue it is not sacrificial love. It seems like we need to have healthy boundaries that protect us and lead us into relationships of respect and accountability.
Aaron Ben-Zeev wrote an article on Psychology Today titled "Does Love Involve Sacrifice or Compromise" which discusses sacrifices in relationships which might be helpful for you. Chiara Mazzucco's blog "3 Toxic Signs of Sacrificial Love: Why it Doesn't Work and How to Detach" describes some of the issues of not having healthy boundaries in our life and how they impact our relationships.
Now there are some people who would argue sacrificial love is never wrong. We give and do not expect anything in return. We love without conditions and do not look back no matter what or how others treat us. What do you think?
I think its important to remember Jesus had boundaries and expectations for others especially those in power. Jesus met the needs of others but did not let others walk all over him. He peacefully and confidently handled concerns upholding the worth of others and himself.
As I stated above sacrificial love is a controversial topic however its important we think and talk about it. We each have to decide what it means for our lives and what boundaries we should have.
Questions for Discussion
When have you seen sacrificial love displayed?
When is a time you have given of yourself for another?
What injustices are happening in your community?
Should there be limits or boundaries for ourselves when we love sacrificially with others? If so what should those be?
How do you align values, lifestyle with God's will for your life?
Thank you all for following along and sharing! This week think how you sacrificially love others and what boundaries are helpful for you.
With Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to spend some time focusing on gratitude. One memory sticks out to me more than the rest when it comes to being thankful. In college I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Now if you know me musical talents somehow skipped out of my gene pool. Despite this inconvenient circumstance, I pushed forward practicing countless hours attempting to get better and find this mysterious thing called rhythm. I did improve through practice and repetition but progress was slow.
One day my friend, now wife, Emily was heading back home for a few days. Before leaving she reached into her bag and handed me a blue sheet of paper. I inquisitively opened it up to find the guitar chords and lyrics for the song, "Thank You" by Ray Boltz. Immediately, I was taken back by this simple, thoughtful gift. She knew I loved playing the guitar though my abilities were limited. But more importantly she remembered the importance of this particular song to me. It was the song sung at my father's funeral 13 years before always holding a special space in my heart.
The story highlights my thankfulness for someone who listened and cared for me. However gratitude is not just a feeling we receive from a gift but can be a way of life if we allow it to be. Read along as we explore the science of gratitude and how thankfulness can enhance our spiritual lives?
Science of Gratitude
Why should we be grateful? How does it change who we are? This 2 minute video gives you the quick and easy to understand version on the science of gratitude.
Enhancing Spiritual Life
As you watched above, gratitude can rewire our brains, evoke happiness, and increase our overall well-being. It is also essential for our spiritual journey. Dr. Robert Emmons a researcher on gratitude says gratitude is "an affirming of goodness "good things" in one's life and the recognition that the sources of this goodness lie at least partially outside of the self."
If we look at gratitude as a spiritual practice with this definition than we first have to acknowledge the goodness in our lives. For example writing down or just mentally being thankful for: the day before us, supportive people in our life, shade from a tree, a drink of cool water, shoes on my feet, the warm memories I have shared, and each and every breath I take. What is the goodness in your life? What are the little things you miss out on everyday? What is at the center of your heart?
Secondly, we have to acknowledge the goodness we have comes from outside of ourselves. This may mean believing in a higher power or spiritual being that has provided this goodness by means of the worlds motion. Or it may just mean relinquishing the thought that we control everything in our lives; that everything we get is from our own means.
Gratitude brings humility in our lives. When we step back and humbly become appreciative with what is really in our hearts suddenly our perspective begins changing. Our perspective moves from our past and future to the present. Everyday moments are suddenly treated as a gift to take in and behold. This is spiritually powerful as it allows us to stay present with people, with nature, and with ourselves. It can reshape our spiritual lives if we allow it.
If you have felt spiritually lost, disconnected, or unsure about what you believe, I invite you to try the spiritual practice of gratitude. There are many forms for this practice to take. For three specific ways to engage in this spiritual practice go to the CanyonRanch blog.
I challenge you to have the first thought in your head when you wake up be "Thank You." Not who posted last night, what do I have to get done, or I just need five more minutes as you press the snooze, but simply "Thank You." For me this is hard but a goal to shoot toward because I know when I wake up thankful for another day, most likely I will be more thankful throughout that day and end the day with gratitude.
I will leave you with the song "Thank You" by Ray Boltz. The line that I love the most is "each life somehow touched by his generosity." What are you thankful for in your spiritual life? In what ways can you further others spirituality?
A big THANK YOU for all those following and sharing this blog! This week practice being thankful! The advent season is here so over the next 4 weeks we will specifically look at the virtues of Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. The first will be about Hope leading up to the 1st Sunday of Advent on Dec. 2nd.
A dog turned up at our neighbor's farm a year after my father died. He was a mutt that looked like he was part german shepherd. His rib cages were clearly visible, showing the lack of food and proper nourishment. As with any stray dogs we were weary of him however the dog showed a lot of playfulness. After some discussion my mother decided that I could keep him. I named him Rusty. Rusty immediately became my world and we did everything together. I would get off the bus from school and he would be waiting for me. Everyday we ran, played fetch, and explored the countryside. Rusty made me feel loved and cared for.
A few months after, I got home from school expecting to see Rusty waiting for me, but he was nowhere to be found. Instead I saw my mother with tears in her eyes. She hugged me and told me Rusty had died. She explained how Rusty was hit while he excitedly ran beside a passing truck. I sobbed and held onto my mother tighter once the news sank in. I kept thinking how Rusty would never run with me again. We walked around the house finding him laying on the ground, unmoving. I noticed blood on his side where his thin rib cages used to be just months before. Again I cried for the loss of my friend and the best dog I ever had.
It was years later, when I found out a different part of the story. My mother had actually found Rusty while I was still at school. She remembers crying profusely because she knew how upset I would be. She knew I would be hurt and there was nothing she could do about it. It was in that instance where I understood what true compassion is. Compassion is caring about the concerns and sufferings of others. When we truly care about others we have compassion for them.
I find this relates to our spiritual lives because caring about the human spirit is the root of spirituality. It's not just our own human spirit but those around us. When we look at finding ourselves or our communities its about finding relationships with reciprocating compassion.
Jesus was the ultimate model of compassion. He looked past what was happening in the moment to really grasp what individuals need. Much of Jesus healings took place after Jesus was filled with compassion. He cared for these individuals and the circumstances their lives where in.
Just as Jesus, we can model compassion everyday in the interactions we have with others. One way to do this is to understand how your tone of voice, cadence, body language, and facial expressions can impact communication. Sometimes we are incongruent with our messages. When this happens people begin to guess whether what you said is really what you meant. Modeling compassion means our whole presence needs to match our verbal message. This something I struggle with and continue to work on daily. But when we truly show compassion with all of our presence we our taking after Jesus.
I'll Pray For You
Many times when others are hurting we say, "I'll pray for you." That's great prayer really does wonders and I believe it is important. But I think we have to ask ourselves is that all this person needs at this moment? Can we provide anything else to them during this difficult time that might put them at ease? When my father died our house became a jungle because of all the plants we received. There were so many that I could hide behind them and move throughout the house in complete camouflage. It was thoughtful to receive them but what my mother felt was most helpful was the gift of stamps given by a friend. The person knew my mother would send thank you's notes. It was the extra thoughtfulness that made the biggest impact.
One important part of the story above is my mother was there and supported me during a terrible incident. Sometimes we would rather go the other direction when bad things happen wanting nothing to do with it. But being part of a community calls us to stick it out through the muddy waters others find themselves in. Just like Cleveland Browns fans throughout what seems like forever since they have been good.
No matter what our records have been a community is there for you. They tell you the bad news, they embrace you, and they continue to support you days afterwards. So be filled with compassion and give that compassion to those around you.
What pet has meant the world to you?
When have you been filled with compassion?
Who has modeled compassion for you?
Who has stuck it out with you?
What community would be there for you?
I sincerely hope all of you have had a pet that has meant a lot for you! This week use your presence to be there for someone else. Give them compassion, love, and support.
One time in elementary art class, I was sitting across from my friend Nathan. I had this thick rubber band I was playing with as the teacher was instructing us on what we needed to do. Jokingly I pulled it back and pointed it at my friend who was sitting two to three feet across the table from me with no intention of letting it go. He cautiously moved around avoiding the direct line toward him. In the middle of this playful dance between us the rubber band slipped from my finger springing it forward. It flew straight at Nathan hitting him right in his eye.
Immediately he grabbed his eye and his facial expressions showed a disbelief and anger for my actions. I felt horrible and apologized profusely. His eye turned red, watered, and he had trouble seeing out of it. The teacher eventually came around to our table at the far end of the room. First she noticed we were both behind having not listened to her instructions and second, Nathan's red eye prompting her to ask, "What had happened?" Nathan had every right to say something for my poor choices which probably would have ended with me going to the office however he instead told the teacher he got something in his eye. I was amazed and still am for the grace Nathan bestowed on me in the moment. A moment when he was in pain and yet chose to save me despite my actions against him.
There is so much here relating to our spiritual journey which I will try to break down. Hopefully it can be helpful to anyone who has been unintentionally harmed.
Churches sometimes hurt people when they do not mean too. This unintentional harm can come from practices, policies, personal disagreements, relational disputes, lack of action, and many other things. Many times a church or religious organization may not even realize the hurt they have been involved in because they are just practicing what they believe. We justify it in our heads that its ok because of our interpretation on scripture or some other religious experience. However if what we are practicing and believing is causing significant pain to others than an in depth reflection is needed. Our goal should always be on creating right relationships and healing in this world not brokenness and discord. I think God calls all of us to reexamine our beliefs, practices, and interactions with others. When we do this we create opportunities for us to become more knowledgeable, welcoming, inclusive, and supportive.
When a person is in pain because of some kind of unintentional harm than the community has been hurt. Now I know what you are thinking, we can't keep everyone happy, so why should we be concerned. Well no you probably can't, however being community is about acknowledging disagreements, valuing differences, and supporting those whom need supported. When someone is hurting than the community is hurting. Sometimes unintentional harm causes people to stop coming. Sometimes that person just needs to know that they are wanted. Other times they have concerns which need addressed. Who has been hurt in your community? Who haven't you seen for awhile? Who needs to be listened to and valued?
Doctrine and Covenants 161
3c. Be patient with one another, for creating sacred community is arduous and even painful. But it is to loving community such as this that each is called. Be courageous and visionary, believing in the power of just a few vibrant witnesses to transform the world. Be assured that love will overcome the voices of fear, division, and deceit.
If you noticed in the story, I immediately apologized profusely for my actions. Apologies are sometimes magical. They have the ability to soothe the situation and make things right. They can repair relationships and create healing in places where there has been pain. Sincerity is the essential part of any apology. Without it the heart and meaning has been lost and true healing has been missed. As I mentioned earlier churches or even personally we may not even know we have hurt someone which makes this part tricky. However when you first discover there has been harm done than we have the responsibility to address it and apologize for the actions that have occurred.
The last and most important part of the story is grace. No matter what we do God freely loves us. Despite our shame, guilt, and fear. God's grace prevails because its not about us. My friend Nathan bestowed grace on me. How often are we giving others grace, the benefit of the doubt in situations that arise? When we give others grace we give compassion, hope, and the ability for God to work in the moment. So no there is nothing we have to do to earn God's love however what we choose to do may end up being the hands and feet of God in this world. It may be your actions that lead someone else to experience grace.
When have you caused unintentional harm to someone?
Why is building community so difficult?
When have you felt the sincerity of an apology?
How have you felt grace in your life and how have you given it?
I'm so glad fall is here! Bestow grace on someone this week whether at the grocery store, work, or in your home. Give them the benefit of the doubt and love them for who they are.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting. They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation. They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response. They support sacramental ministries by preparing people for baptism and/or confirmation, presiding at sacramental services, and performing most sacraments. They promote community by inviting individuals, households, and families to respond to Christ’s call to discipleship. They promote justice and peacemaking by inviting people to experience all aspects of Christ’s peace through active discipleship. They create ministry partnerships with mission center officers, apostles, elders, and evangelists.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.