Discover more from The Cottage
A month to remember the gifts that surround and sustain us
This is an open post for ALL subscribers and visitors to The Cottage. Please share and invite your friends to read.
November is Gratitude Month, one of those special commemorative months set aside to emphasize the importance of a particular issue, event, or community. The United States first marked Gratitude Month in 2015.
Last year, The Cottage hosted a special series for paid subscribers with prayers and poems, online conversations, gratitude prompts, and readings. That series is still available to paid subscribers at the Cottage Archive (if you’d like to search and browse, please do!).
This year, there won’t be a daily special series. Instead of daily gratitude postings, ALL regularly-scheduled Cottage essays (sent to both free and paid subscribers) will highlight gratitude throughout the month. That means all the posts here (especially Sunday Musings) will include some gratitude “nudge” — a quote, poem, or reminder about thankfulness and gratitude.
Gratitude will be the special emphasis this month for the entire community.
There will be a seasonal special series for paid subscribers NEXT month for Advent featuring a thematic, participatory Advent calendar.
I hope that many of you will join in for that!
In the meantime, a testimony: practicing gratitude changed my life. It is the ONE subject I tackled in a book about which I have struggled my whole life and had no expertise to write. Grateful: The Subversive Power of Giving Thanks is a raw, unexpected journey to embrace gratitude in the midst of these contentious, conflicted political years — and a hopeful vision of what gratefulness might do for us as individuals and communities right now.
This month, I’m re-reading my own book — mostly because a good friend reminded me to do so (we really do need each other!). If anything, much has worsened since I penned its words. I need a refresher in gratitude. Maybe you do, too.
Today’s gratitude “nudge” for today is from the last pages of Grateful. Throughout the entire book, I recount my struggle with 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, the often-quoted bible verse on gratitude:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
A century ago, Albert Schweitzer, theologian and Nobel Peace Prize winner, remarked:
The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live. He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.
He was right: to learn gratitude is to know the “mystery” of life. But he was also wrong in a very important way.
Every day there are reasons not to feel grateful and not to practice gratitude. Terrible, distressing, painful, and awful things happen all the time. The emotions of thanks elude us, and it is easy to choose ingratitude. Yet when I watch the news and fear grips my heart about whatever comes next, when a friend is diagnosed with cancer, or when a loved one dies, that Bible verse, the one Albert Schweitzer alluded to, the one I memorized as a teen-ager, calls toward a better way: “In everything give thanks.” It does not say, as Schweitzer seems to have misquoted, “For everything give thanks.”
Gratitude never calls us to give thanks for anything that is evil or unjust, never for violence, lying, oppression, or suffering.
Do not be grateful for these things.
The Greek word is en, which means “in, with, within, throughout.” It locates us here and now, in the past, and in the future; in happiness, in despair; in all things, in all times, in all situations. Gratefulness grounds our lives in the world and with others, always locating the gifts and grace that accompany our way. Gratitude is an emotion. Gratitude is an ethical way of life. It is a disposition, an awareness, a set of habits. But ultimately, gratitude is a place — perhaps the place — where we find our truest and best selves.
To know the mystery of life is to be grateful in all things. In all things, with all things, through all things.
I have discovered that I am no longer an ingrate, but I am living in gratitude.
Sometimes the world turns on a preposition.
To be grateful in these days is an act of resistance, of resilience, of renewal. My journey started because I did not know how to write thank-you notes. And it led me to understand that a poli- tics of gratitude is a way of healing and compassion — perhaps even salvation. I invite you to the journey from ingratitude to gratefulness and to find yourself part of a like-spirited community. You are not alone. There are many on the road.
Live in gratitude.
For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.
And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.
What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.
— Mary Oliver
SOUTHERN LIGHTS IS BACK
January 12 -14, 2024
Our theme is Reimagining Faith Beyond Patriarchy and Hierarchy — and many in the The Cottage community are signing up to gather in person!
Last January, almost 700 people gathered at St. Simon’s Island in Georgia for a packed weekend of poetry, theology, and music.
WE’RE MEETING UP AGAIN!
YOU ARE INVITED to join me and my dear friend Brian McLaren as we reimagine our faith beyond patriarchy and hierarchy in our interior lives, in our communities of faith, and in the Scriptures. We’ve asked three remarkable speakers to take us through this journey: Cole Arthur Riley, Simran Jeet Singh, and Elizabeth “Libbie” Schrader Polczer (our “resident” Mary Magdalene guide!). Our special guest chaplain for the weekend will be the Rev. Winnie Varghese (St. Luke’s Episcopal, Atlanta). And you’ll be treated to the amazing music of Ken Medema and Solveig Leithaug.
Please come and be with us in Georgia. SEATS ARE INCREASINGLY LIMITED and hotels are filling up!
Or, if you’d rather be with us online, you can choose that option as well.
The Cottage depends on financial support from its readers. If you can afford it, please consider becoming a paid subscriber. The subscription fee is modest, purposefully so.
And a gratitude for today: I’m ever grateful to God, the universe, and the Duke University Alumni association for conspiring in giving me the gift of an unexpected friendship with Libbie Schrader-Polczer. I share with you her song, “Magdalene,” which is speaking to my soul (again) right now. Maybe we can convince her to sing it at Southern Lights…?