Because it is Thanksgiving Day in the USA and although it's just another gloomy November Thursday here in the UK I've been thinking about thanksgiving in general.

There are times when it is hard to feel grateful, whether as a result of personal circumstances or unwelcome events around the world just now. There's certainly no shortage of the latter.

In her blog Over the Water in a 2012 post entitled 'Thankful Thursday/Fearful Friday' Rosalind Hughes asks

"is thankfulness a feeling, an action or an outcome?"
She suggests that Thanksgiving Day (in the USA) is
"...about action rather than feelings. Will we act out of fear, that all may at any time be lost, or thankfulness that hope endures regardless? Will we share the relief and the contentment that some of us enjoyed today, or grasp it in case it is in short supply? Either is a rational response to a cathartic gratitude; but faith is not always about the most rational response. Sometimes, it is about hoping without guarantees, seeing the woods beyond the trees, shouting into the darkness and trusting that the echoes that we hear reach beyond our own ears."

On the same blog today 23 November 2016 Rosalind Hughes has some helpful thoughts for those who want to give thanks but do not want to deny their grief, pain and loss:
It is enough to give bitter thanks for the mixed blessings of mortality, even to give gritted-teeth thanks for the opportunity to pick yourself off the ground, prove stronger than any imagined; or to stay there a while longer. It is enough to shout sarcastic, cynical thanks to the sky, and weep. No one will be any the wiser.

And when you have spent your anger on thanksgiving and its unreasonable, seasonal demands, perhaps, you may hear the whisper of God’s Spirit,“You’re welcome. You are welcome. Welcome home.”
This advice could also be helpful for those approaching Advent and Christmas with a sense of dread rather than joy. For all sorts of reasons it cannot be a 'merry Christmas' for everyone this year. It may be sad, fearful or painful. I give thanks that the message of Advent is one of hope in darkness. And I give thanks that the message of Christmas is that God is with us, sharing our humanity with all its tragic mess, infiltrating it with love, shining a light in the darkness and welcoming us home.

On the subject of choosing to be give thanks as a conscious choice, rather than a spontaneous reaction, I love the definition of gratitude given by Henri Nouwen in 'The Dance of Life':

"Gratitude...goes beyond the 'mine' and 'thine' and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.

Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint…The choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious."
So, what can you be grateful for today? 

Image Credit: Pixabay, public domain