give thanks

give thanks
Photo by Brad West / Unsplash

If you haven't heard of the recent trend in gratitude journaling, you're really missing out! All you have to do is write down one thing (or two or three or a hundred or however many you want) that you're thankful for for each day. It's a wonderful practice even though it's not strictly part of Foster's spiritual disciplines.

Gratitude is an attitude. Or at least that's the base assumption behind gratitude journaling. It assumes that if you direct your focus onto good things that demonstrate that your needs and wants are being met, you will push away and replace the negativity and fear that we naturally hang on to as living creatures.

Just after the Thanksgiving season, I spent my hour doing just that. Unfortunately, I ran out of time before I could write down everything I had to be grateful for, but here are some highlights from a few of the many celebrations I got to join in!

thanksgiving with classmates

  1. My classmates are spectacular! I mean, they're amazing, wonderful, and great in every way. If their greatness were limited by my own ability to conceive of ways people can be great, they wouldn't be half as great as they are now.
  2. My classmates were proactive in planning a Thanksgiving get together. They called it Friendsgiving and we all pitched in with food. I ate, and then I overate, and then I had dessert. During my time of relative personal scarcity, it was wonderful to be reminded that abundance comes from the collective ability and willingness of our community to give. I'm convinced that our Friendsgiving was a hint of what Heaven's like.
  3. More on my new classmates: did I mention they're amazing? They've patiently helped me with all my assignments, listened to me talk about my random hobbies and interests, and consistently encouraged and supported me through the entire time I've known them. We've shared time, shared stories, shared food, and shared life in a way I never expected to do with my classmates.
  4. Where does wisdom come from? Just the other day, somone asked me if my classmates are wise (the inquirer is known for making such queries). I had to take a few moments before answering, not because it was difficult to answer, but because I'd never realized it before. My classmates are wise well beyond their peers. They seem to understand the world more acutely and more deeply than any group of people I've met before. Advanced understanding of the world that takes years to even become aware of seems to be second nature to most of them. Perhaps its a function of education, or life experience, or simply that they pay more attention than I do. Regardless of its source, they are happy to share it with me and I'm grateful that they do!

thanksgiving with old friends

  1. Even before I moved to Minneapolis, I had friends here. They're exceptionally wonderful friends too. I went to college with one of them and she introduced me to the rest of them: her family and her extended network of loving, kind people. In fact, I'm most grateful for the fact that the first event I attended in my new city was an event honoring her, full of people who love her. I didn't know what it was like to experience the overflow of adoration for someone else, but simply being present while so many people celebrated her and her life positively blessed every moment I've had in this city since then.
  2. Her family invited me to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. We started with a new tabletop game, move into peeling potatoes, ate to excess, then wrapped up the day with collaborative Wii games and stories of Thanksgivings long, long ago. It was refreshing, restful, and uplifting and I wouldn't trade that time for the world!

thanksgiving with new friends

This was one of the most fortuitous things this Thanksgiving season. Since I've been exploring the Anabaptist church recently, I attended a discussion session for a journal published by one of the Anabaptist denominations. While there, I met some of the coolest people, none of whom were afraid to live the radical lifestyle they believe Jesus is calling them to live.

One such group is the Hutterites. Views of this group vary almost as widely as the Hutterites themselves, and I'm grateful that I was introduced to this wonderful tradition through the spectacular people I met (some of whom are now readers of this blog)! While I'm not planning to officially join their colony any time soon, I have learned and am learning from them in ways I never expected. I'll dedicate an entire post to my time there, but today I'll hit some highlights:

  1. They taught me that I'm lying to myeself when I believe that it's impossible for people to live up to the radical generosity Jesus calls for. While I sat back using the excuse, "Nobody can do it perfectly," to exempt myself from loving my neighbor as myself, they said, "Challenge accepted!" and have taken on this challenge in numerous diverse ways.
  2. I learned what it means to be a light to the world, or "a city set on a hill." When I visited the Hutterite colony, I (ignorantly) expected to see sad people suffering under various levels of repression and fear. Nothing could have been further from the truth! I was greeted with joy and exuberance from men and women, young and old. Some of the people my age were home on break from college while others were teachers, ministers, musicians, mechanics, machinists, carpenters, and industrial agriculturalists. Nobody I met was living a life I would be unhappy with (in fact, I spent a good portion of my time discussing music and comparing 3D printing techniques and projects with one of my new friends there while debating philosophy with others). I'm grateful that I got to see all of this happening in a community where the defining characteristic is that nobody owns private property. The abundance of love and joy there made me reconsider what I think of as a "minimum" for happiness and question how much of my happiness is founded on my personal possession of and control over mammon.


I had a wonderful Thanksgiving season and can't wait to apply everything I learned about gratitude to all the other seasons of my life!

One last thing: thank YOU for reading this blog. It's been a blessing for me and a source of limitless discussion for those of you who love sending me messages after each post. I meant for it to replace my Facebook account; it's done that very well and given me much more peace when I share with and hear from the people who love me.

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