It’s been a hard week. First the devastating floods in Pakistan, the horrifying impact of Hurricane Ian in Cuba and Florida, and growing fears of a global recession that sent stock markets crashing and brought the fear of poverty and hunger into poor families everywhere. On a personal level it seems every time I turn round I hear of another friend or family member who has COVID or cancer.
It’s challenging in the midst of all of this to introduce our new theme Gratitude as Guests of the World. As many of you know, October and November have long been my gratitude months, instituted several years ago as a season of thanksgiving that spans Canadian and American Thanksgiving. However as Norm Wirzba says in his new book Agrarian Spirit, ”For gratitude to be effective and take hold in our world, it has to touch kindling and catch fire. Generosity is the fire that is sparked by gratitude.” Seeing ourselves as guests of the world and hosts to the world is an effective way to kindle the fire and create the atmosphere of generosity and gratitude so necessary for us and all creation to flourish and for those of us who have resources to reach out and help those who have none.
How do we accomplish this? One of my favourite practices which propel me into my season of gratitude is setting up a new contemplative garden. Over the last couple of weeks I gathered gifted items that really make me feel like a guest in our world. I admired the beautiful giant clam shell given to me a few weeks ago specifically to use in one of my contemplative gardens. I added some of my favourite shells and barnacle-encrusted memorabilia gifted by the sea during my beach combing expeditions, a small icon of St Drogo, the patron saint of coffee, which gives me a huge lift every time I look at it and a couple of tiny tea cups. To these I added plants received as gifts and a few ornaments given to me around the world. The trouble with this garden is that I have so many gifted items that hold a special place in my heart, that I did not know what to display.
As I put my garden together, admiring each item and remembering the stories that go with them, my sense of gratitude grew until it was like a fire that wanted to burst out and sweep the world with generosity. I am indeed a guest in this world and a very special guest at that. I am also called to be a host to all those who suffer and are in need of my generosity. “Freely you have received, freely give.” Jesus reminds us in Matthew 10:8. The following verses are very much about being guests in the world as the disciples are encouraged to go out without money or extra clothing or a place to stay. Everything they receive will be a gift. Now I know, I am stretching the interpretation of this passage when I suggest that every gift we receive should be viewed in this light but the way generosity bubbles up inside me when I admire the gifts given to me, makes me think that every gift should be viewed in this light.
As I sit and admire my garden today, I think of Lilly Lewin, sitting in her hotel room in Budapest in COVID isolation and asking herself what she calls the pilgrim question: What are the gifts of today? then adding the question What are the gifts you are grateful for today (FreerangeFriday: What are the gifts of today?)? When we see ourselves as guests of the world it is so much easier to count the gifts that are abundant around us. In fact I find that this attitude makes me live in anticipation of God’s gifts, and has me hyper-aware, watching and waiting to see what God will gift me with next. And then, in the spirit of “pay-it-forward”, I want to gift others too. Recognizing the gifts of God overflowing around us is a wonderful way to start a season of gratitude and generosity.
Take time to walk around your house today and note items gifted to you. Stop and look at them. If they are small, pick them up and hold them in your hands. What is special about each item? What memories do they evoke? Sit and immerse yourself in these memories for a couple of minutes. Close your eyes and imagine yourself as a guest being overwhelmed with special gifts from God. What is the response that bubbles up within you?
Christine Sine and Lilly Lewin inspire ways to get geared up for the coming season of gratitude in this popular online course! Sign up for 180 days to enjoy this retreat at your own pace – including craft tutorials and print-outs plus much more. Check it out in our shop!