GRATITUDE: the practice of reckoning

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Download 2018.5 Gratitude the practice of reckoning packet


  • How does one have gratitude in trying times?
  • When is it okay to not be grateful?
  • Is gratitude a prerequisite for happiness, or even contentment, or does it spring from happiness
    and contentment?
  • If reckoning is defined as an accounting of one’s actions, paying a metaphorical debt, or fulfilling a
    promise, then how does a regular practice of doing those things come from a sense of gratitude, or
    lead into it?


‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding. ~ Alice Walker

Do not let the empty cup be your first teacher of the blessings you had when it was full. Do not let a hard place here and there in the bed destroy your rest. Seek, as a plain duty, to cultivate a
buoyant, joyous sense of the crowded kindnesses of God in your daily life. ~ Alexander MacLaren

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude. ~ A.A. Milne

Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good. ~ Maya Angelou

The scales of reckoning with mortality are never evenly weighted, alas, and thus it is on the shoulders of the living that the burden of justice must continue to rest. ~ Wole Soyinka


Gratitude by Susan Ludvigson
The body is a boat gliding
Down the river whose fragrance
spins us to the shady places
under apple trees
and into bedrooms. When
it ties up at shore,
the soul drifts and returns.
More and more I see
how everything goes together.
There is such grace
in this reconciliation—
even the stomach, that restless
loner, begins to understand.
Surely the body is mind’s
gift to the soul. How else
would the dance of ecstasy begin,
except in the muscles, in how
the eyes light on beauty
and expand it, blue
when it needs blue?
Think how love penetrates
like music, rhythm
overpowering stasis
as the nerves, the pulse,
propel us toward moonlight,
and how the body celebrates
wholeness, its first desire.


Between the City and the Sea by Mark Nepo
An old president died just hours after a young
man from Idaho was shot in his sleep in Iraq, and
now in the Sundarban east of the Himalayas, a tiger
licks the eyes of its newborn yet to see, and further east
in Vietnam, a young woman who has worked very hard
to learn how to read is reciting a sutra from Buddha,
in awe how presence moves through words across
the centuries. At the same time, an unwed mother
in Chicago thinks about stealing a blanket as
winter stiffens, and moments after this, a
manta ray in Ecuador wakes because of the
sun’s heat on its back and its sweep over coral
startles the moray back into its nook, and as the
old president’s body cools, a sergeant finds the
boy from Idaho. And just now, in Chile, a
tired couple re-see each other and make love
in the afternoon while clouds come in from the
Pacific. And just now, you stir, the dog stretches,
and far away, two stars collide, a new world forms,
and somewhere between the city and the sea, a child
is born with an untempered capacity to love. In time,
he or she will want to love us all. Remember their
face, though you have never seen it. Speak their
name, though you have never heard it. Mistake
everyone for them. Love everything in the way.


The Heart of Our Faith: Gratitude Should Be the Center of Unitarian-Universalist Theology by Galen Guengerich, Spring 2007, UU World Magazine

The whole article here:

In addition to my practical problem with orthodox Unitarian Universalism, I also have a theological problem. Our usual way of describing ourselves doesn’t even begin to suggest that we are a religion. In my view, religion is constituted by two distinct but related impulses: a sense of awe and a sense of obligation. The feeling of awe emerges from our experience of the grandeur of life and the mystery of the divine. This feeling becomes religious when a sense of obligation lays claim to us, and we feel a duty to the larger life that we share. In theological terms, religion begins as transcendence, which is the part about God, and then leads to discipleship, which is the part about the discipline of faith.

I realize the idea of faith as a discipline may also sound like heresy to many Unitarian Universalists. Unless our faith is mere intellectual affectation, however, the defining element of our faith must be a daily practice of some kind. What kind of practice? For Jews, the defining discipline is obedience: To be a faithful Jew is to obey the commands of God. For Christians, the defining discipline is love: To be a faithful Christian is to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. For Muslims, the defining discipline is submission: To be a faithful Muslim is to submit to the will of Allah.

And what of us? What should be our defining religious discipline? While obedience, love, and even submission each play a vital role in the life of faith, my current conviction is that our defining discipline should be gratitude. In the same way that Judaism is defined by obedience, Christianity by love, and Islam by submission, I believe that Unitarian Universalism should be defined by gratitude.

Why gratitude? Two dimensions of gratitude make it fitting as our defining religious practice. One has to do with a discipline of gratitude, and the other has to do with an ethic of gratitude. The discipline of gratitude reminds us how utterly dependent we are on the people and world around us for everything that matters. From this flows an ethic of gratitude that obligates us to create a future that justifies an increasing sense of gratitude from the human family as a whole. The ethic of gratitude demands that we nurture the world that nurtures us in return. It is our duty to foster the kind of environment that we want to take in, and therefore become.

The two forms gratitude takes in our lives (a discipline and an ethic) are natural outcomes of the two elements of religious experience (awe and obligation). The experience of awe leads to the discipline of gratitude, and the experience of obligation leads to an ethic of gratitude.


“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have was once among the
things you only hoped for.”
~ Epicurus



When The Horse Runs Off – Buddhist Tale adapted by Sarah Conover

Long ago, in a country where the mountains are among the world’s loftiest, there lived an old farmer and his son. The boy spent his days attending to the work of the farm and their one old horse—a beautiful white stallion. After years of careful training, the horse ran swifter and smoother than any other in the region. But one day, father and son awoke to find their cherished animal missing.

The son was heartbroken. Neighbors gathered around the two and lamented their great loss. But the father gazed calmly past the villagers to the surrounding high peaks. “We shall see,” he said. “We shall see if this is good or if this is bad.”

After a week, the magnificent horse returned, followed by an equally fine wild mare. Father and son soon tamed the new animal. This time, the neighbors praised the old man’s remarkable luck— he was now the wealthiest man in town! He owned the two very best horses! But the farmer simply smiled and remarked, “Oh, of course I am pleased… but who knows if this is lucky or unlucky?”

And so it came to pass that one day, while racing their splendid horses across the field, the son fell off and broke both legs badly. While the boy’s wounds were cleaned and splinted by the doctor, the villagers bemoaned the family’s terrible misfortune. But the father, calm as ever, took comfort in his boy. “He is alive; that is all that counts,” replied the old man. “His legs will heal in time. I cannot know if these injuries will turn out to be something good or something bad.”

The very next week, a battalion of soldiers marched into the village. A war to the north was underway, and all young men of fighting age were needed immediately. Mothers and fathers gathered food and warm clothes for their boys. With sorrowful good-byes they let their sons join the soldiers.

But there was one boy in the village left behind in his bed—for it was obvious his wounds would take many months to heal. The neighbors envied the farmer’s good fortune! Of all the young men in town, his son was the only one not taken to war! The old farmer looked out across his fields at the two fine horses grazing. He looked at the lovely way the sun caught the tops of the jagged peaks in the distance, smiled and said nothing at all.


Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Seuss
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup
Gratitude Soup by Olivia Rosewood