At the end of awesome weekend filled with spiritual sustenance, I am listening to folk- rock queen- Lucinda Williams belting out Get Right With God in which she goes through a slew of deprivations and painful practices that some feel are requirements of redemption:
“I would risk the serpent’s bite
I would dance around with seven
I would kiss the diamond back
If I knew it would get me to heaven
‘Cause I want to get right with God
Yes, you know you got to get right with God
I would burn the soles of my feet
Burn the palms of both my hands
If I could learn and be complete
If I could walk righteously again
I would sleep on a bed of nails
‘Till my back was torn and bleeding
In the deep darkness of Hell
The Damascus of my meeting
I asked God about his plan
To save us all from Satan’s slaughter
If I give up one of my lambs
Will you take me as one of your daughters?”
I happen to have a different take. This God-loving, not God-fearing woman sees gratitude as a doorway to the Divine. Friday night found me in a processional of clergy celebrating the installation of two of my friends, Bill Marchiony and Dave Schpok as Spiritual Directors of New Thought Philadelphia which is a Science of Mind community. It is also affiliated with Agape International Spiritual Center in LA; guided by founding minister Rev. Michael Beckwith. These two men are dedicated to love in action. Music and love wafted through the air, powerful words of inspiration and dedication sunk into my willing-to-hear-heart.
Today, I immersed in what I like to call love soup as my friend Cindy Greb, an artist, photographer, healer, minister and writer (also a Beliefnet Blogger who pens Blessings Abound ) made a return visit from her new home in Crestone, Colorado. She spoke at Pebble Hill which is one of my spiritual homes and where we met back in the mid 198o’s. Today’s theme was A Celebration of Thanksgiving and wasn’t about the upcoming holiday, but an awareness of our daily gifts and graces.
Rather than speaking about gratitude, she told us what she was grateful for in 5 minutes; squeezing 95 of them in. Things like family, friends, food, animals, the mountains in her new home, health, work that she enjoys…..I found myself nodding as I rattled off my own list in my mind; many in line with hers. Her visit was on my gratitude list.
The other speaker was Kalie Marino, therapist, teacher of A Course In Miracles, minister and author of Breaking Free From Critical Addiction- Our #1 Social Disease. She shared that appreciation is a core component of any loving relationship and that full presence with who or whatever is before us, is essential. I see it as alchemical and can transform any negative or painful situation into something meaningful and blessed. Kalie knows that of which she speaks, since her son was shot and killed by a police officer a little more than a year ago. When it occurred, she and her husband were able to say “Thank you, God” even in the face of something so horrific and unthinkable and they KNEW that something good would come of it. It did indeed, as greater awareness of the needs of those with mental health diagnoses, and reform in the police department occurred. They were able to find a sense of peace and forgiveness with the officer who certainly hadn’t begun his shift contemplating what would transpire by the end of the day.
She used the example of anticipating eating pumpkin pie. Before you do, you can taste it, smell it, imagine it as if you are indulging in it. When it is actually in front of it, are you really enjoying it as fully as possible, or is your focus elsewhere? If you can re-direct your attention to it, how much more would you appreciate it? Moving on, Kalie spoke of a study that was done, to determine the impact of gratitude on quality of life. Three groups were involved. The first journaled about daily life events. The second complained about what was wrong with their lives. The third kept a gratitude list. At the end of the study, (no surprise), those in the third group were more likely to have higher levels of optimism, alertness, productivity and love and lower incidents of depression.
She encouraged us to express appreciation to the people in our lives on a daily basis and I add, to ourselves. With that energy, what couldn’t we transform?