Gratitude Deficiency

Gratitude Deficiency

“”Ignatius thought that a particular type of ignorance was at the root of sin. The deadliest sin, he said, is ingratitude. It is ‘the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.’” Jim Manney, God Finds Us, An Experience of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius.

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pro church media unsplash

As Thanksgiving approaches, we try to remember what we are thankful for, especially on that day just before mealtime prayers. Sometimes we discuss being thankful briefly with family and friends who are gathered around the table with us.

Ignatius and Jim Manney are reminding us that thankfulness is more than a brief one-time event each year. Being thankful keeps us connected to God, a power greater than ourselves, who so loves us and daily showers us with gifts. People stay in recovery from addiction by making gratitude lists every day. Those who practice Ignatian spirituality thank God in their nightly Examen for specific gifts they received during that day. Those who are losing hope or are depressed are sometimes helped by doing this exercise daily of remembering what they were thankful for during the day and sharing it with a friend. Those who see only the negative aspects of their world also can sometimes be transformed by starting to look for even the smallest part of their life where they are grateful. Sometimes we may be thankful only for the sun or the moon, but it is important if we want to change, to keep saying daily, sometimes hourly, prayers of thanksgiving.

Another exercise that can be helpful is to try to write down during a day the times we actually say “thank you.” This sometimes is an eye-opening experience.

Next we can begin to say “thank you” for even the smallest event, such as someone passing a plate of food at a meal, someone filling our glass of water or tea, a waiter serving our dinner, a hug, a hand outreached to help, a visit, a call, an email, a note, a text from a friend, a car door opened.

Eventually being thankful can become an automatic part of our being. We can extend gratitude to other parts of our lives such as a good night’s sleep, the smell of morning coffee brewing, warm clothes in the winter, a place to live, family members especially spouses and children and grandchildren, a community of friends, a church community, an ability to work, the beauty of nature, the sun in the morning, the moon at night, good health, recovery from an illness, improvement in health.

Gratitude has a direct connection to the God who so loves us. Moments of gratitude connect us to the fruit of the Spirit, love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.1

1Galatians 5:22-23


Bea, Kanuga, and Prince Charles

Bea, Kanuga, and Prince Charles

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,[a] and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1


Two days ago, on November 14, Prince Charles of England turned seventy years old. His birthday always reminds me of a woman named Bea whom we encountered at Kanuga many years ago at breakfast at a Lenten Bowen conference. As we pass to Bea the famous butter-baked Kanuga toast we learn she is from Beaumont, Texas, but she does not have a Southern accent. She was born in Germany. Her parents were Jewish, but not practicing. She is a Holocaust survivor. She escaped from Germany and lived in Belgium and France where she was helped by the French underground. There she met her future husband, Henry Buller, a Mennonite, who was a conscientious objector doing relief work in unoccupied France and later in England and Germany.

Bea came to this country when she was in her twenties. She now tells us she is eighty-four. Bea is articulate and knowledgeable and just an interesting conversationalist. She became a Mennonite but now attends a Disciples of Christ church since there is not a Mennonite congregation in her town, but she says, “I will always be a Mennonite.”

We are now joined by Kathryn who comments on Bea’s unusual oriental necklace.

“I do not like living alone,” Bea says. “It was a gift several years ago from Chinese graduate students who lived with me.”

Bea notices my husband’s bronze star label pin. She asks how he was awarded it.

“I served in Vietnam,” he casually replies.

There is a brief silence. She then responds, “My son, Rene, was killed in the Vietnam War. He was twenty. He was a medic and had only been in Vietnam for two weeks. He was killed trying to care for a wounded soldier. His death was such a waste.” Tears fill her eyes. “My son was born on the same day as Prince Charles of England, and whenever I see the prince, I think, this is the age Rene would be. Rene died thirty years ago. He would now be in his fifties, but I can only see him as twenty years old.”

We go back to our room in the Kanuga lodge. I have ridden in its slow but steady elevator so many times. Today I see the plaque on the elevator wall. “This elevator given in memory of Reginald Hudson Bedell, RAF bomber pilot, killed in action December 19, 1942. Born February 13, 1920. Given in memory by his mother, Edna Woods Buist.” Reginald was twenty-two. If he were alive at that time of our meeting, he would be eighty-five, a year older than Bea. But to Edna Woods Buist and to all of us who ride the elevator at Kanuga to and from our meals, her son, Reginald, will always be twenty-two.

Today I say prayers for Bea, Rene, Edna, and Reginald and remember the great tragedies of war and how two women have worked through their loss by honoring the life of their sons by helping others in need. I am also reminded that we are a part of a “great cloud of witnesses,” a community of those of different faiths, of those who immigrated to this country as well as those from other countries who have made enormous sacrifices and contributions to and for us and our country.


Tony Jones: Spiritual Practices

Spiritual Practices Tony Jones

“We all might long for the spiritual direction that Adam received when he walked with God in the Garden…but we live east of Eden.”

Tony Jones, The Sacred Way

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Tony Jones has compiled an easily readable compendium of spiritual practices that help us connect to God. The secret of the book is in the subtitle, Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life. We do not need to live in a monastery to practice these disciplines. Jones also brings in interesting notes about the history of how each practice began and developed. His book is first divided into contemplative practices such as silence, reading, the Jesus Prayer, centering prayer, meditation, Ignatian exercises, icons, spiritual direction, and the daily office. The second half of the book talks about active bodily spiritual practices such as the labyrinth, stations of the cross, pilgrimages, fasting, bodily prayers, Sabbath, and service. Lastly, he writes about developing a rule of life and gives us a short readable bibliography for each practice as well as a list of Christian spiritual classics.

I use Jones’ book as a reference especially when I am feeling disconnected from God. I first reread the sections in the book about the spiritual practices I am using in my rule of life to see something I have been missing. Next, I read in Tony’s book about a spiritual discipline that I am presently not using to try during this dry period. I also look over his list of books about the disciplines and the classics and pick out one to read. I have recommended the book as a way for someone to become immersed in the spiritual disciplines.

The Sacred Way can be a guide to tasting each practice perhaps a week or a month at a time. My favorite chapters keep changing. Today I identify most with the section on the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” The prayer has been my constant mantra when I am fearful or impatient or meeting with someone with whom I am having difficulty. I identify with Tony Jones when he writes, “the Jesus Prayer has become very significant to me, maybe more than any other practice I’ve investigated, and it’s an important part of my Rule of Life.”