Exploring the Intersections of Faith and Life

Posts tagged ‘Gratitude’

Generosity – Daily Meditation

On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage.  Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 2:11

The scripture above comes from one of the Christmas stories in the Gospel of Matthew, when the wise men came seeking the newborn child Jesus.  Those of us who have heard this story year after year may be familiar with the traditional explanation that the three gifts represented Jesus’ kingship (gold), his divinity (frankincense), and his death (myrrh).  Recently I heard an interview with Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine sister, who did further research on these gifts and found out that they represented very different things to the people of first century Israel.  Gold represented generosity. Frankincense was an incense and oil used to bring a sense of calm to life.  Myrrh was a healing oil that was used to, as she said, “bring attention to the fullness of the spirit.”  This scripture represents for me the fullness I seek, both in my relationship with God and my relationship with my dog.

Generosity is not usually the first word that comes to mind when I think of my dog.  Usually I think of her excitement when I come home from work, the fun she has playing with her best friend and the joy she shows when she sees her favorite people come visit.  Her body simply cannot contain her joy in those moments, it overflows from every pore and muscle of her body onto everyone around her.  These are moments of generosity, as she shares unabashedly her love for life and for those who love her.  She truly makes my heart sing, even more so, when I realize that I did absolutely nothing to earn this incredible gift of love and joy.  She simply gives, and gives freely and abundantly, because she loves.

As I look back on my life, I see that God has been the same with me, loving me and giving me all I need, often in my most unlovable moments.  Sometimes that gift has come in mystical experiences, when I find myself unexpectedly filled with a sense of love and fullness greater than myself.  Sometimes God’s generous love for me has come through a sense of support during difficult times.  Other times, it has come through the actions of other people, who have called at just the right time, or spoken an unlooked for word of kindness, or in one case, it was through a stranger who simply opened a door for me.  In hindsight, I look back at all those moments, and realize that just as Jas was generous in sharing her love and joy with me, so God has been generous in sharing God’s love and support with me.  I call those gifts graces, for that is indeed what they are.  I can only hope that I can learn to be as generous and unconditional with my love as both God and Jas have been with me.

  • Take a moment to sit quietly and reflect on the day (today or yesterday, depending on when you read this).
  • What unconditional gifts has your dog given you today?
  • What are the unexpected signs of generosity you have seen today?
  • Give thanks for the immense signs and moments of generosity that have come your way this day.

Created for Relationship – Daily Meditation

In the midst of one of the creation stories in the book of Genesis in the Bible, the one that tells the story about how human beings, when they were still in the Garden of Eden and all was good, broke the rules and began a spiral into one lie after another (Genesis 2), we discover that God was in the habit of walking in the garden with Adam and Eve, friends, hanging out together in the garden.  One of my favorite sermons was published in 1927 by James Weldon Johnson, an early civil rights activist, diplomat, and educator, called “The Creation.”  In it, God says “I’m lonely.  I’ll make me a world.”  And the creation proceeds… light, darkness, sun, moon, land, oceans, trees, flowers, birds and beasts, until finally God walked around and looked at all God had made, and said, “I’m lonely still.”

Then God sat down
On the side of a hill where He could think;
By a deep, wide river He sat down;
With His head in His hands,
God thought and thought,
Till He thought, “I’ll make me a man!”

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled Him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand;
This Great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till He shaped it in His own image;

Then into it He blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.

I love this story, because it takes all the stories of God in the Bible, and pulls them together into one simple truth:  God created us to be in relationship with God, and God loves us, and longs for us.

I know not all of us grew up with that image of God, but this is a God that I know at the core of my being, and I long to be so enveloped in that relationship that it permeates every breath I take.  I know that at times when God walks in the garden of my life, God calls and I am not there, because I have gotten so caught up in my own life that I have forgotten about God.  But I long to be so attentive to God that I never miss the voice of the one who loves me and longs for me, and will watch over me always.

  • What was your picture or image of God when you were growing up?  Was it a positive one, or a negative one?
  • I imagine the way I WANT to always be with my pet to somewhat mirror the kind of relationship I long for with God.   As you consider your relationship with your pet, what do you learn, either about your relationship with God, or about what you long for your relationship with God to be?
  • Read again the story from The Creation about God making human beings.  Imagine what it might be like to be held by the hands of God, as God lovingly molds you and forms you into a living being.
  • If you are able, give thanks for the love God folds into you.  If you are not able to go there yet, perhaps you may wish to ask for help in knowing the love that James Weldon Johnson knew when he preached that sermon.

Dogs and God – Daily Meditation

One day a brother brought a rabbit who had been caught in a trap to St. Francis. Francis advised the rabbit to be more alert in the future, then released the rabbit from the trap and set it on the ground to go its way. But the rabbit hopped back up onto Francis’ lap, desiring to be close to the saint.

Francis took the rabbit a few steps into the woods and set it down. But it followed Francis back to his seat and hopped on his lap again! Finally Francis asked one of his fellow friars to take the rabbit far into the woods and let it go. That worked. This type of thing happened repeatedly to Francis—which he saw as an opportunity to praise the glory of God.

I was working with my dog, Jas, in the backyard the other day, and we had such a good time.  She thought we were playing games – I thought we were training.  (A very nice arrangement!)  When we were done, I released her to have free run of the yard, while I went back in the house.  Only thing was, Jas never left my side!  Every time I took a step, there she was, by my side, looking up at me with the most adoring eyes.  It could have been the treats I still had in my bag, but more than that, I know she loves being with me.  She looks to me to care for her, to love her, and to protect her.

I think of this often when I am away.  She is always so excited to greet me when I come home, no matter how long or short a time I have been gone.  Her joy is genuine, and her desire to be with me is complete.  She counts on me, and to the best of my ability, I am there for her.

  • Think about your relationship with your animal companion. 
  • What are the gifts your animal companion gives you?
  • What are the gifts you give your animal companion?
  • How is your relationship with your animal companion similar or different from your relationship with God?
  • How is it similar or different from what you would like your relationship with God to be?

 Take a moment and look at your pet.  Picture holding your pet in your hands and surround your pet with love.  Give thanks for this animal in your life.