“Notes on faith” is theGrio’s inspirational, interdenominational series featuring Black thought leaders across faiths.
In such tragic and trying times, many of us may find ourselves challenged by the question: What is the point of being grateful? This week, many of us are preparing to observe Thanksgiving; however, there is among us a critical mass who are redefining what the festivities mark in our households. Increasingly, we are acknowledging that the observance of Thanksgiving is not about celebrating the bounty set before us through nostalgic family dishes but, more accurately, a reimagining of genocide through a colonial settler’s lens.
Some of us struggle to see how that past connects with the conflicts we witness in the Congo and Sudan today. Or the Israeli-Hamas conflict that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. Stateside, we are reckoning with the fact that the civil trial for the murder of Breonna Taylor resulted in a hung jury. Myriad wars are being fought in local political scenes, including Tennessee, where the ultra-super majority Republican state legislators are seriously considering rejecting billions of federal education dollars for children — and threaten to spur a national trend.
Truth be told, Thanksgiving never comes at the right time. As a couple serving in a pastoral capacity for our communities, we know the personal challenges many face — from global matters to personal health, financial stressors to home insecurity and remembering loved ones amidst it all. Like clockwork, we know the performance of gratitude inevitably comes into tension with any unresolved matters in our lives. As the old saints say, you’re either starting to go through it, going through it or coming out of it. Yet, through it all, where should our focus lie as we observe the Thanksgiving holiday?
Exploring gratitude is useful both as a personal practice and even more so as a collective one in trying times. This holiday can be a golden opportunity to raise our vibration to a loving sentiment, imagine a beloved community, align as a community, and knock down a few metaphoric dominos to move toward a common aim of justice that is true to our humanity. Gratitude invites individuals to find meaning, growth, and even blessings amid adversity.
There can be no fight for justice without the replenishment that can only come from the dance.
We know our challenges are the only signposts guiding our lives. However, as we face these challenges, they can distract us from entering spaces of gratitude and thanksgiving. Sacred text indicates that every day is a day of thanksgiving: “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,” (Psalm 92:1-2)
But what does this mean? What can be done and said to embrace this?
The declaration of thanksgiving with our hearts, minds and spirit is about us aligning with the Divine Creator within us. It has atmospheric implications, literally causing us to be lit with our biophotons! We become brighter lights and our electromagnetic fields increase in magnetism. When we believe our Divine Creator pays special attention to us, both as unique individuals and as a collective community that comes together with the Creator’s intentions in mind, the spiritual awareness that can take place can be life-giving.
As we bless others in our just, high regard for them, the universe always places us in the position to bless.
Have you ever encountered someone whose simple gesture set the tone for the rest of your day? Whether it is being a listening ear, giving to someone in need, or simply being kind to others, this way of being brings us to the space of a thanksgiving focus. We then are in the resonance frequency that manifests good tidings, peace and well-being. Before your eyes, your simple gestures may cause others to elevate and have a better day, even with brief interactions.
People filled with gratitude are contagious and transformative beings who set and change the atmosphere wherever they go.
“The Black church” tradition taught us gratitude is not just responding to favorable circumstances, but rather, gratitude is totally being present to and valuing the times. It is understanding that our external impact can be directed by what is going on internally. As we think about our ancestors, their spiritual journeys, and their ability to pave the way, we are grateful to be similarly empowered to go forward and be the difference.
What practices lead you to an attitude of gratitude?
What allows you to process the mundane or even difficult aspects of life while accessing a higher realm — where all you can say is, Thank You!
For the many times I’ve fallen
yet you forgave me
Thank you, Lord; I thank you
For unmerited favor and your brand new mercies
Thank you, how I thank you
For waking me up this morning
For letting me see one more dawning
Thank you, Lord, I thank you
I thank you, Lord
For life, health, and strength
For food and for shelter,
Thank you Lord; I thank you
If I had ten thousand tongues
It just wouldn’t be enough to say
(“Thank You” – Richard Smallwood)
Rev. Dr. Alisha Lola Jones is a faith leader helping people to find their groove in a fast-paced world, as a consultant for various arts and faith organizations and professor of music in contemporary societies at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. She is an award-winning author of Flaming? The Peculiar Theopolitics of Fire and Desire in Black Male Gospel Performance (Oxford University Press). For more information, please visit DrAlisha.com.
Rev. Calvin Taylor Skinner is dedicated to empowering frontline communities in Knoxville, Tenn. and the United Kingdom. He uses Faith and Policy to address energy justice, criminal justice reform, voter education/mobilization, electoral politics, and global affairs. Along with his wife, Rev. Dr. Alisha Lola Jones, they lead InSight Initiative, a consulting firm focusing on capacity building and live events production.
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