Living with a grateful heart

The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge - Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

The beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect on the past and to look toward the future, perhaps even with resolutions for new beginnings. In my pondering I have been thinking about all the things for which I am thankful, a list too long to name. With joy in my heart I turned to a new book by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Thumbing quickly at the contents I stopped at Gratitude, noting how fortunate we are to be alive and for the multiple blessings of our lives. (“The Book of Joy’)

The Dalai Lama and the Archbishop are familiar with suffering, the Dalai Lama himself being an outcast from his own country of Tibet. Tutu was the Archbishop of South Africa during the period of liberation from apartheid. They both know suffering and the plight of immigrants. But they live into joy knowing the alternative. The Archbishop has used a beautiful phrase to describe this way of being in the world: “becoming an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that

ripples out to all of those around us.” When we have a generous spirit, we are easy to be with and fun to be with. We radiate happiness, and our very company can bring joy to others. This ability comes from being “less self-centered, less self-regarding, and more self-forgetful. Then we are less burdened by our self-agenda. We do not have anything to prove. We can take the suffering of others and give them back our joy.” As the Dalai Lama put it, “In fact, taking care of others, helping others, ultimately is the way to discover your own joy and to have a happy life.”

Generosity is a key to living a joyful life. “When we are grateful, we act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity, and are willing to share.” As noted in the book, “If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people and respectful to all people. A grateful world is a world of joyful people. Grateful people are joyful people. A grateful world is a happy world.” (Brother Steindl-Rast)

The New Year is a good time to count our blessings, to live grace filled lives, and in generosity discover our own happiness. One spiritual help in this process is to let go of control, to be present in each moment with an open mind and heart, and to remember that our ultimate joy is found in the blessings of love gifted by God to be shared with one

another. We don’t have to ignore or deny the negative aspects of life; we simple choose to appreciate what is positive, preferring a smile to a frown.

I love Mother Teresa’s thoughts on joy. Here is what she wrote:

“Joy is prayer; Joy is strength; Joy is love; Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. She gives most who gives with joy.

The best way to show our gratitude to God and the people is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.

We all long for heaven where God is but we have it in our power to be in heaven with Him right now – to be happy with Him at this very moment. But being happy with him now means: loving as He loves, helping as He helps, giving as He gives, serving as He serves, rescuing as He rescues, being with Him for all the twenty-four hours, touching Him in his distressing disguise.”

May your lives be filled with love, generosity, gratitude, and joy.

The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge

Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

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