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Blessing of the Animals is a joy-filled enterprise!  Last Sunday was such fun!  We talked with so many friends, neighbors, and coworkers about how they came to be an animal companion, and how it had changed their lives.  There were stories about dogs and cats being rescued, but several people said this: “I’m not sure who was rescuing who.”

Of course everyone is excited, but I am surprised every year that the
sanctuary becomes calm and settled during the service.  I’m guessing, but I think it might be because humans and animals are grateful to be with each other.

This Sunday we begin the Season of Gratitude at St. Mark’s.  We celebrate this season from mid-October through November and Thanksgiving,
because we believe that gratitude needs much more attention than we give it on the one day we devote to it.  I know I need as much practice as I can get when it comes to gratitude, because it easily gets crowded out of my daily life.

It doesn’t help that much of what passes for polite or personal conversation right now is so tinged with frustration, bitterness, and anger.  Gratitude can’t breathe when all available oxygen is consumed by these feelings.

And so I hope that the Season of Gratitude becomes an especially enlivening breath of fresh air for all of us, and that we can breathe deeply of it in all the work we do together.

Of course, we know that embracing and expressing gratitude is good for us.  But do we know how good?  The Book of Joy recounts a week of historic conversations between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu about the deep meaning of life.  It cites “recent research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky” that there are “three factors that have the greatest influence on increasing our happiness.”   They are:

Our ability to reframe our situation more positively;

Our ability to experience gratitude, and

Our choice to be kind and generous.

Both Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama are emphatic that, just like
happiness and joy, gratitude doesn’t simply happen–at least not most of the time.  They agree that the source of true joy for us, whatever our mood or circumstance, is when we give ourselves to another.

We might be blessed by a situation where we feel incredible gratitude and then respond with kindness and generosity.  But it is more powerful to first choose to be kind and generous–even if we are feeling hurt, angry, or
disappointed.  If we are able to break through with kindness and generosity, we can begin to understand the grace of God, which brings gratitude, which brings joy!

For the next six weeks, we come together as a community of faith, learning and practicing generous gratitude for who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.

I’m glad you’re here!  See you in church!