Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 are some of my favorite Biblical verses to pray. They remind me to give thanks and to praise all the goodness that is going on in every moment.
Yesterday morning I faced again the realities of an advancing disease, and that awakening made me grateful. I struggled to carry a plate in one hand and a cup in another and move forward at the same time. Because the experience is fresh to me – I haven’t struggled with that for years, not since a brain infection over a decade ago – I’m brought to a new place of appreciating complex actions I had learned to take for granted. I hadn’t thought in a while to give thanks for being able to carry a plate in one hand, a cup in another, and to move forward all at the same time. I thought about a toddler I know, who is learning such complex actions right now, and the adventure and the struggle involved – and that toddler’s joy in being able to do something we might take for granted.
Giving thanks and praise is a way of dancing with joy, recognizing that we might take certain things and people for granted that are really quite precious to us, people and things that if we were suddenly without would be terrifying and grievous to us. Spend a few moments asking yourself what you take for granted that are truly blessings, gifts to appreciate and savor. Then give thanks. Sing praises.
We can also give thanks and praise for what we have lost that remains precious. Once we were free or once we loved or once we enjoyed health or once we danced. Still, we knew those experiences and they belong to us. Out of being grateful for them, we have more understanding of what truly matters to us and how we want to be in this life. When I’ve endured a day full of barbs and cruelties, wow am I grateful for small kindnesses! In that gratitude, I realize the value of kindness. Out of my giving thanks, the next thing for me is usually to find a way to practice kindness, to act on what I have found wonderful.
Choosing to dance with joy in giving thanks and praise changes us. It changes how we interact with one another. It reorients us to the values that make the world in which we want to live. And it feels good, reminding us of the Holy’s blessings, recalling us to the goodness of this life.