Re-membering the source from which the bounties come

My SPACIOUS friend Cary posed a question yesterday:

Would we live differently if we believed this quote? “There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been.”?
Annie Dillard

to which I half jokingly replied: “Some of us are turkeys…” — turkeys walking along the fence of gratitude and forgetfulness. As Susan Griffin reminds us in Yes Magazine, to re-member is to make something part of our life. Yet to forget is so human. One of the most intriguing, and humbling, things I took from an Wilmette Institute online class on Islam was that unlike in Catholicism (and I must say Eastern Orthodox Christianity as well), in Islam there is no concept of the original sin — rather the idea that man is forgetful… Thus the need to says prayers five times a day! Thanksgiving - Wild Turkeys in the Shenandoah

So on a day when most Americans gather around family tables — or homeless shelters — let us re-member these words of Lincoln, the president who in the depth of the Civil War in 1863 made Thanksgiving a National Holiday:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

And as another friend, Brent Poirier re-minds me, let us offer prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude:

Behold us, O Lord, gathered at this board, thankful for Thy bounty, our gaze turned to Thy Kingdom. O Lord! Send down unto us Thy heavenly food and blessing from Thee. Verily, Thou art the Generous, and verily, Thou art the Beneficent, the Merciful.

O Lord! How shall we thank Thee! Thy bounties are limitless, and our gratitude but limited. How can the limited render thanks to the limitless? Incapable are we of offering thanks for Thy mercies. Utterly powerless, we turn unto Thy Kingdom, and beg Thee to increase Thy bestowal and bounty. Thou art the Giver, Thou art the Bestower, Thou art the Powerful.
(Two Prayers by Abdu’l-Baha, “Abdu’l-Baha, The Centre of the Covenant” p. 308)

Praise be to God! that thy house hath become the nest and shelter of the divine birds and thy face is illumined and brightened by the light of the love of God and thy tongue is loosened in uttering heavenly proofs and evidences. Therefore, in order to give thanks for this bestowal, add, day by day, to thy love of God and be thou engaged in service.
(Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Volume 3, p. 623)

The decoration and adornment of the tongue consists in praising and thanksgiving to the Lord Almighty…Thank God that — praise be to God! — the glass of thy life and heart hath become bright with the lamp of guidance, and the chalice of hope and desire hath overflowed with the wine of the love of God. This is an attainment and blessing that, if thou give thanks a thousand centuries and cycles, thou wilt not be capable of doing justice. Therefore, in the utmost of joy, gladness, rejoicings and endless happiness thou must open thy tongue in thanksgiving and glorifying the Lord of mercy and become the cause of enlightenment.
(Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Vol. 3, p. 689)

Thankfulness is of various kinds. There is a verbal thanksgiving which is confined to a mere utterance of gratitude. This is of no importance because perchance the tongue may give thanks while the heart is unaware of it. Many who offer thanks to God are of this type, their spirits and hearts unconscious of thanksgiving. This is mere usage, just as when we meet, receive a gift and say thank you, speaking the words without significance. One may say thank you a thousand times while the heart remains thankless, ungrateful. Therefore, mere verbal thanksgiving is without effect. But real thankfulness is a cordial giving of thanks from the heart. When man in response to the favors of God manifests susceptibilities of conscience, the heart is happy, the spirit is exhilarated. These spiritual susceptibilities are ideal thanksgiving.
There is a cordial thanksgiving, too, which expresses itself in the deeds and actions of man when his heart is filled with gratitude. For example, God has conferred upon man the gift of guidance, and in thankfulness for this great gift certain deeds must emanate from him. To express his gratitude for the favors of God man must show forth praiseworthy actions. In response to these bestowals he must render good deeds, be self-sacrificing, loving the servants of God, forfeiting even life for them, showing kindness to all the creatures….Physically and spiritually we are submerged in the sea of God’s favor. He has provided our foods, drink and other requirements; His favors encompass us from all directions. The sustenances provided for man are blessings. Sight, hearing and all his faculties are wonderful gifts. These blessings are innumerable; no matter how many are mentioned, they are still endless. Spiritual blessings are likewise endless — spirit, consciousness, thought, memory, perception, ideation and other endowments. By these He has guided us, and we enter His Kingdom. He has opened the doors of all good before our faces. He has vouchsafed eternal glory. He has summoned us to the Kingdom of heaven. He has enriched us by the bestowals of God. Every day he has proclaimed new glad tidings. Every hour fresh bounties descend.
(Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 237)

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