Church Within
Thanksgiving Service of 1999

Offered by

Minister Judy Girard     [visit]

Your Gifts of Love to others make possible the growth of this Ministry and are greatly appreciated by all whom they serve.

Thanksgiving Service of Church Within 1999
Today's Service is offered by: Minister Judy Girard

Welcome by: Pastor Daniel
Greetings my Beloved Sisters and Brothers, and welcome once again to The Church that is Within.

Thank you All for Being here!!

(from: Mary Manin Morrisey)
All the blessings in life happen to us as they happen through us. Be the blessing, so that the blessings can increase, develop and grow. "Today, I consciously bless everyone I meet."

(From: The Urantia Papers - Paper-147 Section-5)
On this particular occasion at Simon's house, among those who came in off the street was a woman of unsavory reputation who had recently become a believer in the good news of the gospel of the kingdom. This woman was well known throughout all Jerusalem as the former keeper of one of the so-called high-class brothels located hard by the temple court of the gentiles. She had, on accepting the teachings of Jesus, closed up her nefarious place of business and had induced the majority of the women associated with her to accept the gospel and change their mode of living; notwithstanding this, she was still held in great disdain by the Pharisees and was compelled to wear her hair down-- the badge of harlotry. This unnamed woman had brought with her a large flask of perfumed anointing lotion and, standing behind Jesus as he reclined at meat, began to anoint his feet while she also wet his feet with her tears of gratitude, wiping them with the hair of her head. And when she had finished this anointing, she continued weeping and kissing his feet.

(from: Alan Cohen, I Had It All The Time)
Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf. If you do not practice gratefulness, its benefaction will go unnoticed, and your capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished. To be grateful is to find blessings in everything. This is the most powerful attitude to adopt, for there are blessings in everything.

(from: The Urantia Papers - Paper-146 Section-2)
Jesus warned his followers against thinking that their prayers would be rendered more efficacious by ornate repetitions, eloquent phraseology, fasting, penance, or sacrifices. But he did exhort his believers to employ prayer as a means of leading up through thanksgiving to true worship. Jesus deplored that so little of the spirit of thanksgiving was to be found in the prayers and worship of his followers. He quoted from the Scriptures on this occasion, saying: "It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to the name of the Most High, to acknowledge his loving-kindness every morning and his faithfulness every night, for God has made me glad through his work. In everything I will give thanks according to the will of God."

(from: Mary Manin Morrisey)
In the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," God tells second-class angel Clarence: "There's a man on earth who needs your help," to which Clarence responds, "If I help him, will I get my wings?" Clarence is a lower-rank angel because he's still focused on, "What's in it for me?" He ultimately receives his wings after discovering that true service is about gratitude, giving without expecting anything in return. Today, choose to be in service to others simply for the feeling of knowing you served well today.

(from: The Urantia Papers Paper-146 Section-2)
And then Jesus said: "Be not constantly overanxious about your common needs. Be not apprehensive concerning the problems of your earthly existence, but in all these things by prayer and supplication, with the spirit of sincere thanksgiving, let your needs be spread out before your Father who is in heaven." Then he quoted from the Scriptures: "I will praise the name of God with a song and will magnify him with thanksgiving. And this will please the Lord better than the sacrifice of an ox or bullock with horns and hoofs."

(from: Eric Butterworth, Spiritual Economics)
When you work in the right consciousness, when your work becomes organically a part of your whole self, and when you do your work out of that commitment, no matter what other people do, no matter what the compensation may be, do it for the health of your own soul, then you open the door by which the affluence of the Universe flows forth into your life.

(from: Meister Eckhart)
If the only prayer I ever utter is “thank you,” it would be sufficient.

The Sermon

An Attitude of Gratitude

I don't think it was an accident that I completed the requirements for ordination in Church Within over Thanksgiving weekend last year. It seems fitting then, for me to offer today's sermon in thanksgiving and gratitude for the love of God in my life and for the ministry with which God has blessed me.

I think this season is my favorite time of year. I absolutely adore fall and always have. There is something about all the leaves and the crispness of the air that just touches my soul. It is also a sign that we are moving into holiday time—holy day time. It starts this weekend with Thanksgiving. Christmas is another story in and of itself. This is a spiritual time, when personally I prepare for an even deeper manifestation of light and love in my heart. Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a very special annual journey, which is then marked by Advent, Christmas, New Year's and Epiphany.

Thanksgiving is more than getting together with family and friends, eating and watching football. There's nothing wrong with those things (well, except for those of us who can't stand football!). But Thanksgiving is so much more than that. It makes me wonder sometimes why it is that we only celebrate a Thanksgiving Holiday one time a year. Now that I think about it, I don't. Perhaps it is the one time a year when I really put forth the effort to truly celebrate in thanks for all that I have—a wonderful family and good friends, freedom, peace, happiness and love in my heart, to name a few.

One of the most important things in my life is gratitude. Many, many years ago, I was really really struggling with life. In fact, I'm not so sure I really wanted to be living. My body was still alive, but the rest of me had long since shriveled up. Very little about my life was pleasant. I was in a very painful marriage, had little sense of self, was spiritually and financially poor, felt that God was eluding me and I had an attitude that the world had dumped on me. It was difficult for me to think that there was anything other than pain and darkness and hurt and disappointment. In fact, it wasn't difficult, it was impossible. At that time, I was talking with someone on a regular basis whom I'm sure must have been somewhat frustrated with me. He was a priest, who somehow had come across my path. I met with him regularly. There where times I wasn't sure why except that I didn't feel SO bad after I had spent an hour or two with him. He could see where I had been and where I was. He must have seen where I could go even though I couldn't. One day while I was talking to him I had this image of being a little girl in a barn. The barn was literally filled with manure. It smelled. It was dark. And I was VERY alone. He kept inviting me to come outside where the air was fresh and clean and where the sun was shining. I was afraid. More accurately, I was terrified. Further, I was stubborn. After all, I knew what to expect inside. More of the same. No room to be hurt or disappointed. I expected the dung heap to get bigger and bigger and it did. If I came out I might expect things to be different and I was equally sure that the dung heap would just follow me wherever I went. This man was extremely patient and kind. He had the wisdom to sit with me where I was. To enter into my imagery and gently invite me to look at something else. It took a long time. I am sure, looking back that there must have been times that it was exasperating for him. One day, while I was talking with him, I received a different image. If I wouldn't come out of that smelly old barn, he would come in. He had enough light and gratitude that he wouldn't get lost in all that manure. So, in he came, leaving the door open. After sitting patiently for a while he led me out of that barn. Still, I was convinced that it was more comfortable in the barn. It was familiar and I knew what to expect there. Yet, after being outside in the fresh air, I kind of liked it. I wasn't convinced that I could really stay there though. In fact, I was pretty certain that it wouldn't take very much at all for me to go high-tailing it back into the barn. This same man suggested that as often as I needed to, I stop and think of one thing for which I was grateful. His idea was that maybe once or twice a day I take pause and think of something good that had happened. It was a great idea, but I found that so much junk happened in between times that I was still able to focus on the negative in my life and spend more time in the barn than out of it. Finally, I hit upon stopping at least every hour and focusing on something good that had happened. Some days I would have to consciously stop myself every fifteen minutes or so, just to find a good thing in the midst of the awful stuff. Gradually, I began to see more good in my life than not. Gradually, I began to be able to see God in my life in ways I had not experienced before. Gradually, I began to see that even the things that happened that were not particularly pleasant had purpose. And gradually, I began to trust that not all people would hurt me, abandon me or rob me of my self-worth. And gradually, I fell in love with life, with God and with the energizing feeling that gratitude brings.

Is my life perfect today? Do I never get hurt or disappointed? Do I always have positive interactions with those around me? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But, an attitude of gratitude helps me to keep things in perspective and focus on what good can come from what surrounds me and on the blessings that are bestowed on me daily.

Oh, and the man—he continues to be one of my best friends and he continues to teach me about life and gratitude and holiness. He continues to be the face of God for me—and I am extremely grateful for his friendship and love in my life.

Today I am grateful for the life I have, for a loving husband, wonderful and healthy children and grandchildren and friends with whom I can share this bountiful life.

If you have ever spent time in a spiritual barn, complete with its own dung heap, I invite you today to come outside, look around and give thanks for something good in your life. If you look, you will find it. I guarantee it!

The Prayer
Loving God,

Thank You!

God's Love and Abundant Blessings,

Judy Girard,
Minister, Church Within

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