Litany for Appreciation

Happy Thanksgiving Week! Everyone is talking about my favorite things this week: Gratitude. But I actually want to talk about the thing I consider the precursor to gratitude: Appreciation.

I have heard and read a lot of spiritual teachers from many different backgrounds say something to this effect: if you can get your mind/attitude/energy into a mode of appreciation, you can change your life because then you start to change how you perceive your life. Teachers from all walks of life say: appreciation is a precursor to gratitude, and gratitude is a precursor to love.

A patron recently called my attention to this passage in the Gospel of Luke, in which we see this rare attitude of appreciation illuminated:

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus[a] was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers[b] approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’[c] feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Ten are healed. One expresses appreciation. And I get the sense that when Jesus says “your faith has made you well” he means more than just physical wellness. I have a hunch that Jesus is acknowledging this attitude of gratitude to be a deeper inroad to wholeness; and that, somehow, appreciation is a bold exercise of faith. But here’s a thing I notice: to appreciate something, we first have to be paying attention to it. And attention is a costly thing - it takes intention and practice and deep looking. It takes what many spiritual teachers call Mindfulness.

In her book _Grateful_, Diana Butler Bass says, “Gratitude is not only an emotion; it is something we do. It is like tending a garden. It takes planting and watering and weeding. It takes time and attention. It takes learning. It takes routine. But, eventually, the ground yields, shoots come forth, and thanksgiving blooms.”

I wonder if all ten of those ex-lepers felt gratitude, but only one had any experience with doing gratitude? And if the teachers are right and the roadmap looks like this: (Attention → Appreciation → Gratitude → Love), then what does that mean for how we go about cultivating love and loving action in our lives? It’s a pretty good question, I think. Here’s a prayer for the roadmap:

God, as we seek to live lives of intentional love,
We acknowledge the importance of paying attention
To the deep self,
To the external lesson,
To the need and the want,
To the fulfillment and the calling,
To the disease and the healing,
To the existence and the blessing.

We are learning how to cultivate and grow love and loving action:
Starting with attention and observation,
Moving into appreciation and thankfulness,
Letting gratitude shift us into love.

We know that love is the foundation of the universe -
That the deepest particle,
The inmost kernel,
The alpha and the omega, is love.

But sometimes, in the midst of everything happening to us,
Love is kind of hard to get to.
So we are learning to start somewhere even simpler:
By paying attention,
By offering appreciation,
By letting appreciation lead to gratitude.

And we know that if we can get in gratitude’s groove and vicinity
It can show us the way to love,
Even in murky waters,
Even in complicated situations.

So, boldly, resisting the voices that tell us to duck and run,
We do our first act of faith,
Which is to appreciate even the meagerest of blessings,
And offer praise and thanksgiving. Amen

A Litany for Thanksgiving

I wrote this litany last year, before I had this site. I've written more litanies on the topic of gratitude than any other topic, and I hope it stays that way. I hope I can always hang on to a grateful heart.

Recently I tweeted this to my 54 twitter followers:
"If I die and the words "Jesus," "equality," and "prayer" don't appear in my epitaph, you'll all know I didn't fulfill my calling."

Now I think I would amend that to include the word "gratitude."


To the God of heaven and earth, creator of people and creatures, author of seasons and of time:
We give thanks.
In this season of reflection, we look back over our lives and over the year past, and we acknowledge the ways that you have shaped us.
We give thanks.
We acknowledge the ways that things have not been perfect, and we have fallen short.
We give thanks.
We reflect on the difficulties we have encountered, and the sorrows we’ve borne.
We give thanks.
We remember the times you have seemed near to us, and the times we have been so engrossed in our own lives that we couldn’t sense your presence.
We give thanks.
We confess those times we have failed to help, and missed opportunities to love.
We give thanks.

In joy and in sorrow, in triumph and in failure,
We give thanks.
In prosperity and in loss, in ease and in difficulty,
We give thanks.

We rest in the knowledge that your purposes are accomplished both with and despite us, and we understand that every part of our journey is an opportunity for us to grow.
We give thanks.
We rest in the peace of your kindness and soak up your overflowing love, which is always directed toward us, regardless of whether we are willing to receive it.
We give thanks.

May we go forward, walking in that same kindness, passing peace to all we meet, and loving generously and intentionally.
We give thanks.
And may gratitude be reaped and sown in our hearts
We give thanks.




Litany for Release

We have come through a tumultuous time here in the U.S. - one tumultuous time that has launched us straight into another. I have personally felt that I need to clear some inner space if I am going to interact with gratitude and the season of Advent. So, on this, the weekend before Thanksgiving I invite you to find a quiet space to pray this prayer with me.

I recommend praying this litany aloud, while doing a lot of breathing. In fact, I recommend a big ol’ breath in between each line. Some nice music would be good too.

We humans have a tendency to hold onto things. Help me to loosen up and let go.

I release my fear to you, God.
I release my pain to you, God.
I release my uncertainty to you, God.
I release my shame to you, God.
I release my busyness and hurry to you, God.
I release my worry to you, God.
I release my defensiveness to you, God.

I release to you any feeling that I need to fake something, or put on a show.
I release to you any sense that I am unworthy, or unloved by you.
I release to you any interactions I’ve had with people that have hurt or shocked me.
I release to you any grudges or unforgiveness I’m holding.
I release to you any urge for vengeance or need to prove a point.

I release myself from inappropriate expectations put on me by other people.
I release myself from insisting on perfection.
I release myself from micromanaging situations, or taking too much responsibility.
I release myself from saying Yes when I should be saying No.
I release myself from saying No when I should be saying Yes.

I accept the peace you offer me in your presence.
I accept the rest you offer me in bearing my burdens.
I accept the freedom you offer me
  To not judge
  To not consume
  To not categorize or label
  To not fill silence with noise.
I accept the spaciousness that comes from giving up things that don’t serve me or others.


A Bilingual Litany: Litany for Gracias

The church where I attend and lead worship is comprised of about 40% Spanish speakers. Because of this, and because we want to cultivate a diverse and welcoming community, we try to include Spanish elements in our services, usually in songs. This is my first bilingual litany. I have begun simply: with gratitude, the topic on which I have written more litanies than any other. I believe we suffer when we neglect gratitude, and that gratitude leads to good things in our lives and in our hearts. I also suspect that there is something transcendant, something heart-unlocking, in speaking words of praise and gratitude to God in languages not native to us. May we all cultivate hearts that value diversity and the universality of God's kingdom.

For those non-Spanish speakers, pronunciation and translation:
Santo Dios: SAN-toe dee-ose (Holy God)
Te damos gracias: Tay DA-mose GRA-see-us (We give you thanks)
Salvación: noo-AY-strah sal-vah-see-OHN (Our salvation)
Nuestra Esperanza: noo-AY-strah ess-pear-AHN-zah (Our hope)


Holy God,
Santo Dios.
We enter into Your presence with thanksgiving and praise.
Te damos gracias.

We look to You for our provision, for our daily bread.
Te damos gracias.
We look to You for love, acceptance, and identity.
Te damos gracias.
We look to You for wisdom, correction, and insight.
Te damos gracias.

We thank You for your unending care and patience with us.
Te damos gracias.
We thank You for your power in our weakness.
Te damos gracias.
We thank You for your grace and mercy toward us.
Te damos gracias.

We thank you for sending the Son, the Messiah: Jesus.
Nuestra Salvación.
We thank you for the gift of Your spirit.
Nuestra Esperanza.

You are the Source of Life, all goodness is in You.
Te damos gracias, Señor.