Thanking & Blessing—The Sacred Art: Spiritual Vitality through Gratefulness


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Through penetrating reflections and practical tips for uncovering the blessed wonder in our lives—even in trying circumstances—Jay Marshall shows you how to recapture the goodness, holiness and abundance that saturate our world.

Jay Marshall, PhD
Foreword by Philip Gulley

Paperback
5½ x 8½, 176 pp | 978-1-59473-231-7
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A life filled with blessing is already within your reach.

With ever-increasing pressures building in our lives, we often slip into believing that the world is a burdensome place. As a result, our souls tighten, our hearts become dull, and our joy slowly drains away.

Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Through penetrating reflections and practical tips for uncovering the blessed wonder in our lives—even in trying circumstances—Jay Marshall shows you how to recapture the goodness, holiness and abundance that saturate our world. The secret lies in opening yourself to divine blessings, which inspires thankfulness, and responding by sharing that spirit with others in acts of thanking and blessing. Practices that will change your perspective, and your life, include:

  • Expectant Waiting—slowing down to perceive the presence of the Divine within you
  • Sacramental Living—experiencing the Sacred in every situation
  • Walking Cheerfully—cultivating a positive disposition
  • Answering that of God” in Others—elevating everyday interactions to the realm of spiritual discovery

Whatever your spiritual tradition, this thoughtful book will help you rediscover your profound connection to God, to others and to the world.

“Filled with wisdom, warmth, and practical advice for living a life full of thankfulness and blessing ... leads you to new ways of experiencing God’s goodness and grace in everyday life.”

J. Brent Bill, executive vice president, Indianapolis Center for Congregations;
author, Holy Silence  and Mind the Light 

“A rich mixture of personal reflection and engagement of spiritual traditions from West and East.... Challenges you to venture toward unimagined horizons of faithful living. To read this book is its own blessing.”

Richard F. Wilson, chair,
Roberts Department of Christianity,
Mercer University

“If you need a spiritual practice, but are just way too busy, this is the book for you. The multiple examples and practical applications create a gratitude workbook that will set you on the path of discovering the Sacred in the daily-ness of your life.”

Nancy Corcoran, CSJ, author,
Secrets of Prayer: A Multifaith Guide to
Creating Personal Prayer in Your Life

“A joyful guide that carries you step-by-step into a life abundant with possibilities for creating your own expression of God’s love [through] simple, daily practices that build into an intentional way of living.”

Margaret D. McGee, author,
Sacred Attention: A Spiritual Practice for Finding God in the Moment

“A lovely, lovely book. Captures the heartbeat of Quaker spirituality, offering it as a treasure for others to share. Truly a gift for the individual seeker, [as well as for] congregational educational programs and ecumenical book groups.”

Ann K. Riggs, PhD, Associate General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA

“Clearly and cogently written.... For anyone who would like to learn more about individual spirituality and how that would make for a better world.”

James M. Efird, professor emeritus of biblical interpretation, Duke Divinity School

“A gentle and mindful book … enter the sacred world it describes and you will be truly grateful.”

Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar, author,
The Bridge to Forgiveness: Stories and Prayers for Finding God and Restoring Wholeness

 

 

What makes your book different than other books available on this subject?

Many books written on the subject of thanking and/or blessing are written from a fundamentalist Christian perspective that develops the subject in a narrower way than I have done, or a new age perspective where explicit religious connections are minimal. I wanted to write a book that drew on my Christian and Quaker heritage, but was also conversant with other religious traditions. And I relished the idea of writing a book on the subject that offered practical guidance to those interested in developing their own spiritual practices.

Why do you think the themes of thanking and blessing are so valuable?

It sounds like a cliché, but I really do think life is a gift. Simple wonders of the world leave me in awe. The power of human connections encourages me. But most importantly, what I believe to be a relationship with the Divine infuses me with joy. We all have our share of trials and challenges, but blessings abound, too. The secret is to cultivate our awareness of those blessings. When we are cognizant of those, our awareness of the Divine increases and we experience an overwhelming sense of thankfulness and gratitude that begins to reshape our view of things. The way of thanking and blessing teaches us to revise and reorder our lives so that we become participants in God’s ongoing work of creating and blessing.

You stress the idea that there is a part of God in every person. How do you maintain this position in the face of many examples of heartless injustice and random violence?

The world is a seriously complicated place! Still, I’m persuaded by the voices of multiple religious traditions that understand the Divine as the creator of all, and as dwelling within all creation. Their testimony coincides with and confirms my own religious experiences. So for me, it is not a question of if God is in every person; rather, it is a question of how human choices lead to practices that ignore this deeper truth. The practice of thanking and blessing helps us recover this often-overshadowed perspective.

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  • Marshall stresses the importance of our names for and images of God. When you think of the Divine, what images or names do you prefer to use in description? What are some of the reasons you find these names and images preferable? Discuss any names or images often used by others that you find unbearable. Why is that?
  • In this book, blessing is described as more than praise or prayer. It also includes our effort to infuse goodness into the situations we encounter. Name people or events that have blessed you. What made these moments significant for you? In what ways did they feel like holy moments to you?
  • The sacred art of thanking and blessing emphasizes the presence of the Divine in ordinary affairs. Describe a time when you experienced God as near and present. What challenges complicate living with an attentive ear for the divine footstep?
  • Chapter six underscores the prevalence of divine love in multiple religious traditions. In what ways is love a quality you associate with the Divine? How have you experienced it? What demands does it make of you, if any? Describe practical ways you love others.
  • Marshall encourages us to consider integrity as a spiritual quality, stressing the importance of aligning our values with our practices. As you reflect on the way you order your life, spend your energy, and direct your resources, how would you rate your own integrity? What changes might bring better alignment between your beliefs and your actions?

 

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