Various celebrations of thanksgiving and gratitude have been practiced through the eras in almost all cultures and religions, for there is innate in human beings a need to express gratitude for that which is good in life, usually people we love and the harvest of material benefits. Soon citizens of the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving Day, and though the history of how this U.S. holiday came about is controversial and factually questionable, we can give thanksgiving on this day for the many blessings in our lives—material and otherwise. In other words, many of us we can choose to celebrate Thanksgiving from a more universal context rather than from a more nationalistic frame of reference.
Actually, for me personally, celebration of thanksgiving is daily. Let me tell you (in part) why this is so.
Having Faith in God the Father/Mother
For more than thirty years I have had conversations with men and women who have spent a decade or more in a school system (public or private), giving of their love, energy, and talents. When I listen to their expressions of disappointment, disenchantment, and exhaustion, I am reminded of my own experiences as a highly motivated school teacher who gave my creativity and inspiration to the students I loved.
When I graduated from college and returned to the San Carlos Apache reservation to teach, I was full of enthusiasm, hope, and expectations. Like the individuals just referred to, I retained my idealism and optimism for many years, thinking that great changes could happen for my students as long as I inspired them with my great teaching and encouraged them with my genuine love for them. And, like many other teachers, I grew exhausted and frustrated, for there seemed to be so little to show for so much work.
A friend of mine who retired after a thirty-year career as a history teacher expressed to me his extreme disappointment in the school system. Though he enjoyed the interaction with his students and was considered one of the more outstanding teachers in the school, he chose to take early retirement because he could no longer work in a system that he believed had become compromised and almost defunct.
Many teachers have considered using their talents outside of teaching but feel trapped with few options, and even though my history-teacher friend was struggling for many years, he hung in there until he had thirty years of service so that he could have a decent pension. Most considered his move very practical, and it was for him, as it is for many dedicated but very tired and disappointed teachers.
More than thirty years ago, I took a leap of faith after fifteen years of teaching in public schools and simply quit with no concrete plans of what I was going to do. When I just up and resigned, most people considered my move to be impractical and downright irresponsible, for I was a single mother with three children, though their father was very active in parenting them too.
Many people come to a crossroads in their lives where they want to change their line of work and try something that would be more healthy and sustainable for them, their family, and for the world. Should they take a leap in faith and try something outside of the mainstream or should they be practical and continue as they have for so many years because at least they would have guaranteed income?
Why I was able to just up and quit my position in mainstream society was because I had faith and hope, faith that God was indeed guiding me to take a “road less traveled,” and hope that I would find my way on that path with no financial security and no practical plan of where I was going to live or what I was going to do for work.
More than three decades later here I am, alive and full of gratitude for my lot in life. As I so often express, I believe that I am one of the richest persons alive, and that feeling of prosperity has very little to do with the material aspect of my life, though I am very thankful for my lovely surroundings and my many physical blessings.
As I recently told a friend who lives a fairly luxurious life-style, I would feel at spiritual peace and full of thanksgiving if I lived in a shack, for I believe I am walking in my God-given destiny, doing work I love and living within a community of loving, intelligent, and service-minded people in an environment that provides boundless opportunities for growth in virtues and wisdom.
I am saddened by my materially wealthy friend's lot in life, what she has settled for. Though she appears “successful” by the standards of the dominant culture (what I refer to as “the third dimension”), she told me that she has had to compromise her own deep longings and higher values in order to remain in the work, lifestyle, and personal relationships she is currently in. It is her choice at this time to stay in the life she has composed, even though she expresses that she is deeply disappointed, frustrated, and unhappy.
Being Realistically Hopeful
I have learned over the years to be realistic in my hope for others. Many years ago when I was still teaching in the public school system, I recall an epiphany I had. I was fervently praying that God would help me with my expectations for my students. I could see their potential; I had great hopes for them, and I poured my heart, mind, and soul into being the best teacher I could be. I worked hard at providing opportunities that would inspire them, expand them, encourage them, and excite them to anticipation of a life with many doors for them to open. But it seemed that no matter my motives, no matter my plans for them, no matter how hard I worked, not much seemed to really happen for the majority of them. Most of them still appeared to be shut down, shallow, and disinterested in what I had to offer.
During this time of pouring out my discouragement in prayer, after moaning and groaning, mumbling and grumbling about how hard I worked for these kids and not much seemed to happen, I finally quieted down to rest in the Universal Father and listen. I received a very clear message: “Continue in your good work and be not attached to the outcome. For more is occurring than you can see.”
“Be not attached to the outcome.” Those words hit me like a sledge hammer. I suddenly realized that I was too attached to my expectations of how things would turn out. I continue to be challenged with situations where I have to let go of my personal expectations, to not be attached to the outcome, and to continue in my day-to-day work within what I understand to be God's will, letting go of false hopes and being realistic in a spiritized mind.
I am a naturally optimistic person, and for many years I was falsely hopeful and optimistic in third-dimensional institutions. I learned from my participation in various religious, political, and social movements to not place so much confidence in them. I actually came to realize, through my own experiences, this truth stated in The URANTIA Book: “Secular social and political optimism is an illusion. Without God, neither freedom and liberty, nor property and wealth can lead to peace.” The peace referred to here is not only peace between human beings but the inner personal peace of individuals.
I think that many individuals who are dissatisfied with their status in life will not find the inner peace and meaningful work they are seeking, as long as they do not have faith in God and hope in His/Her outworkings in their lives. Many who are not spiritually inclined and more materialistic in their perceptions of reality are optimistic, hard-working, and well-meaning people, but their realism is still based on secular values, not realizing that many of those values are divine in origin. As long as those values are applied without the spiritized implications, then they turn rank, as can be seen in so many revolutions that started out with hope for something much better but turned out just as problematic as what was in place previously.
The URANTIA Book refers to realistic and false hope. What I began to realize in that epiphany I had, when I received the message to have no attachment to the outcome of my endeavors, was to be realistic as well as hopeful from a spiritized perspective. As long as I am doing the best I can in God's will, good will come out of my endeavors, even if I may not see the manifestation of my work immediately. I remind myself of another truth I learned from The URANTIA Book, which is that the act is mine but the consequences are God's.
Jesus had no interest in the outcome of His interactions with people; He just gave of Himself and moved on. So though I love those I interact with, I am learning to not place false hope in them; I place my hope in the fragment of God within them, for it is the leading of the Spirit of God that empowers any of us to transform ourselves and our lives.
The URANTIA Book also indicates that true, realistic hope is only attained through the God fragment within us (known also as the Thought Adjuster). With that hope we harmonize our attitudes and thoughts with the Thought Adjuster's leadings and can then realize the transforming power of all of the living spiritual forces available to us. It is only through divine hope that we experience transformations of human character.
My hope is to attain, at the highest degree possible, the perfection of character that Jesus acquired in His short life on Urantia. I cannot do this without cooperating moment-to-moment with divine spiritual influences. I also hope to attain the practical optimism that Jesus had, His realism, which is founded on faith, hope, and love.
In the earthly life of Jesus, religion was a living experience, a direct and personal movement from spiritual reverence to practical righteousness. The faith of Jesus bore the transcendent fruits of the divine spirit. His faith was not immature and credulous like that of a child, but in many ways it did resemble the unsuspecting trust of the child mind. Jesus trusted God much as the child trusts a parent. He had a profound confidence in the universe, just such a trust as the child has in its parental environment. Jesus' wholehearted faith in the fundamental goodness of the universe very much resembled the child's trust in the security of its earthly surroundings. He depended on the heavenly Father as a child leans upon its earthly parent, and his fervent faith never for one moment doubted the certainty of the heavenly Father's overcare. He was not disturbed seriously by fears, doubts, and skepticism. Unbelief did not inhibit the free and original expression of his life. He combined the stalwart and intelligent courage of a full-grown man with the sincere and trusting optimism of a believing child. His faith grew to such heights of trust that it was devoid of fear.
Jesus led persons to feel at home in the world; he delivered them from the slavery of taboo and taught them that the world was not fundamentally evil. He did not long to escape from his earthly life; he mastered a technique of acceptably doing the Father's will while in the flesh. He attained an idealistic religious life in the very midst of a realistic world. Jesus did not share an apostle's pessimistic view of humankind. The Master looked upon humans as the sons and daughters of God and foresaw a magnificent and eternal future for those who chose survival. He was not a moral skeptic; he viewed people positively, not negatively. He saw most persons as weak rather than wicked, more distraught than depraved. But no matter what their status, they were all God's children and his brethren.
Living a Life of Thanksgiving
In the various teachings on prayer and worship, The URANTIA Book states that prayer is many things, and a very important form of prayer is the expression of thanksgiving. (I highly recommend reading and reflecting on Jesus' discourse on prayer and worship found in Paper 146, Section 2.)
As I continue to grow spiritually, I experience less of the lower human emotions and more of the higher emotions. I experience the most joy and peace with what The URANTIA Book calls the highest human feelings, the worshipful emotions of gratitude, awe, reverence and humility.
I am grateful for so much, but what dominates my gratitude is the realness of God's presence in my life. No matter how discouraged I get, how frustrated, or how tired, I know that God is with me and with this world. I cannot remember ever not knowing of the reality of God's presence. I just continue to experience it more fully, more completely as each day passes. My faith just gets bigger.
Where did my faith come from? The URANTIA Book states that faith, hope, and assurance are all related; as you live with a realistic faith in God, you attain hope in real things of eternal value, not in false illusions, not in temporary fleeting things. With hope in that which is real, you begin to experience assurance—assurance in the presence of God and assurance in the power of truth, beauty, and goodness over evil.
One of the truths taught is that in order to accelerate our ascension we must use faith and be dependent upon revelation. I am so thankful for the epochal revelation, for even though I have always had faith in God and have experienced His/Her presence in many ways, since I have begun to study and experience the truths in The URANTIA Book and Continuing Fifth Epochal Revelation (found in The Cosmic Family volumes), I have progressed psychospiritually in leaps and bounds, which has resulted in much more personal courage, happiness, and inner peace.
 Paper 195, Section 8, Paragraph 12
 See Paper 5, Section 2
The URANTIA Book, Paper 196, Introduction, Paragraph 11
The URANTIA Book, Paper 196, Section 2, Paragraph 9
 See Paper 62, Section 5, Paragraph 4
 See Paper 19, Section 5, Paragraph 12