Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors Me; to him who order his way aright I will show the salvation of God! Psalm 50:23
What am I going to do today? There are lots of us who are asking this question, and for a number of reasons.
Some of us feel overwhelmed with work and responsibilities. This period of the covid-19 pandemic hasn’t caused work to stop. In fact, many of us are working harder than ever.
Some of us are on the other end of the spectrum. We are bored. We are trying to keep the quarantine, and so we aren’t venturing out to restaurants or to the beach. Kids are stuck at home without the usual sports and summer camps to keep them busy.
And some of us are in the middle—we really don’t know what to do. We venture out but are uneasy about it. We try to stay away from the endless cycle of negative news but somehow it gets into our conversations.
Regardless of where we are and what we are doing, the collective angst and anxiety of our society is higher than I can ever remember it being.
We’ve been discussing the Psalms over the past couple of months, as a source of comfort in our time of need. Each one has a different theme. Each one captures a different emotion, a different need. Today’s verse is from Psalm 50, the very last of the Psalm: “He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors Me; to him who order his way aright I will show the salvation of God!” Thus, if you are looking for a starting point today, start with thanksgiving.
Here are some practical things you can do:
- Begin the day with prayer. When we pray, whether at the beginning of the day or at any point of the day, begin each prayer with some thanksgiving to God. In fact, lately, I’ve been beginning each prayer with the phrase, “we thank You Lord,” which then forces me to find something of thanks to put behind that phrase. Even when praying with people in a difficult circumstance, I try to begin a prayer with this phrase. And sometimes, the phrase continues, “We thank You, Lord, that we can come and pray before You.”
- Be intentionally thankful to those who you come in contact with. Thank your spouse if he or she has prepared a meal. Thank your child/children for the things they are doing right, even if the things they are doing are expected. Thank people who cross your path during the day, especially those who work in supermarkets. Thank co-workers, neighbors. And even if you aren’t thankful for anything in particular, use the word “grateful,” such as “I’m grateful that you are my neighbor.”
- Make a list of the things you are thankful for. We all make lists in conversations of the things that frustrate us—quarantine, civil unrest, politics being the chief among them. Make a list of the things you are grateful for, and the people you are grateful for. And then after each person or thing on the list, write down specific details about why you are grateful for that thing or person. As an example, I’m thankful for my job, because it gives me an opportunity to glorify God, to help others, to make a positive impact on my community and it pays me a salary. Instead of dwelling on the long hours and the challenging people, I will intentionally choose to look at my job from a starting point of gratitude. Same thing with people—instead of looking at their shortcomings, we can choose to look at their strengths. Instead of looking at how they frustrate us, we can look at how they enrich our lives. Start with your spouse and your children, looking at their strengths instead of their shortcomings.
I love the phrase “change your latitude with an attitude of gratitude.” Gratitude will help change your latitude from angry and frustrated, to thankful and hopeful. Why link “thankful” and “hopeful” together? Because when a person is angry and frustrated, this can quickly point them down a path to despair. However, a person cannot feel thankful and hopeless at the same time. Thus, when we are thankful, we get pointed down a more hopeful path.
As an added bonus, when we honor others, we show love to our neighbor and thus fulfill the commandment of God to love one another. When we show gratitude, we please God as well.
The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes, He does not keep silence, before Him is a devouring fire, round about Him a mighty tempest. He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that He may judge His people: “Gather to Me My faithful ones, who made a covenant with Me by sacrifice!” The heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is judge! “Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. I do not reprove you for your sacrifices; your burnt offerings are continually before Me. I will accept no bull from your house, nor he-goat from your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world and all that is in it is Mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.” But to the wicked God says “What right have you to recite My statutes, or take My covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast My words behind you. If you see a thief, you are a friend of his; and you keep company with adulterers. You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you. Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I rend, and there be none to deliver! He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors Me; to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God!” Psalm 50
Change your latitude with an attitude of gratitude!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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