Fostering Gratitude


“Have you thanked the Lord? Have you praised God’s name? Don’t you know that no tomorrow is quite the same? Have you thanked the Lord? Have you knelt in prayer, and rejoiced that, rain or sunshine, our God is there?” ELW #829

At different times throughout the year my mind focuses on different topics for contemplation and reflection. With March as my birth month I reflect upon my life. I sobered up in April so that’s when I ponder my sobriety. December & May I think a lot about the love of my life, because that’s when I met and then married Dana. Like many people as January approaches I am resolute about resolutions. And now as we enter November I focus my musings on thanksgiving and gratitude.

Last week, as I walked up and down the fields, trees, draws and slews of western North Dakota my spirit and heart overflowed with feelings of gratitude. I think it is important to, as the old hymn says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings see what God has done.”

I reflected a lot about my dad. Yes, he is 85. Yes, he has cancer, congestive heart failure, is hard of hearing and problems with his sight, and as of late, his bladder has stopped working. But I am thankful that he is still alive. I am thankful that he has been the first male in his family to live past 50. Since I had children late in life, I am grateful they have had an opportunity to know grandpa. He may not be the active and energetic grandpa my nieces and nephews knew – but he is the loving and gracious grandpa that they all have gotten to know and love.

I felt the gratitude welling up in my soul for my family: Dana, the girls and the kids. For most of the years I was out walking those same fields, I would return to an empty house, even though I always wanted to be a loving husband and father. That is the gift which they have given me. I thanked the Lord for them every morning and evening and all hours in between.

I am grateful for both where I came from and for where I am. Gratitude filled my heart as I ate dinner with friends, as I talking to farmers working on their machinery and even getting beaten in a game of cribbage: I am thankful for the people who taught me how to be a pastor and for the mutual ministry we shared. But at the same time, I am extremely grateful for my life here in Siren and our mutual ministry at Pilgrim & Bethany, for the continual growth in our relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ – joyfully walking and working together side by side for the sake of Christ during the good times and the bad. For each day we share is a blessing from him who brought us together.

I think it is important to reflect upon the blessings that we have – to thank the Lord for our many personal blessings and also for the blessings we share together each and every day. Because I feel a life of gratitude, an attitude of gratitude, is something that can be fostered. We can look to the sunny or the grey side of life. We can be filled with optimism or pessimism. We can live lives full of hope and joy or doom and gloom. And the life lived in Christ is a life full of promise for both this one and the next. Consider these words of St. Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God that surpasses understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   This is the life I want to live -living in the blessings, big and small, and always being grateful to Jesus for what God has done.