Greetings Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
It is November and of course that means we will celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of the month, probably eat too much, watch some football and enjoy time with family and friends around the dinner table. And there will probably be a prayer of thanks for God’s blessings prior to the holiday feast. At least that is how things will go down at my home on the 24th.
For many years of my adult life that was one of the few occasions when I took time to thank God in prayer. More often than not my prayer life consisted of a series of requests when in crises or when I really wanted something in my life to change. To say my prayer life was fulfilling would be a gross misstatement. And, the lack of solid and consistent prayer and very little in the way of recognizing the abundance of God had a major impact on the quality of my life.
I recently penned back-to-back newsletter articles about prayer this summer. In those articles I wrote about the way I view prayer and my thoughts about how to pray. I did mention we can use the model for prayer that Jesus taught us as a good starting point, and the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer includes thanksgiving as well as praise. This month, in honor of our National holiday, I thought I spend more time focused on giving thanks.
Not growing up in a church family or being part of the church truly left me in the dark when it came to understanding who God is and the riches of His grace. Once I became part of the body of Christ in my late 20’s my understanding of God, my theology, really started to take shape and it has been evolving ever since. It took a few years to really appreciate the ever-present blessings of God and come to the realization that God is the source of everything in our world and in my life. These are things that Luther taught in the Large and Small Catechism.
Coming to that realization really impacted my prayer life which in turn had a significant impact on perspectives and attitudes. If you have ever heard me pray you may have noticed that I almost always begin my prayers with praise and thanksgiving, even when I am praying in a very difficult or heartbreaking situation. That is very intentional and reflects my understanding of the reality of life on this side of heaven and the reality of the riches of the Kingdom of God. I have spoken often about the intersection of those two worlds.
For many years prior to my first wife Tracy’s death, I kind of believed that life was either all good or all bad, somewhat good or somewhat bad, basically singular in feeling or emotion. Reflecting back, I realize that not the case at all. Everyday life is a mix of things that are great, not so great, good, not so good, just okay, and down-right miserable in varying percentages. Even in the worst moments of my life, in my deepest grief, there were still incredible blessings and things I was thankful for even if I had a really hard time admitting that. I see it much more clearly when I reflect back on those times.
God was ever present during that time loving me, sustaining me, and surrounding me with a large group of people who showed me what it means to be loved and cared for. I am so grateful for those things as much as I felt surrounded by the darkness of my grief. That time in my life was a time of extreme sorrow, but also abundant blessings. And it also taught me that I am blessed by God 24 hours a day, 7 days a week regardless of what is going on with me or the people I really care about.
Prior to coming to this realization my attitude and perspective ebbed and flowed like tide. Some days I was pretty happy, other days I was pretty bitter or angry, Sadly, there were many more days of the latter. I lacked a realistic perspective of gratitude and understanding of God. This certainly does not mean that I am immune to the challenges of life, or that there are less challenges in my life. In fact, there are probably more challenges to daily life now than ever. But, I have never been happier! God did not change. His blessings have always been infinite and ever present. I changed. And that is reflected in my prayer life, always giving thanks and counting my blessings during my intentional prayer time and throughout each day as I experience the wonder and abundance of our amazing God. It is all around us and we really do have a choice as to how we see life and our world. So, don’t just give thanks when you celebrate on the 24th. Give thanks every day, throughout the day and I promise it will change your life.
Yours in Christ,