Gratitude

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November 6

Monday, November 6th, 2023

I started a new sermon series yesterday which is planned for the months of November and December. I’m calling it More Than a Holiday. My original plan was just to use that idea in November but once I really started thinking about it my rationale became clear and simple: those two months carry two of the “Big 3” holidays (the other obviously Easter). Tragically, those two special days have also become “taken-for-granted” holidays. Possibly none more than Thanksgiving.

I think a quick quiz will show that. One question. Word association. “Thanksgiving.”

Answers: Turkey. Family. Football. Time off work (for some). Holiday.

How many in our culture today would say, “Gratitude”? Or something like, “It is stopping the wheel in the mouse cage for a time of slow down and thankfulness”?

Not very many, if any, I’m afraid. That includes those of us who follow Jesus. we often get just as caught up in the rat race as our non-following counterparts.

Thanksgiving should not be a forgotten part of our lives. It changes us. It transforms us. It makes a difference in how we act; how we perceive life; and how others perceive us.  Here is something I wrote for my sermon and used it as part of my conclusion before reading Psalm 75:1 and Psalm 67. 

Gratitude changes our perspective. It changes our altitude (how we look at things). It changes our whole outlook. We go from pouting to praise. We go from grumbling to gratitude. We go from pessimism to optimism. We go from looking down to looking up. We go from griping to grinning. Gratitude helps us hold on to hope. We see from the past that God was good; we can see into the future with hope, knowing God is good.

Start this month determined to make gratitude more than a holiday event but a daily practice.

September 12

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

A further recollection of 9/11…only this one comes later…one year later.

I was still the pastor of a church in Sandusky, OH. As 9/11 approached, I knew the memory was still very real. I had befriended several other pastors and met with them on a monthly basis for laughter and mutual encouragement and prayer. I lived in a small town outside of Sandusky and had become acquainted with a law enforcement officer or two (not from disobeying the law). 🙂 Some of the other pastors had communication with LEOs and firefighters. So we decided to have a memorial service, which included some singing, short recollections, and honoring the men and women in attendance who were, what are now called “front line workers.” Standing on the stage with me were pastors of various churches, various colors, various races, and various nationalities. There was no distinction based on race, color, or creed.

There is a reason for that. When tragedy or hardship strikes, it knows no boundaries. It doesn’t say, “I’m just going to bother white people this time.” As a matter of fact, did AIDS just visit one class of people? COVID? Does discrimination? The answer, of course, is a big resounding NO.

We used a school auditorium for that one year anniversary of 9/11. It was packed! Year #2 not so. Much of the cooperation was also gone. Not because of animosity, but because life moves on. It happens. The pastors still met for prayer, laughter and mutual encouragement. But, in some way, the collective remembrance stopped. For me, 9/11 always brings a time of silence, of gratitude for others, and a renewed sense of living in a flawed, but still-the-best-country to live in.

I still sing “God Bless America” when I hear it (mostly under my breath because my singing acumen has much to be desired). 🙂 🙂 But I pray more that America will bless God, that we will repent and return to the ONE who controls all things and heal our land.

July 20

Thursday, July 20th, 2023

A blogging friend of mine, Pam Williams, is an insightful and engaging writer, as well as a pastor’s wife. She and her husband, Dick, “retired” from full-time ministry. Dick and Pam are close to my age and several years ago he decided to retire from being a full-time pastor in the Methodist church. So he thought. He has recently been asked to serve as the interim pastor of First United Methodist Church in Mercersburg, PA. You can read all about it here.  Pam is a long-time blogger…longer than me (my first blog was 2/08). Her most recent post (you can read it here) is called “Examples to Follow” and it really made me travel back through time. Please take a moment and read her short post then come back here to see my  time travel thoughts.

In my comment to her I wrote about 3 specific people:

My mother. She was primarily the one who told me and taught me about Jesus. I’m sure-although I can’t remember 🙂 – that she sang to me as she fed me and rocked me. She strived to live out her favorite song “Make Me a Blessing” from the hymn book. It was her faith that helped her survive my dad walking out after 25 years of marriage. She wasn’t perfect, just perfectly forgiven (to borrow a line from a Petra song).  It was her faith that kept her going when both her parents passed away and it was her faith that was real during her battle with a rare form of cancer that brought her to see Jesus in 2004.

My grandfather. Many were the walks to church on a Sunday, Wednesday or a Friday night (prayer meeting) when i was young. Those 3 miles were “open mic” nights when I would ask and he would listen and then answer.

Pastor Ralph White. Pastor White was a Timothy of the church I grew up in and at the retirement of our pastor after 35 years, he came to the church in Duquesne, PA, He was the pastor for about 3 1/2 years when he moved on to more fruitful and accepting territory (Johnstown, PA). He brought a renewed faith in my young heart and put a spark there to consider full-time ministry. I’m in the ministry largely because of his influence on my life.

There are more people…too numerous to mention. When one is 70 years old he has a lot of years and people to consider. I’m forever grateful for the people God brought into my life-past, present, and future.

Who has influenced you and your walk with Jesus? If they are still alive, have you thanked them?

June 22

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Yesterday was Father’s Day. It turned out to be a right fine day. There was the worship that started it off right. It was good to see some more folks venture out. Each week a new group of people is venturing out.  I came home to a home-grilled meal of salmon, asparagus, baked potatoes, and corn-on-the-cob. Some friends stopped by with ice cream (I am their surrogate father/grandfather). I went to the Y then came home and read a novel the rest of the evening. A nice relaxing day. I am grateful.

Gratitude seems to be a dying art these days. We run around so much trying to meet our own agenda that to take the time to be thankful is lost on us. With inspiration from Chuck Swindoll, I’d like to take a few moments to consider how we often take things for granted.

  • There is a light over my head. Thanks Tom
  • There is electricity pulsing through my house. Thanks again Tom.
  • There is an instrument that allows me to talk to someone miles away. Thanks Alexander.
  • I will soon get in my truck to drive to work. Thanks Henry.
  • On my face are glasses which help me to read. Thanks Ben.
  • We will soon celebrate the 4th of July with a waving flag. Thanks Betsy.
  • My life is given over to Jesus. Thanks mom and grandad.
  • I come home each day to a place of warmth, welcome and love. Thanks Jo.
  • I am called father by two beautiful and special young ladies. Thanks Tami and Janna.
  • I am called “grandpa.” Thanks Braden.
  • I serve a group of people who love me, call me pastor and friend. Thanks OVCF.

I could go on but it would take pages and still not be exhausted. Instead of complaining, let’s be thankful.

“Father, thank you for so much, for so many gifts. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to You for it all.”