The air is getting colder, the sky a little more dreary, and the leaves are falling. Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching with all of its wonder. My mouth waters as I think about all the turkey, mashed potatoes… and more mashed potatoes I plan to eat this year.
Most important in this season of Thanksgiving is the practice of intentional gratitude. That is, choosing to be thankful. Thanksgiving is a scheduled holiday that comes around at a set time regardless of family circumstances or any other variables that may get in the way of us being thankful on that Thursday. Thanksgiving happens when it happens, whether we feel gratitude in our hearts or not, and often times the only way to be thankful on Thanksgiving is to choose to be grateful.
Perhaps this sounds a little weird, since it can be argued that we should always be grateful for something, at the very least that we are alive each day to consider whether we are grateful for something or not. Yet, while I agree that we should be grateful for things in our lives and even life itself, it is all too easy to get caught up focusing on things in life for which we are spiteful. It is easy when waking up early to grumble about how tired we are, or mad at the world when we struggle to pay our bills, or even frustrated when somebody cuts us off on the highway. For some people, resentment about how awful life can be defines their daily outlook. On the other hand, for most of us if not all of us, I believe that there are times when a positive, grateful outlook can change our experience of life for the better. The practice of choosing to be grateful, recognizing what really is good in our lives, can change our focus so that we see more than what we resent in the world – we see the gifts that God has prepared for us.
For my part, I would like to begin. I want to share a few things that I appreciate about Faith Lutheran Church from my first year and a half of being your pastor:
- Faith Lutheran Church is a resourceful congregation with many members who know how to get things done and don’t shy away from helping out when asked.
- The people of Faith know how to pass the peace and pray for each other. Lutherans across this country are known for our cultural shyness and tendency to keep to ourselves, but we buck this trend at Faith when we generously share the peace of our Lord with each other after having prayed for those in need.
- Our congregation can adapt to change with grace. You guys called me, a seminary graduate with little experience leading a church, quite a bit younger than most of you who has lived most of his life far from Montana. In your decision to call me, you all chose to accept and adapt to change, a decision for which I will always be grateful. Furthermore, I have thrown some new things at you! You have been gracious in taking the time and putting forth the energy to adapt to new things, and have been honest with me about things you have not liked.
- You have welcomed my wife and child into your community. As a husband and a father, this is the best thing I can hope for when moving somewhere new. I will always be grateful to you all for that.
I have many more things for which I am grateful, but I have already run out of space. I plan to take the time to intentionally show gratitude throughout this Thanksgiving season, and invite you to do the same with your family, friends and neighbors.