With November upon us and Thanksgiving fast approaching, I typically pull out a CD recording of a song by Art Garfunkel called “Grateful.” This song was given to Carolyn many years ago by former SCF member, Madelyn Fraley, for Carolyn to sing, which she has done several times over the years. It is not a
particularly religious song, but its words are charged with spiritual insight. No matter how often I play and replay it, its reflections bring me to tears as if hearing it for the first time.
Though gratefulness should be a normal 12-month habit, it seems that a national holiday is required in order to slow us down long enough to pause, reflect, and express our gratitude to God for His bountiful blessings. This fall, however, with the world in turmoil in almost any location one’s finger could randomly point to on a globe, my “grateful spirit“ has felt more hard pressed. As I again listened to the song, I’ve been reminded that gratefulness is always a choice – both how we look at life circumstances, and then, determining our response to them.
In his letter to the Philippian church, the Apostle Paul provides some helpful advice on shaping and maintaining a grateful spirit.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice….Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand…Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, andright, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
What drew me to these particular verses is the setting Paul was dealing with when he shared them—imprisonment! Possibly shackled to military guards.
Given just that circumstance (and there were certainly other challenging issues described in this letter), one can appreciate that his words do not come from
an “ivory tower, think-happy-thoughts” idealist, but from someone in difficult, confining, and even life-threatening conditions. Throughout this letter, Paul is very candid about the various challenges he is facing.
By his own admission and born out of deep reflection, he comes to understand them as a collection of earning experiences meant to have a transforming
impact on him. He clearly wishes to share what he has learned for the benefit of his beloved Philippian church family. But even more, he is providing thoughts and hope very relevant for us today. With these words in mind, instead of focusing on the latest news-cycle dilemmas, I am attempting to take conscious stock of the blessings right in front of me. Here is a small list of my “gratefulnesses”:
- For a God who is ever present and doesn’t give up on me.
- For local medical personnel who provide caring service 24/7.
- For a faithful and loving wife of 51+ years; 3 wonderful sons of whom we are duly proud; 3 outstanding daughters-in-law, beautiful both outwardly and inwardly; and 8 uniquely created grandchildren, active, curious, rambunctious, and ever amazing and a delight to their grandparents.
- For a church family that exemplifies the love of Jesus to each other, this community, and the broader world.
- For over 50 years of pastoral and educational opportunities that have flown by so quickly.
I close with the words from Grateful which summarizes it all:
Grateful, grateful, truly grateful I am.
Grateful, grateful, truly blessed and duly grateful.