The Transforming Practice of Gratitude

paths as yet untroddenOne of my favorite prayers is this one from the Vespers service (ELW p.317).

“O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

In these days of seemingly unrelenting sadness, suspicion and fear I need reassurance of God’s ever-present guidance and grace. It is difficult to see how God is at work when it seems that the forces of hatred and violence hold the world in their grip. I feel like the psalmist who says, “Do something, Lord God, and use your powerful arm to help those in need” (10:12 CEV). Giving voice to my sadness and anger is cathartic. The fact that I cry out to God assumes I believe God is interested in the life of the world. Lament is a good thing. Yes, it is and yet…

I also remember the transforming practice of expressing gratitude. Here’s how it usually goes for me. I begin by giving thanks for the ordinary things, the daily graces I often fail to notice. As I pay attention, my cup of gratitude begins to fill up and soon overflows with praise to God. When I give thanks it is easier to see the simple ways that God works through other people. It is then that a way begins to show itself. It is then a path appears in the shadows. I cannot see the ending, but I can see a beginning. And that is all I need to take the first step.

A blessed Thanksgiving!

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Rachel Larson is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Laramie, WY.  She regularly seeks out pathways, pilgrimages and peaceful gardens as places of prayer.