Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Grateful or Grumpy?

November 24, 2008

1 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance and knowledge of him.

I still laugh with a friend about a person we affectionately nick-named Grumpy (not to her face, of course). Now we loved Grumpy, but Grumpy would come to our office in a stew, always complaining and never smiling. Nothing ever suited or satisfied. And she seemed to like being that way. When we would hear that Grumpy was coming to see us we armed ourselves with courage and forgiveness to face the mighty foe.

“It is hard to be grumpy and grateful at the same time.” This quote from a friend and former pastor returns to me this Thanksgiving. Simple – I can remember it. Profound – it makes me think. The two are diametrically opposed and cannot co-exist. Grumpy fights gratitude. Gratitude overcomes grumpiness. Grumpiness seems to come naturally, where gratitude is an attribute that must be cultivated. Grumpiness looks in. Gratitude looks up – and out. This year, I could say I have reason to be grumpy and everyone would understand because of this empty chair at the Thanksgiving table. Something is definitely amiss. As we count our blessings (yes, we will count them and they are abundant) this year, 2008 might not go down as a banner year when we look at ourselves and our loss. But it will go down as a banner year if we look up and out, thanking God for the overflowing of love and provision - every card sender, gift giver, prayer giver, dinner provider, friend sitter, and time together and God in our home every day. It will be important to look up and out instead of in, cultivate a grateful spirit, and not give in to the pain and self pity that lingers at the door.

In searching for a way to find my way to gratitude, I was reading through some of the traditional songs and seemed to find a place of understanding when reading about the great hymn, Now Thank We All Our God. It was written after some of the severest human sufferings imaginable during the Thirty Years’ War in the 1600s in Germany. Martin Rinkart was called to pastor the state Lutheran church in his native city of Eilenberg, Germany. He arrived there just as the war began and spent the next thirty-two years of his life faithfully ministering to these people, caring for the sick, burying the dead (he buried over 4000 people by himself). And afterward he could actually write a song!

“Germany, the battleground of this conflict between warring Catholic and Protestant forces from various countries throughout Europe, was reduced to a state of misery. The German population dwindled greatly. Eilenberg was a walled city and became a overcrowded refuge for political and military fugitives from all over. Deadly diseases and famines swept the city, as various armies marched through, leaving death and destruction in their wake. Rinkard was the only minister left to care for the sick and the dying. His triumphant, personal expressions of gratitude and confidence in God confirm for each of us this truth taught in Scripture, that as God’s children, we too can be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” ( from the book Amazing Grace, 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions)

I am inspired by the strength of Martin Rinkart. I don’t think I will ever be asked to bury 4000, but I was asked to bury one and that was enough loss for me. I will sing this song with new understanding and appreciation. In the first verse, he speaks of God’s countless gifts – nature, families, friendship, love. In the second verse, he speaks of the God who is with us through all good times and all bad times – I can so relate to “and guide us when perplexed”. He also speaks of the next world – where Megan has gone. And the third is a grand doxology of praise and thanks to the one eternal God.

1. Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
2. Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And guard us through all ills in this world, till the next!
3. All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heav’n adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

And so I can say to all of you “Happy Thanksgiving!” and really mean it – with a grateful heart to God for his faithfulness through this year.

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