Today is the day designated to publicly give thanks to our Creator for the gracious gifts which he in his divine Providence has lavished upon us. And so it is fitting to reflect on the manifold blessings God has poured out over the course of my life, and in particular in the past year. It is also fitting to consider whether my response to his beneficence has been suitable—and the inevitable conclusion is that I have utterly failed to act in appropriate gratitude.
Five years ago, I wrote an extended reflection, publicly giving thanks for the blessings I felt God had given me over the course of my life, and explaining them in some detail. And in each subsequent year, I have written a briefer addendum, of causes for gratitude I had forgotten and of those new in the past year.
So too today. As one of my favorite bits of liturgy puts it,
it is right and fitting, our joy and our salvation, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to you, almighty and everlasting God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And as the Scottish Psalter‘s setting of the Hundredth Psalm says,
Praise, laud and bless his Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.
For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.
Today, one of the few times in the year when such gratitude comes closest to being encouraged in this culture, I shall again describe what I am grateful for—this year in particular—somewhat specifically.
In years past I have mentioned how grateful I am for the vast wealth of books, and other information, available to me. This still applies, but I now wish to go further: I am grateful to live in a time and place such that it is possible for anyone who “has something to say” to say it, and for any such book to be found and read by what seems almost anyone around the world.
I am again grateful for fellowship with friends old and new. I am even grateful (mirabile dictu given my shyness) for “icebreakers” that began the acquaintance, then friendship, with an unexpectedly like-minded soul in (in her words) “the vast wasteland of community college.”
I am grateful for the vast heritage of great music—hymns, folk tunes, symphonies, and innumerable other forms—handed down to us from previous centuries … and even for the inane-but-catchy popular songs of my parents’ and grandparents’ generation. I am also grateful for the ability, via modern technology, to find and listen to most anything at my whim. And for three classical music public radio stations within my listening area.
I am grateful for the words that God has given me. While I often feel like I have accomplished nothing on the Great Task that I see before me, this is partly something like tunnel vision (near-blindness to more than the all-but-immediate past), and partly that so many of the words I have written have gone toward classwork. As I mentioned in my Shine Cycle year-end retrospective on Monday, I made some progress toward my “great work” even in the last few months.
I am grateful for freely-available, and free-licensed (so I can fix problems I run into), software that seems to almost continually improve the environment in which I can develop software, write, and live my digital life—despite the glitches that come with the progress or that I have grown used to.
I am grateful for preservation and health. There have been a few times in the past year when that verse from one of the Psalms—“but as for me, my foot had almost slipped”—was literally true for me, and several times when I knew myself to be in danger on the roads … but I know there were far more such incidents of which I was utterly unaware. And I have continued to have far better health than the way I treat my body would suggest or cause me to deserve.
I am again grateful for the glory that God has set around me and given me eyes to see, in nature, in the works of human hands (and the works of the works of the works of … human hands), and in the faces of friends and people I encounter.
And lastly, I am grateful—I ought to “most of all” be grateful—that “if we are faithless, he remains faithful.” God asks and deserves constant and perfect gratitude and constant and perfect obedience, and I have given him neither.
In the coming year, and years, may I be more mindful and careful to recognize God’s grace and respond appropriately, in gratitude and obedience.
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who gives us bread from the earth, and who gives us the fruit of the vine. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us in life, sustained us, and brought us to this moment.
And, readers: What are you thankful for?