For Christians, every day is a time for gratitude. Each morning we give thanks to God for the life we have been given and the unlooked-for blessings which will greet us that day. Every evening we give thanks to God for the day that has past, and for God’s protection and calm presence with us, watching through the night. As the year draws to a close, the harvest is in, and the Christmas season approaches, we in November join together in Thanksgiving; and so, as I approach retirement in January, I want to give thanks for the immense privilege of being your pastor. I am grateful for and to you – each of you in your own unique and marvelous way has deepened my understanding and enriched my life. You have opened your hearts to me in times of joy and pain. We have shared laughter and hopes, tears and disappointment. You have given me your wisdom and insight — and most of all your prayers and your faith. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am and how I will carry that with me always.
When I moved to Nebraska, having previously lived in Iowa, I thought I knew what Nebraska would be like: Wrong! Nebraska is a world unto itself – not fully Midwest, not-quite the West, – an indefinable in-between-world, hidden from the rest of the nation by their compulsion to get from one place to another and their inability to linger and see beyond the obvious. I have been blessed by the ever changing play of sun and clouds in the sky, the ceaseless waving of the grasses in the Sandhills, the haunting calls of numberless birds, and the many hidden treasures. We went looking for a sod house one summer, up near Burwell. We found it open and unattended. No one was there to make sure we didn’t make off with the antique furnishings. It was simply there for us to enjoy: an example of the unassuming, trusting, Nebraska hospitality. I am so grateful for all that I have been given by my adopted state.
November is one of the busiest months. Each of us is given the same number of seconds, minutes, and days, and yet time seems to get away from us. This is a good month to take a breath and take time to lift our gratitude to God. It’s also a very good month to put gratitude into actions. We’ll be dedicating our Estimates of Giving for the 2018 budget on November 5. God continues to call us to faithfulness and gratitude, in our deeds as well as our words. During November, we will be reaching out with Christ’s love to children around the world through Operation Christmas Child Shoebox, and supporting the mission of this church with the Ten Thousand Villages Sale. We can respond to the natural disasters that have afflicted our fellow Americans through PDA. There are so many ways to give, but when we give through the church it is a clear statement of our gratitude to God.