Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Now Thank We All Our God

Now thank we all our God,
With hearts, and hands, and voices
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom His world rejoices
Who, from our mothers' arms, 
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, 
And still is ours today.

O 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 free us from all ills In this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God The Father now to be given,
The Son, and Him who reigns With Them in highest heaven:
The one eternal God, Whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, And shall be evermore.

Martin Rinkart was a Pastor in a German town called Eilenbrug for 32 years. 

Much of his ministry took place during the terrible years of the Thirty-Year War. 

Pastor Rinkart saw a lot of suffering during this time and no one would blame him for wondering what he had to be thankful for. Eilenburg was a walled city and refuges from the war sought refuge there, leading to the same kinds of conditions we see in refugee camps around the world today. 

But there was no international Red Cross or other relief agencies to provide relief. The overcrowding led to famine, starvation, and disease. Eventually every other pastor in the city died and he was left alone to minister to the city. 

Sometimes he would have to conduct fifty funerals in one day. 

Then his own wife died.

And when the plagues were over, he was not thanked or appreciated; in fact he was harassed by the townspeople until he died of exhaustion at the age of 63.

And in the midst of all this sorrow he wrote:

Who, from our mothers' arms,
Hath blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.

I'll be going to my sister-in-laws for Thanksgiving tomorrow. She is my late husband's sister. He was their baby brother. He died in a car accident on the way to visit his father who had been hospitalized with a stroke. Their mother died of cancer before I met my husband. His other sister lost her husband a few years ago to Diabetes. My husband's nephew at age 49 (the same age my husband died) suffered two strokes a few weeks ago and his on a long hard road to recovery. They still have a son in school.

There have been more than one occasion when I thought to myself "Thank God Loren is not alive to see this." I thought about how much it would upset him to see his nephew (whom he babysat for his sister who worked) like this. See there's always something to be thankful for.

How do you be grateful in such a time? 

You have to be grateful. In the difficult and dark times it is essential that you be grateful. You MUST focus on what you have and what is good in your life. 

If you let yourself get caught up in thinking about all the things you don't have you will find yourself in a bottomless hole that will suck you in deeper and deeper. Gratitude is the only way out of that hole.

Thanksgiving is for us.      

It's not for God. God isn't like us – you know how we get all sulky and pouty because we didn't get a thank you note from that niece or godchild who honestly just doesn't think enough about you to sit down and write a thank you note.

God doesn't need our gratitude. Gratitude is for our sake. To get us out of that sink hole of despair and negativity.

I always open my confirmation class by having the kids go around and do "highs and lows". I have one rule. EVERYONE must share a high. If they can't think of a low part of their day, that's fine. But they MUST come up with something good about their day. 

Because no matter how bad your day is, there is something good. 

It's a good exercise for them to see that there is good in their lives.

Ten years ago I faced the holidays for the first time without my best friend, the love of my life. 

I had two children who needed to see that it was not just okay, it was in fact, a wonderful thing to be joyful and celebrate the holidays. 

And I simply did not allow myself the indulgence of self-pity and resentment about what I didn't have during this season. I turned my sights on what was good in my life.

And there was so much good. There were so many people whose hearts reached out to my children. The football team/Luther League who climbed on my roof to put Christmas lights. Help to put up my tree. Presents for my kids. 

I saw how beautiful the snow was and how lucky to give my kids a Christmas card Christmas. How lucky we had heat. How lucky I was to have a job. 

It was an amazing Christmas because I focused on the good like I had never done before. 

And that gaping bottomless pit that threatens anyone who has known grief did not take over. And it was the gift of gratitude that kept me out of that pit.

Yea I know you can find a lot to bitch about this holiday season. Just stop it. Find the good and thank God for it. 

And then thank God for the gift of being thankful.


  1. Yep, I'm giving thanks to God but I'm also throwing Twitter onto my prayer list because that's how I found you! Blessings for Thanksgiving and beyond.

  2. Yes, it is good to get a habit of thankfulness. I did a thankfulness diary one year. I just intended to write a sentence or two of something that I was grateful for. It did help reorientate my thinking and soon turned into a paragraph or two, even though, in general, I'm not a diary type person. Many blessings to you, someone who lives far from me, but who I like to "visit" when possible.

  3. love this hymn, love what you say about it, and what you say about thanksgiving being for us, not for God.