On gratitude

This past year has been marked by loss: Loss of loved ones and friends, loss of community and social gatherings, loss of shared meals and handshakes, loss of travel and in-person conferences and continuing ed and General Assembly, loss of certainty and safety and health.

And yet, the Bible tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” That this is the day the Lord has made, so we should rejoice in it. We are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts — and be thankful.

I’ve challenged myself to take on a practice of noticing five distinct things every day for which I am thankful. Some days it’s hard to be genuinely grateful. (Thanks, Jesus, for the 28 inches of snow that just fell? Not really.) But other days, it’s hard not to see the grandeur of God in every passing thing.

For walks around the neighborhood marked by silent nods to other masked early-morning walkers that said: I greet you, I see you, we’ll get through this.

For technology that allows us to function and connect in such a time as this (and provides endless hours of TV streaming, instant ebook downloads and puzzles and groceries via next day delivery).

For friends who text pictures of pets and of new babies I haven’t yet met.

For porch beers on summery evenings and good friends to share life with.

And, I’m especially grateful for the Outlook. That every day during the pandemic, I had a purpose, a calling, a church. The connection to the Body of Christ was ever-present in the meaningful work of curating resources and commentaries on how to be church in these times.

Thank you to every reader who sent a note letting us know the weekly liturgies lightened your pastoral load. Thank you for sharing how the stories of coping with grief helped you manage your own losses. Thank you for telling me how the Outlook was your life raft during this time of change and loss (for your words were also a life raft for me). Thank you for telling how a Christian ed lesson was helpful to your youngest disciples, or how the words of a prayer we shared moved you to tears.

I’m thankful to have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Thank you to the researchers, the scientists, the doctors and nurses and pharmacists, the clinical trial patients, the packaging and transportation teams — everyone who has used their gifts to make this medical marvel possible. Thank you to others for trusting the data and getting vaccinated. As we get ready to venture out and gather together again – safely, cautiously, enthusiastically – I’m looking forward to being thankful for small talk. For old friendships rekindled and new ones started. For dinner out, and one day the chance to hear live music again. And to gather in worship again and hear the Word proclaimed as a body. Friends, this is the Word of the Lord. To which our hearts will together proclaim: Thanks be to God!

Jana Blazek is associate editor for the Presbyterian Outlook and a minister member of Chicago Presbytery.