Daily bread: living with gratitude

“What are you most grateful for today?” I ask each member of my family every night.

“What are you most grateful for today?” I ask each member of my family every night.

My 4-year-old-daughter chimes in with her usual list: “Minnie Mouse, Mommy, Daddy, my brother, my friends, my church family…”

My 2-year-old-son has said the same thing every night since he gained the ability to talk: “Giggi and Pops” (His grandparents).

My spouse, thinking through his day, sometimes names the hard things first, and then settles on gratitude.

I usually name a moment of my day that stands out from all the daily chaos.

Naming our “most grateful fors” – a very modified version of ancient Ignatian practice of the Examen – has been our nightly dinner tradition for many years. We have only two rules: you must name something (no day is devoid of God), and you must be grateful (since “God is great,” we are grateful).

When we think about our blessings from God, we often name the big things (health, safety, jobs, relationships, etc.). Yet in my family’s daily gratefulness ritual, we tend to name the smaller things. An email sent. A finished meeting. A good conversation. A favorite toy. A nap. A hot shower. A good book. A moment alone. A hug. A chat with a friend. These small, daily blessings sustain us. They are our daily bread. They are our food for the journey. They carry us through the brightest days and the darkest days. Because, day by day, dinner by dinner, word by word, grateful by grateful, God brings us through each and every day, slowly and surely.

This ritual has come to hold more weight in my work as a pastor in the struggles of these last two years. Every day, whether I was preaching on Livestream, or doing pastoral care over zoom, or fielding phone calls about positive COVID-cases or moderating another meeting in another year to decide new worship protocols to combat another variant, I still gratefully named a way God had been with me and my congregation that day. Every day, I have witnessed God working slowly and surely right here in front of us.

God is great, so we are grateful. Every day, God gives us enough bread – enough blessing – to get to the next day.

Yet so often we don’t feel that we have enough to make it through. Not enough energy. Not enough resources. Not enough sleep. Not enough staff. Not enough funds. Not enough listening ears. Not enough bread. Every person, institution, and aspect of our society has been strained to the point of “not enough.”

Scripture is filled with so many stories of God’s people declaring there wasn’t enough: the Israelites in the desert, the guests at the wedding in Cana, the crowds on the hillside. Yet, each time, God gave “enough” in abundance: 40 years of daily manna, 150 gallons of wine, 12 baskets of left-over bread and fish. God is enough for us. For God “gives us this day our daily bread.”

In living this life faithfully, we find that daily bread can come in many forms. I am continually amazed at the ways God has worked slowly and surely through my congregation in these last two difficult years. We have pivoted, re-thought, re-configured, and re-worked everything since March 2020. For two years, we’ve been praying, hoping, pushing, and pulling to “get back to normal.” For two years, we’ve studied air exchange systems, how far air droplets travel while singing, and Livestream technology. All the while, every single day, God allowed us to find new ways to worship, new ways to serve our community in mission, new ways to care for one another, new ways to study God’s word. Through it all, God has given us enough daily bread to make it through.

Somehow, slowly and surely on the other end of this, we have all been changed. Somehow, slowly and surely, God has been forming us into something new. Somehow, in the background of all our panic and grief and exhaustion, God has given us enough for each day. For day by day, worship by worship, Bible study by Bible study, donation by donation, prayer by prayer, God has given us our daily bread.