In our church service a while back, the worship leader said she had looked to see if that date was a special church day. Nope, apparently it was “just an ordinary day.” God knows there are times when things are going so badly, we wish it could be an ordinary day, she continued. But here’s the good news: we don’t have to search for the extraordinary to see God, because God is present, right here with us, even on the bad days and the ordinary days.
Her message resurfaced when I read about a conversation between two pastors who were dying, as they looked back in gratitude. As they shared stories about their lives and ministries, they didn’t look for the dramatic successes or failures, but instead for the everyday times “when holiness broke through.” They were amazed that they had been used somewhere in God’s story.
“God prefers routine days of service,” said Craig Barnes, who overheard that conversation. 1 “The challenge is seeing the blessings that flow onto all of the things we dare to call ordinary and routine.”
His comment reminded me of something Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast said once about gratitude. “Lately I talk less about gratitude and more about grateful living,” he explained, because people tend to think gratitude comes in response to some extraordinary event in one’s life. By contrast, “‘grateful living’ is to be grateful at all times, no matter what happens. You’re not grateful for what happens at this moment necessarily, . . . But at every moment life gives you the opportunity to do something with what life gives you. Grateful living means learning to avail yourself, moment by moment, of that opportunity.” 2
Being grateful is the foremost quality of a trusting disciple, says one author. Being grateful “arises from the lived perception, evaluation, and acceptance of life as grace — as an undeserved and unearned gift from [God’s] hand. . . . The grateful heart cries out in the morning, ‘Thank you, Lord, for the gift of a new day.’ And it continues to express its gratitude as the blessings unfold.” 3
Your partner in ministry,
1 – M. Craig Branes, “Gratitude at the end,” Christian Century, January 16, 2019, p. 33.
2 – Interview with Oprah Winfrey, Super Soul Sunday Oct. 29, 2017, OWN Television network.
3 – Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God, cited by Gary Hoag at www.generousmonk.com, May 22, 2017