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Presidential Perspective: On Gratitude

Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me;
to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.
Psalm 50:23

Philip AmersonOne evening when I was in a former place of ministry, I was enjoying a quiet and friendly dinner with a coworker. Our conversation was filled with humor and joy. Suddenly, astonishingly, my colleague said, “There is something you do that I find troubling.” Caught off guard, I responded, “Please share your concern.” The gentleman quickly and seriously lodged his critique: “You say ‘thank you’ far too much. You shouldn’t be so quick to use those words ‘thank you.’ Save them for special occasions.”

Now, good reader, you may have already guessed what came next. My response was on my lips before it could be censored. My mother’s influence was too strong, and my tongue couldn’t be muted; her lessons couldn’t be stifled. Like a flash, intending appreciation but without full awareness of the irony, I answered, “Thank you so much for sharing that with me.”

Gratitude. It is a habit—a habit of the heart and soul and tongue. Since the sixth century, many Christians begin each day with the Morning Office of Lauds, or the Office of Aurora. The first act of the day is to offer a prayer of praise, thanks for the light of Christ that has come to our world. Words of gratitude, praise, and acknowledgement of the new dawn become habitual—a first action. From Psalm 148, 149, and 150 the word laudate is repeated until it marks the soul.

Sadly, I believe our problem is not that we are saying “thank you” too often, but too seldom. Gratitude weaves together a healthy society and a healthy church. As I listen to the chatter in our society and in our church, I miss the genuine expressions of gratitude that connect heart to heart. Too often I hear words of blame and disrespect. Albert Schweitzer is reported to have said, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the human spirit.

So let this word from Garrett-Evangelical be a word that rekindles. We send words of tribute, praise, recognition, and thankfulness. We give thanks to you who support Garrett-Evangelical in prayer and with financial gifts. We give thanks for a remarkable faculty and student body. We give thanks for extraordinary alums who serve so many people in so many places across the globe. We give thanks for laypersons and for those who may not yet name themselves as Christians. We give thanks for dedicated church members who see the potential for good through the future ministries of our students and who give sacrificially to make us strong. We give thanks to board members and seminary staff who offer their wisdom, skills, and labor. We give thanks for our bishops, active and retired, as we celebrate the wisdom each one brings. We remember particularly our clergy, those who carry many burdens and responsibilities of their office. May they be rekindled to the joy of their vocation. We at Garrett-Evangelical salute each one. We can’t say it enough: “Thank you!”

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