Ha!  I know it is October, and yet I am writing a column entitled Thankfulness!  Shouldn’t that wait till November, when we actually celebrate Thanksgiving???  Well, actually, we can be thankful anytime, can’t we?  I have been reading through the Psalms lately and this past weekend the words of a Psalm I have read over many, many times, just leaped off the page and hit me like the proverbial two by four!  Hear again the words of Psalm 63:1-4;

O God, You are my God, earnestly will I seek you;

My soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You,

In a dry and weary land where there is no water.

I have seen You in the sanctuary 

And beheld Your power and Your glory.

Because Your love is better than life

My lips will glorify You.

I will praise You as long as I live,

And in Your name I will lift up my hands.

Recently, many of us had the privilege of attending Ignite in Great Falls, MT.  For me, it was a special time of hearing from God’s Word as well as worshipping the Lord!  I was deeply thankful and touched by the messages that Shawn Kennedy brought to us from the life of David.  Shawn’s passion, content, and delivery were so meaningful and have been one of the highlights of 2023 for me, so far. Indeed, my soul was filled to overflowing and the soil of my soul received many showers of blessing!  I always loved gathering with our district family and this event was no different.  I am thankful for the many conversations that happened at Ignite and for the many to come from it!  I also was deeply moved by the times of worship led by Draylen Askvig, Tim Herrmann, Kaleb Gugger, Ben McEntee, and Zach Kenyon assisted by Scott Thorson and others in the sound booth.  

Right on the heels of Ignite, Lori and I made a quick three-day trip to Crown College in Minnesota and Homecoming 2023.  There we saw many, many friends we hadn’t seen in nearly forty years!  It was an amazing time of catching up with people — just like we had never left!  Friday night of Homecoming, Lori and I sat in the chapel at Crown and worshipped together, sang together, and prayed together with 45 other classmates remembering friends from those days who have gone on to Heaven already. 

On our way home, Sunday, October 1st, we went to church in southwest Minnesota at the first church I served at as Lead Pastor.  In a town of 300, the pastor had a great message for the 32 of us gathered in the sanctuary, we had the privilege of adding to the church when we served there from 1987 to 1994.  Most, though not all, were people who either were there when we served there or came during our time of ministry there.  It was a special time to be in that sanctuary, singing and worshipping and hearing the Word of God from Galatians 6 preached so well. 

Having these three encounters back-to-back-to-back, I was reminded of Psalm 63:1 and rejoiced again that each of us has the opportunity to be connected to the God of the Universe, not just the system of God!  What a difference that makes!  Being connected to the system of God can leave us cold, lifeless, and just going through the motions — with very little reaching down to our emotions or souls!  Yet, when we earnestly seek the Lord, engaging in those thoughts, actions behaviors, and attitudes that please Him, He is so willing to meet us where we are and show Himself to us in fresh ways, yes, but also to remind us of His incredible power and glory (v.2).  Our response, can be praise and glory to His Name (v.3-4)!  For me, I am thankful for these blessings as they give me confidence and a renewed sense of the personal nature of God being with me in times of challenge, in times of blessing, and in times of wonderment.  I have had many miles recently to recount again to the Lord His faithfulness to Lori and I, to our family, to our district, and to many others.  This does not mean that all has worked out the way I would wish or desire — but I can still see the work of God in the midst of it all!

Maybe this October, when ghouls and goblins and Halloween things take center stage, you can remember again your connection to God — not just the system of God!  Perhaps you will have fresh times — maybe unexpected times — of connecting with God through worship, praise, and His Word!  Why not choose to create space in this month of October to prioritize thankfulness to God as you head into this last quarter of 2023 if Christ holds back His Second Coming?  I can imagine if we do, we will be so much better for it — spiritually, emotionally, and in the depths of our souls!

Thankful For You,