• Topic > Christian Living > Gratefulness & Thankfulness >

    The Cost

    Michelangelo’s works explored many facets of the life of Jesus, yet one of the most poignant was also one of the most simple. In the 1540s he sketched a pieta (a picture of Jesus’ mother holding the body of the dead Christ) for his friend Vittoria Colonna. Done in chalk, the drawing depicts Mary looking to the heavens as she cradles her Son’s still form. Rising behind Mary, the upright beam of the cross carries these words from Dante’s Paradise, “There they don’t think of how much blood it costs.” Michelangelo’s point was profound: when we contemplate the death of…

    Every Breath

    When Tee Unn came down with a rare autoimmune disease that weakened all his muscles and nearly killed him, he realized that being able to breathe was a gift. For more than a week, a machine had to pump air into his lungs every few seconds, which was a painful part of his treatment. 

    Tee Unn made a miraculous recovery, and today he reminds himself not to complain about life’s challenges. “I’ll just take a deep breath,” he says, “and thank God I can.” 

    How easy it is to focus on things we need or want, and forget that sometimes the smallest…

    The Christmas Gift of Speech

    A post-surgical stroke had robbed Tom of his ability to speak, and he faced a long rehab journey. Weeks later, we were pleasantly surprised when he showed up at our church’s Thanksgiving service. We were even more surprised when he stood up to speak. Searching for what to say, he jumbled his words, repeated himself, and confused days and time. But one thing was clear: he was praising God! It’s possible to have your heart break and be blessed at the same moment. This was that kind of moment.

    In the “pre-Christmas story” we meet a man who lost the gift…

    Giving Thanks Always

    In the seventeenth century, Martin Rinkart served as a clergyman in Saxony, Germany, for more than thirty years during times of war and plague. One year he conducted over 4,000 funerals, including for his wife, and at times food was so scarce that his family went hungry. Although he could have despaired, his faith in God remained strong and he gave thanks continually. In fact, he poured his gratitude into “Nun danket alle Gott,” the song that became the well-loved English hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God.”

    Rinkart followed the example of the prophet Isaiah, who instructed God’s people to give…

    When Life Is Hard

    Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, I curled up in my recliner. Our family had followed God’s leading and had moved from California to Wisconsin. After we arrived, car broke down and left us without a vehicle for two months. Meanwhile, my husband’s limited mobility after an unexpected back surgery and my increasing chronic pain complicated our unpacking. We uncovered costly problems with our new-to-us, old home. Our senior dog suffered with high-maintenance health issues. And though our new pup brought me great joy, raising a furry ball of energy was far more work than I anticipated. My attitude soured. How…

    Full Attention

    Technology today seems to demand our constant attention. The modern “miracle” of the internet (now easily accessible via the smartphone) gives us the amazing capacity to access humanity’s collective learning in the palm of our hand. But for many, such constant access can come at a cost.

    Writer Linda Stone has coined the phrase “continual partial attention” to describe the modern impulse to always need to know what’s happening ‘out there,’ to make sure we’re not missing anything. If that sounds like it could produce chronic anxiety, you’re right!

    Although the apostle Paul struggled with different reasons for anxiety, he knew that…

    Life to the Full

    The year was 1918, near the end of World War I, and photographer Eric Enstrom was putting together a portfolio of his work. He wanted to include one that communicated a sense of fullness in a time that felt quite empty to so many people. In his now much-loved photo, a bearded old man sits at a table with his head bowed and his hands clasped in prayer. On the surface before him there is only a book, spectacles, a bowl of gruel, a loaf of bread, and a knife. Nothing more, but also nothing less.

    Some might say the photograph…

    Attitude of Gratitude

    Here in Michigan, the winters can be brutal, with sub-zero temperatures and never-ending snow. One bitterly cold day, as I shoveled snow for what seemed like the thousandth time, our postman paused in his rounds to ask how I was doing. I told him that I disliked winter and was weary of all the heavy snow. I then commented that his job must be pretty rough during these extreme weather conditions. He responded, “Yeah, but at least I have a job,” he said. “A lot of people don’t. I’m thankful to be working.”

    I have to admit that I felt quite…

    Don’t Forget the Giver

    It was just before Christmas, and her kids were having a difficult time with gratitude. In other words, they were pretty much “give me” instead of “thank you.” She knew how easy it was to slip into that kind of thinking—what with all the commercialism of the season. But she also knew she wanted something better for the hearts of her children. So she went through the house and placed a bright red bow on light switches, the pantry and refrigerator doors, the washing machine and dryer, and the water faucets. With each bow there was a handwritten note: “Some…

    A Sincere Thank You

    In preparation for Xavier’s first job interview, my husband, Alan, handed our son a pack of thank you cards for him to send out after he met with prospective employers. He then pretended to be a hiring interviewer, using his decades of experience as a manager to ask Xavier relevant questions. After a few rounds of role-playing, our son tucked several copies of his resume into a folder. He smiled when Alan reminded him about the cards. “I know,” he said. “A sincere thank you note will set me apart from all the other applicants.”

    When the manager called to hire…

    Ending Envy

    The famous French artist Edgar Degas is remembered worldwide for his paintings of ballerinas. Less known is the envy he expressed of his friend and artistic rival Édouard Manet, another master painter. Said Degas of Manet: “Everything he does he always hits off straightaway, while I take endless pains and never get it right.”

    It’s a curious emotion, envy—listed by the apostle Paul among the worst passions, as bad “as every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip” (Romans 1:29 nlt). It results from “foolish thinking,” Paul writes—the result of worshiping idols instead of…

    Borrowed Blessings

    As we bowed our heads over lunch, my friend Jeff prayed: “Father, thank you for letting us breathe your air and eat your food.” Jeff had just been through a difficult job loss, so his heartfelt trust in God and recognition that everything belongs to the Lord profoundly moved me. I found myself asking: Do I honestly understand that even the most basic, everyday things in my life are really God’s, and He’s just letting me use them?

    When King David received offerings from the people of Israel for building the temple in Jerusalem, he prayed, “But who am I, and who…

    No Comparison

    “One of these days I’m going to put it all on Facebook—not just the good stuff!

    My friend Sue’s comment—made casually over lunch with her husband—caused me to laugh out loud and also to think. Social media can be a good thing, helping us stay in touch with and pray for friends across the years and miles. But if we’re not careful, it can also create an unrealistic outlook on life. When much of what we see posted is a “highlight reel” of “the good stuff,” we can be misled into thinking others’ lives are without trouble, and wonder where our…

    In Abundance or Affliction

    Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts encourages readers to search their lives daily for what the Lord has done for them. In it, she daily notes God’s abundant generosity to her in gifts both large and small, ranging from the simple beauty of iridescent bubbles in the dish sink to the incomparable salvation of sinners like herself (and the rest of us!). Ann contends that gratitude is the key to seeing God in even the most troubling of life’s moments.

    Job is famous for a life of such “troubling” moments. Indeed, his losses were deep and many. Just moments after losing all…

    Mosaic of Beauty

    Sitting in the courtyard of the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, Israel, I was overwhelmed with the beautiful display of 67 mosaics containing the words of Luke 1:46–55 in as many languages. Traditionally known as the Magnificat from the Latin “to magnify,” these verses are Mary’s joyous response to the announcement that she will be the mother of the Messiah.

    Each plaque contains Mary’s words, including: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior. . . . For the Mighty One has done great things for me” (vv. 46–49). The biblical hymn etched in the…

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