Being thankful

Today is Thanksgiving Day 2016.

It is sometimes very difficult to give thanks when things seem to be going all wrong in our lives. We all have felt at times distressed, fearful, lonely, bewildered, misdirected, abandoned, not cared for, lacking faith. But thanksgiving for what we DO have, gratitude for what we HAVE received, and specifically focusing on what gifts lie PRESENTLY all around us helps us to keep an attitude of gratefulness and a spirit of thankfulness.

In 1648 the people of the Netherlands won their independence from Spain after 80 years of rebellion and warfare. After a Dutch victory at Turnhout, Adrianus Valerius composed a hymn in 1587, “We Gather Together.” It quickly caught on as not only a prayer for independence but demonstrated the Dutch population’s refusal to obey Spain’s edict prohibiting the Calvinist Christians from gathering to worship.

The hymn we traditionally sing at Thanksgiving is a rough translation of the original Dutch verse. In the U.S. the hymn was sung in the same spirit as the Dutch in their rebellion against Spain, as Americans in WW I and again in WW II prayed for victory over oppressors.

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

The Apostle Paul teaches us what attitude other than gloom is possible.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:4-8)

Yes, this morning I struggled to even get out the words, “I love you,” or “Goodbye,” as our son, Paul, and daughter-in-law, Allison, left after a brief visit. My tongue felt three feet thick. My attempts to speak only produced unintelligible garble.

But my eyes worked—I could see them; my ears worked—I could hear them; my nervous system worked—I could feel Paul’s kiss on my cheek. Standing next to me was the world’s best caregiver, my wife, Ruth. And we then went back into our debt-free house overlooking the beautiful Withlacoochee River. AND—Paul and Allison were heading south to Tampa to visit our two-day-old great-granddaughter, Tiffany Hope Wackes! AND—on Tuesday our granddaughter Rebekah Ruth Beard became engaged to Zac Payne, her high school boyfriend!

So, November 22nd was a pretty special day!

And more than all of those blessings, as the Apostle reminds me, is the reality that “the Lord is near!”

This afternoon Ruth and I will visit the nearby home of two  friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. There will be turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes with gravy, Ruth’s sweet potato meringue pudding, coffee, tea, and pumpkin pie!

Meanwhile, I haven’t eaten food by mouth for two years now. I will have my usual prescription liquid food with water via my stomach tube. But the good news is, I don’t have the slightest desire for food, even while watching others eat! Lobster tail with drawn butter? Not interested. Fried shrimp with tartar sauce? New York strip steak?  Spaghetti with meatballs? German potato pancakes? All of these I would have killed for prior to ALS. But no longer appetizing. Think how it would be if a hunger for all that still was with me!

What I do hunger and desire for is to show “gentleness” during my bout with ALS, as the Apostle urges me–to be thankful, to rejoice always, and to concentrate on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and praiseworthy.

Whatever “gentleness” I have is the product of God’s grace.

The unswerving and faithful promise of God, per the Apostle? The peace of God will guard my heart and mind beyond all human understanding, in Christ Jesus.

Image above used with permission via license from

17 Replies to “Being thankful”

  1. I love your hunger illustration. I, too, desire to hunger for gentleness. May your/our character shine the light of Jesus on Jesus and to others. Thankful for how you and Ruth show me Jesus. Much love


  2. Connie and I are thankful for you and for your ministry over many years at CRPC and WA. As the voluntary fill-in Christian Ed Pastor for the SS Superintendent, we benefited greatly from your friendship and expertise during our many planning hamburger lunches. Thank you again for your many gracious and spiritual insights in our lives.


    1. I remember those lunches very well. Best hamburgers in town! I’m sorry I never got to see Connie’s swimming pool! And thank you, both, for remaining as solid as bed rock through the thick and the thin. You are stalwarts.


  3. Ken, you just continue to blow me away. Please know that God is using you in a wonderful way to bless all of us. Is God real? His handprint is all over you! What an example you are that God sustains us whatever our circumstances if we let Him. Love you, Lois


  4. Words can’t describe how thankful I am for you Dad, and for your faithful caretaker!!
    You bring love, truth, and peace to my life amidst all the pleasures and trials of life! I am so thankful to be your daughter!
    I love you both so very much!
    Linda Joy


  5. ken,
    I read your post today. Thanks for your reflective thought and your wonderful, encouraging words. you made the day special for me.
    God’s Peace,
    Dave Koetje


  6. Hi Ken,
    Wishing you and Ruth a very blessed Thanksgiving! Tara and I truly give thanks for knowing you guys and the sharing of God’s word by you both. May God bless you and yours abundantly and know how greatly missed you all are! Please share our love with the group and how much we miss being with you all!


      1. Hello, Ken, and a Happy Thanksgiving to you and Ruth. We are spending Thanksgiving in the mountains of North Carolina and yesterday dined with a couple of dozen members of Ashley Ross’s extended family; Ashley and Scott have been dating since the end of July. You probably remember Ashley; she was in the class of 2002 at WA, along with Amy; so Clark had given them both their high school
        diplomas at graduation. George Barbar, one of Ashley’s many cousins, suggested that Scott give Ashley a call and he did! We have enjoyed getting to know Ashley and her family. They are a wonderful, close family with lots of traditions, some of which we are being introduced to this weekend.
        Thank you so much for your post – your well chosen words put events and happenings and seemingly difficult trials that we have been experiencing into stark perspective. Your words from the Apostle Paul are so apt and remind me of our trip to Greece under your leadership. Shirley Uricho asked me to tell you that the Turkish rug salesman still calls her every year when he is in south Florida!
        You and Ruth are daily in our prayers.
        With love,


        1. I can’t find that I responded, Ann. Please forgive me! And thank you for encouraging me upward and onward. Glad to hear Scott’s doing more than working! My greetings and love to you both!


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