First United Methodist Church of Rice Lake
Sunday, April 05, 2020
We are a people called to know and share God's love.

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Shout Out from Susan
Finding Gratitude in the Midst of Uncertainty
St. Paul writes in 1 Thess 5:18, “In everything give thanks.” Thanksgiving is deeply rooted in our faith. How do we find gratitude when our lives and world are filled daily with uncertainty and constant change? I chatted with a young woman while getting my cars’ oil changed. She has decided to take a stance against the ugliness in the world by not watching news or social media. With two small children at home, she is intentionally raising them to see the beauty in the world and to grow up happy instead of filled with anxiety. She was a breath of fresh air to me and hopefully many others.
Everyone can endure some sort of short-term craziness knowing that there is an end in sight and life will return    to normal. But lately, the things happening in our societies, nation and world don’t seem to have an end time to them. They just keep spiraling downward. And it’s taking us down with it. The uncertainty of the world is not going to change, but we can change. We are not built to always be stressed out. Nor as Christians are we to be of the world, joining in on the trendy even if it hurts other people and harms our relationship with God. According to St. Paul, we are to rise above worldly ways- be in the world, but   not of the world. 
Last month I attended a clergy gathering on gratitude with Diane Butler Bass as the guest speaker. She too, was feeling the weight of the world and struggling to find a place of gratefulness in her life. This inspired her latest book, “Grateful, The Subversive Practice of Giving Thanks.” I was blessed with the gift of being immersed in a study of gratitude for 3 days. Most people don’t have 3 days to spend away from home and tend to the soul. But we should. Because that time was precious in that I was able to escape from politics, breaking news, social media, conflict, agendas and so much more. I was able to clear my head and be present with God. Then I began to feel grace surrounding me. Gratitude began to fill my heart and soul. I was still in the world, just not participating of the worldly ways.
Gratitude doesn’t come from outward findings. Gratitude comes from the soul as an expression of giving thanks to God, even when the ugliness of the world looms overhead. Dr. Robert Emmons, UC Davis found that gratitude is good for the heart, mind and soul. ‘1. Gratitude allows celebration of the present. 2. Gratitude blocks toxic emotions (anger, resentment, regret and depression). 3. Grateful people are more stress-resilient. 4. Gratitude strengthens social ties and self-worth.”
The first thing we need to recapture gratitude is to find time to spend with God. Go for a hike and absorb the beauty of creation right now. Turn off the news and social media and actually speak to your family and friends. Before opening Facebook or reading the newspaper in the morning, read a devotion or scripture and lift up a prayer of thanksgiving. Let God guide your day and life. The quickest way to tap into your soul is to be still and know God (Ps 46:10). In prayer, God will strengthen and renew your heart and soul. No matter what is going on in your lives, no matter what the craziness or chaos, God cannot be moved and when we quiet out hearts enough and move away from the chaos, we find the stillness of God ever present. In our awareness, we see God and all that God’s Spirit is doing in the world, perhaps even in you!
Next, remind yourself of all that is good in your life. You have a house, family to love, friends who care about you, perhaps a job, food, car, an education, etc. Don’t forget God, faith and a loving church family! These are constants in your life. They are your anchors. When too much of the world takes space in your heart, then there is no room for God’s love and grace to fill your heart. It’s time to get rid of negativity and sadness found in our world right now and reclaim that space for God. We can work to eradicate these concerns better when we are not stuck in the middle of the downward spiral.
Let’s spread gratitude this month! Every time someone asks you “how are you doing?” Return with “I am Grateful.” Simple words that cause each of us to recheck our gratitude meter and be thankful. It’s hard to complain about something when a person just told you that you are grateful! (see #2 above.) Gratitude produces more gratitude. We can change the attitude of our communities simply by being grateful and living into gratitude.
Thanksgiving blessings-  Pastor Sue