response: November/December 2020 Issue

Responsively Yours: Give Us Grateful Hearts

Responsively Yours: Give Us Grateful Hearts
Harriett Jane Olson speaks at the spring 2020 United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group meeting at Scarritt Bennett in Nashville.

Growing up my grandmother taught me to pray, “Give us grateful hearts our Father, for all thy mercies.” It was the grace we said before dinner at my grandparents’ home. I called it “Grandma’s grace.” This prayer has particular resonance for me in this season. Many of us are grieving losses. We’ve lost family members. We’ve had to physically distance from loved ones when we yearn to be celebrating or grieving together. Many people have lost jobs and suffered illnesses. Some of our neighborhood institutions have closed. We’ve had to give up plans. The list goes on.

This is all taking place while our work for racial justice seems both more essential and more demanding, while we see the effects of a warming climate in storms, fires, droughts and floods. Praying for grateful hearts may be just the discipline we need right now.

We know God is continuing to bless us, even now. As Christians we believe in Emmanuel—God with us, in good times and in hard times. Without denying the struggle, this Thanksgiving and Christmas season may be exactly the right time to ask for and exercise grateful hearts.

What might happen if we trained our minds and hearts to see where God is at work, even while pleading for God’s sustenance? While I chafe at the limits of physical distancing, I’m grateful for every day that I get to be outdoors. I’m grateful for tele-appointments with my physical therapist that help my body endure and recover from hours of online meetings. I’m grateful for important work to do as United Methodist Women, responding to ongoing crises and ushering in the future by the choices we make today.

As this issue of response goes to press, we are seeing rising rates of COVID-19 infection, persistent climate-related disasters, and seemingly intractable systemic racism. It seems very likely that our holiday celebrations will be quite different this year. I may not get to pray Grandma’s grace at a large table full of family who traveled from many locations.

But what traditions can we continue in a new way? What if some of our baking and cooking and bounty of gardens provide food and comfort to struggling families? What if we pull out some of those beloved recipes and share them with younger family members or circle and unit members as we explore expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving? What if we started a practice of making a call, sending a message or writing a note to someone every day between now and New Year’s Day who has made a difference in our lives? What if, out of gratitude for God’s unconditional love for us, we found ways to challenge racism when we see it? What if we found new ways to make monetary gifts to United Methodist Women, to our churches and to organizations serving those in need?

As Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, I too do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. May God bless us with grateful hearts, may our attention be focused on God’s action in the world and may our actions flow from the confidence that, even now, God is with us.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women
holson@unitedmethodistwomen.org

Posted or updated: 11/10/2020 12:00:00 AM