Happy Thankgiving

It is that time of the year when we take time to count our blessings and give thanks.

And yet our ability to be thankful is often reduced to our ability to respond.

We often wait to respond with gratitude after a tragedy in the world.  Gratitude for our own health comes after learning of somebody else’s illness.  Gratitude should come not from that which makes us feel better. Tommy Newberry in his book the 4:8 Principle refers to this type of thanksgiving as regular gratitude.

As Christians, I believe we are called beyond the regular to what Newberry calls extraordinary gratitude. This is the type of gratitude reflected in Habakkuk (3:17-18 The Message):

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty,
I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.
Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.
I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!

This type of gratitude is not based on external prompting but rather comes from within.  This type of gratitude exists in spite of the circumstances and events of life.

As we reflect this day on all that we are thankful for, I am mindful of the story of the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19). I wonder what we can learn from this story?  What is our response to be to God’s grace? Will we wait for something extraordinary to happen in our lives before we are grateful for God’s grace in our lives? Or will we learn to be grateful in all circumstances as we are encouraged to do in I Thessalonians :

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.   5:16-18 The Message

Will we seek things to be grateful for?

Will we learn to respond in gratitude for the gift of love God has for us or will we walk away thankful that we got what we asked for?

Will we be grateful today that we can celebrate communion without fear of arrest because of the fear that others live in or will be grateful that in this moment we can worship because of God’s grace?

Ask yourself, “Is my life a life of grateful living spent in thanksgiving with the God who made me or do I live accepting and expecting all that I have?”

What if giving thanks was a natural response for each of us in all things of life?

What if our first response, or first thought, was to always return to Christ to say thank you in gratitude for what He has done in our lives and for what He has yet to accomplish?

What if we lived our lives giving and returning thanks in all things?

What if we could make Thanksgiving a daily celebration?

Happy Thanksgiving!



Grandpa’s Big Red Truck

Dedicated to Robert Eugene Frieden (my Grandpa)
April 19, 1920 – November 13, 2013
Whenever I see an fuel/oil delivery truck I think of my Grandpa.
For that matter, whenever I smell gasoline, I think of my Grandpa.
You see, I spent many a summer day riding in his big red truck as he made his oil and fuel deliveries. These are some of the words I shared at his funeral 6 years:
There are moments in one’s life that no one wants to experience, but in living them you simply acknowledge that you are honored or privileged to be a part of the moment … my experience with my grandfather’s life was just that … an honor and privilege.
We shared something … a name … more precisely initials … REF.  F – Frieden; E- Eugene; and my R was Rodney. That’s REF like my Grandpa (Robert) like my Dad (Ronald) and like my son (Riley).
I haven’t always embraced that commonality.  There was a time I didn’t want to be a Rodney … I wanted to be Rod and I certainly never wanted to be a Eugene.
The important thing in all of this is that growing up I wanted to be like my Grandpa (not my Dad).
I wanted to drive a big red truck like my Grandpa. 

I wanted to be as strong as my Grandpa.

I wanted everyone to like me like they liked my Grandpa. It seemed everyone knew him and that everyone was his friend.

I hoped to one day know as much about everything like my Grandpa seemingly did.

I even wanted my hair to be wavy just like Grandpa.

My Grandpa was one of the coolest people I knew and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.

After all what’s not to like about a man that makes ice cream and fudge, hides candy by his bedside, and drives a big red truck!

As I grew older, dreams of driving a truck changed. I even gave up on having wavy hair – the length of my hair became an ongoing debate for me and my Grandpa (it was never short enough for him). I also discovered my own interests and those weren’t always the same as Grandpa’s.  Heck, we didn’t even root for the same baseball team – He the Cubs and me the Reds!  But even as my dreams grew and changed, one thing remained the same – I still wanted to grow up to be just like my Grandpa – honest, caring, selfless, strong of will, gentle of spirit, a man of quiet yet strong faith – a man of integrity.

Today (like most fathers), I struggle with the task of raising a son who thinks his Grandpa is way cooler than his own Dad. But the lessons I learned growing up have become the key to living with that frustration.

What I have learned is that if I can teach my son to be proud of his name Riley Eugene Frieden and the stories and heritage that have come before it … If I can remember to teach him about the man who started this tradition — not what he did, but who he was and what he stood for … If I can do that, I will succeed in teaching my son the most important lessons in life:

When you grow up, Grow up to be just like your great grandpa and your grandpa – that’s what I have tried to do. Learn to say your name with pride and hold your head high.

You are a Frieden … an R E Frieden and that means you share a something with the man I have called Grandpa all my life.
Learn to be like him and you will become a man of Honesty, a man of Caring thoughts, a man of selfless action, a man who was strong of will and gentle of spirit, a man of integrity, and a man of quiet yet strong faith.

Some will ask what’s so important about a a name?

The answer is not much unless that name was R E Frieden and then it can mean everything.

Thanks for that lesson Grandpa.

You never taught that to me … you just lived it every day.