“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (The words of the Apostle Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.)

Most will agree that 2020 was a challenging, if not distressing, year. The Umatilla River flood in early February displaced many, destroying homes and even livelihoods. One month later, COVID-19 caused grave concern as we began wearing face masks, using sanitizers and even shutting down services. Many have suffered from the virus, with the greatest difficulty being the loss of loved ones for some people.

The advent of 2021 rang in with hope. News of vaccines, soon to be available, injected us with optimistic outlooks that life will change for the better in the not-too-distant future. We are encouraged to look forward to a new normal that will certainly be better than what we’ve endured for nearly a year now.

This brings me to the heart of this column. Recently a longtime friend, from my high school days, shared with me something that her family does each year. She sent me a photo of a “thankfulness jar” that is kept on a counter in her kitchen.

Throughout the year, members of her family write notes of gratitude on slips of paper and place them in the jar. Each day they are mindful to reflect on one thing for which they are grateful. They write their reflections down and put them into the jar, where they are kept until the end of the year has passed. On New Year’s Day, the family sits down together, and one by one the folded pieces of paper are removed and read aloud. According to my friend, this helps her family and her to be mindful of the things to be appreciated each day of life, and to be grateful for after the end of each year.

My wife, Wendy, and I have taken up this practice in our own home. We now have a crystal bowl that sits on the hearth of our fireplace. Our intention is to place a written thought of gratitude in that container each day of the year, to be opened on the first day of January 2022.

Perhaps you will consider doing something like this in your own home this year? It’s true, the more we express gratitude, the more we will recognize things in life to be grateful for.


Marc Mullins is a musician, singer, songwriter, and pastor of the First Christian Church in Pendleton.

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