Last Sunday our ward had the rare privilege of hearing Alex Boye sing a solo in sacrament meeting. I must confess at the time I didn’t know who he was, but when he started to sing a gospel rendition of “How Great Thou Art” I, like many other ward members, sat up straight in my seat and listened, enthralled (although I think a couple of the older ward members nearly had a heart attack). I’ve never heard these words sung so beautifully, so stirringly: “Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee, How great thou art! How great thou art!” Perhaps it was the unconventional delivery of the song (jazzy piano accompaniment and all) as well as the sheer beauty of Brother Boye’s voice that made me listen to the words more carefully, made me feel them deep in my soul. It was one of the most worshipful and thrilling musical numbers I have ever heard in a sacrament meeting. I thought of that musical number yesterday as I read these words in Psalms: “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands. Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious” (Psalm 66: 1-2).
And it’s in that spirit, and in the spirit of gratitude, that I want to sing praises of my own, so to speak, to my God today. My prayers are too often full of petitions and pleas while being scarce on thankfulness and praise. What better time to give thanks than Thanksgiving week?
But first, a few thoughts on gratitude. On Sunday, after hearing Brother Boye sing in sacrament meeting, we talked in Young Women about how gratitude helps us cultivate meekness and offset pride. I taught my Beehive class that the commandment to be grateful, like all other commandments, is given by a loving Heavenly Father for our benefit: gratitude blesses us—it reminds us there’s a greater power beyond ourselves; it makes us happier, helps us better handle our trials, and counteracts selfishness and bitterness. And then that night I listened to Stephanie Nielson speak in a stake youth fireside about gratitude during adversity (two brushes with fame in one day!) and as I listened to her give heartfelt and loving thanks to the Lord for sustaining and blessing her through her trials, heard her express her gratitude for being able to perform simple tasks like making her kids’ school lunches (a chore I often bemoan) and buttoning up her daughter’s coat, I knew I needed a serious gratitude check.
So here’s what I feel grateful for right now as I write this post: the sound of my daughter playing Christmas songs on the piano, which fills me with a tender mixture of nostalgia and comfort; my dog snoozing next to me on the couch, her legs twitching as she chases a bird in her sleep; the sky aflame with pink and orange as the sun slips below the horizon. I’m grateful for the turkey thawing in my fridge, and the prospect of family gathering to eat good food on Thursday. I’m grateful for my laptop. I’m grateful for scriptures, for the Conference issue of the Ensign, which I’ve been reading over the last couple of weeks and which has soothed me and nourished my soul. Most of all, however, I’m grateful today for the tender, compassionate reminders I received last week that God is mindful of me and, more importantly to me right now, my children. I am grateful that He knows my heart, my fears and concerns, and my longings, and that He hears me when I cry out to Him in my extremity. I know that all good things come from Him and that He is the source of my joy and salvation.
I echo the words of my missionary son, who wrote the following in his email last week after struggling with a difficult companion for the past month and a half: “I’m learning [so much] about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It’s changed me. I don’t know if I’ll be recognizable when this is all over, because He is changing me so much. And I never deserved it, never deserved any of this, but it’s a gift He freely gives us. I cannot express with words how much I feel the Savior’s love, even and especially in this most difficult part of my mission.”
Only the Lord knows what those words meant to me. With deep love and reverence I add my voice to David’s in the eighteenth Psalm: “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust….I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised…for who is God save the Lord? Or who is a rock save our God?…The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock…Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord…and sing praises unto thy name.”
And like Alex Boye, I want to lift my voice in song and praise and declare, “How Great Thou Art.”
What are you feeling grateful for this week? How do you teach your children about gratitude? And have any sacrament meeting musical numbers stirred your soul lately?