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Episcopal Youth Event, June 20-28

Becoming grateful, surprise upon surprise

By Bill Lewellis
New Year's Day 2011
The Morning Call

When she was growing up in New England, a onetime colleague on the staff of Bethlehem Bishop Paul Marshall related that her doctor father would sit with her at bedtime until she remembered at least five things for which she was thankful.

I suspect this grew easier when she discovered the hints in the Book of Common Prayer:

For the beauty and wonder of God’s creation, in earth and sky and sea, for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ.

For our daily food and drink, the blessing of family and friends, and the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play.

For setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice.

For those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on God alone.

For the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank you, Lord. I thank you. I thank you.

Studies show, according to a recent article in Christianity Today, that “grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships, more forgiving and supportive than those who are ungrateful, less depressed, stressed, envious, and anxious.”

Near the southern end of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, when New Jersey by way of the Walt Whitman Bridge is my destination, I listen to a Philadelphia radio station at 2, 12, 22, 32, 42 and 52 minutes after the hour. KYW promotes this minute as Traffic on the Twos. Listening helps me determine whether the Schuylkill Expressway or the Blue Route and I-95 north might be the better, or at least the less harrowing route to take.

My occasional Traffic on the Twos practice has suggested another practice to help with a daily journey.

I give thanks for some happening or relationship of the preceding three hours as I reflect for a few seconds at 9:00 a.m., noon, and 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

Thanks on the Threes. It helps, often in unexpected ways.

Brother David Steindl-Rast asks if we've ever noticed how our eyes open a bit wider when we are surprised. Surprise is the beginning of living with a clue.

Surprise is often the beginning of gratitude.

Be surprised, open your eyes a bit wider as you walk through a supermarket brimming with the gifts of God and the labor of people you'll never know.

Be surprised –– and grateful –– when your car starts in the morning.

Computer technology has been part of my job and my life for many years, but I'm still surprised when my computer works. As a “high-use, low-tech” person, I'm grateful for the Info/Tech person who fixes it when it doesn't.

I have been surprised when I've been able to connect so quickly with someone by email or text, post something on a blog, download a podcast, find a helpful web site, lay out a newspaper with a computer program and convert the page files to specs required by a distant printer.

When I sit with my laptop to write a column or sermon, I'm surprised that words begin to appear on the screen.

Someday, the words will not come. I will not chance putting thoughts together for public scrutiny. Someday, my sight and reflexes will not allow me to chance the drive to the bridge. Someday, my legs won't tolerate exercise.

I have been surprised during the past year by how much I have enjoyed retirement, even though I have loved the work I had been doing at Diocesan House (Diocese of Bethlehem) for 24 years.

Moving into 2011 I want to remember how well I have felt during 2010, after having experienced some six months of ill health during 2009. Of course, I am grateful. In fact, one thing I find as I grow older is how much more grateful I have become.

[Canon Bill Lewellis,, a retired Episcopal priest, served on the Bishop’s staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for 24 years and on the Bishop’s staff of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown for 13 years before that.]


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