Thanksgiving for the Ordinary and Extraordinary Moments



Thankfulness: For the Ordinary and Extraordinary
Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth.
Gratitude follows grace like thunder the lightening.
Grace evokes gratitude like the voice its echo.  – Karl Barth
I give thanks to God for all the ordinary and extraordinary
wonders of life and the past year.
We normally focus on the extraordinary.
We notice the amazing wonder of a new grandchild simply breathing as we hold them in our arms. But we rarely notice the steady rising and falling of our own breathing unless we are puffing after exerting ourselves. I invite you to notice the ordinary and extraordinary and give thanks.
As we journey into this Thanksgiving holiday, notice the ordinary. It is all a gift of grace.  Notice the wonder of simply waking up in the morning, eating breakfast, having a place to work, co-workers to talk to, places to invest your life’s energy, friends to connect to and music or reading to enjoy. Notice the amazing gift of laughter in your life. Even the gift of tears are a wonder. It is all an extraordinary gift from God.
Notice the gift of your community. We notice it when firemen show up, like they did recently at Shalom Hill Farm from four nearby communities to do their extraordinarily important work of walking into a crisis and stopping the fire. Notice all the ordinary gifts in your community like teachers to teach our children and us, medical people to attend to us in our illness and to prevent sickness, too. Notice the gift of the folks who prepare and sell us food in grocery stores and restaurants. Notice the police keeping order and all the people who keep things from needing the intervention of law enforcement and the courts. Every day there are amazing things happening as God uses our hands to care for community. Notice the friends drinking coffee, laughing, getting choked up as God uses people to weave together community. It is a miracle of grace.
Notice the gift of the ordinary in your church. We often lift up the leaders who are doing innovative things, starting mission churches or leading in the midst of crisis and crucial transitions. Those gifts are amazing grace. Yet, notice all the faithful people, pastors and staff loving in Jesus name, proclaiming the good news of God’s grace, doing the normal work of a community of faith. They are all equally priceless gifts from God. Notice your janitor. Notice your council leaders. Notice your altar guild and ushers. Notice the people who are serving out their faith as ministers in their work places, families, neighborhoods and as they show hospitality to strangers. While the extraordinary generosity of a large bequest catches your eye, notice the steady generosity of self and money from so many that makes most of our congregations go. Notice the witness and life of communities of faith large and small and give thanks for the presence and work of God’s Holy Spirit inside and beyond communities of faith.
God’s grace comes in ordinary ways like the ongoing creation and sustaining of life.
God’s grace comes in extraordinary ways like we know in Christ Jesus being born, his life and death and resurrection.
In the days ahead, may God slow us down enough to notice the gifts of grace that surround us in the ordinary and extraordinary moments of our lives. Remember Paul’s exhortation to the church at Colossi.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  – Colossians 3 

+Pr. Jon V. Anderson
Bishop, Southwestern Minnesota Synod, ELCA 


Boundary Workshop Articles

At our boundary workshop Sarah Hausken mentioned a helpful article about the question of how church leaders respond to a sex offender in their midst.  This helps you start thinking through the layers of this important question.

Building a Stewardship House: Laying a Foundation of Generosity

In August 2015 the SW Mn Synod, in partnership with the SE Mn Synod and Gustavus Adolphus College, presented a “in person” and “live stream” event called “Building a Stewardship House: Laying a foundation of Generosity.”

The “live stream” event was recorded. (see playlist link below).

The opening, closing and four selected topic talks addressed “generosity” in creative ways. The goal was to add an alternative voice to a prominent one in our “money and market based” culture, a culture often marked by fear, scarcity and secrecy when it comes to talking about money and its power in our lives. The alternative voice, God’s Generosity lived out through God’s people!

The opening and closing was offered by ELCA Bishops Jon Anderson (SW MN) and Steven Delzer (SE MN). They provided a framework for the conversations.  Speakers, Catherine Malotky (Luther Seminary Development office), Adam Copeland (“Center for Stewardship Leaders” at Luther Seminary, director), and David Anfinson (CPA and owner of Anfinson Thompson Accounting and Financial Services, Willmar, MN) each addressed areas spelled out on the downloadable flyer. Each speaker was invited to do a “TED talk” style presentation. (TED talks = 18 minutes sharing “one great idea”) Flyer pdf:

Chris Kiewel, a dedicated servant of Jesus, provided technology help with GAC technology director, Matt Dobesenski. Chris “edited” the event to create this “playlist.” It offers a “brief intro” to each talk. Each section includes the talk followed by a “Q and A time.” 

How do you use these talks?  We would recommend them as something to share in council meetings, Stewardship planning sessions or within the Finance conversations taking place in local church settings. Especially we want to encourage the importance of a “Narrative Budget” (David Anfinson talk). A valuable resource to explore this topic is:

Playlist of the entire list of talks:

For questions please contact: Rev. Larry Strenge


Synod Assembly Videos – Bishop Reports and more- I promised these earlier. My favorite is the second. Priceless Equipping Stories

Divided into playlists here:

Bishop Report 1:

Bishop Report 2:

Bishop Report 3:


Bishop Jon – Thanks Chris Kiewel

Discovering Hope Resources – Video, Handouts and Activities in Dropbox and Leader’s Guide – Check it out

We are grateful for your congregation’s participation in Discovering Hope on June 27, 2015.


We want to encourage you to continue to grow in the learning that was offered on that day through the enclosed materials.


If you want to explore more about Discovering Hope you may “VIEW” the event through these two links:

Discovering Hope 6.27.15 Hours 1 and 2


Discovering Hope 6.27.15 Hours 3 and 4


All of the files and activities that were led by Pastor Nancy Nyland are enclosed in this Dropbox file.

Discovering Hope agenda and activites


I would suggest that you look at the Discovering Hope LEADER GUIDE sheet as a “first step.”

LEADER GUIDE sheet with Activity and Handout references


From this LEADER GUIDE file you may find the “Activity” name or the “Handout” and the corresponding file in Discovering Hope agenda and activites.


We believe your congregation will be enriched through the teaching that is contained in this workshop as you incorporate it into your setting.  The Holy Spirit is indeed at work!


Two final thoughts….

  • Pr Nancy Nyland has requested that if you have follow up questions please DO NOT contact her even though her name appears at the bottom of many of the sheets. Please begin by contacting me. Thanks!
  • If you would like to have further conversation about Discovering Hope please DO contact me so we can have further conversation!

Pr. Larry Strenge