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Ethics and Religion Talk: What is Your Daily Practice of Thanksgiving?

How do you make Thanksgiving into a daily practice in your spiritual life?

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see the Kaufman Interfaith Institute page and their weekly Interfaith Insight column at

Rev. Salvatore Sapienza, the Senior Pastor at Douglas Congregational United Church of Christ in Saugatuck/Douglas, responds:

"I truly believe that practicing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the keys to the spiritual life. The 13th century Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, wrote, “If the only prayer you ever say in your life is ‘Thank You,’ it will be enough.” 

Several years ago, I started the spiritual practice of keeping a daily gratitude journal. This practice is so simple, yet so transformative. Purchase a blank journal and keep it on your nightstand. When you go to bed each night, write down the date and then list five things that happened that day for which you are grateful.

Instead of replaying all the negative thoughts in our heads (researchers say we have 60,000 thoughts per day, 75% of which are negative with 95% of those being repetitive), the gratitude journal helps us “retrain our brains” to look for the positive. 

Instead of bemoaning the past or worrying about the future, gratitude grounds us in the present. When we focus on our blessings, we become more fully present in the Presence."

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

"I have a habit of twice daily meditation. Towards the end of both, I almost always spend some time in gratitude. Among the blessings I count are things like having a body that works well enough that got me out of bed, washed, through light yoga exercise and onto my pillow for meditation. I then just pick random thoughts that fly in, such as my marriage, financial stability, work projects and upcoming events, and spend a moment on them. On Tuesdays, I offer thanks that it’s Pancake Day." 

Linda Knieriemen, a retired pastor of the Presbyterian Church (USA), responds:

"A wise, faithful pastor friend speaks of having an ‘attitude of gratitude.’ This is how I incorporate thanksgiving into my spiritual life:

After two full hours in the dentist chair passed and the procedure was not complete, I found myself stewing until I began a list of gratitudes: Thank you for the skill of this dentist. Thank you that she has small hands. Thank you for dental insurance. Thank you for 3-D x-rays… 

While nursing a back injury, looking at my flowerbeds and yard and knowing I won’t be able to do fall cleanup myself, I offer thanks for neighbors who offer to mow, for a grandchild who offers to blow leaves and bring in deck furniture and for the beauty of the turning seasons.  

While cleaning up after my vomiting dog, instead of grumbling at the inconvenience, I offer thanks for his faithful companionship, his warmth on a cold night and his loud protective bark."

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

"Every evening as I am getting ready to go to sleep, I think about my entire day and I reflect on all the important interactions and conversations I have had. I think about how I behaved in each interaction. Did I bring my best self into the situation or not? And then I think about all the things that happened in my day that I am grateful for. Then I think about all the people I am grateful for being in my life. I have done this practice for over 40 years. 

I have found that having a daily practice of affirming gratitude or thanksgiving is very important to my wellbeing. When times are most difficult and hope seems lost, expressing a small bit of gratitude can make all the difference. I highly recommend this practice."

The Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church, responds:

"It starts with realizing what Job realized when he responded to his wife's invitation to curse God and die to end the pain of his trials. This is what he said back to her: “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). He said this because he understood that God could use everything for our good and for His Glory. Paul also understood this secret of gratitude and thanksgiving when he wrote this: "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18). 

Unconditional thanksgiving not only expresses our trust in God, who is able to turn all bad things into blessings, but it also represents one of the highest forms of spiritual warfare. The enemy is powerless against praise. As the old song Praise the Lord by The Imperials states: "The chains that seem to bind you serve only to remind you that they drop powerless behind you when you praise Him.""           

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

"Presbyterianism teaches that giving thanks to God is an essential element of the practice of prayer, which is “the offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies” (Shorter Catechism, Q. 98).

When the apostle Paul enjoins Christians to “pray without ceasing,” he immediately adds, “In everything give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:17, 18).

Thankfulness in prayer is an attitude to be carried over into how we live from day to day. Communicants in Reformed Churches are required to examine themselves, whether, among other things, they purpose “henceforth to show true thankfulness to God with [your] whole life and to walk uprightly before Him” (Form for the Lord’s Supper). Thankfulness to God for the gift of life and salvation provides perhaps the best, most durable and most productive motivation for obedience to His commandments. It expresses at once both faith in God and love for God."


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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