It’s hard to believe this is my last article submission to the Herald-Dispatch.

It’s hard to believe this is my last article submission to the Herald-Dispatch. For the last twelve years, I’ve been submitting timely devotionals for this Pastor’s Column in an effort to share the same Gospel in as many ways as I could. Nevertheless, in every form, it’s still the same Good News and the same old, old story about our Lord’s amazing love for all people.

What a privilege and honor for me to have had a full career of proclaiming this message wherever I have been called, and no less Sleepy Eye, as we prepare for retirement. I cannot help but be grateful.

So, here is my last devotion for the Herald-Dispatch, from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 — “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”

In the midst of many problems and tragedies it’s helpful, I think, to grow in one’s awareness of the many blessings we enjoy in our community of Sleepy Eye. Paul wrote his above words to a tiny congregation in a society that was decaying in immorality. Many members would become tortured, exiled or killed because of their faith in Christ. They were understandably confused and angry with God. They were expecting Jesus to return, and when he didn’t they complained and were disappointed. Some even turned away from the faith.

An attitude of gratitude was called for. And if there is any last word I wish to share with you it’s this: Thank you for the partnership you have shared and supported, even if in only private and/or individual ways.

May this be a word of encouragement. Gratitude does not depend upon you or me, what we do or don’t do or even what happens to us in the changes that life brings. Even when hurricanes, floods, firestorms and earthquakes come upon us or our neighbors, and when health, job, marriage or crops fail—God’s standing orders remain: Rejoice always…Pray without ceasing…In every circumstance give thanks…

Paul never discounted the genuine hardship the Thessalonian Christians endured. I’m not minimizing or discounting the real pain and loss that may exist in your life. All of us face, or have faced, serious concerns and challenges in our lives and some continue. More and more we are seeing a shortage of pastors in Southwest Minnesota and congregations whose doors will no longer be open. The very same can be said of certain businesses and farms. But let me remind you one more time of God’s secure and amazing love, and forgiveness and salvation for all of us.

In the 30 Years War, the German town of Eilenberg well illustrates this. It was a city where people sought refuge. Famine and disease were rampant. All the pastors died except Martin Rinkhart, who was left to preside over some 40 to 50 funerals everyday, including his own wife! It was out of this horrendous experience that he wrote one of the great hymns of the ages…

“Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices,

“Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;

“Who, from our mothers’ arms, has blest us on our way

“With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”

May we all grow in this spirit of thankfulness for the rest of our days, giving thanks in everything.

Thank you friends, and thank you Sleepy Eye, for the memories and all you have given and shared. We will never forget you.

 Editor’s note: Pastor Ainsley’s last Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church is Nov. 12.