GRATITUDE I am sitting in a white oak tree in Meriwether County hunting for deer. I just saw a small 8 – point buck too small to harvest this year. What a blessing though. I love to experience the outdoors whenever I get the chance. My gratitude this morning leads me to write about the power of gratitude right here 40 feet off the ground in a forested swamp. Many, if not all of us, face adversity throughout this life. These challenges come in many forms. Some are relatively manageable; some are devastating. In America, I see depression, hate, fear, and discontentment as the primary forms of unhappiness. But, it does not have to be that way. I am not a minister, religious theologian, or graduate of religious studies. I am just one of God’s children who has an awareness of some of the natural laws that God has provided us. God placed each of us on Earth for a particular reason. We may not know what that reason is yet. But, there are as many reasons as there are people. Some of us are good communicators, hard workers, compassionate, diligent, slow to anger, and enjoy helping others, to name just a few human attributes. Each of these God given talents can be used to reveal His plan. We must also possess the courage to commune with God. He will lead us down the path that He has chosen. Yet, that is easier said than done for some people, like me. My faith is often tested the most during times of adversity. My communications with God during these times are called my “fox hole prayers.” Unfortunately, adversity can also divert us from God’s path as we go through life. Conversely, adversity can also forge the strength one needs to meet the challenges ahead. The difference is how you react to it. One evening by the campfire, an old friend told me that the Gospel and Paul’s letters to the churches provided clear instructions on how to deal with adversity; gratitude. Paul spoke much of gratitude as he was being held in a prison awaiting execution. How could someone be grateful for anything under these circumstances? Yet, he possessed a tremendous amount of gratitude. Back to the campfire, I never once thought that gratitude had anything to do with my "crisis of the moment" situation. But it does. My friend told me that he would wake each morning, read Sarah Young, and make a list of all the things he was thankful for that morning. Because I questioned the idea, I sat on it for a few days until my situation worsened. Then, I got the pen and starting writing. It is a private list that I dispose of every morning. But, what an amazing start to a day that started and ended with thanksgiving instead of fear. The experience simply brought about a sense of peace. I cannot say that I make this gratitude list every day. But, our Pathfinders Men’s Group encourages each other to do so. We ask each member to voluntarily express gratitude by speaking our “praises and prayer requests” at the beginning of every meeting. My church, Victory UMC, has a similar format. We may think that we are too busy for this or that. Perhaps we have made ourselves too busy or have priorities that are out of line. But, without a close personal relationship with God, our very short years of life here cannot reach full potential. For me, it all starts with the gratitude list, moving into the day asking for His Guidance, and doing the best that I can. That.is all God wants; gratitude for what He has given us and the willingness to carry out His will. He loves us no matter what.