This is one of my favorite motorcycle photos.
Earlier that day, I had been riding through the California desert. My bike registered 111 degrees, which is pretty hot even for a southern boy. I saw the snow-covered mountains in the distance, but it seemed that they only remained in the distance the farther I rode.
Soon enough, trees started lining the highway. It became cooler. I opened my face shield. Everything smelled fresh and the air was crisp. My bike seemed to run smoother as the air cooled. Near the top of a long incline, I looked in my mirror and saw the scene above.
We’ve all had those moments. And it’s not just when riding our bikes. There are many times when we are stunned at the beauty of creation. Extreme appreciation in the moment.
Gratitude. It’s an important way we can show our love for God.
Throughout the history of Christianity, our scriptures, church leaders, theologians and the saints have sought to explain the importance of gratitude.
1 Thessalonians is thought to be the first letter of Paul and one of the first written documents of Christianity. Paul was with Silas and Timothy when he wrote it. Near the end of Chapter 5 in verses 16 – 18, he writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
The earliest known document of the Christian Faith instruct us to show gratitude in all things.
The early church father Clement of Rome in his letter to Corinth wrote, “Seeing therefore that we have all these things from Him, we ought in all things to give thanks to Him, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Clem 38:4)
The 16th century mystic St. Teresa of Avila said, “In all created things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks.”
The 20th century German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is quoted as saying, “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.”
Small gifts, like a tree-lined highway that cuts through snow covered mountains.
I think my favorite quote about gratitude sums it up well. Recent LDS leader Gordon B. Hinckley has said “Gratitude is the very essence of worship.”
The next time you’re out riding and you reach that plateau where you find yourself admiring the wonder of Creation, stop alongside the road. Have a banana and some water. Drink in the moment. Take a photo so you can remember. Or not.
Find your own way to express gratitude, then do it often. It is the most sincere form of worship.
Stained glass is optional.
Further reading …
This post references 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Also referenced are the writings of Clement of Rome, Teresa of Avila, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Gordon B. Hinckley.