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This is a time of year for giving thanks and making memories with family and friends. This is also a time of year when people make certain promises to NOT take (fill in the blank) for granted. And yet, we do.

How can we do better in this area? Attentiveness is a spiritual discipline that is needed for us to develop and keep a heart of gratitude and appreciation. We are to be attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We are to be attentive to conversations with friends and colleagues. We are to pause for “Sabbath” and recognize that the pace of life can ruin the peace of Christ in our lives. Appropriate attentiveness leads to appreciation and gratitude.

I recently had the opportunity to take my sixth trip as Calvin Seminary President to South Korea. With ministry colleague, friend, and translator Rev. Christian Oh of Han-Bit Christian Reformed Church, we visited five different seminaries. I was able to give a chapel talk at all five schools, participate in two different conferences, and preach in three different congregations.

When you are in a different culture, you find yourself being more attentive. Everything is new and that newness requires that you watch and listen more closely.

During a meal toward the end of my visit, I stopped to notice the salt and pepper shakers that were present on the table. I had heard from many of our Korean students (one of every six of our students comes from South Korea) that they find our food in North America to be rather bland and salty. I do agree with these students. Growing up, our home seemed to rely on the spices of salt, pepper, cinnamon, and ketchup (if you count ketchup as a spice!). 

As I looked at these Korean salt and pepper shakers, I noticed that the salt shaker only had one opening at the top while the pepper shaker had three. In North America, it usually is the other way around. Salt shakers in North America have more holes and we more readily pour out salt on our food.

I know it is just a small thing to notice. We pick up salt and pepper shakers with hardly a second thought. And yet maybe we should start to notice the small things as a way of building up our “appreciation” muscles and reflexes.

In this time of year when we remember again the gift of Jesus as Immanuel — God with us, may we be more attentive to the people and places which helps us see God still at work. On behalf of Calvin Seminary, thank you for all you do to remember and support the gospel ministry of Jesus that takes place through Calvin Theological Seminary.

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photo courtesy of Calvin Seminary

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