By Derek Maul

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Just last week, late in the afternoon and heading up the main highway for a meeting at church, the sky over Wake Forest offered a spectacular backdrop, splashed liberally with all the colors of a gorgeous sunset. We’ve been pushing at the edges of autumn here for the past few weeks, but at the same time North Carolina has been hanging on to late summer and humidity. Color is beginning to creep into a few of the trees, pine straw is dropping by the ton, but the air conditioning is running like we’re still living in Florida.

While I can’t write about spectacular fall colors quite yet, I do run into images every day that still make me smile. So, instead of complaining about the late summer heat, I decided to think about how grateful I am for the blessings I trip over every time I turn around!

The last few pictures saved on my phone remind me of that amazing evening sky behind the church, the fresh fallen pine straw coloring the front garden a deep golden brown, our bubble-blowing four-year-old granddaughter defining her own sense of “out there” fashion, a box from Amazon containing copies of my new novel, and our dog enjoying a cooler evening out on our back deck.

Fact is, everything I run into, every new day, holds the potential and the promise to be a means of grace. The images I capture on my camera serve as reminders of those instances – too few and far between – where I actually paid attention enough to notice, to pause from my rush and hurry, and to say “thank you” to God.

Each new day is an exercise in the discipline of praise and an opportunity to make one more decision to be thankful.

This really is a beautiful life, in every way. In love and in gratitude – always – DEREK

Derek Maul has written for many news outlets, including the Tampa Tribune, The United Methodist News Service, All Pro Dad, FOCUS Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Presbyterians Today, Guideposts, Chicken Soup for the Soul and many other publications. Read Derek Maul’s daily blog posts at