How do you want this week to go for you? Do you want to be miserable, irritable? Would you prefer joy? There is a singular choice that you alone can make that will have a major impact, shaping your environment. What is that? Gratitude!
People will do things you do not like. Some will be rude, others just thoughtless. Your food may arrive at the table cold. Your spouse may come home from work weary and difficult. And the list goes on … but, be thankful anyway! Find a reason to offer thanks.
G.K. Chesterton reminded us that we need to get in the habit of “taking things with gratitude and not taking things for granted.” A Christian who wants to reflect the heart of Jesus to the world will learn to be grateful – to God, to others – consistently. It takes practice. Self has a voracious appetite and will devour as much attention as we give to it. Many of us mistakenly believe that gratitude is something we ‘feel’ rather than a choice we make. On those days when the kids are mysteriously wonderful and kind, when our spouse is especially attentive to our needs, when our coffee is served ‘just right,’ and everyone on the road is courteous, we feel thankful. (Does that ever really happen?) If we wait to feel thankful, we will not be thankful often, if ever. That is why the Lord directs us to choose thanks as a way of life. It is as simple as this: “Thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, The Message)
Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and writer, reflects on his own journey writing that “In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”
Gratitude is hard! I know that from personal experience. I wasted too many days wishing that life were different, allowing myself to get lost in the maze of ‘if only’ and ‘could be.’ What I am learning is that every second spent wishing is a second where I am not present to what God is doing in my life right where I am. That does not mean that I cannot work to change things, or that I cannot acknowledge pain or disappointment. Gratitude is not escapism, nor is it denial. Gratitude finds God in the now and accepts His grace.
Let me suggest a plan for being grateful this Thanksgiving week.
- Begin the day with thanks to God. Do not let it be a perfunctory, “Thank you, Lord, for all You have done.” Make it personal, from the heart, authentic. Speak it.
- That first person you encounter in the morning – let your first words be thankful and again, make it real!
- When irritation stirs in you, meet it with your will and replace it with a positive thought.
- Take some time this week and write your own “Psalm.” (a model might be Psalm 103)
“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—” (Psalm 103:1-2, NIV)
This is true – the more thankful I am, the better I become at it. It grows with practice. Thankful people attract others who are grateful, who have dethroned Self and learned to accept life, not as they wish it were, but as it is.
Here is the word from the Word. Live it! “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.” (Psalm 107:1-2, NLT) “Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. Let them exalt him publicly before the congregation and before the leaders of the nation.” (Psalm 107:31-32, NLT)
CoffeeBreak will be ‘on break,’ until Monday, 11/30. See you next week.