Practicing Gratitude

I’ve gotta say… for all the junk and crazy-making stuff that floats around on facebook, i’m finding the daily ‘thankful’ posts a blessed relief. In case you haven’t noticed–many people challenge themselves, during the month of November, to give thanks for something every day of the month.  People share their gratitude for everything from health and family to simple daily blessings–good food, good coffee, the smell of laundry on a weekday evening. All told, sifting through my newsfeed these days, i find an on-going litany of our many gifts and graces.

Starting out, 30 days may sound like a long time to give thanks. But really, once you start, it’s hard to stop at 30.

I like to think that people of faith try to practice gratitude all year long–and not just when it is #trending. When you approach thanks in this daily fashion, it isn’t just about thanking people for what they do for you—although that is important!  Nor is it just about saying prayers of thanksgiving to God—also very important. Practicing gratitude is less about a single action, and more about how we move through the world. Living in gratitude means noticing every little thing as a gift; recognizing how much we have, before we wish or want for something else; and above all, it means knowing that we are stewards of everything we have…and sharing it accordingly.

It is a spiritual discipline– to be thankful in all things, at all times, and not just when the season calls for it. It makes us more generous, and it also makes us much happier. Once you get into the habit on focusing on the abundance of your life, you find a deeper contentment, an abiding sense of purpose, and an overwhelming sense of joy. In the simplest of everyday things, you begin to glimpse the holy.

I have found, on more than one occasion, the therapeutic properties of writing thank you notes. I am, at heart, a southern girl, and the voice of my mother lives in my head–from the moment i’ve received a gift, until the envelope hits the mail box. Furthermore, I am a pastor, and i know that every movement in the life of my congregation has a generous person’s thumb print on it. If not for the time, talent and treasure of many gifted people, I would really just be sitting in an office by myself all day. (well, until the lights got turned off). I try to say thanks in small ways throughout the year. But every January, I send a hand-written thank you note to every person who pledges in support of this ministry. I get hand cramps and a stiff neck, but I tell you what… those are some of the fullest and richest days in ministry for me.

It is hard to be in a bad mood when you’re giving thanks. It is hard to focus on those little aches and pains when you’re looking at the bigger picture of grace. It is nearly impossible to want for any little thing, when you’re saying a big loud ‘hallelujah’ for every little thing. Every day, all year long, we can practice this litany of abundance. And we can be transformed.

Do you engage in the discipline of gratitude? I’d love to hear about how you practice thanksgiving, how it has enriched your life, and how it has enabled you to share with– and better serve– others.

My friend elli took this. THIS is the arizona i want you to think of, next time our sheriff makes the news…

Here’s a link to Elli’s blog

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