Monday, April 27, 2015

On Gratitude

I shared the following devotional at Mom to Mom in November of 2011.   I am so thankful that counting His gifts to me, this keeping a gratitude list, was a habit in my life before I started into the testing days that followed in the years since!  His grace was meeting needs in many ways in my life long before I knew that I had those needs!

This gratitude list was just one of those ways

Psalm 19:1 tells us that the heavens declare the glory of God and the sky proclaims the work of His hand.

If you listened to Dr. Homer G. Lindsay, Jr. preach, then you know it would not be long before you would hear him talk about being thankful.  I have taken him up on his challenge to list 100 things to be thankful for.  He said it would be hard to do, and at first you would probably agree, but as you continued with it, you found it got much easier.

My first thank you list reached 100 things by naming Jesus, my salvation,  types of trees, types of flowers, types of dogs… you get the picture.

Later I started to use my senses for ideas.  I listed the sound of an orchestra, the way a diamond sparkles in the lights in our auditorium, the smell of a pie in the oven.

This year we were asked at church to keep a list of one thing a day to be thankful for.  The timing was perfect. My daughter had given me a beautiful journal for my birthday the year before and I was looking for something special for its use.  I also had just finished reading a book called “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp.

I wrote in a journal, “Things have really begun to turn around.  It started with a simple concept, thankfulness.  I began to list His gifts to me whatever they might be.  It was a new way of seeing.  A daily search for beauty…His beauty.”

And that is how it started, numbering His gifts as I became aware of them.

In "One Thousand Gifts", I was reminded that God has a lot to say about gratitude, beginning in Genesis with Adam and Eve in the garden, when their pride is revealed in their ingratitude for all God had given them and their focus turned to what they did not have.

I discovered that Daniel was not just a man of prayer who had a custom of praying three times a day, but that his custom was to pray three times a day “with thanksgiving”!
Even after he knew the decree was signed that could mean his death.

The list of sins in Romans 1, actually starts with the phrase, “neither were they thankful”.

I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to give thanks in everything.  And when writing Ephesians 5:20, Paul added the instruction to give thanks at all times!

So I started my list:

#1) a big black bird sitting on a lamp post spread his wings out just as I drove under him, and God spoke to my heart.  Help me always seek refuge under the shelter of Your wings.

#41) sunshine breaking through gray clouds.

#89) stopping at a red light on the way to Dr. #2 with prescriptions from Dr. #1.  As I stop, I notice out the window a beautiful arrangement of wild daisies…
“He loves me” , never has “He loved me not”.

#122) Living close enough to the ocean that I can smell the salt water spray in the air.

#295) cool breeze through an open window kind of day.

#327) when my thoughts are shallow, His love for me is not any less deep.

#421) helping me let go; releasing control

#526) My husband’s “it will be ok” smile, even when we have no assurance that it will be ok.

#644) storms that pass

Yes, God is changing me through keeping this list.  I am learning so many new things through this one activity.  

It has strengthened the belief that God is always good, and that I am always loved.

Being so much more aware of His presence has affected my prayer life, in the things I pray for and the closeness of our my relationship with Him.

The gifts I list may seem small or trivial, but it is really the act of recognition of the gift Giver … and my love for Him is growing by leaps and bounds.

My trust in Him has grown too.  Even in the hard things.  I have found my questions decreasing and my desire for Him increasing.

I can see more and more how much effort and energy I waste in worry.  In fact, Ruth Bell Graham shared in one of her books that worry and worship can not occupy the same heart, and after all, isn't that what happens when I thank God for His gifts?  I worship Him?

Beth Moore calls them God STOPs (Savoring the Observable Presence).  Every day we have a choice.  We can see our surroundings through eyes of gratitude or with grumbling, but gratitude and grumbling cannot live together.  And when I feel an urge to complain or find fault, I have found it helpful to list ways that God has shown me His grace and thank Him … and the other feelings do not stay around long.

I believe that His is the only applause I need, and I am even depending less on finding approval in the opinion of others. 

I am certainly not where I want to be yet, but this practice of being thankful has brought changes into my life that I had never expected.

Let me encourage you to start a list if you don’t already do this. 

Use a spiral notebook for yourself, or put a piece of paper on a wall for a family list.   

Use a camera. Be intentional and look at your surroundings with a desire to see Him near.

As Ann Voskamp says, "to know how we can count on God, count His blessings…",

But in all honesty, there is only one. 

And it is Him.


Henri Nouwen: 

"Perhaps nothing helps us make the movement from our little selves to a larger world than remembering God in gratitude.  Such a perspective puts God in view in all of life, not just in the moments we set aside for worship or spiritual disciplines.  Not just in the moments when life seems easy."


Today, I wrote down my 5,000th gift. Looking back over this year, I read #4,784, which said,
"In the midst of hardness (mine), and searching for answers, God's grace showed up, and it was beautiful.

So, #5,000 is: Your grace.  Always there, always showing up and always enough.  More than enough. 
If you haven't read her book, One Thousand Gifts, you should look into it.

And if you don't keep a gratitude list of some sort... why not give it a try today?

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