Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gratitude, Please and Thank You

This blog entry kicks-off a four-part series about gratitude.

When it comes to gratitude, I want to be like a horn of plenty with thankfulness spilling out of me. Hmmm. That’s not seasonally appropriate for an August blog entry.

When it comes to gratitude, I want to be like a rainbow, showing multi-colored gratefulness for the varied blessings in my life. Well, that’s corny.

OK. When it comes to gratitude, I want to wear a thankful attitude like my favorite, comfy pair of blue jeans, albeit holey, and patched up with heart appliqu├ęs. That’s a little more me.

I want the gratitude I have for all my blessings to be genuine, and natural. I want it to fit me well.

During a college class, the Ph.D. teaching asked a room full of budding young journalists a question that would prompt us to look at ourselves in a new way. He asked whether or not we realized that we were among the richest in the world because we were sitting where we were, in a university classroom.

He pointed out that worldwide, education, especially college, was for the elite, and we were it. Oh, sure, bring out the global peer measuring stick, why don’t you, prof?

I can’t remember how the topic was germane to our class, but the conversation has remained with me through the years. The instructor was, and is, absolutely right about the privilege of education.

That’s just one example of how God has brought good fortune my way.

I’m not neglected or forgotten. God blesses me every day, through my family, my friends, His Word, the sights and sounds of nature, my health and so much more.

However, I struggle with wanting something different, something newer, prettier, bigger, in some cases something more practical, sometimes something more sparkly or just more of something.

On the intangible side, many days bring me longing for more fulfillment, more excitement, a better or different kind of relationship with so-and-so, more talent, or more brains. Why this struggle, when I know I’m blessed?

It’s not because I don’t enjoy my life, and appreciate it overall. It’s not like I walk around saying or believing, “Woe is me.” And it is not because I lack the peace that comes from a relationship with Jesus.

I could spiritualize, and suggest my feelings stem from really living as a stranger here on Earth. Sure, that factors into discontent. Or maybe it’s spiritual warfare, and Satan’s getting at my weak spot that his minions see. Sure, that can add to it.

But I must have a diva side. (I know. I’m technically too old to be a diva — and my clothes aren’t as shiny.) Essentially, I blame my own ungratefulness. Greed, materialism and selfishness come into play for me.
My own heart needs to grow in gratitude. Does yours?

To battle the side of me that forgets my blessings, I try a variety of activities. Many of these, I practice for a reason beyond the specific goal of becoming more thankful. I do them because I want to.
But here are my Gratitude Growers –
1. Praying for a grateful heart
2. Asking God to realign my priorities
3. Diving into word studies in the Bible related to thankfulness
4. Recording my blessings in a little gratitude notebook
5. Practicing the ACTS form of prayer journaling (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication)
6. Replaying mentally how my life is easier or better today than it was in other timeframes
7. Participating in mission trips
8. Reading about other cultures and social injustices globally
9. Sponsoring a child through Compassion International
10. Avoiding idleness (not to be confused with avoiding rest)
I know there’s no special formula to heart change. I can’t flip a switch and change in my own power. Still, coupled with my own heart’s willingness and genuine effort, the Holy Spirit works the transformation. It’s a journey.
And on this journey I will continue to do (my best at) what this verse shows:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
His love endures forever.
1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV
In her book, Radical Gratitude, Ellen Vaughn covers the topic of thankfulness thoroughly, and convincingly. In my next blog post, I will spotlight that book, and share how some of her points touched my heart. In the third post, I will touch on gratitude, hope and character. In the fourth and final post, I will share a personal gratitude list, with a mix of the serious and the light-hearted.

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved.

Photo at top is in the public domain.

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