On Thanksgiving, I want to direct my gratitude upward, beyond the textbook stories of harmony and peacemaking between the Native American tribes and the pilgrims, beyond the beginning of a nation that has generally blessed me, but hurt others. I want to direct my gratitude above the human-created ideals. To the Maker of the Universe, the Lord of my life.
In his sovereignty, God could have made me the same person from the start, and placed me in an entirely different situation. But He didn't. He put me in this life, rich with friends and necessities covered, and in a safe neighborhood. He gave me a husband that worships Him, and us three healthy, precious children. He is the God of grace beyond comprehension.
In her book, Radical Gratitude, Ellen Vaughn, explores countless stories about people who remain thankful, or find thankfulness again, through and after sudden family deaths, captivity, persecution, rape – and everyday life.
As a great friend of ours has said, a thankful heart gives a greater sensitivity to beauties both divine and mundane. He often finds himself sitting still in the moment and looking at what's around him, processing it all with different gradations of appreciation, but using the same word throughout: “Oh, Lord! I love my family. I love my house. I love the sky. I love this cup of coffee. I love You! Thank You!”
That's not only gratitude, and love, and worship. It's called joy. Radical Gratitude, pg. 205Granted, it's not always easy. But I believe to start the habit, I can record thankful thoughts in a gratitude journal, and when complacency, tragedy and difficulty enter, perhaps I can find thankfulness anyway. I do keep a gratitude journal, irregularly, and it is a good practice.
Vaughn relays a truth, though, that Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, emphasized to her. Gratitude is not at all a spiritual discipline, it is, in fact, the response of a believer to the Spirit's work. In turn, Vaughn says, if grace is the gift of God (which it is), so too is the gratitude that grace creates. I want both. Please, in Jesus' Name, Lord, give me an overflowing of both.
In my life, I've experienced loss of friends and family. Disappointment about goals and prayers God has answered, “No,” or “Not yet.” Frustration with myself and others. Anger about injustice. Wounds. Grief. (And I confess to dishing out these, too.)
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 Thess. 5:16-18
Lord, That's a tall order. I can't do that without You doing it in me. Please, please help. I know if you give me a heart of gratitude, you'll also be giving me a heart full of joy. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Helene's Thanksgiving '10 Gratitude List, Abbreviated
A phone call this week from a friend who I had not spoken with for about 10 years. For younger church friends who let me cuddle their babies, and get my fix. My women's and couples' small group friends. Children's ministry at my church. Sisters. Family. Great tunes that bring back fun memories of high school. Pepsi One. Chai. Laughter. . . .
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