IN OUR CELEBRATE DISCIPLINE COLUMN EACH MONTH WE ARE LEARNING A NEW SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, HOW TO APPLY IT AND HOPEFULLY GROW INTO THE PEOPLE GOD WANTS US TO BE.
SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES:habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness.
GRATITUDE: a thankful and loving response toward God for His presence with us and goodness to us; joy in our heart in response to someone for who they are or something they have done.
For years we’ve heard the saying, “Have and attitude of gratitude.” But I’ve come to learn that being grateful is more than an attitude. It’s a practice. You can have an attitude about something without acting on it. Not until we begin practicing gratitude consistently will we see real change in our lives. How can we practice gratitude?
Gratitude starts first with a change of heart. Only when look beyond ourselves and see the good around us, in other people, in nature, in our pets, can we begin to walk in gratitude each day.
For me keeping a gratitude journal has been helpful. Taking a few moments before bed to reflect on the good things of the day. I’m not as faithful to it as I’d like to be. But at least I’m making the effort to start.
Making a conscious decision to thank others. So many times we get lazy and overlook the kindness of people around us. You will make someone else’s day better by noticing them.
Gratitude enhances satisfaction and balances greed and entitlement. And is so lacking in today. It starts with us. We must make the effort, to take the first step. It can change our world!
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17
If you can’t see the video screen below CLICK HERE and let your gratefulness overflow into blessings all around you!
RESOURCES: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
Virtue:a valued principle of good moral behavior; a holy habit.
Vice:a practice of wrongdoing, corruption of virtue; an unholy habit.
GRATITUDE: the gracious response to a kindness performed or gift given.
ENTITLEMENT: the state of being entitled; believing one deserves certain privileges.
We don’t hear much talk about gratitude unless it’s near Thanksgiving, then it’s an expected topic. What does it say about our culture, when gratitude is only discussed once a year?
On the other hand, entitlement is rampant, in conversation or not, it’s everywhere… big corporations expecting the government to save them from consequences of poor management, individuals filing for bankruptcy to avoid paying off debt, single mom’s having multiple babies to get more government subsidies, students expecting new cars at 16 and full college tuition from their in debt and over-worked parents.
This may be a soapbox topic, but it’s no laughing matter, it’s a serious problem in our culture, government, businesses, schools, and families. Most importantly, what is it teaching our children?
Addicts are some of the worst with a sense of entitlement and a lack of gratitude. Many addicts are dependent on others, rarely does an addict supply their own drug of choice. The worst thing is taking life for granted, escaping from reality by slow suicide in some form.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… it turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melodie Beattie
When we are grateful we take nothing for granted, we are constantly awakened to God’s goodness around us. Gratitude cannot be feigned or faked, it in itself makes us sincere. It comes only by personally experiencing the hand of God’s love and mercy working in our life.
Our knowledge of God is perfected by gratitude: we are thankful and rejoice in the experience of the truth that He is love. ~ Thomas Merton
Many traits and emotions are important to our well being, but gratitude is unique.In studies it’s been found that people who are more grateful are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and relationships. Grateful people are less likely to avoid problems, blame themselves or cope through substance use. They sleep better because they focus on positive thoughts before going to sleep.
Amazing that such a simple thing, an attitude of gratitude, can effect so many areas of our life!
How can we live with Gratitude?
Thank God every morning for the new day, commit to live it well.
Focus on the good in our lives and on the good in others.
Recognize all the good we have in ourselves and while trying to improve daily.
Don’t complain about what we don’t have or what we’re not.
Think of others and use the gifts we have to help them.
Thank others for the work they do.
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thess 5:18
What can you do today to improve your Gratitude quotient?
With the Thanksgiving holiday, it is fitting that God has given me the subject of gratitude for this week’s post. More than just taking one day to give thanks for the people and things we have in our lives, I’d like to go deeper and discuss on going attitudes of our hearts.
For years as a young wife and mother I had deep internal struggles. Besides the sex addict lurking within; I lived with constant discontentment, envy, resentment, and anger just to name a few. As a family we were attending a large Southern Baptist Church. We were learning a lot of biblical doctrine but not how to put God’s Word to work in our lives. We were fortunate to be living in our home town of Odessa, Texas near long time friends and extended family. I had a loving husband going to college in order to provide a better future for our quickly growing family. We were very poor but our basic needs were being met. But for me all I could see was what we didn’t have… more money to get a nicer house, clothes, and a car.
Even after Bill graduated from college and we started having all those ‘things’ I was still unhappy. I resented his college education and his corporate job with an important title that allowed him to travel and meet people. I was always comparing myself and our lives to others. The grass was always greener in some one else’s life. From the outside I put on a good show. Oh yes, I was a happily married Christian woman, Sunday School teacher, choir member and dutiful home school mom. But on the inside I was completely miserable. The saddest part was I didn’t know how miserable I was.
Fast forward 15 years… Summer 2004… My evil twin, the lurking sex addict within, had been in control for 7 years. I had destroyed life as I had known it. I had allowed the enemy to steal my faith, my marriage, my family, my job, my home, my car, my cell phone privileges and finally my freedom… I was in jail.
All the things I had once thought important were now gone with no hope of returning any time soon. The Bible says it is the goodness of God that calls us to repent and that is exactly what happened to me. First I had to get to the end of myself; to the end of what my ‘flesh’ wanted, before I could see what God wanted for me was good. Finally, I surrendered. I gave up trying to do anything in my own power. I decided no matter where I was, whether rich or poor, I can do it, but only with God’s help. In one of my favorite Old Testament chapters, II Chronicles 20, the nation of Judah’s enemies were the Ammonites and the Moabites. With news of impending war with these surrounding nations, King Jehoshaphat became terrified. Instead of being overcome by his emotion he ordered all the people to fast as he sought God for guidance with this simple prayer:
“O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” — II Chronicles 20:12
Our enemies aren’t like the Old Testament enemies. We aren’t at war with other nations and peoples. It’s sometimes difficult to recognize our enemy even when it’s staring us in the face. Yes, our main enemy is Satan and his dark forces, but our enemy can be anything that keeps us from living God’s best life for us… poverty, lack, depression. We can’t get sucked into a mind set that just because we’ve always been poor that we’re supposed to stay poor. Our enemy may be marriage problems, uncomfortable living conditions, health issues, etc…
What about self? When we put our selfish desires before God’s will for our lives we become our own worst enemy. We think we have the best plan. God should remove this hardship. Do it our way. But sometimes we must go through difficulties. God may be trying to teach us something in these hard times. That’s when we must ask Him to teach us quickly what He would have us learn! What distinguishes a mature servant? One who can be content with what they have!
Even today, God convicts me…
Ugh… the toilet seat is up again… don’t complain be thankful you’re not alone! Huff… can’t get comfortable on this small double bed… don’t complain, you have a bed! Sigh… still living in a hotel room… don’t complain, you have a roof over your head!
We alone are powerless over our enemies, but whatever our enemy, it is not bigger than our God! God told King Jehoshaphat and the people to march toward the enemy’s camp singing and shouting praises on their way:
“Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!” – II Chronicles 20:21
Notice, they didn’t worry they worshiped! They didn’t sit around waiting for God to deliver them. They went to the battle. They pressed in to the enemy. This is a wonderful lesson for us today in the midst of our battles. Are we living in misery or contentment? Can we find reason to praise God even in the midst of troubles? Are we grumbling and complaining, just sitting around saying what we see all day long or are we marching forward into the battle singing and shouting praises to our King?
Many Christians are unhappy; entranced by things of the world, they are looking for satisfaction in things apart from Jesus. Zig Ziglar says, “The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise man grows it under his feet.” As believers we don’t have to look far for happiness, we can find it in Jesus who makes his home right here with us.
If you read the rest of II Chronicles 20 you’ll see that God went before them as they marched into battle praising Him. When they arrived the battle had already been won. God had caused the enemies to fight amongst themselves killing them all. God wants to fight our battles for us. But it is up to us to let him.
Let’s have an attitude of gratitude. Let’s not give more power to our enemies by focusing on them. We must thank God for delivering us our enemies.
As with most addicts I’ve struggled with a true sense of feeling most of my life. Growing up in a dysfunctional home environment where feelings are rarely if ever discussed, can cause great problems and confusion. You have feelings, but because your feelings are seemingly unimportant to anyone else, to have feelings must be bad, so you learn to stuff the feelings down until eventually you’re numb. For the feelings you can’t numb by stuffing there’s self medication, for me it was with drugs of all sorts, alcohol, and any sexual relationship I could find.
I lived the better part of 50 years unable to decipher within myself certain feelings. Until, October 2004 when Bill and I went to a couples seminar led by Dr. Doug Weiss, who was speaking on intimacy in marriage. During the seminar, the couples had to do a “Feelings” exercise, where we would look over a list of words that describe different feelings: sad, angry, disappointed, joyful, excited, etc… In the exercise we were to choose a feeling word, describe a time before the age of 18 when we felt that feeling, then describe a time after the age of 18 when we felt that same feeling. I can’t recall what feeling word I chose, all I remember was my mind freezing, my throat choking up and a panic coming over me as I was thinking how to describe this feeling. I couldn’t get words out of my mouth. What was this? It was such a simple exercise, but it had shut me down. Gradually, after a few minutes I was able to come up with an answer, but I was sweating when I was done. I was in pain, I wanted to run but I couldn’t.
Over the last 4 years, Bill and I continued to do this exercise; not on a regular basis anymore, but in the early months of my recovery it was very important. God has done a remarkable thing in healing my ability to feel. So much so, that now, my feelings are out in the other direction. I can be walking through a super market and be overcome with such a sense of God’s love for people that I want to cry. Other days, I will be overcome with a deep sadness for the darkness people are lost in that I don’t know what to do to help them . It appears to be a double edged sword this thing called feeling. We either try to run from them because they are too much for us to handle or they become overwhelming because we can now feel them so strongly.
There are days that I can be walking my dogs and I look around at God’s creation with such a sense of love and appreciation for His goodness to us. This beautiful world — the sun, the sky, the trees, the birds, the fish, rivers… How can we ever doubt His presence and His great love for us?
I praise God, for the gift to feel deeply now. It has made me a better person and certainly a stronger Christian. I believe when we accept Christ as our Savior and are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are given the ability to see the world and feel in some ways what God feels for us. I am so thankful for the Truth of His grace and mercy. I don’t ever want to be numb to that again. It’s truly a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life for me and I’m feeling good!
I woke up this morning thanking God that I am no longer walking in the dark. Thankful that I am awake and aware of God’s goodness. No longer drifting along, wasting day after day, living for the next high or trying to make the next unlived fantasy come true. Thank you Lord for choosing me.
You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God, there never has been and never will be. I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior. — Isaiah 43-10-11