Cultivating Gratitude

I channel my inner type-A personality even in my relationship with the Lord.

For example, this whole sanctification thing frustrates me to no end. Being more like Christ is a lifelong process? Nah, I just want to check the box marked “perfect” and move on.

Cultivating gratitude, like I wrote about last week, is a part of the lifelong pursuit of being more like Christ.

Cultivate is a verb. It requires action to make it happen. Gratitude isn’t going to somehow happen all on it’s own. To cultivate means to develop, which takes time and intentionality.

There are plenty of books, sermons, articles, podcasts, tweets and blog posts about how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Some of them are very idealogical, though. Here, I want things to be simple and practical.

I hope this helps.

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Just stop. Look.

Stop

When you catch yourself complaining (outwardly or inwardly) or feeling discontent, just stop. Don’t let yourself continue until you have a self-evaluation session. Ask yourself about your own expectations. How do I want things to be different? Do I have a right to feel this way? Am I in need of an attitude change? Find perspective and refocus.

Seek

Just like anything in life, if we want results then we have to be intentional about our pursuit. Start by seeking help from the one who asks you to be grateful in the first place. God is faithful to be present and active when we go to him in prayer. Ask for direction in how to be more grateful, and for what to thank him. Then, when he speaks to you through the Spirit and in his Word, LISTEN (1 Thess. 5:19).

This lifestyle of gratitude is anything but a footnote in Scripture. The phrase “give thanks” is in the Bible 73 times, “thanksgiving” 42 times, and about 50 other word/phrases involving “thank.” We are not lacking in examples of how to be grateful, or direction in what to be grateful for. It’s one of the things about which God is incredibly straightforward.

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Part of my stockpile from the last 6 years.

Stockpile 

There are going to be times when a feeling of thankfulness is overwhelming, and then there are going to be times when life feels like a desert. When we’re in the desert, we need a sip of water, something to keep us going until the next oasis. In those times of plenty, stock up. Journal about what God is doing in your life, keep an ongoing list of things you’re grateful for, write blessings on slips of paper and keep them in a jar, or all of the above!

Recently I have struggled with finding satisfaction in Christ. I have been discontent with where I am, what I am doing, and who I am. I’ve been in a desert. But I looked back over some of my old journals, I remembered God’s faithfulness during times when I learned to find fulfillment in him alone. Write it down. Remember.

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Col. 2:6-7 (NLT)

Unfortunately, I can’t check the “always grateful” box on my list. Developing a relationship with God is labor intensive. Growth starts at the roots. It’s ugly down there in the dirt. But as it is fed and cared for, the plant fights through the grime and breaks into sunlight. And slowly, everyday, the plant becomes more and more like the flower it was meant to be.

And we get the beautiful experience of cultivating the growth of gratitude in our own lives.

Gratitude

Having a “grateful heart” or an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the most significant lessons that I have learned in my 17 years of existence. My parents taught me that everything that I haveexperiences, people, stuff—is a gift from God, not an entitlement. As far as my memory can go complaining[1] has never been tolerated by either of my parents and whining was always a sure fire way to get myself a discipline and a good dose of “Madam Blueberry” (if you don’t know what Madam Blueberry is, you had a sad childhood). Mom and Dad, by drilling me to say “please” and “thank-you,”  showed me that I was to receive any service or gift with thankfulness. It is because of those seeds planted in my mind and heart by Mom and Dad that I know what it means to have a genuinely grateful heart.

Gratitude1Compared to most  in our world my family has had it incredibly good financially—we have always had a home, food, clothes and have been blessed by extra unneeded things and experiences (i.e. sports, speech and debate, electronics, appliances, books, movies et cetera). That said, it has not necessarily been easy for our family, on the contrary there have been times when we’ve struggled greatly. However, those times of insecurity made the lesson of thankfulness straightforward and very real for my siblings and I.

Really, I should not expect to get anything in this world because I don’t deserve it. What I do deserve is an eternity of Hell. Perspective, eh?

Yet, there is not a day that passes where I do not want something (not necessarily a literal possession) that I cannot have. Gratefulness is not a one-time deal. Christianity is not for quitters, and every day is a discouraging battle against my sinful self who is fighting to get me into a self-absorbed state of pride and entitlement.

How to win? Well, gratitude is a direct result of what Christ Jesus has done for me on the cross. It starts with HIM. 

 “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” – Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT)

How to let those roots grow deep?tree_with_heart_and_roots_family_reunion_invite-r6187b0751d594f8db4872c7781aa8557_8dnd0_8byvr_512

  • Start my day with prayer, and start that prayer with thanking God for whatever comes to my heart—a friend, a family member, an experience, a lesson, a piece of his creation that touched me.
  • Read the Bible faithfully. Nothing gives me food for thought like Scripture, and how can I think of myself when I’m reading about Jesus or having the Proverbs scream at me to get out of myself!
  • Call on the Holy Spirit to convict me throughout the day.

Much joy!

Emily

 


[1] Okay, complaining is a whole other discussion that I’d love to get into some time…eventually. Quickly though, I don’t think that there is anything with expressing frustration with a situation or a specific desire or anything. It is when complaining becomes ungratefulness that there is a problem. 🙂

Love and Worth

I get it. I cannot do anything on this earth, I cannot accomplish any earthly work of spiritual service that will ever make me worth something more in the eyes of Jesus. What makes me think that doing more than the next person will make Jesus love me more? His love for me is already so deep that he suffered the ultimate physical and spiritual pain and darkness just so that I can be with Him. And He did this for me before I even drew breath. I didn’t have to do anything in the first place to make Him love me!!! He already did!

Do I continue to serve Him and love Him out of a heart of obedience and gratitude? Of course! But it can’t turn into a “who is more grateful” contest. No, it comes down to this: I need to love Jesus the way that HE wants me to love Him. Just like in relationships you have to learn how to speak the other person’s love language, I need to stop trying to love Jesus the way I want to love Him (the way other people are) and start loving Him the way He wants me to. And what is that? To obey His words. To develop my relationship with Him through the intercession of the Holy Spirit and to cultivate a heart that is wholly devoted to the Lord. It means taking the things He wants me to do (College. Writing. Home-service. Church. Friendships.) and taking them to Him–asking Him how He wants me to love Him in those actions.
Jesus’ love is for all eternity. My worth is found in Him.