As hard as it is to believe, this Sunday is “Thanksgiving Sunday” – the Sunday that occurs just before our national Thanksgiving holiday. As you would expect, during our time of worship this Sunday we will sing songs of thanks, say prayers of thanks, and speak words of thanks to God for the many blessings we have been given. How do you speak those words of thanksgiving? A week ago we focused on that question in worship. Do you remember the words from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18? “Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This week, let me invite you into a practice that might spur you towards a more grateful heart this year.
Let me encourage you to begin a gratitude journal. Beginning today, spend a few minutes in personal thanksgiving. Memorize this verse and each day speak it. Follow this by writing down at least three things you are grateful for that day. For many of us, this practice may prove to be difficult. We are burdened by the heaviness of our world – politics, violence, natural disasters – and the list could go on and on. For some of us, 2017 has been a hard year with our health. We may have seen relationships crumble and problems in our families. It is so easy to focus on the bad, that often we become blind to our multitude of blessings. How can we switch our mindset and shift our focus from problems to gratitude?
My good friend, author and spiritual director Steve Smith, offers these thoughts. I share them with you today.
Choose to be thankful or choose to seek to grow a heart of gratitude. Choose to grow a heart of thanksgiving all year long. Gratitude is actually a choice. We make choices every day—sometimes multiple choices that will impact our life, schedule, health and faith. By choosing to be grateful, we choose to live with soft hearts in a hard world. Either we will choose to bow our heads and acknowledge God’s work in this world and our lives—or we will sadly take everything, everyone and even God for granted. We will mistakenly begin to believe that we are responsible; that all of this stuff we carry in life—our responsibility, our health and our relationships is on us. This load, my friends is too heavy to carry. The choice to foster a heart of thanksgiving is really a simple step of beginning a life of gratitude. Tell your loved ones every day about your love for them; express your gratitude more this coming year than ever before; write in your journal what you are aware of that you simply want to acknowledge thanks for.
May this Thanksgiving be a new beginning of a life of gratitude for us all. Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.