Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Gratefulness. Praise. Thanksgiving. We have all heard it over and over again. We’ve read books about it. We’ve heard sermons on it. We’ve told our friends and they’ve told us. We know that God wants us to praise Him and be grateful on a daily basis. Yet somehow, in the crazy lives we live, we forget. Often. At least I do.
About six years ago, I read a book that put this gratefulness thing into a whole new perspective for me. The book is called “One thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the connection between my gratefulness (or lack of it) and my heart’s joy level. I’ve lived it’s truth, so I knew it wasn’t a made-up correlation. When I am grateful, I am naturally joyful. Somehow focusing on the gifts God has given me turns my attitude to joy.
So I decided to take the challenge. I chose to write down 1,000 gifts.
I started a beautiful notebook….and I kept it laying on the counter as I went about my day. I took it in my purse when I was gone. It went with me on vacation. That journal was with me constantly. I found (as I had learned through Scripture and Ann’s book) that being thankful made me joyful. It made me mindful of all the little things and made me laugh and smile at the simplest gifts. I saw it as a spiritual exercise. A forming of a habit that would bring glory and praise to Jesus.
My first entires were all happy ones.
The inviting smell of peppermint mocha… Old family photographs- wrinkled and worn…Candle flames, dancing in the shadows…American flags flapping in the breeze…Church bells that ring twice a day… Spring flowers blooming….empty laundry baskets.
All of a sudden I treasured the smile of a stranger. I loved the first daffodil that bloomed…the rainbow that arched across the sky…the sunset…the eyelashes on a baby…a stack of old books. I went from grumbling about the mud on the floor to thanking God for it. I was smiling more. I was laughing often. I was breathing thanks a hundred times a day. I was LOOKING for His graces in all the normal, but beautiful everyday things. My heart praised Him often.
This was a turning point for me. Something happened as I chronicled Gods fathomless love for me. My heart was changing. Life was shifting. Through this shift, I began thanking God for the less pleasant things. The G key that sticks on the piano…Sloppy muddy driveways… A broken furnace… Sickness in our home… Broken glass… Ramen noodles smashed into the floor… Spilled beads everywhere.
The good and the bad together. He says to praise Him for all things. ALL. Garden gloves… Dead cell phone batteries… Long afternoons of reading… Empty laundry baskets… Homemade pies… Oily work clothes from my brothers… Cold sleet outside… Being snowed in… Fresh strawberries… Old quilts.
Sometimes I would get so excited about seeing gifts of God that I would grab anything I could find and scribble my thanks on it. Then I would take it home and transfer it to my journal. I had stacks of random receipts, small scraps of paper and McDonalds napkins all with things I was grateful for. Sometimes we would even write our blessings on little sticky notes and cover the refrigerator with them. My journal hit 1,000 gifts…but then I couldn’t stop! My heart became fuller…because my focus was on Him. His goodness. His grace. His love for me.
But sometimes in life, our focus can shift. It happens that way for me. A few years ago, I was in one of those ruts where gratefulness was really not a part of my daily routine. Enter my youngest sister…again. She has a way of pricking my conscience so innocently. Her honest tenderness to the Holy Spirit has convicted me more than once. So I was playing the piano, practicing some music for Sunday worship and she came up to me with that thoughtful look in her eyes. I knew something big was coming…but I didn’t know what. It was time for a wake up call.
“Are you ever afraid to raise your hands?” She asked me. I was a little confused. She didn’t give me any background to her line of questioning. After a minute of questioning she kind of sighed in her seven-year-old way and said, “I am afraid to raise my hands and praise the Lord in church. Are you ever afraid like that? I think about people watching me.” Wow. Ok. Not ready for that one from a little girl. Now it was my turn to sigh.
I had to admit…yes, I am afraid sometimes to praise the Lord out loud or in the open. I fear man more than God sometimes. I assured her that I feel those same things and that God is jealous for our praise. He wants us to glorify Him…to think of Him more than what other people are thinking of us. We talked for a minute about the Bible and how God says to lift our hands in praise and sing songs to Him….but I kept thinking about me. I needed to thank Him more. To praise Him bigger. To love Him more than anything.
But what came next knocked the wind out of me. I could see this seven-year-old in front of me processing this in her little way. She is brilliant and sensitive to the Lord…I could see it all clicking. She almost looked sad…like she had done something wrong. She told me how she had wanted to raise her hands during worship, but she was too scared. I echoed that thought. I’ve been there…just not at seven. “You know,” she said, “this Sunday, I am NOT going to let the rocks take my place!” Her eyes were serious. Determined. Then she started singing to explain. “Before the rocks cry out, I just want to praise you, just want to praise you, for all you have done.”
Suddenly, I felt like I was standing on Holy ground. God was here. I held back to tears. This moment was so sacred. My heart was full…and sad. I was the one the rocks were replacing! I was neglecting to thank Him. To praise His name. To tell others. To chronicle His love to me. I had forgotten the most important thing…Him. She ran away with a bounce in her step. I sat there heavy.
That was my neon sign from heaven! I went to the Lord…repenting of my ungratefulness and asking Him to create in me a clean heart. I started counting blessings again. Thanking Him. Looking for Him everywhere I went.
What about you? Are you worshipping Him? Thanking Him? Praising Him? Lets make His glory a daily part of our lives. There are lots of ways we can do that…maybe through sharing about Jesus with a friend, through worshipping Him in song, through praising Hin in prayer or through writing your blessings down. Let’s have hearts of gratefulness to our Father!
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing…Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful into Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.” Psalm 100:1-2, 4-5