“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
It's turkey day! Is that really the best thing to call it? Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for turkey, especially the drum sticks. Still, it should be about more than the food we happen to eat. Gratitude certainly is an attitude, as cliche as that might be. It is an attitude that is Biblical and should be a characteristic of Christians. How do we grow in gratitude starting today?
First, recognize what we have to be thankful for. It is true that we should be thankful for family, friends, material blessings, and so on. However, some people have ugly families (I am not talking about physical appearance), few true friendships, little or no wealth, and not much else to be thankful for in this world. So, what are those people suppose to be thankful for? Really there is one thing everyone can and should be thankful for, the grace and love of God expressed most fully in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Is this also cliche? Absolutely not! It is the most fundamental truth for which every person ought to be thankful. Recognize that it is not simply the case that you and I are not perfect, but we are, in fact, sinners who deserve judgment and damnation. Until we recognize this truth about ourselves we cannot recognize the significance of the grace of God. Too many people, even people who would accept the truth that they are a sinner, think far too much of their own righteousness and sanctification! When we recognize the depth of our depravity we can then, and only then, begin to see the richness of God's grace. Thanks be to God!
Second, when we live in light of the grace we have received from God we can begin to extend grace to those around us. No, admitting that others are not perfect is not enough, recognize that they (like you) are sinners in need of grace from God, and from you. Lavish others with grace. When that grace has been extended then we can more fully see the image of God in others and become thankful for the reflection of God we see in them. My own background is pretty mixed. At times I have been among the poor. There were times in my life when my mom sacrificed her own meals to ensure that I would have food as a young child and there have been times where my family would have been considered to be very wealthy, and still other times when I have lived somewhere in the middle. I have been in homes where there was physical abuse, but I have also seen godly homes where love and grace ruled the day. While I am not necessarily thankful for the bad stuff itself, I am thankful for how God used those people and experiences to shape me.
Third, stop complaining! Stuff happens, people mess up, and your own judgment is often flawed (as is mine). Complaining is the opposite of gratitude. Complaining spreads negativity, cries "injustice" even when there is none, creates disunity, and brings light to that which is negative. Gratitude extends grace to that which is negative and even sinful and brings light to that which is good and lovely in the world and in others. How do you stop complaining? Every time you think about complaining instead look for something positive, something specific and express gratitude instead.
Fourth, make gratitude a discipline. Make it a habit to write thank you cards, send thank you emails, sent thank you texts, and so on. If it is a discipline it changes how you think. If you know you have to write a thank you card, or something similar, you have to find something and someone to be thankful for. This will almost immediately change the way you think and literally rewire your brain to be more positive and thankful.
It's turkey day, I mean Thanksgiving and my wife just put some food out so it's time for me to stop writing, start eating, and give thanks. Let's start being thankful all the time!
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.