Tag Archives: Gratitude

An Incomplete List

Thanksgiving Day is past. But thoughts of gratitude still linger. As part of our celebration some of our family jotted down what they were thankful for. My list was easy – my top three are Jesus and Salvation, a godly loving wife, and a precious family. In some ways it’s hard to argue with my list. Yet today I read an old story I once used to challenge others to consider what gratitude and blessing are all about – and I’m wondering if my list is incomplete. The story goes like this:

An old man showed up at the back door of the house we were renting. Opening the door a few cautious inches, we saw his eyes were glassy and his furrowed face glistened with silver stubble. He clutched a wicker basket holding a few unappealing vegetables. He bade us good morning and offered his produce for sale. We were uneasy enough that we made a quick purchase to alleviate both our pity and our fear. To our chagrin, he returned the next week, introducing himself as Mr. Roth, the man who lived in the shack down the road. As our fears subsided, we got close enough to realize it wasn’t alcohol but cataracts that “marbleized” his eyes. On subsequent visits, he would shuffle in, wearing two mismatched right shoes, and pull out a harmonica. With glazed eyes set on a future glory, he’d puff out old gospel tunes between conversations about vegetables and religion. On one visit he exclaimed, ‘The Lord is so good! I came out of my shack this morning and found a bag full of shoes and clothing on my porch.’ ‘That’s wonderful, Mr. Roth!’ we said. ‘We’re happy for you.’ ‘You know what’s even more wonderful?’ he asked. ‘Just yesterday I met some people who could use them.’

When the Lord is our treasure, when our heart has been given over to Him and filled by Him, thankfulness and gratitude should never be an end in themselves. Rather, they should lead to sharing our wealth of blessings, no matter how much or little they are. That’s where I sense some incompleteness in my list. Shouldn’t the joy of giving be somewhere near the top? Yes – it should. And once again I am challenged to see what more, and in what other ways I can give – not as a duty but joyfully because of what God has given me in His Son. Surely – what I have is something someone else can use! Surely the blessing I have received is one someone else needs.

I need to embrace again the worlds of the Apostle Paul.

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:1-9)
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

That pretty much says it all. May my blessings and your blessings find their way into the life and heart of someone who needs them. May the heart of Christ find it’s way through us into their hearts. Then my list will be complete.

An Amazing Health Benefit

It’s not a coincidence that within a couple of weeks I read two unrelated yet related articles.

The first was titled Thankfulness Protects Against PTSD. (1) It reported on research that shows thankfulness and gratitude are often one of the responses to tragedy – that in the aftermath of tragedy gratitude helps us grow. “The results of the study showed that the individuals who already had higher levels of gratitude before the shooting were better able to turn their post-traumatic stress into growth. This is actually quite profound. It suggests that if we can help ourselves and others feel more grateful on a daily basis, we can actually prime ourselves to handle the trauma that life will inevitably bring.”

Researchers briefly listed two implications. One is that building gratitude is often an overlooked component of therapy. “Furthermore, findings indicate that mental health professionals should also consider post trauma interventions targeted at enhancing gratitude, thus helping trauma exposed individuals adopt a new, more adaptive perspective regarding their experience, further leading to PTG and positive outcomes in spite of trauma.”

The second is “The church as a whole could also play a part in building a greater communal sense of thankfulness.”

The second article which grabbed my attention was titled Research Shows That Physically Complaining Rewires Your Brain To Be Depressed And Anxious. (2) “According to Clemson University Professor of Psychology, Dr. Robin Kowalski, everyone complains from time to time, but should try to minimize it as much as possible. Bouts of negativity are normal and encouraged to reset our systems. But what you want to be mindful of, is if you are being excessively negative. Remember this: negativity breeds negativity…Negativity Rewires Your Brain…Donald Hebb, a Neuropsychologist, hypothesized that neurons which fire together, wire together. Meaning groups of neurons connect in our brain as a result of particular life experiences…Whenever we think a thought or have a feeling or physical sensation, thousands of neurons are triggered and form an internal neural network. The brain learns to trigger the same neurons with repetitive thinking. That said, we become what we think and say. If you focus on feelings / thoughts of criticism, worry, and victimization, it is much easier for your brain to call those things to the surface. This can lead to serious depression and anxiety.”

The article then lists ‘4 Tricks to Avoid Negativity.’ First on the list is “Show thanks: Even for the little things.” Which, of course, sent my mind back to the first article. The common link: Thankfulness is good for our health. I believe the authors of The Heidelberg Catechism knew this truth. They divided their Christian doctrine into three successive sections: Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude. They believed that once we understand our guilt and the grace of God through Jesus Christ we are empowered to live a life of thankfulness. And what are the components of this thankful living? In this section they included the 10 commandments (not as law but as an expression of thanks) and the Lord’s Prayer. In other words, to develop thankful living live life as God designed it.

The apostle Paul grasped it as well. He wrote, ”Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9) What more can I say?

(1) CT online 8-11-17 – (2) www.healthspiritbody.com/complaining-causes-depression-anxiety 

 

A Thankful Heart

Elderly, old, mature man close up portrait

The following story seems appropriate for this week of Thanksgiving.

An old man showed up at the back door of the house we were renting. Opening the door a few cautious inches, we saw his eyes were glassy and his furrowed face glistened with silver stubble. He clutched a wicker basket holding a few unappealing vegetables. He bade us good morning and offered his produce for sale.  We were uneasy enough that we made a quick purchase to alleviate both our pity and our fear. To our chagrin, he returned the next week, introducing himself as Mr. Roth, the man who lived in the shack down the road. As our fears subsided, we got close enough to realize it wasn’t alcohol but cataracts that “marbleized” his eyes. On subsequent visits, he would shuffle in, wearing two mismatched right shoes, and pull out a harmonica. With glazed eyes set on a future glory, he’d puff out old gospel tunes between conversations about vegetables and religion. On one visit he exclaimed, ‘The Lord is so good! I came out of my shack this morning and found a bag full of shoes and clothing on my porch.’ ‘That’s wonderful, Mr. Roth!’ we said. ‘We’re happy for you.’ ‘You know what’s even more wonderful?’ he asked. ‘Just yesterday I met some people who could use them.’

So what are you thankful for? And what are you doing with it?

(This story – author unknown – can be found in Stories for the Heart, compiled by Alice Gray, Multnomah Books, 2001, p. 53)