15 Make sure no one repays a wrong with a wrong, but always pursue the good for each other and everyone else. 16 Rejoice always. 17 Pray continually. 18 Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
“Gratitude is a sentiment we'd all do well to cultivate, according to positive psychologists, mental health clinicians and researchers who seek to help everyone create more joy in life. Feeling thankful and expressing that thanks makes you happier and heartier—not hokier.”* The God who created us seems, given what the apostle Paul wrote, to have anticipated this growing body of research by a few thousand years!
Lord Jesus, I’m grateful you didn’t call me to give thanks FOR every situation. Even giving thanks IN every situation is often a challenge. Keep growing that capacity in me. Amen.
* From Lauren Aaronson, “Make a Gratitude Adjustment.” Psychology Today, March 1, 2006, found at www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200603/make-gratitude-adjustment.
** Paul Ellingworth and Eugene A. Nida, A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. New York: United Bible Societies, 1976, p. 121.
It seems like it happens earlier every year. Christmas.
This year it arrived on November 1 as I ran into our local Target with my kids to pick up a few things. Just the night before we had been out trick-or-treating and the very next day we walked into a winter wonderland with aisle after aisle dripping in red and green.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am guilty of being an early Christmas decorator. My tree is usually up before Thanksgiving. I started listening to Christmas music the second week of October. (Just a song here and there – I promise.)
It’s not the early decorating I mind so much. No, it’s the case of the “gimmies” and “I must have’s” that it starts to produce in my kids. They were ready to start giving me their list of demands... I mean... Christmas “wish lists” right then and there. It was then that I decided I must stop this Christmas from coming – but how? Well maybe not Christmas, but you get the point.
Like many well-intentioned moms, I started scouring Pinterest for ideas on how to teach my kids about gratitude. I settled on the idea of a gratitude jar. Now, before you get too excited it’s really just a left-over mason jar I had lying around the house filled with some scraps of paper with gratitude prompts, quotes and verses. Pretty simple really. It lives in the center of our kitchen table and each night as we sit down to dinner we each pull out a slip of paper and read what is on it. If it has a question, we answer it. If it has a verse or quote about gratitude we talk about it.
At first, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go over with my family, but I soon found to my delight that my kids love doing it. They even do it in the morning if we have time.
After the first week I started to notice some changes in my kids. For one thing, their morning prayers before school changed. Each day we pick someone to say a blessing for the family before we head to school. Usually it goes something like this, “Thank you for this wonderful day. Please help us to have a good day at school. Amen.” Not bad, but it doesn’t vary a whole lot from day to day and person to person. Until last week. I started to hear my kids thanking God for the beautiful colors we were seeing in the trees and for our neighbors who had let us borrow their rake to pick up leaves. Their prayers started to become more personal and layered with gratitude.
And I noticed something else too. I started to become more grateful. Like most things in life, I started this new tradition for my kids to teach them a lesson about gratitude and I ended up learning just as much as they are. Maybe more.
I want to encourage you to find one way this week to be grateful. For you it might be using the gratitude journal that you picked up at church this past weekend. Maybe it’s setting an alarm to remind you to be grateful. Maybe it’s writing one thank you card every day for a week (and mailing them!).
I don’t know what will work best for you, but look to see where you can create gratitude as part of your rhythm of life. For my family it’s at dinner time and it is making all the difference. Now to go put up that tree….
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