An Attitude of Gratitude

Ever wonder why some people, even amid dire circumstances, continue to be thankful, content and happy individuals while others, who have access to many good things, complain, are unhappy and easily annoyed? I have observed that there is a common theme with gratitude – lack of entitlement  Those who feel the most “entitled”, have the greatest difficulty finding the ability to be truly grateful. When we feel we deserve something, we are often left disappointed, annoyed or angry. At least that’s how it goes for me.  There is just no room for thankfulness.   Consider the challenging but eye (and heart) opening scripture in Luke 17:7-10
“Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? [8] Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? [9] Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? [10] So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ “

This is challenging to me.  However, when I approach my service to God and others out of emptying myself… because of honor and appreciation for Him it changes the way I look at everything.  Though God treats me with incredible love and tenderness, it is often easy to get confused and think that these are things he “owes” me.  In my heart of hearts I know that what I really deserve is to die and go to hell.  That’s truly what I “deserve”, but I can easily forget this fact.  God’s graciousness, however, allows me to be treated not as I deserve, but with the gift of love, kindness and care. Whenever I forget this, I cease to be a grateful person.  Lost gratitude leads to a downward spiral described in Romans 1:21
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened….

The downward spiral that follows has its beginning with a failure to give thanks.  From there, our thinking becomes futile and we begin a plunge into a dark hole.

However, when I truly believe I have been given God’s mercy…forgiveness, purpose, the power to change, direction for my life, etc, etc…..everything changes, especially my mindset, or attitude.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. [2] Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The world around me tells me that I deserve prestige, money, fast internet and even a good parking place.  However, when I live God’s will for my life (which is right, feels good and is all around fantastic!) I am then able to renew my mind and transform my way of thinking. Then I can give, serve and empty myself….only to find that in the meantime I am at peace, happy, grateful and energized.  Gratitude begins with our attitude,… and as the scripture below shows… it puts a song in our hearts and a pep in our step.

Col. 3:15-17
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Over the next few days I plan to think a lot about the incredible blessings of people, places and things for which I am grateful.  I expect to smile a lot, though I’m sure some tears will flow as I remember special memories of those no longer here.  May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and live with a joyful, thankful attitude…if you live on a trash heap or in a mansion.

May I Hold Your Emotions?

If you look carefully inside my hands you may see my oldest grandson’s emotions!

I met my daughter Melissa at the mall yesterday during lunch time in order to help her with the kids.  They were scheduled to have their pictures taken.  We played a bit while waiting for their noontime appointment.  We waited and we waited some more.  About 25 minutes later, as Caleb was moving one of the large stools in the waiting area, it slipped and landed on his foot , scraping some skin from his toe.  He fell to the ground sobbing, landing on something gooey in the carpet – which promptly stained his freshly laundered khaki shorts.  Of course, at this very moment they were called to the room for the photo session.

Things sort of melted down at this point.  Caleb was crying and felt his toe was hurting too badly for him to walk.  The situation was looking bleak for getting a picture that would contain any smiles.  Melissa was doing a great job comforting him, as well as reminding him of the chic- fil-a lunch and cupcake dessert promise that lay on the other side of the picture taking.  It seemed all begging was to no avail.

As emotions were flying, I thought of one of my favorite scriptures – 2 Corinthians 10:5.  Certainly now was an opportune time to capture some of these emotions.

    We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The Spirit was surely at work at this moment.  Remembering the scripture, I cupped my hands and walked over to Caleb.  I told him that I would like to hold something for him while he got his picture taken; his sad emotions and the pain from his foot.  I would hold it carefully, and then when he was done I could give it back to him.  Amazingly, Caleb put his little hand in between my hands as if to place his emotions inside.  Then, an amazing thing happened!  He stepped onto the mat where the girls were already standing, posed for a group picture and gave us all the most beautiful smile imaginable.  He could not have been more cooperative or giving throughout the session.  When it was over I told him how proud I was of him for giving over his emotions and that he could have them back if he wanted.  He didn’t reach for them.

Later, he told his mom how hard it was for him to control his emotions when he got hurt.  He expressed to her that he just couldn’t seem to figure out how to get it back together and was so glad  that Nana was there and offered to hold his emotions in her hands.  And then he proudly told her that after the pictures were over he didn’t even feel the need to take them back anymore!

Melissa and I were sort of amazed that this worked.  However, it’s really not that complicated.   You see, Caleb really believed that I was capable of taking his emotions and reliable enough to keep them for him.  Again, I am learning from children.  If I really believe that God is capable enough and reliable enough to be entrusted with my emotions…I can let go and be at peace!  Thank you for this lesson Caleb.

Philip. 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. [7] And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:6-7

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. [7] Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.