Friday, September 11, 2015

10 Steps To Thankful & Thriving: Elements of God's Best

Allow me to introduce you to Mrs. Crabby McCrabberson. She is one of my two alter-egos prominent enough to have names. My family has learned to NEVER use theose names in the presence of the alter-egos so as not to press an imaginary, flashing red, “instant eruption” button.  (No one enjoys that!)  

I remember a specific day that came at the end of a trying week. I was at my wits end, consumed by stress, frustrated with nearly everyone around me and grumpy as all get out.  I’d prayed and spent time in the Word. I’d asked the Lord to help me snap out of it, but Mrs. Crabby McCrabberson, who'd partnered with me for nearly a full week, wouldn’t pack her bags. 

The Lord did answer my prayers that day, but not in the way I expected. I’d hoped He would simply change my attitude. Maybe He’d bring me such a tremendous blessing, I’d reconnect with my joy. God rarely works in such ways. He makes us work for transformation - always there to help us along the way, but without giving us an easy out. 

How I wish it were different sometimes. In moments when I feel buried by life and emotions, I’d give nearly anything for instant deliverance. But when the battle has passed and after following the Lord’s lead, I realize I’m better for having gone through the journey.  Isaiah 43:2 reminds us that God is with as we go through the waters, through the rivers and through the fire.  By His protection, we will not be overwhelmed or scorched, but we are to go through the trials - not around them. Scripture makes that clear.

On that particular day in the midst of that particular battle, I believe I had an inspired thought. The prompting had to have been Lord-directed and I’m ever so glad I paid attention.

Months earlier, a friend presented me with a lovely spiral-bound journal.  I’d not yet used it, but it silently beckoned me from the bookshelf.  I took it down, pen in hand and began to write a list of things for which I was thankful. I didn’t write many, in fact my listed stopped at an even dozen. But as I turned my attention from what was wrong and focused on the gifts the Lord had provided, an amazing thing happened. Mrs. Crabby McCrabberson left the building. 

Grateful for Gratitude

Without question, gratitude is an element of God’s best. My Thankfulness Journal continues to grow and as I look back over the blessings the Lord has given, I see its obvious benefits: 

Thankfulness holds our focus on the Lord and all that He provides.

It improves our attitudes and helps us relate with more kindness toward others.

It reduces our complaining toward life, toward perceived lack, 
toward our spouse, our kids, and others.

It improves our relationships. 

With a heart of gratitude, we become more relaxed and less stressed
- surely a health benefit!

We’re less envious of others.

We express joy rather than misery.  
(Which would you rather be around?)

And so much more!

How do we begin?

Tilling the soil to cultivate a thankful heart isn’t difficult, but it does take intentional effort.  Where do we begin? Below are 10 practices to help us thrive through thankfulness.  May I encourage you to choose one or two and get started today? Please don’t let a week go by before you evict your own Mrs. Crabby McCrabberson!

  1. Make thankfulness a part of your prayer life.  In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus acknowledged the Lord’s provision for daily bread. How do we acknowledge the Lord for what He’s given? How do we show our appreciation for answered prayer? We give thanks.
  2. Practice it.  Just like learning to play the piano or taking on an exercise program, thankfulness becomes easier when we practice.  It might be necessary to remind yourself to express thankfulness to God. Don’t feel embarrassed if you need carefully placed sticky notes or electronic calendar reminders until you develop a habit of gratitude.
  3. Begin a Thankfulness Journal or a Gratitude Jar.  Consider the things for which you're thankful, then write them down in a journal or on a slips of paper that collect in a mason jar (a LARGE mason jar - you’ll need the room as you get better at this).
  4. Set a goal to send 3 or more thank you notes each week to people who showed kindness to you in some way.  Using the U.S. Postal Service for this is great, but notes can also be shared via email or text message. Consider notes of encouragement to your pastors, church elders, Bible study teachers, and other spiritual leaders. You’ll bless them, believe me
  5. Give a hearty “Thank you!” to those who serve you: wait staff at restaurants, retail clerks, hair stylists, salon staff, and others. 
  6. Memorize Scriptures about thankfulness.  Here are a few references to get you started:  Psalm 105:1; Psalm 107:1; Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:18.  There are hundreds more!  Do a little digging in your concordance and receive the blessing of God’s Word.
  7. Say Thank You to those in your home often.  Very often.  Go ahead and hit this one out of the park!
  8. Thank a First Responder.  Police, Sheriff's Deputies, Firemen and Paramedics do a lot for us that we may never see. Stop to say thank you and let them know their sacrifice is noticed and appreciated. 
  9. Take a long walk with no music or talk radio.  Look around and appreciate God’s creation, then express thanks to Him for all He’s provided.
  10. Teach your children strong habits of gratitude and pass it on to the next generation. 

Thankfulness helps us thrive in all that God has for us. By discovering the richness of what God has already given us, it equips us to step forward into His will with bold confidence. We can say, “I know that the Lord provides and will provide for me now! He will give me all I need to serve and live as He directs.”

With hearts of gratitude, we shine for Christ and radiate the riches of His glory by displaying a heart of contentment and joy. Recognize and embrace this tremendous element of God’s best!  

Your Turn:

When has your attitude improved by way of a thankful heart?

What would you add to my list of 10 practices to help us thrive through thankfulness?

Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below or posting on Facebook or Twitter!

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


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