Monday, October 31, 2016

30 Days & 30 Ways: Developing a Heart of Gratitude

On this, the final day of October, what if we all made a plan for an intentionally gratitude-filled November?  Imagine how developing a heart of gratitude could affect our attitudes over the next month.

Here are 30 ideas to turn your heart toward gratitude this November – one activity for each day of the month.

1.     Ask the Lord to help you develop a grateful heart and open your eyes to the abundance of gifts that are all around you.
2.     In your prayers, thank the Lord for every member of your immediate family.
3.     Begin a gratitude journal. Grab a spiral notebook and write down 5 things for which you’re grateful.
4.     Send a thank you note by mail to someone who did something nice to (or for) you.  Maybe they did a very small something nice, but thank them with a note card sent through the US Postal service. You’ll make their day when they receive it.
5.     Even if you’re experiencing financial hardship, thank the Lord for what He’s provided and give a donation (maybe even just $1) to a charitable organization. Some stores ask if you’d like to “round up” to the next even dollar amount to give to charity or provide ways to give $1 or $2 to a non-profit group as you check out. Say yes today!
6.     Prayerfully thank the Lord for your health. Even if you’re struggling with illness, thank Him for the life and energy that He provided for today.
7.     Thank the Lord for your Spiritual Gifts and serve someone in need through your gifting. For example, if you have the gift of faith, share that faith with someone who may feel discouraged.
8.     Leave an “I am thankful for you” type of note in the lunch box or sock drawer of someone you love.
9.     When you notice kindness (someone opening a door for another, or somehow putting others before themselves), let them know that you noticed and say thanks.
10.  Write in your gratitude journal today. Can you list 10 things for which you’re grateful?
11.  Think of a friend who once helped you with a problem. Give her a call and let her know that you still remember and that it still blesses you.
12.  Reach out to someone on social media and randomly tell them you’re grateful for their friendship. You don’t have to get "ooey gooey", but deliver a short, sweet message of thanks.
13.  Say thank you to a teacher. This can be a school teacher, home school mom, Bible study teacher, Pastor, or mentor. Let them know you’re grateful that they invest in the lives of others.
14.  Is there someone who had a positive influence when you were a child? Reach out and thank that person. If they’re no longer living, thank the Lord that He brought them into your life.
15.  Thank the Lord today for dreams and longings that He’s placed on your heart and ask Him for ways to turn those dreams into reality.
16.  Consider a trial or hardship that you’ve faced and write down one thing that is better in your life because of that trial. Keep your note in a visible place and thank God for it throughout the day.
17.  Make (or purchase) cookies today for those who work at your local police of fire station.
18.  Deliver the cookies that you made (or purchased) yesterday. 
19.  Visit the website of your local town or city and learn the name of the current Mayor or other public official. Pray for them by name today in gratitude for their service.
20.  Write in your gratitude journal again today. List 15 things for which you’re grateful.
21.  Spend some time sitting or walking outside, noticing nature and creation. Thank God for His creativity.
22.  Clean out a small cluttered area in your home and gather items to donate. Express thanks to the Lord for His abundant provision to your family. Be sure to donate the items!
23.  Say thank you to a janitor or custodian. Maybe they clean your office building, or the restrooms in your local library. Let them know it matters to you and that you’re grateful.
24.  November 24th is Thanksgiving Day, 2016. Ask the people at your dinner table to share something they appreciate about each other.  Be sure to thank the Lord for His generous blessings.
25.  Purchase a small Christmas gift for a neighbor that you rarely talk with.  A coffee mug with a package of hot cocoa mix is a simple idea.
26.  When you’re in line at the drive through, contribute $5 or whatever you can afford as payment toward the order of the person in line behind you.
27.  Send a thank you card to your Pastor.
28.  Consider whether your gratitude has increased over the last month. Thank God for your change of heart and encourage a friend to accept this 30-day challenge. Let her know what a difference it’s made in your life. Share the love.
29.  Comment on an uplifting blog, article, or social media video and let the author know how they encouraged or challenged you.
30.  Write in your gratitude journal. Record 20 things for which you’re grateful.

Do you have other ideas on how to express gratitude? It’s a simple, yet powerful habit to develop. How has practicing a thankful heart impacted your life and the lives of those around you?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.  Or continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

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Be Strengthened Today, by His Word
Psalm 119:28


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

4 Reasons to Journal and How to Begin

I’ll admit I’m not a “journal every day” sort of person. Like most things in my life, journaling takes on the familiar inconsistent-yet-somehow-still-effective sort of routine. I journal in a variety of ways during times when the Holy Spirit seems to whisper, “don’t miss this,” or when my thoughts need untangling. When I’m trying to sort out a problem or embrace a new idea, I find I do some of my best thinking when my fingers touch the pen or keyboard.

My journaling style consists of notes written in the margins in my Bible, on 3 x 5 note cards that accumulate . . .  well, everywhere, blog posts, prayer journals, notebooks, and occasionally in letters and emails. As I said, consistency is not my strong suit, yet I find great value and many benefits through the practice of writing down my thoughts.

Why Journal

The instruction in Deuteronomy 4:9 is to “be on guard and diligently watch yourselves so that you don’t forget the things your eyes have seen and so that they don’t slip from your mind as long as you live. Teach them to your children and your grandchildren” (HCSB).

Journaling helps us take these words of Moses to heart and utilize them in practical application. Let’s see how, step by step:

1) Journaling helps us to self-examine our thoughts, reactions, spiritual growth, and the way we apply God’s truth to our lives.  Author Michael Hyatt says “What happens to us is not as important as the meaning we assign to it.  Journaling helps sort this out.” I completely agree. It frequently helps to process my thoughts through journaling and determine the most God-honoring response. I can then move forward with purposeful intention – steady my walk so to speak – and pursue obedience and God’s ways. I find the process quiets my potentially surging emotions and helps me focus on the Lord and His plan.

Journaling helps us diligently watch ourselves.  

2) Journaling is a great tool for meditation. When we're quiet before the Lord, He often reveals meaningful insights through His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. More often than not, we have to sort through the revelations just like one would eat an elephant: one bite at a time. Recording our thoughts helps bring what may seem like a blurry landscape into better focus. The more we contemplate His truths though the practice of journaling, the more we can process and remember what we’ve learned.

Research shows that writing with pen and paper promotes high quality learning and offers a good strategy to store and internalize ideas for the long term. The act of putting pen to paper to record what we have experienced in our walk with Christ strengthens both our recollections and our resolve to walk in obedience.

Journaling helps us remember the things we’ve seen. 

3) Journaling offers a venue to record our spiritual journey.  A journal serves as a type of memorial stone so that our stories don’t get lost in the busyness of our schedules. The Lord told Joshua to establish markers that would always serve as a memorial for His people and a sign among them (see Joshua 4). Looking back on our own stories helps us recall the Lord's steadfastness and builds our faith for the road ahead. 

Journaling helps keep our stories from slipping our minds. 

4) Journaling can provide a witness to future generationsMost of the time we are writing for ourselves and not for an audience when we journal. Keep in mind, however, that when we pass from this life (and maybe before that time), our journals will likely be collected and read by loved ones. They will read the stories of our powerful testimony and experience the journey of our spiritual growth through our words. Only the Lord knows how He will use our written words to encourage others and perhaps draw them to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Journaling can help us teach our children and grandchildren.

    How to Journal

    There are multiple ways to begin journaling. They key to becoming effective is to begin doing it. There’s no need to strive for perfection, rather, our aim is to embrace the experience and the blessings it provides.
    • Take notes during sermons and messages that you hear. Record what you learn, then be sure to also record ways that the Holy Spirit prompts you to apply the lesson to your life.
    • As your read and meditate on Scripture, record how the Scripture hits your heart, or how it encourages or challenges you during this specific season of your life.
    • Record your prayers – and the answers to those prayers.
    • Journaling Bibles offer great prompts and inspiration, along with the room to write directly in the margins.
    • Many people enjoy setting aside a specific time and place to record their thoughts each day. Others write when inspiration strikes and have pen and paper within reach at all times. You may need to experiment and find a routine that works best for your personality and schedule.
    • When you begin journaling, you can start with any format and in any type of notebook. However, I find that when I have a notebook and pen that I like, I am more likely to take it out and use it. It’s worth a small investment to purchase something you enjoy using.
    If you're just beginning, remember to start small. Your goal isn't to write your entire life story, but to begin where you are. Start by recording your thoughts for today and try to develop a consistent habit over the next several weeks. As with any spiritual discipline, journaling takes practice before it starts to feel comfortable and routine.  Little by little as confidence develops, you might begin to incorporate lessons and testimonies from your past into your writing efforts. 

    Most people don't like the way they write, but don't let that stop you. Consider your journal as an offering to the Lord and share your heart with Him through your pen. I'm confident you'll find the process rewarding and meaningful.

    Your Turn

    Has this post inspired you to start or re-start the practice of journaling?  What is the first step you’ll take in the process? Will you schedule and set aside time in your day for the practice or keep your notebook available to write on the fly?

    If you already journal regularly, what's your method? What types of tools do you use?

    I’d love to hear from you. Leave your comments below or continue the conversation on Facebook and Twitter

    Be Strengthened Today, by His Word
    Psalm 119:28