We've been practicing an attitude of gratitude throughout October. Now its November and giving thanks is a good thing to continue.
Oprah Winfrey suggests everyone keep a gratitude diary. Every day write down something for which you are thankful, without repeating. Not repeating forces you to look around more broadly and realize the extent of the blessings you enjoy.
At first, our list might consist of simple things. Most of us would start by naming our spouse, our children, our parents, our home, our friends, our job. Just because these are things are obvious doesn't mean we aren't truly grateful for them. Think of losing any of these and you know how important they are.
After a week or so, it starts to get a little tougher and your list might seem a little silly. You've used the obvious things. You might list toothpaste just to write something. While you might be grateful for clean teeth and fresh breath, you know you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.
But as you practice this exercise, two things begin to happen. First, you start to notice the good things that fill your life. They were already there, but you missed them. The discipline of writing down one thing for which you are thankful teaches you to notice the good things in life as they occur. And noticing those good things brings a greater sense of joy.
Second, you start to react to these pleasures with real gratitude. They don't just happen. They are gifts from God. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of heavenly lights.” (James 1:17) So you don't just smile at something pleasant, you react in a much more profound way. You thank God for them. And thanking God, you begin to realize what Jesus said was true, God pays so much attention to you that he “numbers the hairs on your head.”
This fall the maple tree outside my office window has been particularly beautiful. It always is vivid red, but this year it was spectacular. The three small maples around our neighbor's yard are beautiful too, first turning gold and then adding reds of their owns. The leaves are almost gone now, but I've enjoyed them immensely. And because we were thinking about gratitude at church, I noticed them more often, and gave thanks for them frequently. The result is a smile on my face and joy in my soul.
Maybe the Bible is right after all when it says, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you,” (1 Thess. 5:18)
Try the gratitude exercise. You just might grow to like it.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.