There’s probably a reason Thanksgiving is before Christmas – to help us focus (with gratitude) on all we already have rather than on what we could, would or should have.
“I had a professor once who asked each person in our class to say something that they were thankful for, ” Snopes said while we sat in traffic this week. “So everyone went around the room and said things that you normally think of – like a roof over my head or a nice family. But it was a struggle – especially since he said that we couldn’t say the same things twice. So, he told us that for Thanksgiving break we had to write 30 things each day for which we were thankful.”
“Really?” I pondered, “What a great idea.”
“Yeah. I remember it like yesterday and I still think about it. That assignment helped me see things that I wouldn’t have noticed. Like one morning I was thankful for the slow car in front of me. I was learning to drive with a new permit and was glad to be able to go slow without bothering the person behind me. It opened my eyes to see lots of things around me, big and little, to be thankful for.”
She’s right. Slowing down and noticing things that seem so regular or even annoying can actually move us to gratitude.
This weekend we had a little dinner gathering at our house. Our friend Tricia Neill with Alpha was in town from London. She brought along Matthew Neville who instantly became a new friend. Sharing a meal together does that. We could have lingered all night listening to their British accents and lovely phraseology. Sometimes with dinner parties, we ask folks to read an article or listen to/watch an interesting topic worth contemplating. But for this gathering we thought it would be fun for each person to share something in their life they are thankful for now even though at the time they weren’t. Maybe things didn’t go quite the way they hoped or a desire was dashed – something along those lines. But now they’re thankful for it.
The sharing was fascinating. We all listened and were encouraged as each person shared a hope or prayer that went another way – different than what they thought best. And we found common ground – even though we may live thousands of miles apart and our backgrounds/stories are completely different. There’s something about sharing that moves us ever closer to each other since so many of our desires and circumstances are closer to same than we realize. So there’s that – plus we learned a lot about each other and even more about God’s unwavering mercy, provision, protection and redemptive power.
I had another taste of gratitude when Lysa TerKeurst joined Courtney DeFeo and I on a carpool chat for our SaySomething Show. She shared about handling disappointing, sometimes devastating, life turns and about the sacred nature of suffering when matched with God’s unwavering refuge of hope and his power to redeem regardless the circumstance or outcome. It’s worth a watch of listen and I hope her words will encourage you today.
Gratitude. In every situation. Not because God needs it, but because we do. The focus shift takes our eyes off ourselves – not only circumstances, but also the things we think we need to have or be in order to be okay. What a great thing to sink into gratitude this week and next few days.
Why not practice thankfulness today. Consider writing 30 things for which you are thankful each day this week. Be overwhelmed by gratitude so that when we’re tempted by all the holiday stuff maybe we will be quick to reach for Truth rather than be duped by do-all, be-all and have-all pressures.
Thanks for walking the road with me.