Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalm 100:4 (NKJV)
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. Luke 17:15-16
Parents have a question that they ask their children. All parents do this. After someone gives their child a gift or does them a favor, the parent will say to the child, “what do you say?” How is a kid supposed to respond? “Thank You.”
“What do you say to Mrs. Miller for her Shredded Carrot, Mayonnaise, and Raisin Salad?”
When parents ask that, they aren’t really asking a question. They are telling you to say the appropriate thing. They would be surprised if the kid would have said, “Mrs. Miller, what in the name of heaven were you thinking? Mrs. Miller you should not be allowed to prepare meals, someone should put you away.” No, that is not the proper response. Parents want to hear a polite, “Thank You!”
Parents would equally surprised if the little fella said, “Mrs. Miller, I have a sense of awe and wonder at what I have just experienced. I’m a child. Without an adult providing for me as you have done, I would die, and yet you have done it freely as an act of love and service for me. Mrs. Miller, you are a humanitarian and in the name of children everywhere, I salute you.”
Parents know that even if a child doesn’t feel gratitude yet, they want them to learn to offer thanks.
Gratitude is real simple. What do you say?
“Here ends another day during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me and tomorrow begins another. Why am I allowed two?” ~~ G. K. Chesterton
Some people aren’t. Life is good. Life is a gift from God. It is painful sometimes. We live in a fallen, sinful world. But life is a precious gift. I’ve learned that there are some ways I can position myself to be more grateful.
- Appreciate imperfect gifts.
Have you ever received an imperfect gift? In this world, that’s about the only kind you get. If you are married you are married to an imperfect gift. (And they are too, so don’t get cocky.)
If you wait until your kids clean their rooms perfectly to praise them, you will never praise them at all. Your body is a gift. How many have perfect bodies? We go through life thinking if my body was different, if I had someone else’s body, then I could be grateful. Your body is an imperfect gift, but it’s a very good thing to have. Appreciate it.
It’s the same with my home, my friends, my work, my church, and my life. If you are waiting for a perfect gift…you will never be grateful.
- Allow anxious moments to give you perspective.
There is a link between anxiety and gratitude. You find a lump, you go for tests. Word comes back from the doctor that everything is OK. You are flooded with gratitude…which you wouldn’t have experienced if it wasn’t for the anxiety.
Many years ago while browsing in a bookstore with my wife and oldest and only son at that time my wife said, “Watch him I’m going to another part of the store.” With an open book in my hand I grunted something in the affirmative. A few minutes went by and I looked around to see where he was. He was gone. I began to walk among the stacks of books looking, then calling, then walking faster and calling louder. The store was inside a mall and my first-child panic meter started red-lining. I stepped out of the store and looked down the mall just in time to see him waddle into the adjoining store. I quickly grabbed him, hugged him, and scolded him for doing what two-year olds naturally do. I felt such deep relief and told him to never mention this to his mother.
When I found him, my sense of gratitude was unbelievable. In one sense nothing changed. I had health all along, but anxiety taught me…it’s a gift.
- Openly express gratitude even if you don’t feel like it.
Sincere words of gratitude have enormous power. I have a little file in my desk and it has notes from people who have expressed sincere words of appreciation. Those notes often come at just the right time in my life. They keep me going.
Think of somebody in your world who needs a note or a phone call or a gift or a lunch…Parents, a child, a friend, a sister, a teacher etc… They need to hear from you. They poured their life into yours—“What do you say?”
Prime the pump by expressing it; even if your heart doesn’t fully feel it and after a while you discover that your heart will begin to feel what you have already started to express.
- Devote yourself to worshipping and thanking God.
You do it privately. You do it corporately. You do it daily. You do it weekly. But you do it.
Worship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God.~ Eugene Peterson
Nothing is to compete with worship. It is the most important thing we do. But we have to be careful with this one. We can get off track…
One time friends of mine and I were at a conference in Indianapolis. We went to a couple of churches from different traditions to expose ourselves to different ways of worship. We went into one and looked for a seat, but there were Bibles in the seats, so we slid the Bibles over and sat down. We didn’t know that in this particular church that was the way they saved seats. They put Bibles down. After a while as the service was getting started, the Bible owners came to us and they were pretty upset with us. They said with the look on their faces and even with their tongues, “These are our seats, what are you doing in our seats?”
In other words, “We want to worship God now, we want to surrender our hearts to Him, take up our cross, die to ourselves and we want to do it in our seats.”
I let them have it…I pouted.
Being preoccupied with my comfort and rituals I impede others from giving thanks to the Lord in a place of worship and I can get so concerned with how others treat me in the house of the Lord that I block my ability to be present with the living Lord and give thanks with a grateful heart.
I must remember the supreme Gift God has given me. That Jesus went to the cross for me, died for my sins, gave me eternal life and I just want to run to God and fall at his feet and shout with a loud voice, “Thank you, and God thank you!”
5. Develop the discipline of noticing.
I can position my heart for increased gratitude when I begin to notice the infinite number of gifts that God is sending, my way, and all the time…the sheer goodness of my life.
It is easy for many of us to become blind to the goodness of being alive. A few years ago I spent ten minutes and journaled things for which I was grateful. I was a little blue when I began journaling, but by the time I finished the exercise my heart was buoyed even though my circumstances had not changed a single jot or tittle.
The first sip of the first cup of coffee of the day.
The way my dog Bella talks to me at night when she wants to sit in the chair beside me.
The laughter of my grandchildren.
The way my son plays with his children.
The way my daughter-in-law spreads her love out like a fleece blanket for all her children.
The taste of corn chowder.
The coarse texture of a lichen-covered rock under my fingertips.
The cold water of an alpine lake.
The feeling just after I have finished writing a sermon.
The prayer of a new believer.
The prayer of a very old believer.
The prayer of a child.
The first night of sleeping on clean sheets.
The aroma of my wife on Sunday mornings.
The gift of the perfect word for a sentence.
The loyalty of a friend.
The art of my son Clinton.
The humor of my son Caleb.
The passion of my son Cole.
The relentless persistence of my father.
The prayers of my father.
The love of my mother.
The support of my mother.
The corn souffle of my brother.
The poems of my brother.
The missionary zeal of my sister Robbie.
The humor of my sister Marti.
The finish of a long walk.
The first night sleeping on the ground above tree line.
The first page of a Wendell Berry book.
The last page of a Wendell Berry book.
The forgiveness of my sin.
The stories of the Bible.
The compliments for a good meal.
The view of Crestone Needle from Deadman Lakes.
The dirt in my hand scooped up from the driveway of my boyhood home.
The feel of the worn and yellowed pages from my favorite Bible.
The song “Blame it on my Youth” sung by Jane Monheit.
The look on a man’s face when he understands for the first time that God is much better than he ever imagined.
The shared stories between old friends.
The full-grown man-hugs from my sons.
The hands of my wife.
The gift of sight.
The gift of touch.
The gift of smell.
The gift of hearing.
The gift of taste.
The love of a congregation.
The worship of Jesus.
The prayers of the Puritans.
The movies “Gladiator,” “Les Miserable,” and “The Last of the Mohicans.”
The jazz music of the 30’s, 40’s and 50′.
The weight of pack on my back.
The feel of a Bible in my hands.
The smell of a baby’s hair.
The Quaky Aspen.
The gift of love making.
The taste of vanilla ice cream, chocolate and salted peanuts.
The rock and roll music of the 70’s.
The view of the Mt. Princeton from my desk.
The geological marker on a fourteen thousand foot peak.
The tears of repentance.
The sound of sizzling of bacon on the stove.
The smell of bread in the oven.
The smell of bacon on the stove.
The crackle of a campfire.
The taste of bacon.
The songs of Cole Porter.
The voice of Allison Krause.
The smell of a summer rain.
The pulsing glow of a firefly.
The memories of my childhood.
The memory of the graveled voice of my grandfather.
The promise of heaven.
The comfort of the Holy Spirit.
The artistry of God.
The gift of my calling.
The prayer of sinner becoming a saint.
The compassion of God.
The sacrifice of Jesus.
The presence of the Holy Spirit.
The gift of my belovedness.
Oh, to be loved by God. To be given the most precious gift, His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on a cross for me.
What do I say?
Tomorrow morning when I wake up and my eyes work to view another day, what do I say? When I look into the eyes of someone who loves me in spite of my imperfections, what do I say?
When the same Jesus, who comes to lepers, to white people and people of color, to grieving and oppressed people—suffering people—and throws His arms around us and says I love you and I died for you and I want to be with you forever…
What do you say?