Practicing gratitude

Each of us is a recipient of God’s love and care. Developing an attitude of gratefulness to God builds within us an attitude of gratefulness for life and for all that it brings our way. When we take a moment to stop and look around, when we see the birds, the sky, the view, the flowers, the greenery, when we reflect on the things we enjoy—the love that we have and that we share with others, our children, our experiences—we find plenty of reasons to be grateful. It’s not surprising that there is so much in the Bible about gratitude and thanksgiving.

Gratitude causes us to focus on all the wonderful things that we have instead of what we think we’re missing or haven’t yet received. Recognizing that we have so much, and focusing with gratitude on that abundance, opens the door for more of God’s blessings to come into our lives, as I experienced a while back when I started filming a series of videos about Jesus’ parables.

My first film session really didn’t go very well—actually, it went horribly! It took me hours longer than I expected to produce the final footage, and I came out of it quite disheartened about my lack of presentation abilities. Afterwards, when I was praying about the way things went, I realized that there were many things to be thankful for. I feel truly blessed to be able to study these passages and to share the life-changing words that Jesus told through His parables. I’m thankful for the good equipment I have access to and for the technology that allows the spread of content—specifically the Christian message—far and wide. I am thankful for how my faith is being renewed daily as I study and prepare this material, and that God can use me in spite of my many lacks.

What did practicing gratitude in this way do for me? Well, first, it buoyed my somewhat discouraged heart and spirit. It helped me to refocus on Jesus and on the purpose behind the project, the value of it, and why I was doing it in the first place. And that gave me renewed hope that even though the first filming round had been grueling, the next one would be better. It adjusted my perspective and gave me fresh courage.

When it came time to do the next video in the series, I prayed fervently that this session would go better—also thanking God for the blessing this project is and the gifts that He has given me—and I’m happy to say that the filming did go much more smoothly and took much less time.

Something that’s helping me cultivate more thankfulness in my life is keeping a gratitude journal. I love how it reminds me of what God has done for me—about the many joys I have in my life, the prayers answered, the victories won, the things He’s done in the lives of my loved ones. It reminds me that God is involved in my life, and causes me to love Him and thank Him all the more.

Now I try to encourage others to keep a gratitude journal as well. You’ll realize how very special every day is, and how little things are wonderful things. By stopping to write them down, you’ll notice more of them and appreciate them more. Being grateful for the good makes more good things happen.

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The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more things you’ll have to express gratitude for.—Zig Ziglar (1926–2012)

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates vision for tomorrow.—Melody Beattie (b. 1948)

We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.―Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945)

Begin by thanking Him for some little thing, and then go on, day by day, adding to your subjects of praise; thus you will find their numbers grow wonderfully; and, in the same proportion, will your subjects of murmuring and complaining diminish, until you see in everything some cause for thanksgiving.—Priscilla Maurice (1811–1854)

Cultivate a thankful spirit! It will be to thee a perpetual feast. There is, or ought to be, with us no such thing as small mercies; all are great, because the least are undeserved. Indeed a really thankful heart will extract motive for gratitude from everything, making the most even of scanty blessings.—John Ross Macduff (1818–1895)

We need deliberately to call to mind the joys of our journey. Perhaps we should try to write down the blessings of one day. We might begin; we could never end; there are not pens or paper enough in all the world.—George A. Buttrick (1892–1980)