Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gratitude: What's all the fuss about?

Decades ago, under the teaching of my Pastor, Zac, I was fortunate to learn the incalculable importance of having an attitude of gratitude. Since that time, it has become a core value in my life and in my daily walk through this world.

Clothed with a sense of gratitude, versus a sense of entitlement, I have come to recognize that without the foundation of thankfulness, I am doomed to the "then I'll be happy" syndrome... when I am out of school, when I can get back to school; when I am healthy, when I have more money, when I am through this trying situation, when I am married or when I am out of this marriage; when I get a new job or when I can stop working; when I have a child or when my children are grown; when I have a better place to live, when I have that new car, or position, or notoriety. You get the picture.

I sincerely believe, that until you grasp what it is to be thankful, you will most likely not experience what it is to be happy. Author, Speaker and Radio Host Dennis Prager first made me consider this in his book, "Happiness is a Serious Problem". His premise is that happy people make a better world and that gratitude is foundational to happiness. I concur. But, I think that gratitude is the more serious problem, not happiness. Grateful people are inherently happy people- pure and simple. If you aren't happy, you most likely don't recognize how much you have to be grateful for. There. I've said it. Sorry if you are offended, but, I stand firm in my conviction. If you don't believe me, ask Corrie Ten Boom or Joni Eareckson Tada or Viktor Frankl , all well known individuals who have suffered more than most of us will ever be called to. Ask my friend Tran, whose son was killed while stopping at the side of the road to help a stranded motorist or, Christianne who will likely spend the remaineder of this life in a wheelchair. Consider my cousins, Dona and Gene, who lost both their mom and their brother in tragic circumstances. Then, there's Cheryl, who lives with pain everyday of her life and my friend Pat, whose sweet Dad suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. Let's not even think of overlooking the the legions of people who have been deeply wounded by either family or friends they believed would never fail them.

Each of these I've mentioned are examples of the joy that comes from acknowledging a God who loves them and believing that He is in control...a God who gave all so that our failures could be forgiven. A God who promises "a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). That same God who urges us to "enter into His gates with Thanksgiving" and, in all things to "give thanks". These folks are real people who, in the midst of their suffering, choose to live their lives with an attitude of gratitude.

We are all wounded soldiers, aren't we? Some in our bodies, some in our spirits, but, we've all suffered pain and sorrow. Many of us have fallen short of what we hoped to become. All of us have known the disappointments of life. Some of us live with physical pain, others with emotional scars.

Too many of us believe that if the stars would just get aligned correctly, we would be better off. We would bask in the warmth of true contentment. Further, we're pretty sure that, we are just a slight shift in the universe away from being happy. The truth is that if we could truly grasp the wonderful truth that there is a God in Heaven, Who, by the way, really does have it all under control, we could then surrender our frustration, our anger, our disappointment and our fears. We would acknowledge that while we cannot see the future, He can. We could then focus on the good, in this moment. We could rest in the arms of a God we know has promised to work it all for our good. (Romans 8:28) Truth is, happiness is impossible without gratitude. From gratitude springs the ability to recognize that there is much to appreciate in the here and now.

May I challenge you, dear readers, to take on a practice I undertook may years ago?

It's so simple. You can do it. Begin and end each day with an attitude of gratitude.

That's it. Simple, right? There are many ways to make it happen.

For me, it means writing down and/or speaking to God the many things I am thankful for, in that moment, for that day. It may take some practice, but, I promise, it is a learned skill that get's easier with repetition. Yesterday, as I was anxiously anticipating oral surgery, I paused to thank God. Yes, I really did. I thanked him for the ability to have the surgery done, for a good periodontist to do the procedure, for his kind staff to set me at ease, for the funds to pay for the procedure and finally, for the many dear ones who had encouraged and prayed for me. As I gave thanks to the God who provided it all, I was filled peace and calm as I headed off to my appointment.

Gratitude. It's what's for breakfast...and lunch... and dinner. Then, you'll be happy!

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