When I finished reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts a couple of years ago, I was fired up about living a life of gratitude. I bought new Moleskines for each member of my family so we could keep track of our gifts regularly.
It lasted about a week. Maybe two.
I hate to admit it, but it is easier for me to see what I lack–be it spiritual, material, emotional or relational–than what I have. Practicing gratefulness is work for me. I have to be intentional about seeing the gifts in my life, and right now that pretty much only happens when I’m writing my “A Glad Heart” blog posts, reading the Psalms or participating in corporate worship on Sunday evenings with my church.
I’ve only written 15 “A Glad Heart” posts in the last 8 months, so there is room for improvement on that front. I read from the the Psalter on a regular basis and listen to a few Psalms via the Divine Office every night, so I am seeing and hearing reminders such as “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good” (Psalm 136:1) several times each week. We attend church almost every Sunday, and when I’m engaged in worship (like most people, my mind does wander at times…) my heart overflows with gratitude to God throughout each element of the service–especially during Holy Communion.
So I guess I’ve done a pretty good job of placing myself in the way of thanksgiving through my interaction with the scriptures and through regular corporate worship. But I want more. I want gratitude to be a habit. I want it to be a response to the circumstances in my life–whatever those circumstances happen to be. Is that even possible? Am I asking for too much?
In the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Adele Calhoun defines gratitude as the following:
Gratitude is a loving and thankful response toward God for his presence with us and within the world. Though “blessings” can move us into gratitude, it is not at the root of a thankful heart. Delight in God and his good will is the heartbeat of thankfulness.
My plan for the month of November is to continue to pay attention to the gifts of gladness that come my way through weekly “A Glad Heart” blog posts, track down my gratitude journal and write in it each day, and increase my frequency of engaging with the Psalms and other scriptures through listening to the Divine Office three times each day instead of once each day. I have the time to practice this discipline in this manner. But it will obviously take some effort and some planning. And at times I will have to enter into these practices when I don’t necessarily feel like it. I guess that’s the nature of discipline.
My hopes are that by paying more attention to blessings in my life, I will move closer to living a life of gratitude and by increasing my time in God’s word and worship through the Divine Office, I will be more inclined to “delight in God and his good will” more frequently. I have a feeling that this will continue to be work for me. I’m not sure if I’ll ever respond naturally and easily with gratitude to whatever comes my way. But it is good and meaningful work. It is worth my time and effort. And I look forward to seeing the fruit of God’s work in my life as I venture into this journey of increased gratitude.
“Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Do you practice gratitude? What are some specific and intentional practices that work for you?