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Posts tagged ‘Gratitude’

What are you grateful for today?

Living a life filled with gratitude is key to our spiritual journeys.

“I think gratitude is really the catalyst for all of our spiritual growth because it opens the door for us in so many ways to experience God’s goodness, to recognize God’s goodness.

It impacts how we respond in service, in relationships, in our ministries, in our family,” says the Rev. Cathy Boileau, pastor at First United Methodist Church in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. “The power of gratitude is that it allows us to see how God is working in our lives and that God is the center of the story and not us.”

Growing in gratitude requires intentionality. We have to work at it.

“What we count, we tend to increase… If we are a person who tends to count our blessings, there are more blessings to count,” says Dr. Kent Millard, president, United Theological Seminary and author of “The Gratitude Path.” “If we count our problems, there are more problems to count. Am I complaining or am I giving thanks? They are mutually exclusive,” Millard says.

Take a cue from Jesus

The story recounted in all four gospels of Jesus feeding 5,000 people near Bethsaida illustrates Jesus modeling gratitude.

“And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people” (Matthew 14:19 NIV, italics added).

Later in the New Testament we learn Paul was also a big fan of the practice. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 the apostle leaves no room for anything but gratitude when he writes, “In everything give thanks.”

The Rev. Susan Oeffler, pastor at First United Methodist Church of Rice Lake and Canton United Methodist Church, both in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, advocates that gratitude can bring balance to lives and to a world that can feel out of control.

“The uncertainty of the world is not going to change, but we can change. We are not built to always be stressed out,” she says, adding that gratefulness in our lives leads to feeling grace, which leads to seeing beauty in the world and reduces anxiety.

“Every time someone asks you ‘how are you doing?’ return with ‘I am grateful,’” Oeffler says. “These simple words cause each of us to recheck our gratitude meter and be thankful.”

Pain is real

When Millard’s wife of 47 years passed away, he found an unexpected relationship between his grief and gratitude.

“I found myself writing about how lonely I was and how much I missed her,” he says. “In the midst of writing about the pain, I could not deny that I was deeply thankful for a community of people who walked me through the loss.

“When I expressed my gratitude, the grief began to dissipate.”

Though painful situations do occur, Boileau believes that gratefulness helps us better navigate challenges.

“Grateful people are more resilient,” she says, “because they understand everything they have is a gift. So when that ‘thing’ disappears, they are more able to thank God for the gift.

“Gratitude is that which calls to mind God’s presence,” she says. “I think focusing on what God is doing helps us to trust Him with all the things that aren’t healed or aren’t full enough.”

Cultivating gratitude step-by-step

John Stephens, senior pastor at Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston, echoes Millard’s idea about choosing to focus on our blessings rather than our problems. Philippians 4:8 calls us to do just that, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

“Paul is saying, ‘I want you to change the way you think.’ And you’re going to have to allow God to help you,” Stephens says.

“All of that gets you to a place where you’re able to live a life of thanksgiving and gratitude, because as God starts pulling us back together, that oneness, that quiet, that rest, that peace of God that comes in our lives, that expands our spirit,” he says. “That’s what allows us to live a life of gratitude.”

Unexpected benefits

“When you have a gratitude mindset, it’s easier to not have fear and denial and perfectionism control your thoughts,” Oeffler says. “It also may lower your blood pressure, increase your energy and block those negative feelings.  And you recognize that even though there are things that can go wrong, you still have things to be thankful for.

“That’s so great,” she says, “that something as simple as giving thanks can do all of that.”

*Crystal Caviness works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact her by email or at 615-742-5138.

 

Easy ways to share gratitude this Thanksgiving

Serving others is one way to celebrate your gratitude, as the youth from Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California do every Thanksgiving.

Serving others is one way to celebrate your gratitude, as the youth from Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California do every Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day elicits a bounty of wonderful memories for many people in the U.S. The crisp air. The smell of a turkey roasting and a pumpkin pie baking. The sound of a cheering crowd at a football game. All these can create warm feelings during this special time of year.

While the Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the U.S., thanking God for our blessings is a spiritual discipline that should not be limited to a single day. Along with expanding our waistlines, our preparation for and celebration of the holiday can be the impetus toward growing an attitude of gratitude that will carry over into the rest of the year. In his commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, John Wesley writes, “Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer; it is almost essentially connected with it.” Giving thanks is as essential to our spiritual growth as prayer, which 1 Thessalonians calls us to do continually. These creative ideas will help us get started this Thanksgiving.

  • Fill a family Thanksgiving box. As part of your Thanksgiving preparation, create a Thanksgiving Box. Each day family members write on slips of paper something for which they are thankful that day and place them in the decorated box. The box will make a nice Thanksgiving table centerpiece, and when opened, a way to remember how blessed we are every day. You could add to it all year too of course.
  • Serve someone. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, many agencies serving those in need expand their work. Food banks, churches, and other service organizations supply meals to the hungry on Thanksgiving. Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles holds a sleepover for their youth called the “turkey lock-in.” On the night before Thanksgiving the youth prepare, and the next day, deliver meals to people in the community who will be alone on Thanksgiving. Ask your pastor for suggestions of places near you to serve or donate.
  • Take time for quiet reflection. As the big day approaches, things get busier. Set aside some time each day to say thank you to God for all he has provided. “A Morning Prayer of Thanksgiving” by The Rev. Dr. LaGretta Bjorn is a great start.
  • Make a Thanksgiving frame. As you and your family reflect on those things for which you are thankful, compile a list. A few days before Thanksgiving, neatly transfer the list onto a piece of paper you can then insert into a frame for a beautiful expression of gratitude to decorate your home.
  • Invite someone new to dinner. Athens First United Methodist Church invites international students from the University of Georgia to spend Thanksgiving with their members. The students enjoy spending time away from campus and in family homes. Explore ways to invite those who may be alone or far from family to celebrate with you on the holiday.
  • Share blessings together. When gathered around the table, many families will ask guests to share something for which they are thankful. In Thanksgiving Celebrations for the Home, MaryJane Pierce Norton suggests creating a list together, such as foods each person enjoys. Then together offer “thanks for the Earth and all with which we are blessed in the world God created.”
  • Send cards to those we miss. Remember those who are not able to be with you this year by making or purchasing cards for them. “On Thanksgiving Day,” Norton writes, “invite all who are gathered in your home to sign and/or write a note on the cards to those who are missing.” Mail them the next day to share the gratitude.
  • Create a keepsake of thanks. When you take that group photo around the table or in front of the fireplace, record not only the names of those in attendance, but also something for which each person is thankful. This will be a great item to revisit when everyone gathers again next year. See Thanksgiving Celebrations for the Home for more ideas of celebrating gratitude together.
  • Include children. Involve the children celebrating with you by sharing the Child’s Thanksgiving Prayer. Use this prayer at the kids’ table as a grace or an after meal blessing, having one of the older children lead. Then encourage the kids to write their own Thanksgiving prayers, with which they could lead the adults in prayer later in the day.
  • Voice your gratitude. If your family is musical, consider a Thanksgiving sing-a-long, as you might do with Christmas carols. Dean McIntyre offers Hymns for Thanksgiving Day from our United Methodist Hymnal and Songbooks that would be a great way to celebrate. He also offers a quiz of hymns with lines about thanksgiving in Musical Thanksgiving. Make a game out of who can guess the most.

However you can, find ways to give thanks to God for all of his blessings throughout your celebration this year. Instill the habit of an attitude of gratitude, which will extend far beyond Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving 2

 

Be Grateful for…Thanksgiving Day

Happy ThanksgivingBible Verse for Thanksgiving Day:  Since everything God created is good, … receive it gladly, with thankful hearts.  – 1 Timothy 4:4

In September 1975, I left California to enter college in Massachusetts.  For the next 75 days, I lived in a freshman dorm, a rather Spartan existence, but not an unpleasant one.

Since I couldn’t afford to go home for Thanksgiving, I traveled by bus to central Connecticut to join some family friends for the holiday.  On Thanksgiving Eve, as I retired to my room, I slipped off my shoes and socks to unpack my bags.  I felt the carpet under my bare feet, enjoying the softness and the feel of the threads between my toes.

Suddenly it dawned on me that I hadn’t felt a carpet like this since I’d left home.  For two-and-a-half months, I’d felt only dusty linoleum underneath my bare feet.  But now, in a real home, I delighted in the sumptuousness of wall-to-wall carpet.

I had grown up in a home with carpet—bronze shag, to be exact.  But I had never appreciated the feel of carpet beneath my feet until that moment.

How could something so ordinary feel so enjoyable?  I wondered what else I’d been taking for granted.  That weekend in Connecticut added several other items to my list of newly discovered appreciation, including ceramic mugs, quiet nights, and a bathroom heater.

—Mark Roberts in No Holds Barred

 

Thought to Apply:  I feel a very unusual sensation.  If it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude.  – Benjamin Disraeli (English prime minister)

Adapted from No Holds Barred (WaterBrook, 2005)

 

 

Prayer for the Week: Move me, Lord, beyond appreciation for desires granted to gratitude for all Your wisdom allows.

Easy ways to share gratitude this Thanksgiving

Serving others is one way to celebrate your gratitude, as the youth from Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California do every Thanksgiving.

Serving others is one way to celebrate your gratitude, as the youth from Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California do every Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day elicits a bounty of wonderful memories for many people in the U.S. The crisp air. The smell of a turkey roasting and a pumpkin pie baking. The sound of a cheering crowd at a football game. All these can create warm feelings during this special time of year.

While the Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the U.S., thanking God for our blessings is a spiritual discipline that should not be limited to a single day. Along with expanding our waistlines, our preparation for and celebration of the holiday can be the impetus toward growing an attitude of gratitude that will carry over into the rest of the year. In his commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, John Wesley writes, “Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer; it is almost essentially connected with it.” Giving thanks is as essential to our spiritual growth as prayer, which 1 Thessalonians calls us to do continually. These creative ideas will help us get started this Thanksgiving.

  • Fill a family Thanksgiving box. As part of your Thanksgiving preparation, create a Thanksgiving Box. Each day family members write on slips of paper something for which they are thankful that day and place them in the decorated box. The box will make a nice Thanksgiving table centerpiece, and when opened, a way to remember how blessed we are every day. You could add to it all year too of course.
  • Serve someone. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, many agencies serving those in need expand their work. Food banks, churches, and other service organizations supply meals to the hungry on Thanksgiving. Centenary United Methodist Church in Los Angeles holds a sleepover for their youth called the “turkey lock-in.” On the night before Thanksgiving the youth prepare, and the next day, deliver meals to people in the community who will be alone on Thanksgiving. Ask your pastor for suggestions of places near you to serve or donate.
  • Take time for quiet reflection. As the big day approaches, things get busier. Set aside some time each day to say thank you to God for all he has provided. “A Morning Prayer of Thanksgiving” by The Rev. Dr. LaGretta Bjorn is a great start.
  • Make a Thanksgiving frame. As you and your family reflect on those things for which you are thankful, compile a list. A few days before Thanksgiving, neatly transfer the list onto a piece of paper you can then insert into a frame for a beautiful expression of gratitude to decorate your home.
  • Invite someone new to dinner. Athens First United Methodist Church invites international students from the University of Georgia to spend Thanksgiving with their members. The students enjoy spending time away from campus and in family homes. Explore ways to invite those who may be alone or far from family to celebrate with you on the holiday.
  • Share blessings together. When gathered around the table, many families will ask guests to share something for which they are thankful. In Thanksgiving Celebrations for the Home, MaryJane Pierce Norton suggests creating a list together, such as foods each person enjoys. Then together offer “thanks for the Earth and all with which we are blessed in the world God created.”
  • Send cards to those we miss. Remember those who are not able to be with you this year by making or purchasing cards for them. “On Thanksgiving Day,” Norton writes, “invite all who are gathered in your home to sign and/or write a note on the cards to those who are missing.” Mail them the next day to share the gratitude.
  • Create a keepsake of thanks. When you take that group photo around the table or in front of the fireplace, record not only the names of those in attendance, but also something for which each person is thankful. This will be a great item to revisit when everyone gathers again next year. See Thanksgiving Celebrations for the Home for more ideas of celebrating gratitude together.
  • Include children. Involve the children celebrating with you by sharing the Child’s Thanksgiving Prayer. Use this prayer at the kids’ table as a grace or an after meal blessing, having one of the older children lead. Then encourage the kids to write their own Thanksgiving prayers, with which they could lead the adults in prayer later in the day.
  • Voice your gratitude. If your family is musical, consider a Thanksgiving sing-a-long, as you might do with Christmas carols. Dean McIntyre offers Hymns for Thanksgiving Day from our United Methodist Hymnal and Songbooks that would be a great way to celebrate. He also offers a quiz of hymns with lines about thanksgiving in Musical Thanksgiving. Make a game out of who can guess the most.

However you can, find ways to give thanks to God for all of his blessings throughout your celebration this year. Instill the habit of an attitude of gratitude, which will extend far beyond Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving 2

 

Be Generous

Be Generous00