Category Archives: Be Specific when You Ask

5 Reasons to Keep on Giving Thanks

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV).

 After completing the 30 Days of Thankful, I found myself drifting back into a attitude of discontent. So I renewed my resolve to give thanks in everything. To make a thankful heart a permanent habit. I’m curious. Do you experience God in a fresh way when you practice gratitude?

I think we’d agree that giving thanks to God is something we should do every day. In that respect, it’s different from the spiritual discipline of fasting. When a person comes off a fast, they gradually start eating food again.

But after an exercise like the 30 Days of Thankful, should we gradually allow ourselves become grumpy again? Of course not. The Bible teaches us that giving thanks is to be a continuous mindset—much like prayer. So it makes sense that right after the Bible teaches us “to pray without ceasing,” it reminds us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

I’m intentional about making gratitude a permanent fixture in my mind. But to form any habit, I must first become fully persuaded of its value. And to be convinced that it pleases God.

Here are five reasons why I believe that giving thanks is worth my best effort. These are not the only reasons, but they’re a start. I’m still reflecting on what I learned while practicing gratitude:

  1. Giving thanks to God is a good way to counter-attack discontent. It’s easier to replace grumbling or complaining with thanksgiving than to simply try to “not gripe.”
  2. Gratitude feeds my faith. I discovered that thanksgiving can stand up under a fiery trial. Giving thanks seemed to use less energy than praying for a specific end—a good thing when you’re going through a hard place.
  3. Giving thanks is an effective way to roll my burdens into God’s hands, which, in turn, calms my anxious heart.
  4. Having a thankful heart makes me more aware of my surroundings and more in tune with God’s blessings. So I find myself more expectant—watching for Him to show up.
  5. For some reason, giving thanks made me more sensitive to the needs of others—opening the door to holy conversations—a blessing in themselves.

I don’t have to understand all the reasons why giving thanks is a good thing in order to experience its benefits. Forming a habit of giving thanks changes my attitude and my actions. I discovered that giving thanks is a form of worship. It connects me to the Lord and places my focus on Him. And when I focus on Jesus, it changes everything.

 


30 Days of Thankful: day 27

In addition to her training as a counselor, my friend Rebecca has unique gifts of wisdom and insight that help her guide others to spiritual health and wholeness. She shares her journey of how giving thanks helped her cope with her own loss.  After reading Rebecca’s words, I believe you’ll feel like you have been blessed with a personal counseling session with her–you may even be changed by her insights.

GUEST BLOG: Rebecca Woodman

Gratitude is a choice, available to anyone. It is a choice that holds the power to change our entire perspective. It is a choice that turns into an attitude and an attitude that can then become a habit. Learning to be thankful and practicing giving thanks can be transformative in taking negative thoughts and finding positive return, ultimately blocking toxic emotions.

Scripture tells us in Psalm 100:4Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.” Begin your conversations with God, the Creator of the universe, and your conversations with the people who He has placed in your life with gratitude and thanksgiving.

Some of the ways that I help those who come and sit on the couch in my counseling office understand that his/her current struggle does not have to ruin or dictate life is by helping the client understand how to look for the gifts and be grateful, even when life is throwing its fastest curve balls. Encouraging those who are challenged to find the positive to think of one thing each day for which to be thankful. Some questions to get folks started could include:

  1. What is one thing that is going well in life right now for me?
  2. How do I see that my needs are being met?
  3. How can I help someone today? Who would that be?

There is a difference between feeling grateful and being grateful. Feeling grateful is a response to a benefit. Being grateful is a way of life. John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude we must never forget the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

Research on benefits of gratitude from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology help us to understand that there are psychological, physical and interpersonal benefits to a heart filled with appreciation. Those who understand how to be thankful are found to be more alert, energetic, have higher scores on scales of happiness and optimism, achieve better sleep, have improved immune response, are shown to be more helpful and connected, feeling less lonely and isolated, among many other positive outcomes.

I personally learned after the loss of two sons born stillborn that counting our blessings was one of the only ways to survive the pain. Counting my blessings when at my weakest state helped me to gauge my healing and served as a marker in time – recognizing all that was good, even in those moments when the tears fell so easily. Thanking God, even in the midst of a storm, is really an expression of faith. A thankful heart can bring about faith and faith can move mountains. Author Charles Dickens said it as, “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.”

Our Life Group has been memorizing Scripture together weekly and it has been a pretty cool, unifying experience. This particular week, our verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” THIS is God’s will. Even if there were not all of the positive benefits to uttering a simple “thank you” and even if I had not learned in the midst of struggle to look for the hidden blessings, I would still be convicted by Christ’s words that HIS will for my life is a heart of appreciation. I will choose gratitude.

 


30 Days of Thankful: Day 26

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NKJV).

Giving thanks to God can diffuse even life’s most difficult circumstances. Gratitude has a healing power all its own. I have seen this over and over in our decades of ministry as we have come alongside people during their times of trial. I’ve watched praise and thanksgiving emerge from those walking through the worst of tragedies—clear evidence that God is providing supernatural strength and comfort.

But I’m learning the value of giving thanks all over again while spending much of the last few days in the trauma unit of our local hospital. This time I’m not here as a caregiver, but as a family member.  My younger sister, while battling an illness,  sustained a head injury in a fall and has been fighting for her life. Some of you have walked this journey yourself. There’s lots of watching and waiting and praying at a time like this.

Since we are going through our 30 Days of Thankful, I’ve chosen to begin each difficult morning thanking God for what He is doing and will continue to do in this situation. I’ve also been watching for evidence of His work, jotting down each little sign of hope—however tiny—in my journal.

There have been many. Like the kind custodian who assured me that God was “in control” and then, looking over at my comatose sister, said with conviction, “She’s going to be all right.” Or the beautiful chaplain with a Middle Eastern background whose family had once smuggled Bibles into her closed country. What a special time of prayer we had together. Or the beautiful garden I discovered—a nice spot to have lunch in the bright October sunshine; and the beautiful walking trail just outside the hospital; the friends who dropped by at just the right moment to pray for my sister. The list goes on. We have a long road ahead of us—but today, I have hope. And I am thankful.

Life here on planet Earth is full of these kind of laboratory experiments…opportunities to take God at His Word. It’s not like Jesus didn’t warn us: I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] (John 16:33 AMP).


30 Days of Thankful: Day 22

In everything give thanks,  for this is the will of God…concerning you. (1 Thess. 5:18)

I have been pondering 1 Thessalonians 5:8 as we continue our 30 Days of Thankful. I’m struck by what seems like a double meaning.  Am I to give thanks in every situation because giving thanks is the will of God? Or is God simply reminding me that every situation I encounter is His will for me at the moment?

Perhaps both meanings are true. Everything  I encounter, the good times and the hard times, is God’s will for me. And in each situation, I am to give thanks, because giving thanks is always God’s will for me.

I recently walked through a difficult time with an extended family member who was critically ill. I couldn’t seem to find the words to pray…and even reading the Bible seemed a bit hollow.

But what I could do was to give thanks. To praise God in the midst of the fiery trial actually brought peace. Here’s why I could thank Him:

  • He is still God and He hasn’t changed.
  • He is in control, even if things look out of control.
  • Only He knows what my loved one truly needs.
  • He can bring comfort and peace that defy my own reasoning.
  • He knows how to bring glory to His name through this situation.
  • The burden is not on my shoulders, but on His.

In short, I found thanksgiving to be the most effortless prayer I could pray.  And strangely, as I put the situation squarely into God’s hands, joy began to spring up inside.  A peace that passes understanding.  I’m beginning to have every assurance that God is at work, though I can’t tell you exactly what He’s doing. It’s no wonder that the New Testament words for joy and thanks are so intertwined.  God gives us everything we need, at just the moment we need it, so that we can give thanks to Him in everything.

 


30 Days of Thankful: Day 9

Thanks for stopping by “30 Days of Thankful.”  I know you’ll love these practical tips from Sara Miller as much as I did!

GUEST BLOG:  Sara Miller

I’m an avid reader so it’s no surprise that I’ve been exposed to some great ideas through books I’ve recently read. There are so many wonderful books that explore and explain the concepts of happiness, contentment, joy, and gratitude.

The first book I read that opened my eyes to the practice of gratitude was One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Recently, while reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson I was surprised to be reminded that we can practice and experience happiness long before we “feel” happy. As Olson says, “It’s not something you pursue, it’s something you do.” He addresses a number of ways that we can “practice” happiness in our lives (calling them happy habits) and among them is gratitude.

Olson credits much of what he’s learned about happiness to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage. Here’s the list of “happy habits” Achor and Olson share:

1 – Each morning, write down three things you’re grateful for. I’ve been doing this daily for several months (along with our family’s night-time ritual  and have found it to be a powerful part of starting the day off right! Note – the authors encourage you to find three NEW things each day, so I can’t just say coffee every morning, though I am tempted. J

2 – Journal for two minutes a day about one positive experience you’ve had in the past twenty-four hours. They note that writing down the details causes your brain to “re-experience” the experience and therefore double its positive impact. This is one I hope to begin practicing soon!

3 – Meditate daily. For me, this is a time of silence before prayer. I start my morning routine with a few minutes of intentional silence, allowing God to center me and help me focus on Him, before I rush into my to-do list for the day.

4 – Do a random act of kindness over the course of each day. It can be as small as a quick email to let someone know I’m praying for them or baking cookies for our neighbors. I love being the recipient of acts of kindness and it’s even more rewarding to intentionally think of ways to bring other people joy.

5 – Exercise for fifteen minutes daily. This one has been a challenge! But, thanks to a friend and her recent fitness challenge, I’ve been inspired in this area too. It is amazing that working out for even a small period of time brings about gratitude for the ability to work out, a healthy body, the tools I need, the energy I’m given, and much more. Easy to do, and just as easy not to do, but what a difference in the end!

What “happy habits” are you practicing in your life each day?