Tag Archives: gratitude

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 23

My friend Leslie’s beautiful transparency challenge me to realize that a thankless heart is no small thing. Her words inspire me to be ruthless with those things in my life that get in the way of a thankful heart!

GUEST BLOG: By Leslie Long

Recently I was reading in Genesis 3. I watch the serpent lead Eve into doubts about God and what He really commanded her and Adam not to do. Once she is thoroughly distracted with desire, Satan convinces Eve that if she eats the fruit of the forbidden tree, she will actually become like God.

The couple, unlike the serpent, had been made in the image of God. Adam and Eve were already like God! Satan’s play at tempting Eve to get the only thing God withheld caused her to stumble. She forgot that she already had something far better than what Satan was offering. I imagine God giving Eve the world, and with a thankless, calloused heart, she refuses it and demands more.

It’s as if I’m looking into a mirror and find that so it is with me. I’ve come to learn that I simply cannot give thanks or live in joy when my heart is ravaged with discontentment.

Satan gives voice in my own heart to the lies he told Eve thousands of years ago and I stumble into my old ways, forgetting the good gifts given to me. Instead of giving thanks, I turn my nose up to what my Father has offered and implore He give me more.

If only my marriage were easier, I’d praise you more. If you made me look like her, I’d have no problem being joyful. If I didn’t struggle with anxiety, then I’d be free. If you made my calling clear, then I would be more advanced in my career. This is the hard, honest truth of my childish heart. I hardly notice the treasure He has laid before me because I, like Eve, am distracted by Satan’s devices.

But what about the unseen good gifts of refining that God did through a tough first year of marriage? Or in the battle with self-image? Or in trusting Him with my anxiety? What about the beauty He may create there? Isn’t that the gift He promises? To be with us through the trial, continuing His work in us?

I’m too busy being discontented to see that these are the things He is calling me to be thankful for! And the truth hits me: This life is about God’s glory, not my ease and happiness. In His kindness, He is drawing me near and through these hard things and by His grace, I’m finding out who He really is.

He goes even further and creates such rich eternal beauty in me. Had he catered to my pleas and removed me from these hard places, I wouldn’t experience this newness in intimacy with the Lord.

In her foreword to the book, Choosing Gratitude, Joni Eareckson Tada writes, “I give God thanks in my wheelchair…I’m grateful for my quadriplegia. It’s a bruising of a blessing. A gift wrapped in black. It’s the shadowy companion that walks with me daily, pulling and pushing me into the arms of my Saviour. And that’s where the joy is…”

These days, God’s kindness in the midst of my sin leads me to repentance. I find myself saying a simple prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to do what I cannot: “Please, Lord, help me to trust when I cannot see. Will you help me remember you have given me exactly what I need? Would you create a more thankful heart in me?  And when it is hard to see, I pray to remember the beauty into which you’ve folded and encompassed me: covered in righteousness, lavished with grace, claimed as beautiful daughter with a strong eternal Hope waiting beneath every fear, concern and struggle- like a rush of relief that reminds, this is not the end of the story!” Thank God.


30 Days of Thankful: Day 20

The opposite of showing gratitude is to take something for granted. When life becomes too familiar, we can forget to be thankful. My friend Leslie will refresh your appreciation for ordinary days—and challenge you to see each day as a gift of time.

GUEST BLOG: Leslie Berens

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-17).

I had coffee yesterday with a very dear friend. We love to encourage each other to have a “purpose driven life” and to use the gifts that God gave us to further his kingdom. It’s always a special time of “girl talk.” We’re both doers and achievers, so encouraging each other to get out and DO is exciting for us.  She happened to mention that she probably has about two decades left in her life. A little over 22 years to reach others for Christ and teach her passion, which is developing a meaningful prayer life.

Deep inside I’m thinking: Whoa girl!!!!! ONLY 22 more years.  I didn’t say that to her but right away I’m thinking: “Wow, that is not much time in our lives.”

The words from Ephesians 5 popped out to me: Make the most of the time! I have been very blessed to travel the world, hike the Grand Canyon, see the powerful Niagara Falls, walk the Great Wall, teach hundreds of kids how to swim, bring three children into this world, multi-task with the best, and be married for over 30 years to the same man!

 But maybe I haven’t made the most of my time in terms of how God wants me to use my life.  Perhaps you can relate.  Maybe my time has been spent on me and my  family’s hopes and dreams.

How do you spend your time? How do you think God wants us to make the most of the time?

For me, now in this season of my life, I don’t go anywhere until I have a quiet time with God and let him teach me His word.  I’ve started to walk slower, notice more people in need, care for the poor, cultivate friendships more deeply, be alert and pray fervently. I ask myself while in the grocery store who might need an extra encouragement today? God, who will you put in my path that I can share my faith even if I’m late to spin class or yoga? Maybe there is a co-worker in your midst who could use some Godly encouragement this day!

My prayer is this: Let us be wise and not foolish and make the most of our time while here on your precious Earth, oh Lord!



30 Days of Thankful: Day 18

Whoever said these words got it right: “It’s hard to be thankful for something you think you deserve.” The world is full of people who believe that their parents, siblings, school, job, God, or society owe them something.   This can sometimes occur when a person feels they’ve experienced more than their fair share of hardship. Such was not the case with my friend Becky.

No doubt Becky had suffered throughout her life. She had been born with a handicap that left her with a stature of just under 4 feet tall. But I forgot about her disability the minute I met her. Becky’s face was beautiful—but it was her regal grace, her cheerfulness, and her kindness to others that I most remember. I have only a dim memory of her humped back and deformed legs. It was Becky’s inner strength and trust in the Lord left me wanting to know her secret.

I was in my early twenties at the time—just a young bride. Becky was married, too, and well into her forties. This was long before breakthroughs in physical therapy and special accommodations for the disabled would have made life a little easier for her. I couldn’t imagine how she could have grown up with so little self-pity and such a rock solid faith in God. Part of the reason was her thorough knowledge of Scripture—she was one of the best Bible teachers I’ve ever known.

But as I got to know Becky better, I learned that her thankful spirit was also due to the way her wise, godly parents had raised their handicapped daughter. “If my mother and father ever noticed that I didn’t seem thankful for the blessings I had, or if my attitude became selfish, they’d tell me that I must have too many blessings,” she explained with a smile. “So they’d cut back on gifts and privileges for a while until I showed a little more gratitude for what I had.”

I’ve sometimes wondered if God notices when I struggle with being thankful or when I feel entitled. Is He anything like Becky’s wise and loving parents who refused to encourage self-pity in their disabled daughter? Becky’s words have remained with me all these years—I can almost hear her gently warning me not to take the blessings of this life for granted.

No doubt, she’d also point me back to the Bible and remind me to “ rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV).