A Pastor's Word: Gratitude

"O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south... Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy."
- Psalm 107:1-3, 19-22

Have you ever heard of negativity bias? Negativity bias is what academics call the observed tendency of individuals to both recall negative information more readily and, also, to put more weight on those negative pieces of information. The combined effect is quite large, as we have a larger number of negative pieces of information available and we are also more likely to view them as important. 

The combined effect also means that thankfulness is a discipline. It does not 'just happen.' Even for those who have a more optimistic disposition thankfulness must be practiced and learned. 

This is especially true in terms of our Christianity. "The worst thing that can happen to our Christianity is to let it become a thing taken for granted, which we wear around every day, just as the elder brother wore, and wore out, his existence in the father's house as he would wear an old, tattered shirt.

The marvel of God's gracious act upon our life never really dawns upon us unless we render thanks to him every day. Only the man who gives thanks retains the wonder of God's fatherly love in his thoughts. But one who has this wonder in his thoughts keeps the very spring and freshness of his Christianity. He holds on daily and nightly, to a living joy in his Lord and Savior. He knows that all this is not mere ideas and habits, but life, and fullness, and joy." (Helmut Thielicke)

Notice, please, that embedded in that quote is the idea that this begins as ideas and habits. It is as we pursue them that they become life, fullness, and joy. First we give thanks every day. First we fight to hold on to the wonder of God's fatherly love. 

This takes vision, a vision and a hope that thankfulness truly will be part of what takes us down the road of life, fullness, and joy. 

This takes intention. We must decide that we will walk this road, will it and walk towards it.

This takes means. We must lay out a plan, a path, and take it one step at a time. We may begin with a prayer journal, or with a simple way to remind ourselves to give thanks each morning, or with a heartfelt thanks to someone we love (or don't!). Then we continue. We fight each day to give thanks. 

As we do this we then realize, and only then, that in the fight, in the habit, in the truth of this gratitude, we are drawn into the love of God and we find life, and fullness, and joy. 

Gratitude. What are you doing to practice it today? I might add, to those of you reading this on thanksgiving, when that question may be easy to answer: What will you do to practice it tomorrow? Throughout this week? And beyond? 

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