Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Life of Gratitude

Do you ever feel like your circumstance is sucking the life right out of you? That you just want to stay in bed until the clouds break and the sun decides to finally peak out and offer you a ray of hope? Do you ever feel like nothing is going right?

I know you have. Everyone has. And if you say you haven't, my guess is that you are either A. in denial or B. an ultra optimistic person.

In recent months, I have felt much like a wanderer, wading through a desert with no oasis in sight. Truthfully, my soul has felt the dryness of the sand. Parched. Thirsty. Worn. There has been little joy, little relief from the day to day stresses of not having enough, not feeling enough, not being enough.

It's draining. That lack of joy. You bleed out, life removed.

Through some divine act (I'm not a big reader, especially when stressed), I have been reading a book lately called 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Her writing is everything I aspire to, poetic and profound. Her words paint beautiful, sometimes painful pictures of life and loss and how to live in gratitude in the in midst.

She calls it eucharisteo. Simply meaning: to give thanks. Her goal: notice and record 1000 gifts. Her result: a life of gratitude.

As I have read I have been smacked hard with the fact that I am living with a major lack of gratitude. My focus has shifted, the foreground of joy obscured by dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. There is no denying life has been difficult, that wouldn't be genuine. There is also no denying that I have forgotten the good that God is giving. Those peaks of sun, the rays of hope that light up the darkness of stress and fatigue. My sight has been so obscured by the negative that I have lost all view of the positive. Selfish. Prideful. Ungrateful.

In my distress I have cried out to God. I have whined, I have complained. I have pleaded for an end in sight. I have been silent with frustration. I have not given thanks.

A life of gratitude doesn't begin when things are in order. A life of gratitude comes from knowing the Giver of good. From knowing that He is enough, even when the world around us is falling apart. It comes from finding the good gifts that Abba Father has been giving you in the worst of times.

Ann didn't focus on writing down gifts that God gives that are profound. She didn't focus on the answered prayers, or materialistic gifts. She focused on the mundane, the day to day. She found thanks for the obscure gifts that God gives. The little things like a child's laughter, a husband's warm embrace, the way the sun pours into morning windows. Little glimmers of God's goodness to us.

That focus on the small, seemingly insignificant gifts is what shifts our focus. The foreground becomes clear, we begin to see the good in life. We begin to see God in the little things. The Good Creator. The scales begin to fall off our eyes and we begin to see with a clear perspective. If I can shift my focus to all of the good that the Good Giver has placed in my life, won't the negative become background? Negative replaced with positive. Yes there will be difficulties, yes life is hard, but is there not much joy to be had each day?

Romans 12:12: "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." (ESV)
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
God commands us to rejoice in hope. There is no qualifier, no "if you feel like it." He commands us to put off anxiety and clothe ourselves with prayer and thanksgiving. This doesn't mean that we will get what we ask for, but that "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts" Isn't that wonderful. What a gift. With prayer and thanksgiving comes the peace of God. A life of gratitude leads to joy and peace in Christ. Because even when life doesn't make sense, when everything falls apart, He stands. Being thankful for what God has already given you (read: Christ on the cross) and for what he is giving you each day (read: the gifts we often overlook) will lead to a peace that transcends all understanding. 

Now the hard part. The practice. The discipline of gratitude. It's not an overnight epiphany, it is a marathon. Something done after months of training and discipline. Days upon days of intentionally noticing the good gifts of the Father. So, following in dear Ann's footsteps, starting tomorrow I will begin my own 1000 gifts. Keeping record of the good in my life, in hopes that my focus will shift. That I will move from a place of dry desert to healing waters. 

Discipline. Practice. God's goodness displayed in the mundane of life. 

Who's with me?

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