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Spiritual Disciplines

November 2017: Gratitude

Posted by Eric Livingston on

This post is two days late. Why? Because it’s fall. Fall is when the pace of my own life becomes frantic. The rhythm of my ministry picks up during this season as we continue with the normal activity of the year and add on preparation for 2018. Basketball season begins which means coaching multiple practices and games each week. I’ve got projects going at the house which require my time. And I’m still a husband and father. My life is busy - as is yours.

If you’ve been on this journey throughout the year of practicing spiritual disciplines, you may have noticed that one commonality among all these disciplines is that they combat busyness. The disciplines invite us to slow down, make room for God, and be instead of do. It’s not easy. That’s why it’s called “practice.”

On November 1, I was in Kroger picking up a few things I needed for our Wednesday night gathering. Walking by the Coca-cola I realized I was singing along with the ambient music in the store: “...and the children say he could laugh and play just the same as you and me…”

I froze. My halloween candy hangover had not quite subsided and now I was subconsciously singing along to Frosty the Snowman. How was this possible? We had skipped right over Thanksgiving and Advent and landed square in a secular Christmas wonderland.

So, I invite us both to pause for a moment, gather our perspective on life, and prepare to practice the spiritual discipline of gratitude.

Practicing a life of gratitude goes beyond counting your many blessings or offering thanks over a warm turkey dinner on a Thursday in November. It is a way of seeing the world. Having gratitude changes one’s posture toward others and creation. Humility increases as we grow to see how we are dependent on God’s graciousness and the help, compassion, and encouragement of others.

So what are some ways you can practice gratitude?

  • Journal - at the beginning of each day (before stress accumulates) write down things you are grateful for
  • Observation - as you drive, turn off your radio, embrace the silence and notice the elements of creation around you (trees, flowers, clouds, sky, sun, moon). At first it may just feel like you’re looking around, but after a few days, you will discover new levels of appreciation for the beauty of creation surrounding you that was dimmed by the radio and tail lights in front of you.
  • Tell others - once a day or week offer a prayer of gratitude for someone else’s service in ministry or Kingdom actions. Then make sure to find them and tell them (preferably face to face) that you have expressed thanksgiving for them in prayer.
  • You are what you eat - before your meal, don’t just offer a prayer thanking God for the food, give thanks for the life of each specific element of the meal. Give thanks for the life of the animal that is present on the plate. Give thanks for the life, fueled by sun and water, of the plants that grew out of the earth.
  • Aim small - it’s easy to name the things we are most grateful (and this isn’t a bad thing to do), but look for the very smallest of details in life that make you comfortable or sustain your life or give you great joy. Give thanks for these things.

As you begin to intentionally practice being a person filled with gratitude, you may notice that you become constantly overwhelmed with gratitude. This position is a great source from which to live a full, abundant life. Be thankful in all things. Especially in the toasted marshmallows on top of the sweet potatoes.

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