When it comes to life, the critical thing
is whether you take things for granted
or take them with gratitude.
—G. K. Chesterton
Gratitude is the most passionate,
transformative force in the cosmos.
–Sarah Ban Breathnach,
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true,
whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things.
There are two little magic words
that can open any door with ease:
one little word is “thanks”
and the other little word is “please.”
D+: it was an eye-opener of a grade—knocking the wind out of me!
The formal assignment had been to write a “critical review” of one of our readings in a Church History class. It’s not that I thought I deserved an A. But, a D+!?! Surely, there’d been some kind of mistake.
There was… and it was mine.
“The assignment was to write a ‘critical review’,” the professor explained. “That means assessing a book for its weaknesses and its strengths. All you did was focus on what was wrong with the book.”
Yes, that was my mistake and that was one of the big lessons I learned that first year in Seminary: being “critical” does not mean being “negative” as much as it means looking at both sides fairly.
I fear that my perception then is too much an inclination of too many still today (including myself, still): namely, looking at life with “critical” eyes that only see the wrong, the bad, the negative.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with probing programs and thoughts to the end that we see their weaknesses (or those areas in need of improvement). The Scriptures themselves call us to “test the spirits.” However, such testing must never be at the expense of seeing the good in life! In a world that can be overly negative, the real need for deliberateness and discipline is in the direction of focusing on the joys, of taking things with gratitude.
For this reason, I’d like to encourage you to join me in the “holy habit,” the spiritual discipline, the means of grace which is keeping a “Gratitude Journal.” Sarah Bon Breathnach describes it early on in her bestseller, Simple Abundance:
I have a beautiful blank book and each night before I go to bed, I write down five things that I can be grateful about that day. Some days my list will be filled with amazing things, most days just simple joys… Other days — rough ones — I might think that I don’t have five things to be grateful for, so I’ll write down my basics: my health, my husband and daughter, their health, my animals, my home, my friends,…
A gratitude journal is the first step on the path to Simple Abundance… Simplicity order, harmony, beauty, and joy—all the other principles that can transform your life—will not blossom and flourish without gratitude… You simply will not be the same person after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life… For, doing so, you will have set in motion an ancient law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more you will be given…
It’s a proven discipline to which Kathy and I can speak—both in our own lives and in the lives of our children (with whom we made “Joy Journaling” a part of the evening ritual… especially at those times when their lives and focus were overly negative): in seasons and times in which we have “Counted Our Blessings,” the benefits have been joy-giving and life-changing.
Bookended as it is by All Saints Day and Thanksgiving (and even the beginning of Advent), November is an especially pronounced season of gratitude that my soul needs and embraces. Invariably, it has me wanting and needing to return to the evening ritual which is my “Gratitude Journal.” And not, I pray (again), just for this immediate season!
Admittedly, like all disciplines and discipline, it doesn’t come easy or naturally. But, it’s ultimately worth it! (cf., Hebrews 12:11)
May I encourage you to join me in this ritual?
Give it three weeks and see what happens!
I’d love to hear about your experience in the weeks ahead!
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