Grateful While Waiting

In one of the books I recently reviewed (It’s Not Your Turn by Heather Thompson Day–Book Review), the author said during a time of waiting, her therapist suggested she look around and then asked, “what do you see?” She saw that despite her frustrations, she had many blessings– a family, a place to live, transportation, and so on. It reminded me of this song. During times when we are waiting and praying for some blessing, it’s wise to consider what we already have. Listen and count your own blessings:

For more posts about blessings see:

Blessings

Mountaintop Blessings

Problems or Blessings #2

Perpetually Discontented

Discontentment seems to be a constant of human life. I guess it can be a good thing in some cases. If we’re not satisfied with our health, we may be motivated to exercise, eat healthy foods, and so on. If we’re unhappy with our spiritual life we might begin to spend more time in bible study and prayer. If we have an inventive bent, being discontented may lead us to imagine and produce a better product. Unfortunately, most of the time being discontented doesn’t work for our good. As James put it,

“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet, but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” James 4:2

Think about Adam and Eve. They had everything a human being needed to be happy, but it wasn’t enough. Then came Cain and Abel — Cain killed his brother because he envied the approval Abel received from God. So, as you can see discontentment may damage our relationship with God and with others. It can quickly lead us into sin.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice.” James 3:16

What’s the remedy? A change of focus. We need to stop looking at ourselves (what we want, what we think will make us happier) and at others (those who have something more or better than we do). We must focus on what God has given us and be thankful. We must also unselfishly rejoice in what God has given to others. If we follow the way of love described in 1 Corinthians, we’ll be content. Our relationship with God and with others will be better, our health will improve (because we’re not angry or worried) and we’ll be happier.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

For more about contentment see:

Content in All Circumstances

Good Stewards are Content

Truly Blessed

Practicing Thankfulness by Sam Crabtree–Book Review

I seem to be doing quite a bit of reading on this topic recently.  You may want to also see:

The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks by Dustin Crowe–Book Review

The author defines thankfulness, or gratitude this way:

“Gratitude is the divinely given spiritual ability to see grace, and the corresponding desire to affirm its’ giver as good.”

He not only defines gratitude, he lists the fruit of gratitude.  For example:

  • Giving thanks fosters the development of other good habits — it frees us from envy, jealousy, self-pity and malice
  • Gratitude has a sanctifying effect on daily things like our marriage and our meals, by recognizing their holiness through prayer
  • It gives the Spirit more room to work in our hearts since it keeps our attention on God and away from ourselves
  • Focusing on blessings has emotional and interpersonal benefits–practicing gratitude has a positive correlation with happiness and optimism
  • It leads to repentance
  • Thankful words have a restorative and healing effect on others

He also mentions the dangers of ingratitude:

  • It can ruin relationships
  • Fosters many maladies from bitterness to suicide
  • It gives us a mistaken sense of entitlement, pride and independence
  • It leads to idolatry, impurity and dishonorable passions

Thankfulness is not simply a feeling, it requires action.  It responds.  When we give thanks, we encourage others, and this is an act of love.  However, while giving thanks costs almost nothing, preparing to give thanks means we must be intentional by cultivating a grateful attitude, being attentive to notice our blessings, and taking time to express our thanks to God and those around us.  It springs from humility and contrition of heart.

Of course, there are hindrances to thankfulness:

  • Spiritual blindness
  • Ingratitude is constantly modeled around us
  • We become preoccupied with problems and forget to focus on our blessings

At the end, Crabtree answers various questions the reader may have about thankfulness, such as how do we express thanks during tragedy or suffering, what to do about problems at church or in marriage.  Finally, he lists one hundred ways to be thankful.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  Inspiring, practical and helpful.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

Practicing Thankfulness: Cultivating a Grateful Heart in All Circumstances | Crossway

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more posts on giving thanks see:

Some Quotes on Giving Thanks

Are You Giving Thanks for the Right Things?

Let Thanksgiving Lead to Action

 

 

 

The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks by Dustin Crowe–Book Review

In the forward to this book, Hannah Anderson states:

“… surrendering to the limits of your circumstances is not the same as surrendering to God.  Resignation is not the same as gratitude and choking desire will not lead to thanksgiving.”

Most of us are pessimists at heart;  gratitude does not come naturally — grumbling does.  Author Dustin Crowe believes that gratitude is a learned response, and in this short book, he gives readers not just a picture of what true gratitude looks like, but some tools to increase it in our lives.

First there is a gratitude quiz so you can determine where you stand on the grumbling/gratitude scale.  At the end of each chapter, you will find some suggestions for building grateful practices into your daily life.  Finally, at the end, there is a gratitude challenge, along with a thirty-day reading plan for study and reflection.

With examples from his own life, Crowe covers:

  • Reasons to give thanks
  • A theology of thanksgiving
  • How to weave thanksgiving into daily life
  • How to give thanks in all seasons

Thanksgiving is not about being a pollyanna:  it’s about surrendering our life to God in complete trust, and then noticing for the ways He is constantly at work, in nature, in the church, and in us as individuals.  Gratitude is an act of worship, that motivates obedience, and leads us to know, love and trust God more.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  If found this book to be both biblical and practical, and I plan to do the gratitude challenge myself.  It would be great to use for study with a small group.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks | Resourcing The Church (moodypublishers.com)

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more on the topic of gratitude see:

Practicing Gratitude

We Owe Him

Let Thanksgiving Lead to Action

 

 

Take It With You

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I just finished a book titled Leading with Gratitude by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.  It’s primarily directed toward managers and business executives, explaining how expressing gratitude to employees will result in increased productivity, better morale and less turnover.  If you read the book, you’ll find there is plenty of research to support these findings.

And there is more!  Gratitude is good for the person expressing it as well.  The authors recommend keeping a daily journal of the things you are thankful for. Several studies of more than 2000 people shows:

“The benefits of counting blessings are tangible, emotionally and physically….People are 25 percent happier and more energetic if they keep gratitude journals, have 20 percent less envy and resentment, sleep  10 percent longer each night and wake up 15 percent more refreshed, exercise 33 percent more, and show a 10 percent drop in blood pressure compared to persons who are not keeping these journals.”

What a simple way to improve our lives!  In addition, another researcher, has this to say about the relationship between gratitude and joy.

“In my twelve years of research on eleven thousand pieces of data, I did not interview one person who had described themselves as joyful who did not actively practice gratitude.”

The last chapter of the book is called Taking It Home.  The authors recommend that we practice showing appreciation not only in our work lives, but with our friends and family and yes, even others with whom we come in contact. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Make a commitment to give some undivided attention to your loved ones
  • Be excited to see them
  • Give immediate positive feedback to family members
  • Give them a break (we all make mistakes)
  • Be grateful to your spouse
  • Practice random gratitude  (smile at people, say thank you, remember someone’s name)
  • Be grateful for obstacles and even cranks (remember my previous post about how obstacles are opportunities? see An Opportunity?
  • Serve others together
  • Smell the roses
  • Write letters of appreciation

Of course, if you’re a Christian, none of this is surprising.  As you can see in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians which I listed at the beginning, we are to give thanks in everything.  So, I agree with the authors and I say wholeheartedly, practice gratitude and take it with you.  Take it everywhere you go and spread it around as much as you can.  You’ll be a happier person, and so will those around you.

the thank-you project by Nancy Davis Kho–Book Review

Upon turning 50, the author, Nancy Davis Kho, decides to write 50 letters of gratitude during the year.  Why?  Well, for one thing practicing thankfulness is good for you.  Here are some of the benefits studies have shown:

  • Gratitude “rewires” the brain to reward us for the positive perceptions we have of those around us;  this begets more gratitude and a feeling of “elevation” that makes us want to become morally better ourselves!
  • Negative emotions like fear or anger trigger increased heart rate, accelerated breathing and muscle tension == positive emotions like gratitude help us relax, feel safe and connected with others
  • There are many physical health benefits — better sleep, more energy, improved control of asthma

She also felt that the age of 50 (half-way or more through life), was a good time to look back and reflect on those who helped to mold you into the person you have become.

Nancy boils her letter-writing project down to three steps:  see, say, savorSee the people, places and things that have made your life meaningful.  Say something to acknowledge that impact.  Keep copies of all the letters to write so that you can reread them and savor the generosity that supports and surrounds you.

She suggests making a list of those you want to write to, and of course that list will include family, friends, and probably mentors– people you love and admire.  However, she has a thought-provoking idea — you may want to include people who have taught you hard lessons — the difficult relative, the ex-boyfriend, the unreasonable boss.  Even those people have taught you something you needed to know.  Even those people may call up some good memories, or have some good qualities to commemorate.  You may even choose to write a letter to certain places, passions or hobbies that have influenced you over the years!

Another point — you do not need to mail the letters, or at least all the letters.  There may be people you wish to thank who have died, or that you cannot locate.  It may seem inappropriate to contact some.  The personal benefits of acknowledging your gratitude will still accrue.

The book guides the reader through writing the letters.  For example, it is suggested that you begin with a brief explanation of why you are writing, so the person doesn’t feel “weirded out” or stalked by the letter.  Write to older people first — we never know how much time is left to express our thanks to them.  Also, keep the letters about the same length (Nancy chose one page) so that you don’t go overboard with a thousand “do you remember the time” examples.  When writing to several people in the same family –for example your siblings, or your children, you may want to send them all at the same time to avoid the appearance of favoritism.  Some of Nancy’s letters are included as well.

I don’t know if this qualifies as a Christian book, but the author is a Christian (Episcopalian) as one of the letters she writes is to her minister.  Gratitude is certainly a Christian quality, and one we should all cultivate.  How about writing a thank you letter to Jesus?  Anyway, I liked the idea and may try it. What about you, dear reader?  If you decide to embark on a thank-you project, let the Lutheran Ladies know how it goes.

For more on gratitude see these posts:

Practicing Gratitude

Giving Thanks for God’s Mercy

Are You Giving Thanks for the Right Things?

Scarlett’s Spectacles by Janet Surette– Book Review

I loved the bright, whimsical illustrations in this sturdy board book!  Kudos to illustrator, Shane Crampton.

Scarlett is a lovely little girl with an unlovely attitude:  whenever small things do not go her way she pouts, whines and cries.  Mom explains that we all have two choices:  we can put on “glad glasses” or  “grumbly” ones.  Even when those “grumbly glasses” seem more comfortable, they only make us sad.  Scarlett decides to try starting the day with “glad glasses” and finds she has a much happier experience.  She comes to see that when “we look with grateful eyes, there’s always good to find.”

The book closes with this verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:28:

“Give thanks in everything.”

The lesson of gratitude is taught in a winsome story that will delight both young children and their parents.

VERDICT:  I give it 5 stars!

If you would like to purchase this book follow the link below:

Scarlett’s Spectacles

 

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

 

 

 

 

Truly Blessed

There is an elderly lady in our congregation named Bea.  Her health is not good and she lives in a nursing home.  My husband, her Pastor, loves his visits to Bea because she is always cheerful, positive and thankful. According to Bea, the caregivers are so kind to her;  her children and grandchildren visit often;  she has a prayer partner in another state whom she has never met who calls her, sends cards and prays faithfully;  she has a loving church family.  Bea says she has so many reasons to thank God.

Did Bea have an easy life?  Not especially.  She didn’t finish school because she married very young.  She raised a large family.  Her first husband died fairly young.  Her second husband also predeceased her.  Yet Bea tells my husband she is thankful to have had two good men in her life.  She has been in and out of the hospital due to pneumonia, but when asked how she feels, she believes that each day she is getting a little better.

Bea is not blessed in the eyes of the world.  She is old and ill;  she had no high powered career;  she is not rich or famous.  Yet of all the people I know, she is one of those I consider truly blessed.  She loves God and like the apostle Paul, has learned to be content in all circumstances.  I struggle every day to become more like Bea.

“Now there is great gain in godliness and contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”  1 Timothy 6:6-8

New Month/New Theme

I can hardly believe it’s April and time for a new theme.  This month the Lutheran ladies will be exploring our blessings.  What better time than Easter to do this, for we have just received the greatest possible blessing — freedom from the penalty of sin and reconciliation with God!

Blessings come in many forms:  there are spiritual blessings and material blessings.  People bless us, and we can be blessings to others.  Health is a blessing.  Our very existence is a blessing, one that we should never take for granted, or waste.  If we make  time to “count” our blessings, we’ll find that God’s grace rains down upon us constantly.  Spending time reflecting on what we’ve been given will surely inspire an attitude of gratitude.

Stay tuned, dear readers, for our thoughts on what it means to be blessed, and any other topics that are on the hearts and minds of our authors this month.

Hey Fatty

I know that’s rude, in my defense I’ve only said that to my dog. And so far, since I’ve kept my tone loving, she doesn’t mind at all. (I really do love my dog, I just have a twisted sense of humor.) But call a person that and O M Goodness, it’s on. Do I have a point? Well yeah, people are obese and they’re sensitive about it. Me too I might add. No one has to point out to me my extra weight. I’m well aware. How’d I get that way? Did I stuff my face way to much? No, not really. Although I admit I’m not always great about what I eat. My main problem is a lack of activity. I went from fairly active, to not so much. (My injury had a lot to do with that.) So it’s hard, harder than it might be for other people. But that’s OK. That’s my normal. This is me. Would I like to loose weight? Of course. What’s my point again? Fattys like me might not be as lazy as they look.

Maybe sometimes that person we’re looking at has a story. Maybe we’re more than what we look like. God told Samuel that he saw human hearts, He said he saw past our bodies. And I’m both glad and concerned when I hear that. I’m glad he sees past my crippled body, and I hold out concern for what I know is a dingy heart I hold.

That being said, there’s an obvious increase in obesity in this country. Sometimes, we do need to remember we eat to live. Not live to eat. And moderation applies to food as well as politics. Sometimes a weight issue is rightly attributed to overindulgence. God provides well for us, and we need to thank Him for it. That might mean showing some discipline and gratitude. Discipline through restraint, and gratitude through sharing with those less fortunate.