I have been reading the most intriguing books over Christmas by a lady called Anne Voskamp. If you can download her book or order it online do it…it is the best book I have read on grace and the act of being thankful. I felt convicted, encouraged, and pointed back to Christ. I would count this as perhaps the most influential book I’ve read outside the Bible within the last five or so years. This is a message that needs to be learned—not just heard, not just “Oh yes, that sound nice,” but truly, transformingly learned—by everyone in the church today. The author, Ann VosKamp shares her own story of the theology of thanksgiving. Her book can not just be read but must be activated or it simply becomes prose and sweet sayings that make us feel good in the moment but bring no real transforming power to our Iives. As I read the book of Philippians and let Ann’s book get activated in my life I can not help but see a message running through this letter that aligns itself with what hod is needing to do in me.
So I have given a challenge to myself this year. it is Ann’s dare: a dare but also something deeper….a challenge to LEARN thanksgiving : to teach my attitude, my mind, my heart to actively seek out things to be grateful for. To look for grace and and what hod is giving me with and attitude that is proactive, intentional, creative and authentic. This seeking out grace is another key..a key to push discontent away; a key to unlock rusty gates and set my spirit free… This is a dare to prove that the language of Paul works. Thanks is supernatural and other side of it is authentic joy.
The power of thanks and gratitude is the what it does with grace and peace. It helps me see them but also experience them…both. Am I willing to see grace in everything …even the hard stuff and difficult? or do I choose to close my hand to the hard stuff because I don’t see it as grace or good. If the difficult stuff I have walked through can not be experienced as grace then how can I be thankful in all things even the hard things because I refuse to see them as good therefore I refuse to receive them and refuse to grateful for them. Can I see grace in everything? if I can’t, will ‘being thankful’ help me see grace in it? or must I see grace first before I can give thanks for it? Is it a habit or a choice to see what is there to be thankful for?
Today, and tomorrow and the next for the next 365 days and the year after that, is to do this challenge…to take the dare…to simply look for things to be thankful for and write them down until it becomes habit..the habit of pushing off discontent. I am not simply writing down my list but believing that it is a prophetic activity that will bring a shift in my spirit and in my life and realign my life to what God intended for me. I am as normal as the next person… I find it easier to complain and moan and find things to upset me than I do to give thanks.
I am also recording a list so that when my mind tells me that I have nothing and DISCONTENT begins to stir…I have a key to push it back and keep the shackles far from me…I can go to my tangible physical journal and see with my eyes the blessings, the graces, the good, and see in the writing the counting of my blessings and see grace in a visual form.
Paul wastes no time is offering a prayer of thanks as a means of encouragement to this church. To know someone is thankful for you is heart warming. I love the way Paul uses thanks to bring warmth and a sense of love to his readers. As a nurturer I am not always thankful for those I nurture or even willing to show it. How often do we stop and thank those who we love for the part they play in our lives. We so often are looking to be thanked especially from those who we work for. Paul doesn’t expect thanks from them but gives thanks. When did we get it so wrong. When did we feel the sense of entitlement and indebtedness for what we do for others. As a mum how often do I expect my kids to be thankful but not thank them. Paul is thanking them and does it throughout the letter. If I need appreciation ..it is evidence of discontent. When I yearn for approval and appreciation it is yet another sign of discontent, that I have lost sight of truth and lost sight of grace. God already approves of me then my need to feel the accolades and thanks of those I lead and serve fade. When I find myself needing appreciation or lacking it..maybe I am looking to others to meet needs that only I should be finding in Jesus. thanks giving dries up when be eom discontet. DICONTENT arise when stop seeing grace and start feeling lack.
All throughout this letter Paul is not just thankful to God for the people and their generosity but gratitude is felt as you read the the tone whole letter. His whole attitude ..right in the middle of difficult circumstances …thankful, appreciative, gratitude…how often do people hear Christians talking and the language of their heart is moaning, whining, gossiping, demanding, criticising. I show others grace by being thankful. Not thankful plus moaning, thankful BUT….. grace plus grace and only grace.
What place does articulating my struggle and my frustrations and discontent have in all of this. Surely I need to share and be vulnerable and be open about my struggles… Paul doesn’t moan ..even when he is talking about his prison and his circumstances. There has to be a way we can talk about stuff without being negative and selfish and pessimistic, and critical. We can share our story without taking everyone into the pit of dispair. I find this easy in some ways because of my personality but at home ..I can tend to complain about stuff instead of shining thanks on what is hard. Maybe my inability to be thankful is evidence of a lack of trust.
Today…start your own journal…
Today ..find 5 people and tell them to their face what you are grateful for.
Try and catch yourself moaning or whinging and if you do it in front of someone apologise then reword what you were going to say with a thankful heart..
Get your family to share three things each day that they are thankful for.
thanksgiving is your new language. Be deliberate in practicing it until you become fluent.
Lord I do not want to see the glass half empty nor the glass half full ??I want to be grateful that there is something in my glass…..