Cultivating a Heart of Gratitude

Cultivating a Heart of Gratitude

 "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, into his courts with praise.   Give thanks to Him and bless His name."  
Psalm 100:4

Thanksgiving is almost here! Are you ready spiritually?

Most of us will be with family and friends who are on the spectrum of those we; love, tolerate or want to avoid.

Yet the Bible tells us in all of our dealings we are to be ambassadors of God’s love and when, by God’s grace, His love flows through us we minister to them. But if we allow Satan to block God’s love because we are critical, angry, ungrateful or avoidant we can actually do harm.

I’m a Texas girl – I like it hot! It is for this reason I have a bit of a love hate relationship with autumn. It is hard for me not to grouse inwardly and outwardly about the temperature falling below 60 degrees, the days being shorter and all my summer flowers dying. But on the other hand, I do love that I can burn candles earlier in the evening, I sleep better when my home is 68 degrees and it is also the time of year that host’s my favorite holiday – Thanksgiving!

To me Thanksgiving is perfect!

It is relaxed there are no presents to buy and crowds to fight. My family comes in for an extended 4-day holiday to unwind, slow down and just be. The food is yummy, offering predictable comfort foods filled with tradition of long-standing family recipes that fill my home with aromas that waft through the vents letting everyone know I am up preparing at least one of everyone’s favorite dishes.

Yet looking on the bright side of things is hard for many of us, but why?

Dr. Allison of Psychology Today speaks of two reasons we think so negatively. For one thing, we live in a society that rewards critical thinking. People who are always looking for what is wrong, what needs to be tweaked and who’s to blame. We are steeped in competitiveness, a group of people who strive to set themselves apart, to be the best as they beat others.

The more primal reason is we humans go so quickly to the negative stems back to our caveman days. During those times people focused on danger – the human brains is wired to see potential hazards that threaten our existence as a means of survival.

But today, most of us are not focused on our daily physical survival yet our brains still want to go there. Instead of physical survival we focus on emotional survival warding off judgment, rejections, failure, etc.

Unfortunately, both of these two manners of thinking tend to make it hard for us to focus on the positives. Dr. Allison speaks of research that says you need a ratio of 5 positive thoughts to 1 negative thought to feel happy. She also states that negative thinking works against us often causing anxiety, fear, suspicion, depression and self-doubt. Therefore, it seems imperative we should strive to see the positives over negatives not only for our emotional health but because Scripture commands it of us.

While life has taught us, we can’t always control what happens we can control how we respond to it.  Paul teaches us real happiness is not found in external circumstances it must come from within, what Scripture calls the peace which surpasses all understanding. This God given peace can’t be found in negative thoughts and attitudes nor in passives indifference – we must each be present to our circumstances – and that includes responding well to family, friends and co-workers that “push our buttons”.

So how do we do this? Psalm 100:4 above gives us the answer. We are to always be focused on gratitude. It is to be an active intentional activity. We are to enter into His presence with thanksgiving and praise. As this posture of gratitude becomes more innate our minds begin to focus on the positives in our situations and in other people.

One of the beautiful things about Thanksgiving is it is a time that asks us to specifically look at all we’ve been blessed with and to give Thanks for all God has done, is doing and will do!

Dear Heavenly Father, you know how each of us struggle with negative thoughts and attitudes, bless us this holiday season and beyond by the power of your Holy Spirit with grateful and rejoicing hearts so that we may be effective lights of encouragement and peace for all you bring before us. Help us to remember we are not only to do church for the sake of others but are to live our daily lives that way too out of reverence for Christ. Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen