MANY PEOPLE FIND WRITING about what they are thankful for in a journal is a great way to practice gratitude. Others vocalize their gratitude in a small group or with a spouse or friend. I know a young mom who expresses her own gratitude and teaches her children to do the same by naming something for which she is thankful every evening before dinner. I know a retired military officer who places his hand over his heart every morning and expresses his gratitude for his own life and for the lives of others. I know a young college graduate who compiled a gratitude list that includes the sound of rain, the smile of a stranger, access to running water, watching a puppy play, and the tenderness of his grandparents holding hands.
Gratitude expands our capacity for delight. Delight, joy, and happiness are gifts God wants to give us in all circumstances and in spite of our circumstances. When we express gratitude — when we find delight in God’s goodness — we are freer to love and serve others.
– Rebecca Dwight Bruff
WHY SHOULD WE WEEP with those who weep? Because Jesus showed God’s love for us by weeping with us in our weeping and dying with us in our dying. Such weeping is not a mistake, or a reason for embarrassment — it is instead one of the most important spiritual resources available to us. We are not in control in such traumatic circumstances. I think we often go to great extents in our minds and our emotions to try to rationalize our lack of control. We are not in control of the reality of which we are a small part, and our powerlessness leads us to tears.
In crying, we acknowledge our lack of control, our inability to have things the way we want them. In crying, we are not failing to be strong; we are being strong enough to acknowledge our weakness, our humanness. A friend once said that tears in such a situation are really a form of prayer to God, a confession of our limitedness, our humanity. I think that statement contains great truth. In such situations, tears are the bodily expression of humility. Tears are our humble acknowledgment that while we are beings created by God in God’s image, we are not God. When we cry those kind of tears we are being real, and being real is a necessary step toward the threshold of real holiness. That threshold is humility.
– Gregory S. Clapper
TYPICALLY IN OUR SOCIETY, we believe that time must be filled with as many activities as possible. We eat dinner while we watch television. We read a book while we ride a bus. We talk on the phone while we fold the laundry. On a lovely morning, we’ll decide to sit on the deck and enjoy a cup of coffee, but we also take the radio, the television, a book, the newspaper, a laptop computer, some handwork, or the telephone. Or we might plan to catch up on bill paying, correspondence, mending, or the grocery list.
If we take only a cup of coffee, what happens? We find other things to do. We see the roses need pruning or the lawn needs mowing or the trash needs to be picked up. So we rush for our pruning shears, lawn mower, or trash can. The moment and the morning are lost.
Is it possible to do just one thing at a time? Try it for yourself. Take that cup of coffee and sit in a lawn chair. Taste the coffee — really taste it. When was the last time you really tasted something for itself? Now feel the lawn chair beneath you, the breeze on your face, the sun on your back. Hear the birds in the trees, the traffic on the road, and the children’s voices from the next yard. Savor the moment completely. Experience the joy of the now.
– Patricia Wilson.
THE AVERAGE YOUNG person or adult spends at least half of his or her time in some form of work or serious activity. It is only fitting that this should become the subject of our prayers.
Not in order to “succeed” in the world’s eyes, or to make more money, but to be fulfilled. To be creative in our use of the talents and gifts God has given us. To be thoughtful of others in the way we do our work.
One of Jesus’ most important parables was about three men entrusted with money to invest for their master
The parable was actually about the Pharisees, who were unimaginative stewards of God’s grace.
But Jesus clearly had respect for careful, eager workmen; otherwise, the point of the parable would not have been so well made.
God is as concerned about our work as the other aspects of our lives, and this should encourage us to bring our work into the divine presence when we pray.
– John Killinger
YEARS AGO, I heard a sermon about Jesus’ prayer from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The speaker said that people often don’t realize that what they do hurts us or how those hurts affect us. He asked us to think about the person who had hurt us most. For me that was easy: my dad. He asked us to think about the worst thing that person had done to hurt us. I thought of the physical and verbal abuse. Then he asked us to pray for that person, saying, “Father, forgive _______, for that person did not realize what he or she was doing.” I prayed the prayer, feeling and understanding that God was calling me to forgive. But I sensed no change in myself.
Some time later, as I was replacing the electrical plug on my toaster, I thought, I’m glad Dad taught us this kind of stuff. I couldn’t do this if he hadn’t taught me how. That positive thought about my dad signaled a change in my feelings.
But as I moved forward, I realized that forgiving Dad’s actions was not enough. The effects of those actions had limited me in many ways. His verbal abuse warped my image of myself so that I doubted my abilities; I had to forgive him for that. My troubled relationship with him made it difficult for me to interact with men in healthy ways, and I had to forgive him for that. His behavior interfered with my seeing God as a loving parent, which affected my spiritual life. I had to forgive him for that. In ways large and small, I have had to forgive him again — not for new actions but for effects of the old ones.
Forgiving a former spouse is not a straight line. Forgiving resembles a spiral. At the center of the spiral lie the hurtful actions. As we come to new spiritual awareness and see connections between past hurts and present attitudes and actions, we may have to forgive again. And farther on, as we discover other pain and scars, we may have to forgive again — as many times as it takes to be free.
– Mary Lou Redding
OFTEN, WE WITHHOLD our deepest needs from another, secretly hoping those needs will be noticed without being spoken. For example, instead of stating her desire to go out to dinner, a woman says to her husband, “Have you ever noticed how Jim and Frances go out to dinner every week?” Or, when you ask a friend who is in the middle of a divorce how things are going, rather than tell you his feelings, he says that everything is fine.
Talk that matters can only happen when people begin to speak honestly about themselves — their opinions, insights, needs, wants, and hopes. If you suspect you may be avoiding the expression of your feelings and thoughts, pay close attention to the way you answer questions and express opinions.
– by Susan Lee Lind
PART OF LEARNING to pray continually is to stay open in prayer. Sometimes after we say amen, we check off prayer on our to-do list and shut down the conversation. But God has invited us — called us — to pray without ceasing, to keep the conversation going all day, every day. The hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” is absolutely correct: “What a privilege to carry every thing to God in prayer!”
– Jenny Youngman