In her book entitled If Life is a Game, These are the Rules Dr Cherie Carter-Scott said, “To be grateful means you are thankful for and appreciative of what you have and where you are on your path right now. Gratitude fills your heart with joyful feelings of being blessed with many gifts and allows you to fully appreciate everything that arises on your path.”
With the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year) quickly approaching us, some will be filled with mixed emotions. Some will be filled with sadness that the years have flown by and swept their loved-ones away into eternity. Some will be filled with excitement that they get to spend time with their families and catch-up with relatives whom they haven’t seen all year long. And, still there are others who will be filled with a little bit of both of these emotions, sadness and excitement.
Furthermore, let me encourage you with the words of Saint Paul: When he was writing to the church in Philippi, he said to them “…I have learned to be content with whatever I have…I have learned the secret of living in every situation…” (4:12). I sincerely believe that the secret that Saint Paul learned was the power of gratitude. Gratitude is something that is felt deep within the heart. It is being grateful and thankful for what we have and where we are on our journeys. About two years ago, I began keeping a gratitude journal. It helped me to change my focus from the things that I don’t have to the things that I do have. It also helped me to begin to count my blessings, one-by-one. Every day I take time out to praise and thank God for all that He has done for Michelle and me. You would be amazed at even the little things that I thank God for: like food to eat, a warm bed to sleep in at night, a nice home, a wonderful church family, good health, a reliable car to drive, etc. These things may seem menial on the surface; however, think about what it would be like if you had to live without them. There are countless persons all over America praying for these very things—things that we sometimes take for granted.
Therefore, let me encourage you to practice gratitude during this holiday season (possibly even begin to keep a gratitude journal). Begin to focus on how far God has brought you in your life. Begin to focus on the many blessings that God has bestowed upon you and your family. And, after you have focused on these things long enough begin to give thanks to God for them.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite hymns for this holiday season:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
May the hope, love, peace, and joy of God live in your hearts during this holiday season, as you count your blessings one-by-one.
Pastor Michael L. Sloan