My mentor, Alan Ahlgrim, led me through a process a few years ago of writing out five things for which I am grateful every day. That’s right, every day. When we had our monthly phone call, he would ask me, “How’s your `List of Thanks’ coming along?” You want to know how long I kept up with this new daily discipline? Until he stopped asking.
It’s not that I’m ungrateful (I don’t think). But you know how it is. Life happens, we get busy, and I stopped writing out my “Daily Five.” With everything going on in our nation right now, however, I think I need to blow the dust off my list and get started once again.
My big takeaway when Alan got me started on this daily discipline of gratitude is that we can choose gratitude over grumbling. We choose our attitude. Thoughts may drift, or plunge, into our minds, but what we do with them from there is the issue. If I dwell on the negative and allow my mind to close in on the chaos, my attitude becomes a weed-bed instead of a seed-bed. If I dwell on the positive—“whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8)—then my attitude becomes a seed-bed to grow in gratitude and contentment (Philippians 4:11).
Augustine described the Christian as “an alleluia from head to foot.” George Herbert, a seventeenth-century Anglican poet, wrote a prayer, “You have given so much to me. Give me one more thing—a grateful heart.” The brilliant author, G. K. Chesterton, stated as “the chief idea of my life” the practice of “taking things with gratitude and not taking things for granted.” He passionately agreed with the artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he is genuinely thankful, but has nobody to thank” (Guinness, The Call, 265).
In these troubling days of COVID-19, racial injustice, ongoing riots, political turmoil, and economic uncertainty, I challenge you to choose an attitude of gratitude rather than a spirit of despair. Make it a daily discipline to create your own “List of Thanks,” and be grateful that you have Someone to thank.
Os Guinness declared that the motto of every believer should be: “Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace” (idem.). The choice is yours. Is your attitude going to be a weed-bed or a seed-bed that will grow in gratitude and contentment?
Let’s go be an alleluia from head to foot.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).