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Reflection: Give Thanks

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Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate, whether it represents to you philosophy, family, memory, or history. I pray your joy is generous and contagious. I pray it obscures no-one’s pain. May your day be filled gratitude, grace, and no regrets.

Today I’m thinking about the walk of gratitude: how to practice and preserve it.

Because it’s easy to live a compartmentalized life. We can be grateful for three things, and five people, and full of rage or resentment towards everything and everybody else. We can be blessing our friends and mad at the world.

Or we can lose all boundaries, and let a single conflict rob us of gratitude altogether.

So how do we practice thankfulness when people hurt, trouble, or challenge us?

1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 NIV says this:

14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

It’s a curious formula for the grateful life.

  1. Warn the disruptive.
  2. Encourage the disheartened.
  3. Help the weak.
  4. Exercise patience.
  5. Rejoice.
  6. Pray.
  7. Give thanks.

In that order.

So why do it?

We warn the disruptive because being a poison presence in community not only harms the community, it harms us. God brings us together to be a blessing. And surely, as we go through our own processes of healing, and growth, we will all bring sickness into the atmosphere. We have all been toxic at one point. We are still more frequently toxic than we’d like to admit. None of us have the luxury of rooting on the failure of people who challenge us. We are only who we are now by the grace of God.

We encourage the disheartened because it’s easy to grow weary in well doing. It’s even easier to grow weary when we’re not doing everything right. And we all get sad sometimes. But being a friend is often easier than we make it. Sometimes we need to speak to depressed people. Sometimes we just need to sit with them, in their discouragement, so they know they are not alone.

We help the weak because life is hard, and anytime we can help someone else we should. If we have strength in any area, we can use it for good.

We exercise patience with everybody because everybody walks at their own pace. And somebody waited for you.

We rejoice always because there is always something for us to celebrate. We rejoic because we believe enough in answered prayer that we can celebrate before we ask.

We pray continually because there is always a need. There are always people we can lift up.

We give thanks in all circumstances, because things could always be worse. And if we exercise compassionate concern for others, we quickly see how many problems we DON’T have. So we can choose gratitude. We can always find something to be thankful for.

So today, I am choosing gratitude. I am working on the rest of the list.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

I thank God for you.

(Photo Credit: Marcus Wockel)

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