Knowing we are loved and invited, we approach God not out of fear or shame, but out of a thankful heart for the grace and life we have, are and will receive. Think of how often in the Scriptures, the people of God are encouraged to “remember” the works of God. Remember, how God has protected and provided for them. Remember, how they are loved and who they are becoming. Remember, how they are blessed to be a blessing. All through Scripture we are challenged to emulate and share a lifestyle of thankfulness and gratitude for all that God has done, is doing and will do.
For me, learning a life of gratitude began around the kitchen table. Growing up our family’s meals all began with the same question, “Who will give thanks?” Meaning who is going to pray before the meal we are about to eat? No one dared to dish up their plate until this practice had taken place. As kids, at holiday gatherings, we knew whose prayers were shorter or longer, so we always hoped a certain Uncle prayed, over a certain Grandfather for that meant we’d get to eat sooner. This is a practice I still continue now with my own family – the practice of giving thanks before a meal not hoping a certain person prays over another . . . just to clarify. Pondering this practice with my own family it is so much more than a ritual, it is the fostering of a lifestyle of gratitude.
Our day is filled with constant motion. Rushing from one activity to another. Pausing at the beginning of each meal enables us to create a space for others to join; for us to catch our breath; for us to remember we are more than our doing; reminding ourselves we are part of something larger.
Hand in hand with the rushing around is all the noise you and I consistently experience. Visual noise, auditory noise, internal noise. Quieting ourselves throughout the day even for a few moments can help to shape and transform the disquiet of the normal flow of our lives.
I’ve always found it intriguing listening to the persona people take on as they pray. A former pastor of mine was like a newscaster getting to the point with headline-like sentence prayers. My Father-In-Law seemed to channel a 16th century preacher who prays in King James. No matter what it is, we give ourselves over to the other as we listen and join with them. Listening in prayer there is an active passivity that parallels growing into a life of gratitude.
If a life of gratitude is anything, it is raucously celebrating what is before us and who is beside us.Respond
“Amen.” “We agree.” “That’s the truth.” Is really what we’re saying. But typically for us around the table it means – Let’s eat! To an accompanying chorus of cheers and requests to pass the potatoes. A life of gratitude isn’t just about silent contemplation, it’s also a raucous response in celebration and enjoyment of what one has been so graciously given. Around the table when we say, “Amen!” We are celebrating what is before us and who is beside us. If a life of gratitude is anything, it is raucously celebrating what is before us and who is beside us.
Receive . . . Reflect . . . . Respond . . .
The exercises below can be used for your own reflection time with Christ but will take on a transformative dynamic when they are used in community with your family, small group or church.