gratitudeThis post is part of a synchroblog on gratitude as a spiritual practice. The other contributions are listed at the end of this post.

I don’t exactly feel like the most qualified person to write about gratitude. If the topic were complaining or ranting, I would be in more familiar territory.

When I do think of gratitude, I recall a few warm and fuzzy moments when I was moved by a consideration of my many blessings. But there is a side to gratitude that is decidedly an unemotional, raw determination to focus on the good things in life. I think most of us tend to focus on what we don’t have, but believe we should have, or what we have that we wish we didn’t have. There is a definite pull to think we deserve better.

The only way I know to fight against that mentality is to devote that same energy to discovering and rehearsing our blessings. That means we need an adjustment in our expectations. I don’t deserve squat.  So, every good thing I have or unpleasant thing I have been spared from is an undeserved blessing.

I believe God views us as the uniquely gifted, purposeful, pinnacle of his creation. That can only result in gratitude when we think about it, but we usually don’t think about it.  This part of gratitude is hard.

Gratitude keeps us functioning and purposeful, rather than moping around and feeling like a victim. It changes me and changes those around me because attitudes rub off on people. As a matter of fact, a grateful person has the potential to change the attitude of several other people.

I have good friend who thinks like a typical fundamentalist. He believes that the church’s and the country’s best days are behind us. Things are going to Hell in a hand basket. His focus is the past, going back to the good old days, returning to a strict interpretation of the constitution and the teachings of John Calvin. It’s like God died with Calvin and the founding fathers. He believes there is little hope for either the church or the country. His sense of gratitude is in what has long sense passed. Now it hard for him to see anything good.

I just finished reading a great novel, the best I have ever read. It’s entitled, Thin Blue Smoke and it is a redemption tale that revolves around the lives of the regulars at a hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint in Kansas City. The main characters include those who have done time in prison, those who had horrible parents, and people who have painful secrets. But somewhere along the way someone else’s life intersected with theirs. Things changed when they encountered a person who was gracious, positive, and wiling to chance on an unlikely individual. They were people who “counted their blessings” and became a blessing to someone else. When that happens, a life changes, then another, then another, until the power of grace, gratitude and love change a corner of the world.

I want to be like that!

The other synchroblog posts on this topic:

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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  1. Pingback: turning our ingrown eyeballs up & out | kathy escobar.

  2. Pingback: Gratitude in a Culture of Economy | Amy D Martin

  3. Great post, Glenn. It is amazing how much time and energy we use rehearsing all the things to complain about. If we only used that same time and energy to thank God for the good things, our outlook on life would be so much better.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Thanks for the recommendation of Thin Blue Smoke – It sounds very worth reading. And while I find your description of your fundamentalist friend amusing, I also find it accurate, and sad: when we can only recognize God’s goodness in the rear view mirror, moving forward becomes dangerous and difficult.

    • Carol – Thin Blue Smoke is an awesome novel. I highly recommend it. Count on some tears, and laughing out loud. That fundamentalist friend and I don’t agree on much, but he is a great neighbor and I really like him. Funny.

  5. Wow, this:

    “It’s like God died with Calvin and the founding fathers.”

    This is a powerful and profound statement, and I see it. I come from a conservative evangelical background, not Calvinist, but I did grow up in Grand Rapids. 🙂 I can identify with this sentiment from those I know as well. To me, to think and act as if God has died, has become powerless because of what people think, or where a culture is moving says a lot about someones understanding of who God is. To me, it looks like a lack of trust in God, or maybe trust in the wrong places? I’m not sure, but I’ve seen this, and the sentiment is sad and frightening to me. I see such bitterness come out of it. I don’t know what the answer is. I do know, that to have gratitude, like you said, we need to get past our complaints, and look at our multitude of undeserved blessings. Thanks for the post!

    • Amy – It is so easy to fall into either a bitterness where we feel like our culture has somehow outrun God or a depression in which we feel personally abandoned. A determined bent toward gratitude keeps us out of both gutters.

  6. Pingback: Link List – November 2012 Synchroblog // The Spiritual Practice of Gratitude « synchroblog

  7. Pingback: Turning our ingrown eyeballs up & out « Geography of Grace

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