Helping You Thank Differently

Living 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As I try to “practice what I preach” by being more thankful, I am experiencing new aspects of thankfulness. I observe what it does to me. What I’m discovering is that living more thankfully gives room for ongoing communion with God. In other words, real thankfulness consistently connects the heart to God.

These experiences remind me of what Paul wrote: 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18)

What he exhorts becomes more of a reality from experiencing thankfulness more fully. There is a radical transformational power when living a life of thankfulness. In thankfulness you know God as you know His will. It’s no longer a matter of repeating words from the Bible to get yourself into a better place; trying to convince yourself that what is written is true. It’s now a matter of actually living His will and life while experiencing the transformational effects of doing so. You are being transformed by actually doing His will. 

Three observations from this passage (in the context of experiencing thankfulness): 

1. This is one sentence. All three practices are to be practiced all at one time. Three practices equal one communion with God. Three practices, one reality.   

Always rejoice — pray unceasingly — in everything give thanks. These actions are inter-related; connected. They are bonded together as a formula for ongoing communion with God. Do you want a life of intimate communion with the Triune God? Then connect with God along this triadic path: rejoice, pray, give thanks always and in everything.  

These are three legs of a stool. Sit on it and commune with God.

This reminds us of the three members of the Trinity. Reside in their community by these practices.

2. Giving thanks is a means to communion with God in Jesus Christ. The ultimate purpose of thankfulness is oneness with God. The Greek word here is eucharisteite. In the eucharist you experience oneness with Jesus Christ. In a eucharistic life, a “giving thanks” life, you experience oneness with God. Expand your experience of thankfulness. Giving thanks to God in every moment and in every situation is a primary means of communing with God. 

Giving thanks implies a recipient of the thanks. You’re giving thanks to someone. When you do, there is a deep connection. This is true of God as well. 

3. All of this is God’s will for you.

Do you want to know God’s will for your life? Rejoice always. Pray always. Give thanks in everything. Clear and simple. 

Do you want to know what it is to live in Christ Jesus? Give thanks in everything. This is not theoretical nor emotional. It’s not even “spiritual.” When you are in Christ Jesus you give thanks in everything. Giving thanks in everything provides a fuller experience of living in Christ Jesus. 

This is what God wants for you. And, honestly, this is what you want for yourself. What a great way to live – doing God’s will in this way. 

The path to knowing God’s will is to rejoice always, pray always, give thanks always. Start here. Don’t make it more complicated than it is. 

The tough part is experiencing HOW to rejoice always, pray always, give thanks always. Here’s some help: 

  • Repeat throughout the day the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
  • Be attentive to what is in front of you for which you can be thankful. Say, “Thank you for _________” throughout the day.
  • Begin your day by saying St. Philaret of Moscow’s Morning prayer:

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will; teach me to pray; pray You Yourself in me. Amen. 

  • Consistently and thoughtfully say “Thank you” before each meal, as you awake and as you fall asleep. 

To a thankful and happy day,

Dr. K  

Being Thankful For What Is Not Clear

Helping You To Thank Differently

Rhonda, my mother, and I went out to eat last week for an extended Mother’s Day celebration. We chose a restaurant based on positive past experiences and its quiet atmosphere. As it turned out, the restaurant was a big disappointment. The food was overcooked, the staff was inattentively detached, and the service was tolerably mediocre. We’d eaten at this place a half-dozen times and enjoyed the experience. But this time the experience was distastefully substandard. Yet, the experience did provide an opportunity to be thankful for the unusual. In this case it seemed, the unusually lousy. 

In the strategy to becoming more thankful and thus happy, I’ve laid out four stages: 

1. Thankful for the ordinary or usual – what’s in front of you

2. Thankful for the unusual – positive or negative happenings you experience

3. Thankful for the neutral – those “good” or “bad” people, things, or situations which seem neither good or bad

4. Thankful for the negative – the trials, tragedies, and losses that you experience 

Our experience at the restaurant was unusual but also neutral. There certainly were aspects of the experience that were positive – being with loved ones, celebrating Mother’s Day with my 87-year-old mother, having the financial ability to eat out, receiving one complimentary meal since it was not properly prepared, and having the mind and body to do this. Though disappointing at some level, there was much for which to be thankful. 

In these kinds of situations, the level of living in thankfulness is challenged. It’s not a matter of fooling ourselves into positive thoughts that “all is good.” Living in thankfulness is being thankful for all things whether we regard them as good or bad. Sometimes, we just don’t know. 

You’ve heard stories of people tragically laid off who then start businesses that flourish far beyond what they could have imagined. A short stint in jail can turn a life around. An illness can be the catalyst for positive life change. A moral failure can humble a person to live well. It’s often difficult to discern situations as good or bad. What’s needful is to be thankful for all things.

So, here’s the challenge from me to you. Let’s not focus so much on trying to figure out what’s good or bad. Let’s focus on developing a thankful heart. Find reasons to be thankful even in what seems negative. It might turn out that the negative is really a positive. It may be that what looks good may not actually be good. Being thankful covers it all. 

Thankfulness. It’s the best way to live. 

Dr. K 

Where does Thankfulness Come From? A Practical & Theological Reflection

Living In God Means Living In Thankfulness

Yesterday I sat on our front porch and thankfully watched a little goldfinch pluck seeds from a previously ignored seed sack. The little seed bag had been hanging for many weeks untouched. This little guy changed all that. I marveled at his pint-sized beauty. I thanked God for the wonder of color. It was a grateful moment brought about by an unusual event. Have you thankfully experienced an unusual occurrence lately? 

Focusing on thankfulness these past weeks, has me formulating these thoughts: 

  • The Holy Trinity lives in thankfulness.  
  • Thankfulness must come from a source outside ourselves. Just as mercy, grace, kindness, joy, peace, and holiness, the community of the Trinity is the perfect embodiment of their reality. Think about it for a second – all that you want to be is found in the Trinity including thankfulness. Each member is perfectly thankful for the other. 
  • In Jesus Christ true Christians have been made partakers of the life of the Trinity. Ingrained in that life is thankfulness. 
  • The more in communion with the Trinity you are, the more thankful you are.
  • The more thankful you are the more you are like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • True thankfulness is a synergistic activity – you and the Trinity work in harmony to be thankful.    
  • Living in God means living in thankfulness. 
  • It is living out of communion with the Trinity that you experience real thankfulness.
  • The hunger to live thankfully is really a hunger for the Triune God who is perfect Thankfulness. 
  • You can be thankful at all times including times when thankfulness does not make sense. This kind of thankfulness is not reliant on your circumstances or location. It is grounded in the life of the Trinity.  
  • Living thankfully is not just a choice. It is participating in the Thankfulness already going on; a participation in the thankfulness of the Holy Trinity. 
  • Complaining, criticizing, grumbling, bellyaching, and whining are foreign to Jesus Christ, the Father, and Holy Spirit. When you engage in these, you are not Christian; your actions are not Christlike. You need to repent and unite yourself to Christ. 

Perhaps you wrestle with giving thanks for all things due to a lack of intimate communion with the Holy Trinity. It is not enough to learn to give thanks. You must also learn to participate in the life of the Trinity more fully. In that participation, you will naturally, from your heart, become a grateful person. 

Perhaps this is what the Psalmist David was getting at when he wrote: 

Know that the Lord is God! It is He who made us and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him, praise His name! For the Lord is good; His mercy endures forever, and His truth from generation to generation. (Psalm 100) 

Dr. K 

Challenging Yourself To Be Thankful For The Extraordinary

What do these events have in common?

  • The birth of a child
  • Receiving a financial gift when you desperately need it
  • A friend offering help with a project
  • A phone call from your non-communicating son just to chat
  • Barely missing a car accident because the lane to your left was clear

These incidents are unusual. They are not normal, every-day occurrences. They usually garner lots of thanks.

Last week we focused our thanks on the usual – what is in front of us. Now, lets pay attention to what’s unusual and thank God for it.

In the simple strategy for a grateful and happy life, I challenge you this week to look for the extraordinary and be thankful.

This might be the easiest “thankful” practice of all. Who isn’t grateful for the extraordinarily good things that happen?  

But we must battle

  1. Forgetfulness – how easy it is to take for granted the special gifts that fill our lives daily.
  2. Preoccupation – letting mundane and empty “attractions” distract us from seeing the extraordinary.
  3. Self-centeredness – focusing so much on our own needs and comforts that we are blinded to the good outside ourselves.

This week, focus on the good gifts given to you and be thankful for them. Your life will be truly happier. 

What is extraordinary in your life right now for which you can be thankful? 

Dr. K 

Practicing The Art Of Being Thankful For What’s In Front Of You

Happiness Blossoms From Being Thankful For Normal Things

Lisa and John rang our doorbell right on time. They had booked a room with us through Airbnb about five days ago. I opened the door with a smile and jubilant greeting. “Yay! You made it. Welcome!” “We weren’t sure this was the right house because the address wasn’t clear,” Becky critically replied. I knew from that moment that we were in for a long three-day visit. We treated Lisa with kindness and love as we would any other guest. But her disparaging attitude, laying just below the surface. sure made it a challenge. She was not a happy woman best indicated by her lack of thankfulness. At times I felt sorry for her in between my own times of frustration and niggling thoughts. We’ve heartily welcomed all kinds of people into our home through our Airbnb “busnistry.” The most difficult ones were the ungrateful. 

This whole experience challenged me (again!) to become a thankful person. The ungrateful create an atmosphere of tension around them. To exude goodness, joy, peace, and happiness, the heart must become a thankful heart.

Here’s one way I’ve recently begun practicing thankfulness – saying “Thank you” for what is in front of me. Everywhere I go, in every moment, I see real reasons to be thankful. I can offer thanks for what I see or carry on my normal life taking for granted all that is around me. I’m not good at this. It takes some really intentional efforts. 

A couple weeks ago, I was out by my mailbox when the trash collector crew stopped to empty my 95-gallon trash can. I hollered above the noise of the dump truck to the driver and the guy grabbing the trash can, “Ya’ll do a great job. Thanks for your good service. Keep up the good work.” I don’t know if my thanks did them any good, but it sure made me happy.

By nature, I’m not a thankful person. I’m analytical, critical, judgmental, and a perfectionist. I’ve got a long way to go. But, being thankful for what is in front of me is helping change me. Thank God! 

I invite you to give the practice a try. Since you’re reading this – silently say thank you for your device, for the ability to read, for a mind to think, for the air you breathe, for the funds that helped purchase your device, for eyes to see, and yes, for The UnCommon Journey blog.  

Here’s some encouragement from the scriptures to keep at this: 

Let my mouth be filled with Your praise, O Lord, that I may sing of Your glory and honor all the day long. (Psalm 71.8)

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Your name, O Most High! To declare your mercy in the morning and Your truth by night…For You, O Lord, have made me glad by Your work; at the works of Your hands I sing for joy. (Psalm 92.1-4)

Be thankful for what is in front of you..and be happy. 

Dr. K 

A Simple Strategy For A Grateful & Happy Life

Two old friends met each other on the street one day.  One looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears.  His friend asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?”

The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you:  three weeks ago, my uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.”

“That’s a lot of money.”

“But you see, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand dollars, free and clear.”

“Sounds to me that you’ve been very blessed.”

 “You don’t understand!” he interrupted.  “Last week my great-aunt passed away.  I inherited almost a quarter of a million from her.”

Now the man’s friend was really confused.  “Then, why do you look so glum?”

“This week . . . nothing!

Being thankful for all things is a real challenge. This month I’m encouraging all of us (myself included!) to become more thankful and thus happier. 

Having an intentional strategy for this grateful journey helps us. Here it is: 

1. Be thankful for what is “normally” good in your life right now. 

2. Be thankful for what is extraordinarily good in your life. 

3. Be thankful for what seems “neutral” in your life. 

4. Be thankful for what seems “bad” in your life. 

This week, focus on being thankful for what is normal in your life. In other words, begin with what is “doable.” 

This week say “Thank you” for the good in your life. It’s so easy to become preoccupied by what seems bad – lousy salary, noisy neighbors, insensitive spouse, unresponsive children, crappy weather.

Yet, you are surrounded by so much that is good – you do have a job, many neighbors are gracious, your spouse loves you, your children are alive, right now the weather is above average.

What are some normal things for which you can be thankful? Air. Water. Refrigeration. Sunshine. Birds. Light. Eyes. Legs. Ears. Beating heart. Food. Clouds. Trees. Color. Time. Books. Chairs. Friends. Car. Health. Money. Job. Breeze. Electricity. Beauty.  

Focusing on what is normal around you and saying “thank you” for it creates the habit of thankfulness. The habit helps shape your heart. From your heart will come the ability to be thankful for all things whether “good” or “bad.”

But begin where you can. Say thank you for what is “normal,” routine, natural, regular, commonplace, good.  

What does your list of the “ordinary” include? 

Dr. K