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Reflections on Christian Living – Special Practices – Gratitude

11 Nov

Reflections on Christian Living – Gratitude – Special Practices

There are several special practices or seasonal disciplines which I undertake to spur on and encourage Christian growth, to become more Christ-like and to change-up my walk a bit in order to keep me from becoming complacent in a daily journey with Jesus.

One of these practices is currently underway. I know some friends who either call it a 30 day gratitude challenge.  Some start on November 1st.  Some start 30 days before Thanksgiving.

Art_Photo_November

I don’t have a name for what I do, but most of my seasonal practices are actually 40 days long.  I try not to miss a day, but I am not legalistic about it, as is not about that.  These practices are an act of worship.  They are done not instead of my daily practices, but alongside them.

For 40 days before Thanksgiving I begin a gratitude journal.  Often,  I publish a summary on Facebook of what I am most grateful for on any given day during this season of reflection.  We are so blessed in so many ways and simply take most things for granted.  (I’m as guilty of this as the next person).

I would encourage anyone to do this.  I recently read that you can re-program your mind toward positivity by simply thinking of 3 things a day you are grateful for, and do that practice for 21 days.  I’m a slower learner, I need the shock therapy to my heart –  40 days gives me that gift.

What I have learned over the several years of doing this seasonal practice 40 days before Thanksgiving is that my entire daily attitude shifts over the course of those days.  Yes, I am usually grateful year around, but I’m the first to admit, there are simply times I fall far short in that category, and slip into what my mom would call “pity parties”.  I say that not as an excuse, but a confession.  I need more gratitude in my life.  I need more AWARENESS in my life.  I need to praise God more often for wonderful blessings – most particularly for His mercy and grace.  Since November has some challenging anniversary dates – and at least one blessed anniversary date in it, this practice helps me to gain perspective.

In the early days, I am not alert to specific items for which I am grateful.  Those first few days are often the “discipline” part.  I do it because I know it is the right thing for me to do.  I watch, i observe life – not just my life – but life in general.  I observe the life of others, of loved ones, of those going through hard times, and those who appear to have all their blessings like ducks in a row.

As the 40 days continue, I find myself increasingly aware of the blessings in my life – even when some of those blessings are trials.  I find myself so aware some days, that there is a list of multiple items in my journal which could be listed as today’s gratitude.  If I post on FB, I pick just one to share with others.   And I happily enjoy the blessings gained of my friends posting what they are grateful to have or experience in their life.

As I near the end of the 40 days and come to Thanksgiving as the day after the seasonal practice ends, I find that the day is wonderful.  Not in the sense of the traditional holiday, big meal, and all the “stuff” or a house overflowing with extended family or friends.  Those things are rare for us.  It is a wonderful day because I realize how different my attitude and heart have become as I look back over this year’s 40 day gratitude journal.

If you have never done this, or haven’t started yet this year, it is not too late.  Start to practice the presence of gratitude and as my mother used to sing “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done”.

Reflections | Thoughts on Christian life

29 Oct

via Reflections | Thoughts on Christian life.    LIVING IT OUT – ROMANS CHAPTER 12 – Getting started

I’m in a small group Bible study and we’re going through Romans 12.   I’m enjoying the Bible study and the companionship on the journey toward living out my Christian walk in a fuller way.  I’m also being challenged by the study, it is causing me to reconsider compartmentalization as the “normal” way with Sacred on one side and Secular on the other.  This section of scripture is really calling out for us to live all of life as a sacred form of worship and service.  Pretty radical in that day, and I think, still radically challenging today.

In case you are not familiar with Romans 12, it follows 11 Chapters laying out the reasons that believing on Jesus Christ is the logical thing to do.  It presents a systematic doctrinal perspective for Faith and Grace as well as a number of other basic Christian beliefs.  He gives the: what when who where how why – in this book.  It was written to the Gentiles and Jewish people living in Rome around 58 AD.  Approximately 25 years after the death of Jesus.  He is writing to a church he never started, but he wants to encourage them and prepare them both for his visit and for growing in Jesus Christ.   It is a wonderful book of the Bible to study, but I recommend getting some guidance or a study guide from a reliable source.

Chapter 12 starts with the idea that is essentially saying “Now then after hearing/reading all I’ve just finished teaching you in Chapters 1-11, here is what to do”.   The transition from theoretical to practical application starts in verses one and two….  It goes like this in the ESV:  “I appeal to you brothers (and sisters) by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your ind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”   Quite a tall order.  But notice he is not commanding, but pleading.   If you want to get all the good stuff that God longs to give you – live this way.

To even begin to dwell on this and consider everything we do and think as an act of worship – of love for Jesus – reveals the need for change in many areas for almost all of us.  But Paul does not leave us hanging, in vs 2 he gives a clue as to how we can possibly do this.  RENEW our minds.  Said another way: STOP being conformed by the worldview of those who are not believers in Christ and consider what God has to say as the preeminent way to live.

So he takes us forward in the rest of the chapter to discuss our relationships.  Vs 1 – In relationship to GOD – put it ALL IN.  Don’t hold back.  Vs 2 – In relationship to ourselves – changing our thinking is mandatory.   Vs 3-8  In relationship to the Church – the body of Christ – how are we to function now in community?   Vs 9-21 In relationship to society – our sphere of influence.   The entire chapter is a practical living advice.  He continues in Chapter 13 with a broadening circle of relationships, but that is for another day.

Please leave a comment if you want more information or have questions. Feedback and comments are welcome.  Thank you for stopping by and visiting.  Thank you for reading.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to leave a comment. (I’m trying to get those feedback areas working again, but just in case it’s not, you can also comment on my PIN).

Have a great day.

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Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

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