Tag Archives: thanksgiving

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”.

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Prayer 3 – A.C.T.S.

13 Apr
How do we learn to pray?  Get close to our Source

How do we learn to pray? Get close to our Source

Have you ever wondered where to start if you are unfamiliar with prayer? One way is to use a standard prayer-book, or a compendium of historical prayers. Another method is to use scripture and pray a Bible verse or two. Some people like praying with a pattern to help them stay on track. I’ve used a few of these forms in the past, and sometimes still do. One is called A.C.T.S. The acronym stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It contains all the topical elements of the Prayer Jesus taught his disciples. (BTW, I have no idea who first came up with this idea.) Adoration is the noun version of the verb Adore. I think for the purposes of prayer, though the acronym was taught to me as Adoration, I think of it as the verb form.  Actively speaking my love and worship to God my divine creator. For me it is showing God my reverence. It is knowing my position as the Beloved humbly in front of the Great I AM God.  I am in a heavenly throne room, and want to recognize God and His position.  His “otherness”. Confession is next. To me it is a logical transition.  This is the part that makes all of us uncomfortable. It means that we acknowledge and own our wrong doings, our sins, and then confess them each to God — agree with him that we have sinned — and turn away from those actions and thoughts. For me this is part of “wiping my slate clean” with God by telling Him all my mistakes and mess-ups. BONUS:   We have the joy of knowing scripture 1 John 1:9 promises us that when we confess the sins we know of, and ask God humbly to reveal any of which we are unaware, then ALL our sins are covered – even the ones we don’t know about – and therefore cannot confess.   God is so gracious to us and so incrediably merciful. He gives us what we do NOT deserve and does NOT give us what we do deserve.  Grace and Mercy is where confession becomes powerful to call us back into God’s love.  He never leaves us, but in reality, each one honestly looking at ourselves – we know we leave Him.  He is ever faithful and loving, we are not. Next is Thanksgiving. Have an attitude of gratitude. Think of and really tell God about people and things you are happy are in your life.  Thank God for anything that give you joy or peace:  People you love, People you need to love, Enemies who teach us love, Blessings of home, job, family, nature’s wonders, beauty. Appreciate the blessings God has given you and thank Him for these. This section can be very long if you practice gratitude on a daily basis. This is an ideal place to thank God for all that He IS to you personally, as well as for all He has done for and with and to you.  It can be short if you are new to the concept of gratitude and thanksgiving for the daily blessings of all that God provides.  That’s ok.  Just do what you can. After adoring worship and confession, and thanksgiving,  it is the ideal time to tell God what concerns you and to make your supplications for intervention on your behalf or on behalf of others. Tell God the situation, be specific, and ask God for what you need.   God already knows our heart, so you may as well put all your cards on the table.  He knows your prayers before words form on your tongue, and yet, scripture commands us to pray.  To humbly kneel before the throne of our God and King and make our requests. Scripture also tells us to pray in alignment with the Spirit, and it cautions us that sometimes we do not have because we ask with impure motives. (Refer to Lent Reflection2014)  So before you give God your list of “wants”, as if He is just a Santa in the Sky, consider with due reverence what your motives are for making the requests. Is it a need, a want, an intercession on behalf of another, or yourself (which by the way – is perfectly fine). THINK – Is it true, is it honest, is it needful, is it helpful, is it kind?  There is no space for pretense in such an intimate relationship as we have with God in prayer.  Prayers are answered. Most people may close by asking “in the name of Jesus Christ” or something of that sort.  Do you know why?   Not as a habit I hope, but sincerely obeying the commands found in the gospels that Jesus tells his disciples to petition God in His (Jesus’) name. Again an act of humility before a mighty God in acknowledging the ONLY reason we can come to Him with our requests is because Jesus’ death and resurrection made a bridge whereby we can do so. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on A.C.T.S. Have you ever tried this method? Are you willing to give it a try out even for a few days?  Let me know. If you have other methods, please feel free to share.  I would be encouraged by your feedback, and if you like this reflection, be sure to share it with others.  

Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

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