I awoke this morning with a powerful sense of gratitude in my heart. First, I had slept pretty well, my lovely wife was next to me as were my two dachshunds. I When I awoke this morning, I was intensely grateful for some reason for so many things. stirred and felt my hand on one of the lovely puppies. I got out of bed and paid attention this time to the simple pleasure of my mobility, knowing that as I age that will probably be more of an issue. I ambled into the kitchen, took pleasure in the fact that it was clean and organized, and made my coffee. Moments later I was grateful for the aroma and taste of this morning brew. I looked outside and could see the day breaking, noting the bird feeder where “bird theater” would be convening shortly. I turned on the television and found CNN where I could again watch the rest of the world, already spinning and weaving through the course of its day.
This gratitude is a new dimension of my life and has even been a discipline of sorts for the past couple of years. I read a book back then which noted the value of gratitude even for the simple things of life and I started to practice gratitude myself. I feel it has been a powerful influence in the spiritual direction of my life since then. By making this effort, I awakened a “gratitude muscle” in my heart which had long lain dormant and I have cultivated that muscle since then.
The New Testament teaches us to “Give thanks in all things.” Now, I do not think Paul had in mind compulsively “thanking God” each and every minute of our life, trying to earn “suck points” with a God who has nothing better to do that sit “up there” and offer “atta-boys” to those of us who follow His commands. I think he was suggesting that exercise this “gratitude muscle” from time to time in our life and discover that it can help us orient our life to the good that is present in this world, even in the midst of things that are often not so good. This discipline also has value as a cognitive behavioral therapy strategy as a deliberate focus on something positive when things are not going so well can be a powerful antidote to stress or even despair. And, it can be a powerful step in the direction of “getting over ourselves” from time to time, taking the focus away from our tendency to view the world through the narrow prism of our own self-interest and needs. I am currently reading a book by an evangelical Christian, Ann Voskamp, (One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are) in which she describes keeping a “gratitude journal” as a way of coping with difficulties in her day to day life.