Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

Justice for the Poor

November 20, 2018

“Let the poor say, ‘I am rich because of what the Lord has done for us.’ ”

From Give Thanks by Henry Smith.

We sang that song last Sunday as part of a Thanksgiving service. (Thursday is the American Thanksgiving Day holiday.)

The social movement of 19th Century Europe (and later in America) was farm workers flocking to the cities to get jobs in the new industrial manufacturing plants. Only, they discovered very low wages and terribly unsafe working conditions.

And the owners of the factories? They lived like the kings and princes they had displaced in the social hierarchy.

The Christian church in Europe where most of this was going on responded by saying, “Let the poor rejoice in the kingdom to come.”

Reaction to this attitude was predictable. The workers rebelled when they could. Philosophers and political thinkers rejected the church. These “preacher’s kids” started writing atheist tracts about justice for the poor–now, not in some future when they are dead.

Residue from these attitudes on each side affect the Christian church in Europe, and to a degree in America, even to today.

Jesus and his followers talk often about justice, mercy, and giving to the poor. Think of the story of Ruth and Naomi and how they were destitute and shown mercy by a wealthy kinsman.

As we thank God for our blessings, let us show mercy and compassion as Jesus commanded and give to the poor for their blessing.

Showing Gratitude

November 16, 2018

Last week I wrote about AJ Jacobs who wrote a book about his experiences thanking everyone who had any part in bringing his morning coffee. He did it personally.

How do you go about it? Showing gratitude, that is?

I have an event in my productivity app that is set up to alert me weekly to make a gratitude list.

But, is that enough.

When you thank someone, do you just dash off a quick “thanks.”

When you order your coffee, do you look the barista in the eye and say “thank you”?

Eye contact with those serving you is crucial to the gratitude expression.

How about a hand written note? Remember those?

Right now, I’m grateful to the shuttle driver about to take me to the airport. I’ll thank him with a tip.

And the crew getting my plane ready this early in the morning.

And the pilots taking me home. And the flight attendants who will serve me (and thanks to the system that awarded me a first class upgrade!)

There’s more. Think on it.

Showing Gratitude

November 6, 2018

Being a grateful person contributes to one’s overall good health.

AJ Jacobs read about the health benefits of being grateful, so he decided to thank someone before every meal for their part in bringing the meal. Maybe the farmer. Or the grocer. Or whomever.

His son one day observes, “Dad, that’s so lame.” “Why?” “No one can hear you say thank you.”

So…

Jacobs decided to say thank you to everyone involved in bringing him his morning coffee.

There was the barista. But then he went to Columbia to visit the farm where his favorite coffee was grown. They told him they could never grow the coffee without the help of about 100 other people. Among which was a machine used to separate the pulp of the coffee cherry from the bean. The machine builder in Brazil used steel made in Indiana. All told, in his book Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey, he tells of the thousand people he thanked for helping bring his morning coffee. Including the truck driver and the person who painted the yellow lines on the road so that the driver could make it safely.

He details this in a podcast of The Tim Ferriss Show you can download from Apple Podcasts or Overcast or wherever you get your podcasts.

I am thankful for people who blow my mind with research and books that broaden my understanding of people and the presence of the spirit.

Maybe you don’t want to go that far–and write a book–but try showing appreciation to the people who serve you today.

Turning Expectations Into Gratitude

March 14, 2018

We ran to the Christmas Tree early Christmas morning expecting a wealth of toys.

Now trained, we continue to be trained through ceaseless advertisements and commercial messages. Even within TV shows and movies are subtle and not-so-subtle messages from advertisers.

We marry. As Andy Stanley has been walking us through he current series of message he explains how we bring a box of expectations into relationship. We expect our spouse to fulfill those expectations. It’s Christmas all over again.

I’m in a hotel room for the fifth straight week (only three on business, though). Sometimes my expectation is free WiFi and a mediocre cup of coffee!

Perhaps we would live a better life if we exchanged our expectations for gratitude.

Instead of the disappointment of not getting what we expected at Christmas, gratitude for what we did received–plus for a family with whom to celebrate.

Instead of frustration about a spouse and shock of discovering that they also brought a box of expectations that we are supposed to fulfill, gratitude at having a relationship at all. Some of us don’t deserve what we got. Be grateful.

Instead of a world where politics seems insane and people are angry all the time, gratitude that it is God’s world and for people who are helpful and kind and loving.

Ah, gratitude for that great cup of coffee–well, not exactly great, but it is coffee. And it’s 5:30 am, and I’m meeting people at 7 to go to a 7:15 meeting. And I’m grateful for that coffee!

Energy For The Christian Life

November 22, 2017

Remember the old advertisement for a sugary soda, “The pause that refreshes”?

I was thinking about that attitude while thinking about our American holiday of Thanksgiving we will celebrate tomorrow. “Let us pause and give thanks…OK, carve the turkey.”

Rather we should let this natural rhythm of our calendar remind us to cultivate gratitude and thanksgiving as an intimate part of our waking life. Gratitude and thanksgiving indeed are the energy that drives a Christian life.

Energy seems to be a bit cyclical, like ocean waves on the beach that come and go.

It’s not the pause. It’s returning to the source (God) to rejuvenate our energy.

We need these rhythms of the calendar to remind us of things. Ancient peoples knew this.

If we are slipping into today’s culture of the world which is entitlement–“I deserve it”–it is time to let the rhythm of the seasons bring us back to God to refuel our gratitude energy supply.

Thanks Giving

November 21, 2017

How often do you stop and give thanks?

I have a ToDo app that allows for tasks to pop up regularly. I have a task that pops up in my priority list every week. It says, list six things that I’m grateful for and practice gratitude.

There are times when that task comes to my attention, and I find it difficult to take just a few minutes and focus on my blessings.

I’m too busy. Or, I’m not feeling blessed. Or, my mind wanders. I am cursed with thinking too much–I think.

I think about being socially awkward and the latest social gaffes I’ve made.

In America, we are reaching the day on the calendar that comes to our attention once per year. It is a harvest celebration. Most, if not all, societies have some kind of harvest celebration. Farmers live on the edge. Rain comes too early. Or too late. Or too much. Or not enough. Plant diseases sweep through the area. Just having a harvest is cause for rejoicing, celebration, and yes, giving thanks to the God who provided after all.

Or

In America we are reaching the day that marks another day of family tension as we (or some of us) gather to have a meal, complain about things, and leave. It is also the day that marks the beginning of the “holiday season” with Christmas and New Years celebrations coming. And the beginning of shopping for Christmas presents for ourselves and others.

Song lyrics come to me at the weirdest times. I’m just now thinking, “It’s time to stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”

As we plan and worry and prepare for travel for Thanksgiving, take time to stop. Listen. Give thanks.

Gratitude Is A Choice And An Attitude

May 16, 2017

So much of life is a choice.

We may not choose what comes at us. We certainly choose how we respond. Rather, I should say we can choose how to respond. Or, we can let our emotions choose for us. And lead us into a downward spiral like a bathtub draining or a toilet flushing.

We discover that waking up early and taking a few moments to focus on gratitude for that which we have starts us with the right attitude for health and success.

That is why we start with God who created the world and provides for us.

And people who have helped us.

And our abilities that we can use to serve others.

And food and shelter for those of us who have.

This keeps us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually balanced.

Quality Questions Lead To Quality Life

January 31, 2017

Quality questions create a quality life. Tony Robbins

God definitely wants my attention. For what seems to be the millionth time, the teaching about asking questions pops into my awareness. That quote from someone I normally wouldn’t quote comes from a short chapter in my current reading, “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Tim Ferriss. This is a good enough book packed with hundreds of ideas. If you read it, just remember that Ferriss, like Robbins, can be way over the top.

But questions. What a good reminder.

Remember yesterday where I discussed growth? Getting out of our cocoon?

Unlike the butterfly who aches to get out of the cocoon and change from a caterpillar that crawls around nibbling on leaves to a beautiful flying creature that communes among the beautiful flowers, humans seem to crave the cocoon.

The butterfly successfully completes its growth through extreme physical work. Beating its new wings against the shell that enslaves it until it get strong enough to break through into freedom.

Questions are the extreme work that we humans use to grow, get stronger, mature.

I have a personality problem. Well, I have many, just ask those who know me. But this one can prevent my growth, and probably others. I’m generally content in groups of people to be quiet and listen. Well, unless they’re talking about people. I tune that out.

But if someone asks me a question, I’ll answer it. And if it is a topic I’m passionate about, I can dominate conversation. That is, until a little voice inside interrupts the train of thought to remind me to ask others what they think.

Questions are the basic requirement of growth in my profession as observer and analyst of manufacturing technology. And in my study of theology.

Jesus asked once, “Who do you think I am?” That question alone should start our chain of questions. What has he said? What has he done? What have been the effects of his ministry? What does that mean to me?

What questions are you asking today?

The Generous Receiver of Gifts

December 8, 2016

How we receive gifts also tells much about us.

I have been thinking about the encounter of the rich young man with Jesus. The one where Jesus got to the point of his problem. He had too much stuff, and he couldn’t let it go. Maybe he was like a hoarder. Maybe he was like Scrooge McDuck (for those of you old enough to remember) who was mostly pictured sitting in his vault with piles gold coins and sacks of gold coins.

But if someone is going to give generously, then that means someone must receive.

How do you receive?

I learned a long time ago to adjust my wants to reality. Growing up in a family without much money can form you in one of two ways. In my case, I wanted things, but learned that many were beyond budget. So, I adjusted my expectations. On the other hand, I know of people in similar situations who grew up only to crave the things they couldn’t have as children even more than when they were little.

Do we adjust to reality, or do we expect reality to adjust to us? 

Maybe we have seen way too many advertisements (and they date back to the early 1800s) of the joyous kid opening presents. And we think that if we can’t capture that picture in reality, then Christmas is ruined. I have even heard pastors equate a joyful Christmas to the number of presents under the tree!

I’m sure for many not receiving the gift, or not receiving enough gifts, is disappointing.

But maybe that is because the anticipation of Christmas is misplaced. It focuses on quantity of presents.

What do I appreciate? I appreciate that someone thought of me.
I bet that is true for most everyone. Except for those whose focus is on the wrong place.

Then it’s time for an attitude adjustment.

That Spark That Helps Others

November 25, 2016

Who is it who has helped you grow in your career and as a person? Perhaps you didn’t even know it at the time.

I was pretty clueless about working with other people when I started out in my career. But there were John and Jack and Alex who saw something and put me in positions where I could contribute and grow. Of course I am grateful to them.

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

Then there are teachers who taught more than their subject matter–Mr. Johnson who taught logical thinking that I still use, Mr. McCarty who pushed me to go to science and engineering summer camps, Mrs. Maxwell who taught literature and writing (she’d probably be shocked to see me doing all the writing I’ve done over the past 20 years!), Mrs. McGowan who told my parents I was smart and ruined my next six years (every time report cards came out, I got “the lecture” from dad about how my grades didn’t reflect my intellect–I don’t know, maybe they did 😉 but actually when someone compliments you that can be the spark.

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” William James

So, I hoped I sparked some good memories for you. And a sense of gratitude for what others have done.

“The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” John E. Southard

The challenge before us is to try to get even with those people. Many are gone now. But you can still get even by passing the torch. Who can I help today?