During this Reflections event at the Crystal Palace, I talked about taking care of our souls with gratitude.
Thank you for your amazing power and work in our lives, thank you for your goodness and for your blessings over us. Thank you that you are able to bring hope through even the toughest of times, strengthening us for your purposes. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you for your incredible sacrifice so that we might have freedom and life. Forgive us when we don’t thank you enough, for who you are, for all that you do, for all you’ve given. Renew our spirit of Gratitude. In your name we pray.
Our topic tonight is Gratitude Big and Small! Gratitude is more important than you think. Gratitude can lift us out of depression, sadness, it can take an ordinary moment and make it a miracle! I really enjoyed researching and studying this topic. It has helped me make some major changes in my life. Denis Waitley said, “Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every moment with love, grace and gratitude.”
Definition of Gratitude
“The quality of living is thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and return kindness!”
Did you hear that – return kindness. It is an action.
G. K. Chesterton said, “when it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
There is even science behind gratitude. In Will Johns PHD book “Everything is better than you think: How Gratitude can transform your life.” His research on the neuroscience of Gratitude shows:
- The neuro circuitry in our brain stem releases dopamine “the feel good drug” when we practice gratitude.
- When we reflect or write about gratitude the brains anterior cingulate cortex releases serotonin – a natural antidepressant (w/no side effects like meds)
Our brain naturally wanders from the present moment, 46% of the time, according to Dr. Will Johns, our positive brain is like Teflon. It sticks if we savor the experience or it slides away.
Our negative brain is like Velcro – sticks quickly and holds on.
The Good News is one can train our brains, or even better yet, retrain it. That’s what our talk tonight is about – using Gratitude to reform our mind and live in a deeper relation with God. I have been practicing this for over a year now and I can personally testify it works. Scri[pure can help us to get out of our negative thinking.
Psalm 118:24 – “This is the day the Lord has made. let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Colossians 4:2 – “Devote yourself to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
We need to bring positive thoughts into our crazy brains.
Melody Beattie (Codependency NO More) said” Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. it turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home and a stranger into a friend.”
I love that Gratitude turns what we have into enough!
For example tonight….*Serving staff
Food vs complaining
Parking we have a car 18%
There are a thousand other examples tonight of being able to be grateful.
So, Gratitude not only affects our biology and psychology, but it also affects our emotions and spirituality which then in turn affect us physically.
Meister Eckhart said – if the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
Colossians 4:2 – “Devote yourself to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
Gratitude turns what we have into enough!
To accomplish making gratitude a way of living. To bring our minds in union with our souls, we need to be aware of 3 obstacles.
- The mind’s tendency to default to negative thinking
- The vulnerability of joy
- A sense of entitlement
Let’s look at these.
#1 – When we are not focused on the present moment, we begin to move to the negative, finding fault with self, others or our situation.
We fall prey to irritation, anxiety, worry, frustration, self-doubt and blame.
Once our brain begins to lose the present moment we spiral down. We lose our gratitude and joy.
The point is not to get stuck in negativity – I like to start by repeating the phrase “I’m blessed.” We can fight the negative thoughts and we can win.
Phil 4:67 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer & supplication” (begging or asking for something humbly).
With Thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the PEACE of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
#2 The vulnerability of Joy
In reading Dr. Will Johns book on Gratitude he shared this, and I didn’t understand it, had to read it over and over.
Brene Brown, one of my favorite authors and leading researchers on vulnerability said, “joy itself is an uncomfortable emotion for most people. It seems in moments of joy we begin to think this will not last and think of the worst-case scenario.” We catastrophize that we will experience pain again! Brown says, “we are bound to miss out on joy because we try to numb negative emotions.”
Gratitude is not an escape from pain. We must feel the pain in our lives.
Gratitude ensures we don’t get stuck in the pain!
Gratitude allows pain to become part of our reality without becoming our only reality.
#3 A sense of entitlement – when we think we deserve to be treated in a certain way and then our expectations are not met, we feel resentment.
Strong feelings of resentment are a barrier to the practice of gratitude.
We sometimes expect things to come easily to us. Work, relationship, spirituality.
* 4 years ago, in Assisi – angry, disconnected with God, my life as I knew it fell apart. I ran to Assisi as it always brought me peace.
Why won’t you speak to me? Why did you allow this to happen? Why are you ignoring my prayer?
A statue (person) handed me a card.
“Only in silence is it possible to hear God’s voice.” My expectation changed and I was ready for His grace to flow in and through me. From that moment on I started practicing Gratitude!
Around the turn of the 20th Century, a bar of steel was worth about $5. Yet when forged into horseshoes, it was worth about $10. When made into needles, its value was $350; when used to make small pocket knife blades, its worth was $32,00; when made into springs for watches, its value increased to $250,000. What a pounding the steel bar had to endure to be worth this much! But the more it was shaped, hammered, put through fire, beaten, pounded, and polished, the greater the value. It reminds us to be still, silent and long-suffering, for it is those who suffer the most who yield the most. And it is through the pain that God gets the most out of us, for HIS glory and the blessings of others.
Matthew Kelly “Resisting Happiness”
“Gratitude should always be our first response for all the blessings in our lives. Our second response should be to live a life worthy of the blessings we have received.”
Without gratitude what was extraordinary yesterday become ordinary today. Without gratitude a sense of entitlement takes over and begins to rot our soul. Without gratitude we get old and grumpy. Gratitude keeps us young. It anchors us to the present moment. It reminds us of what matters most and what matters least and fills us with the resolve to carry on the great mission God has entrusted to us.
Gratitude helps us move forward through our past.
Sometimes we need to rewrite the stories we tell ourselves. We love to write tragedies in our minds. We should be writing romance novels of the one who loved us first. I love the story i am writing and living today!
Resentment of others, our stories, past, all of these are based on the false perception that someone else has more power over my life than I do.
Gratitude is an empowering, exciting way of looking at your life that allows us to let go of the poisonous cancer of resentment.
Almost all the stories we tell ourselves, creating destructive, negative emotions, come back around to us believing that we are not enough.
That story is a lie! We have to learn how to discern the negative recordings that we play in our minds; we can begin to push the stop button (erase) and tell ourselves a new story – A God filled story. You can measure the lack of gratitude in your life by comparing it to the amount of time you complain.
GRATITUDE AND PAIN
I then want to look at Gratitude and pain. Pain is a profound teacher. Pain forces me to look at what has broken me. When processed in an appropriate way pain can lead to transformation and healing.
God uses BROKEN THINGS! God uses them for HIS glory! He uses those who are broken in finances, relationships, and grief. He uses those broken in loss of reputation and ambition, He uses those broken in abandonment and broken in health. He only uses BROKEN THINGS!
I have learned to thank God honestly for the experiences in my life: BOth Good and Bad!
The loss of Nancy, moving my parents in and being a part of their transition of life; Rick’s death, even my dog Francis’ death, the attacks I endured and betrayal by people I loved and respected. All the pain has led to freedom. Freedom to live in Christ and not in this world!
I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone else but I recognize my pain opened me up to see the world and God with new eyes.
I could have given up, quit life, blamed the world but the pain lifted me, it elevated me to a higher level, a higher consciousness.. It helped me to see beauty vs. busyness, souls instead of people, breath instead of exhaustion, joy, peace!
By embracing it (doesn’t mean I like it) I am no longer afraid of it.
My life is just that, life, and that life makes me grateful, and gratitude fills me with abundance. Gratitude allows me to focus on joy.
*My airport experience
Control – transfer luggage
Another security check
Hot and long
I smile, I complimented
Time flew, people were renewed
I was renewed
I can’t change the past, I don’t feel like a victim, it is God’s plan therefore it is perfect. To resist or regret shows lack in Jesus’ word of promise. I feel His call to help others heal and now I have a different forum for it. The same call evolved to continue His work in His way.
Gratitude and pain working together for our good.
Pain – lets us know we need to bend to something important in our lives.
- Forces us to evaluate our feelings
- Reminds us of what’s not working in our lives right now
- Gratitude keeps us afloat when we suffer.
- Reminds us that everything is not bad.
- There is still hope.
- Keeps us from getting stuck in our pain.
Let Go of Guilt
Stop blaming others
Blame our parents.
Life happens – SHIT happens.
Life in the here and now. No one has control of you here – we’re adults.
Choose to be a good person.
What are you doing right?
Get help if you are stuck.
Ex: divorced woman – 18 years ago
We have to develop strong gratitude habits – start with self
It’s so easy to want to change others.
If only my son would change then I would be happy, my spouse would stop drinking, I had more money I would lose weight….
You are stuck!
Take a gratitude walk
Share your gratitude (Eulogy) – transforming suffering IS gratitude
Prayers of Gratitude
Remember the difficult time – grateful you came through it and what miracles came from it.
Writing down gratitude-journal Jana
Tell gratitude stories to friends vs. gossip
Practice and then live it. It is contagious.
Don’t get bored WITH PRACTICING IT!
In the Catholic faith the word Eucharist means Thanksgiving.
It is gratitude, what a blessing to be able to receive God – could there be more gratitude than that.
When we are grateful that the light of Christ shines through our pores and we BECOME JOY We become light. And we become a part of Christ’s mission to bring light into the darkness. This is real Gratitude and now you can all be Grateful…I’m done…Grateful for all of you!
See you next Month – November 15th Grief, it’s a process. Bring a friend who may be grieving.