disciplines of gratitude


For the last few years I’ve kept a “thankfulness jar”. 


The last thing I do each night before getting into bed is to pause and write a couple of sentences of gratitude for something that happened during the day. 

Some days it is really easy. I list off fun activities, great Ministry moments, joyful interactions with friends & family, experiences of wonder, tasks accomplished or things learned. 

Some days are harder. When I’ve been sick, when work has been hard, when I’ve spent the day alone; when my heart is burdened, these are the days I want to get into bed as fast as I can to bring them to an end! 

However, when I stand before the small piece of paper with a pen in hand, looking at an ever-filling jar of other moments of gratitude, I never fail to find something to write. 

Sometimes I’m just thankful that tomorrow is another day and another chance to do better. Sometimes I’m thankful that those days that are hard are offset by many days of joy and hope. Sometimes I’m thankful for specific people who God brings across my path to bless, inspire, encourage and support me. Sometimes I’m thankful for stewed apricots or a house full of people or God’s grace or a great movie I’ve watched or sore cheeks from laughing or new stationery or a new experience …the list is as diverse as it is endless. 

The discipline of gratitude is a necessary part of grounding my heart and mind in the truth – particularly when I am weary or despairing. It resets my internal dialogue – interrupting any negative thought track by forcing me to consider something positive. 

In moments of celebration and joy this discipline draws the attention of my heart to reflect on the source of those blessings, growing my faith and deepening my trust. 

What about you? Do you have any practices of gratitude that you regularly do? Maybe a daily discipline like this could be a place to start?

“12 thoughts of Christmas” #11: Looking Back

At the end of each year I have a staff review with my Senior Pastor, perhaps you do something similar at your work. We look at the year that was: highlights and challenges. We reflect on the things we’d identified as work areas for the year. We pause and acknowledge the growth and fruit that we see in me personally and in the various ministries and people I oversight as part of my role.

I’m terrible at it!! Because I can’t remember past the last few weeks!! It’s true. Before the meeting I go to other people in the office and in my life and say “help me out, what happened this year?!” It feels like the last month has enough happening to fill a list of highlights and challenges on its own!

Looking back is an essential part of doing life well. Without looking back we can be so consumed with the now that we lose sight of how far we’ve travelled and all that we’ve done, learnt, experienced, given, received, released, achieved and become. And most importantly, we neglect a great opportunity for gratitude and celebration!

Before the new year and all it contains consumes your time and brain space, can I encourage you to spend some intentional time looking back? Reflect on significant events and milestones. Acknowledge the difficult experiences you may have had – with your testimony being, at the very least, that you survived!! 🙂 Note the changes you saw in your family, your relationships, your children, your physical or work environments. Reflect on the impact you and your family were able to make in the lives of others – giving to charities or a sponsor child, serving at church, investing in your neighbours – it is always a privilege to be used to bring joy to others. Remember the new things you saw or tried, the traditions you started or continued, the skills you developed, the successes you achieved and the failures you recovered from.

There should be quite a list, but if you’re like me and have trouble remembering too much passed the recent weeks perhaps you could ask others to contribute to the discussion.

Pause to give God thanks for the year that was. Whether it’s a year that you’d love to do again or one you are happy to see the end of. Nothing is for nothing in God’s economy – everything you experienced will be used by Him to refine and strengthen you and to prepare you for the things that are in store.

Share your thankfulness with others. Display a “Top 10 list” on your fridge, post it on Facebook, share it in an email, write it in your diary … or even share it here below.

“12 thoughts of Christmas” #8: Fostering Gratitude

My Kids Hope friend was away from the school the day of our last session for the year and so I had to leave her Christmas present with her teacher. It was a bit sad not to be able to enjoy that moment of giving and unwrapping but I left her a little note telling her I was excited to see her again next year.

On Sunday, one of the teachers from her school who attends our church gave me a card from her. A delightful hand made one that thanked me for her “preze” (pressie) and said that she too was looking forward to spending time with me again in 2013. It was a beautiful, heartwarming thought.

It probably goes without saying (but let’s say it anyway) that gratitude is a great virtue to foster. It’s good for the person who IS grateful and it is so encouraging for the people that we’re grateful FOR!

Christmas is a time that we are given MUCH! Firstly, the gift of Jesus – the whole point of Christmas! In the Bible, Paul says we thank God for that “indescribable gift”! But then we are given a whole lot more. We receive gifts, we receive the hospitality of friends and family, we receive the love and relational connection of people near and dear to us … we get lots!!

Of course, we in polite society would always say ‘thank you’, but to foster a spirit of gratitude and to express gratitude takes a little more intentionality and effort.

But let’s do it!!

  • Encourage your children to write thank you notes to people who’ve given them gifts. It will help solidify in their minds who gave them what as well as being a delightful surprise for the people who receive them.
  • Take a thank you card or gift with you to the family who hosts your various celebrations. You know what it means to have people over for Christmas (that’s why you voted to go to theirhouse) so a little bit of thankfulness could go a long way.
  • Take time to pray together and thank God for His indescribable gift to us at Christmas time.