“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” Psalm 100 is short and to the point: be joyful; know the Lord; we are his people; thank and praise him; bless his name. Celebrate our God and be grateful. We are his people; He is good and merciful and his truth lasts forever.
Being thankful is not a once a year exercise in overeating in the company of friends and family! To be grateful means to step back on a daily basis from our own culturally-produced thinking that always wants more of everything. It means that we stop complaining about this or that in our lives—not enough money, not enough attention, too much work, not enough fun and wanting more, more, more of everything. This is our culture: we compare ourselves to everyone else; we envy what they have that we don’t; we work like crazy to make enough money to satisfy our cravings and don’t have any time to enjoy our lives as they have been given to us. It seems like we will do anything to get what we want.
The psalmist is offering another paradigm for living: be grateful. Thank God and praise him. Every day. Be joy-filled. Every day. Live in gratitude every day because we are God’s people and He is taking great care of us—He loves us with unfailing love, with devotion tied to his covenant with us, with mercy and forgiveness. [hesed is the Hebrew word for love. Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance, 2nd Edition by Goodrick & Kohlenberger, Strong’s #2876]
We could start living with gratitude for being alive on this planet. Every need of every creature, including us, is provided in an interdependent, complex system of plants and animals and much more. We might contemplate the beauty of the landscape of waters and trees and mountains and hills, the greens of the earth and the blues of the skies. Every single feature/animal/plant on this earth is mirroring the Creator’s bountiful vision. We might spend time outside every day.
We could walk outside at night and see the stars and planets of this great universe, maybe see the Milky Way or Orion or another named star cluster. We might stand in awe of the Mind of God that could create such a spectacle for us!
We could read and reread Luke 12:22-31 and know that we are being well taken care of.
We might focus our attention on the companions provided for us on our sojourn here on earth—our spouse, our children, our parents, our church family, our friends of a lifetime and those we’ve just met. And we could express our gratitude for them to God.
We might look around us at our home, the roof over our heads, be it an apartment or a house or an r.v., at our neighborhood, at the people who would support us if we are ever in trouble. The food we have to eat, the skills we have gained, the knowledge we have and so much more. And be grateful.
We might even look at any pain and suffering, loss and gain, health and ill-health as a gift to focus on our need of, our longing for God. Each of these incidences that challenge us takes us out of the day-to-day cultural paradigm into God’s arms. And there is Jesus’s promise that God knows every hair on our heads[Matthew 10:30, Luke 12:7] and his own promise to be with us “always, even to the end of the world.”[Matthew 28:20] Knowing that the Trinity is with us always can help us to see how all the pain and suffering we endure are meant to bring us closer to our real selves and to God. They cut through the unnecessary cultural claptrap and our own egotism and help us to see what is true and real.
We could begin to see life with God’s broader, more truthful lens than with our own narrow one or with its cultural overlay. We could lean on God to a large extent in every area of our lives and find that He is always there for us and with us. We could look to God for what is true about ourselves and about him.
These suggestions might culminate in keeping a gratitude journal every night or in doing a daily examen which looks for where we were aware that God was present in our day and where we missed seeing him. Both these evening practices can help us be aware of God’s presence, his blessings, his grace and his Word for us every day. Throughout the day.
To live in gratitude is to live in joy, to treasure the small pleasures and the people we journey with, to be aware of God in our everyday work, family, friends, and the sum total of our lives.
Questions to ponder over the week: What am I grateful for in my life? Am I living my life in gratitude to God? What keeps me in complaints and out of gratitude? What would I have to give up to change the way I think about my life? How can I see my life and what God does in it differently? Am I willing to think differently than the culture I live in?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who see the natural world and think God, who look at our lives and are awed by what we see. May we live in gratitude for the good times and the challenging ones. May we thank God in everything.
Check out the archives of my blog going back to 2011 on this page.
There are two new videos now on my FB page, By the Waters: “The Essence of Christianity” and “I Am Free.”