November the First, and now, with the costumed craze behind me, and the Christmas craze ahead, I desire to focus on gratitude.
This world– my flesh– they do not encourage gratitude. This world tells me that I deserve this and that, and my flesh tells me that yes, I do deserve those things, and my deceitful heart tells me happiness will be found in these things I deserve, and once I have them in my hand I discover what Solomon knew— they are dust. And the world and my flesh and my heart tell me that now I need and deserve and should have something else, until I am consumed with it, with all these vanities, and I forget to give thanks for the breath in my lungs and the water flowing from my tap and the food filling my table and the love surrounding me on all sides.
When I focus on myself, I forget gratitude. When I focus on me, all I see are a grown-out haircut and last season’s clothes and worn carpet and peanut butter and jelly again.
Gratitude does not come from looking inward. What’s in there, anyway, besides that deceitful heart?
Gratitude comes from looking upward, looking outward.
And so I look upward, in my mind’s eye, past the colored flags of autumn splendor, past the heavens declaring the glory of God, all the way to God Himself, whom having not seen I love, and He smiles down grace and changes all those not-good-enoughs into reasons to be grateful. Health and clothes and home and food, and besides all that, more than enough, and family and love filling my life as well.
And I look outward, in my mind’s eye, past the storied walls of my own home down the street and around the world, and I see needs too great to be ignored, and I shake my head at my own selfishness.
And thankfulness begins to well up in my heart, and I cannot hold it in. How can I be silent when I have so much, so much to share, to give? If I am silent, how will anyone ever know the testimony of His great faithfulness to me? If I hold my hands still, how will I ever demonstrate God’s loving work in my own life?
Can gratitude to God mean anything if it does not come from a heart of worship? And can I say I am worshiping if I clutch my treasures to myself instead of offering them as a sacrifice of praise?
I believe that real gratitude must result in service. Without service, gratitude is just a warm fuzzy partly guilty feeling. And right now, for me, for this family, a feeling is not enough.
And so I think of ways to give during a month of gratitude, and I pray as I wind strips of paper around a pencil, fill a jar, that God would use these simple ideas to change our hearts this November, to make us see our blessings, and to help us serve others.
Each strip holds a reason to be thankful– my church, my home, my siblings– and a way to show thankfulness through service. I begin to make them, thinking that they will help teach my children gratitude– this as another fight over a toy or a chair or a crayon erupts– but by the time I am finished penciling words on paper I realize that I need them too. Together we will praise, and give, and do, and this will be our reasonable act of worship, this sacrifice of time and talents and treasure.
Before we choose and read one strip for November first, we practice together:
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing!
Know ye that the Lord, He is God–
It is He that has made us, and not we ourselves.
We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gate with thanksgiving, and into His court with praise;
Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name!
For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endureth to all generations.
Oh Lord, turn these eyes upward and outward. Give me a heart of thanksgiving, a life of worship– all that I am for all that You are.
This is my first post for the 30-Day Giving Challenge. If you’d like to know what our Grateful Service Jar holds for my family, or you’d like ideas to make your own, I’ve put it in a Google document and you can click here to access it.