Chapter 21: Gratitude

This is a guest series by Phil Cate. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them all by clicking on ‘Phil Cate’ under the Categories heading in the right panel. Watch for new installments every Friday.

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Chapter 21
Gratitude 

Psalm 118:24 (NIV)
24This is the day the LORD has made;
 let us rejoice and be glad in it.

       Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday of the year. First of all, there’s the food; and since I like too much of everything, Thanksgiving agrees with me.

       For whatever reason, about fifteen years ago I started calling many of my customers the week of Thanksgiving and telling them that I was thankful for them. That habit sparked something in me that really has grown; during that week, I started thinking just how many blessings I had in my life. It was a bigger list than I could calculate.

       Now here’s the funny part — for the last fifteen years or so, I’ve been very happy in and around the Thanksgiving holidays. The more I thought about things I was grateful for, the happier I was. Seems like a simple concept, right? But I guess I was too thick to simply do it all year ’round.

       I think gratitude and humility are close cousins; and the polar opposites of gratitude are resentment and frustration. I had chosen to live many days of my life in a state of resentment and frustration. What was I thinking?

       Well, here’s what I wasn’t thinking — I wasn’t thinking how much I had to be thankful for. There just was no gratitude in me. I was instead walking around whining about — guess what? — my frustrations and resentment.

       Now that’s about like shooting a corpse isn’t it? What possible good is it going to do if I’m miserable and I can only talk about how miserable I am? Again, even my best thinking leads me astray. God leads me to joy, though, with the words above from the Psalms. “This is a day the LORD has made and let us be glad in it.”

       How miserable can I remain if I decide that every day and every person and every experience in that day are precious? Could that possibly mean that happiness is a decision? I think it does, but only if I factor God into the equation. If I’m living life without God factored in, and I lose a business deal, then it’s just bad news. But with God factored in, maybe it meant someone else needed that deal worse than I did or maybe that deal wouldn’t have gone well for me, so I should “be glad in it”. If I don’t factor God in, and Kay’s having a tough day and maybe is a little short with me, then I’m just resentful or frustrated. But if I factor God in, I see an opportunity to help her and show her I’m thankful to have her.

       I can get so bent out of shape at times that I need to sit down and write out a gratitude list. Now that’s tough, when I’m having a horrible day already, and I sit down and try to figure out what I’m grateful for. But oddly enough, it works. It may not make me giddy and happy, but it does get me out of the funk I’m in. If I work at it enough, I may even be able to see that my agenda and God’s agenda clearly haven’t been lining up. If they were, I wouldn’t be so miserable; I’d merely be joyfully watching what God was up to in the people all around me and what he was up to in me, too, for that matter.

       Again I want ask you a tough question. How much of your life is spent feeling resentment and frustration and how much spent feeling gratitude? If it’s less than 100% gratitude, then there’s work to do.

       I know full well that life can be very difficult at times and I’m certainly not negating the difficulties you may be enduring. I’m simply asking you to realize that regardless of what is going on around you, if you factor God into the picture, you can choose gratitude and joy over resentment and frustration.

       Would you be willing to try the simple old task of counting your blessings on a routine daily basis and on the really tough days maybe even sit down and write out things you’re thankful for? Pray every day with thanks to God for all you have in your life. I bet you’ll feel better emotionally almost immediately, and your effectiveness at the tasks at hand will sharply improve.

       The biggest benefit for me is the change in tone of everything that comes out of my mouth directed towards the people around me. That is my ultimate gratitude barometer; if I’m kind in my tone, I’ve been grateful; if I have a flamethrower spewing out of my mouth or am sharp or condescending in my tone, I’ve been feeling resentful and frustrated and I have some maintenance to do.

       Try it for yourself. Gratitude saves my butt on a daily basis . . . but only when I use it.

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Next: Accountability and Fellowship     

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Phil Cate is a resident of the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area and runs a small medical equipment resale business. He is available for speaking engagements and can be reached at PhilC@ER3.biz or by phone at 678-429-0901

Printed by permission from Phil Cate, Mama told me Jesus saved my soul, but who was gonna save my butt??? Confessions, lessons, and revelations of a born rebel, © 2008.

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