Recognizing the grace and goodness of God in your life is a key skill to learn. I say “skill” and “learn” because an attitude of gratitude is intentional, not accidental.
The world’s flow and fierce purpose are designed to make you feel inadequate. If you are not wearing the right perfume, living in the right place, driving the right car, you are somehow less than. And in the world’s way of working the “right” anything means the thing you don’t yet have!
The hamster wheel of want is never-ending and leads nowhere other than exhaustion.
Gratitude for what we already have, and who God has already made us, is a stepping-off point. I confess it is one that I miss way too often. Opportunities abound for grateful acceptance and thanksgiving, but instead of stopping to celebrate God’s faithful hand in the affairs of my life, I find myself rushing to the next thing way too quickly.
No breath taken, no faithfulness recognized, no luxuriating in the simple pleasures of present wonder – just an anxious chase after whatever comes next.
As a creative, I derive tremendous satisfaction from making things, bringing things into existence, but rarely hang around afterward to appreciate what I have made.
Even God paused His creative activity to call what he’d made, “Good, good, very, very good!”
As a recovering creata-holic I’m listing these five practices to help you punctuate your days and your projects with something that will crown them and crush the tendency to rush ahead of the Holy Ghost.
1. God is not in a hurry!
Too often we have the destination in view and fail to enjoy the journey. With every milestone victory, we rush on by, convinced that the next milestone is the one that will salve our need for significance.
With every few steps you take toward your goals, stop. Give thanks for the ground you have covered. Thank God for what’s to come of course, but don’t hand your emotions to an uncertain future that’s not guaranteed.
Give God room to fill this moment and make it monumental. A marathon is run in stages, and each mile should be recognized as a victory!
Learn to enjoy the journey and thank God for every step!
2. I am not in competition with anyone, even myself!
The combative and competitive nature of worldly pursuit for power and prestige, whatever form that takes, leads to pride. Proverbs 13:10 points out that “Only by pride cometh contention” and both sides of the pride coin are played in the competitive game. Either you’ll think you are better than others, or that they are far better than you. You’ll either think of yourself more highly than you ought and diminish the achievements of others, or you’ll go all grasshopper in your own sight and think your worth is worthless.
I’ve heard some cite the wisdom, “You are not in competition with anyone but yourself.” Dude, I don’t want to compete with myself, nor commend myself.
Paul said this:
“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? … we are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:1–5 KJV)
Your sufficiency is of God. The idea that there is a great self somewhere in the future that we are chasing robs you of thankful appreciation for who you are today. You are enough right now. You are not frantically trying to be someone that you are not already.
Bring your best self to the table today, and every day. That way your future self won’t always be goading you with a feeling of senseless inadequacy. In Christ you are complete, and today is a great day to thank God for His gracious workmanship!
Appreciate your present imperfect self and don’t postpone feeling worthy to some unknown future day of perfection.
3. I will notice the small things!
Life is not made up of mountain top moments, it is made up of tiny steps between the peaks. Learning to enjoy the beauty of the valleys is what makes everyday life a delight, not a drudgery.
The small beauties of everyday are the ingredients of a rich and full existence; the sip of coffee in the early hours, warm water rolling through your fingers and the silky smooth of fragrant soap lather when you wash, a cool breeze on an autumn morning, or the stolen unspoken glances of a loved one in the crowded busyness of life.
Notice and count the smallest benefits of your life. Stop despising the simple and the small, and the big will turn up more often than you expect because you’ll see that small things are actually massive!
4. Time is precious, especially this moment!
Chase money all you like, it will never buy you another minute on earth. Let all things find their proper place in your priority scale. Minutes and hours are more precious than the dollars you can earn if you spend too many of them in pursuit of things.
The most valuable things in life are not things at all.
In the words of Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, “Love People, Use Things, Because The Opposite Never Works.”
Appreciate the people in your life, and don’t trade time with them for things that can never make you whole or happy. Life is relationship. Relationship with God, with your loved ones, and with others who are taking their own pilgrim journey. A big part of a thankful life is taking time to encourage someone else along the road.
5. Live today like tomorrow is a myth!
My good friend, Vincent, was a very successful man. At over seventy he was stronger than most twenty-year-old men and training hard for world cycling championships. Larna and I worked with Vinny and his wife in church planting and evangelism for many years and no one would have expected he’d leave the planet in a sudden, tragic cycling accident. One day here, strong, passionate, ambitious, faithful, and faith-filled – the next, in eternity!
Plan and prepare with diligent wisdom, but don’t count on having a tomorrow to say the things you need to say, or do what you know you need to do. Prioritize the truly important things over those unimportant things that are merely urgent but transitory.
Invest vigorously in your love account, storing up riches that moth and rust cannot touch, not just your bank account where all of your hard work can easily sprout wings and fly away. The currency of heaven is not the same kind we trade here on earth, and the accolades of eternity will not be measured in monetary terms.
Let your daily actions reflect your heartfelt values. Don’t assume that you have tomorrow to make up for the truly important things you fail to prioritize today!
What are your thankful practices? What priorities do you choose to follow as you make your way between the peaks? How can we learn to appreciate the richness of our every day more fully?