Thanksgiving 2019

“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”

Maya Angelou

The beauty of gratitude is that it pulls you into the present moment. To be grateful you must be aware and the richness of the world that exists around you right now. To be thankful for all the blessings you have requires that you let go of the temptation to live for the future and revel in the richness of the present moment.

On this Thanksgiving Day take the time to pause and be fully present and aware of the incredible blessings that you have been blessed with. It is a beautiful day! Happy Thanksgiving!

Daily Gratitude = Happiness…

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.”

Melodie Beattie​

When in your life have you been the most grateful? If you take a moment to look back and think of a time when your “gratitude overflowed” what was it that you were grateful for? Who were the people, the gifts, or the blessings that created that degree of gratefulness?

It can be so easy to get lost in the pursuit of “more” and the comparison trap with others. When one takes a step back and considers all the blessings you truly have, the rest just seems to drift into place.

What is it that prevents you from having a sense of gratitude each and every day?

A life worth living…

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

Oprah Winfrey

Are you focused on creating a life based on “getting” or “giving?” No matter how much you accumulate, it is never enough. By the same token, no matter how much you give, you can always give more.

The key is to think about how you feel AFTERWARDS. Which perspective makes you feel full and alive, and which one leaves you feeling empty and needing more…?

Taken for granted…

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

G.K. Chesterton

There is such a distinct difference between living a life of gratitude and any other kind of life. A life of gratitude fuels a positive spirit and an appreciation of the beauty that surrounds us. But it is so easy to take things for granted.

Make a list today of 10 things that you know that you take for granted. Be specific. You aren’t going to share this list (unless you want to) so be honest with yourself. Now study that list. Is there something on that list that someone else does for you to whom you could go and express your gratitude? If so, do it.

Next think of the biggest challenges or obstacles that you are facing. What are the things that are causing you to have doubt and worry? Now look at your list again. Given the things that you have that you are taking for granted in life does the challenge seem quite as large?

If you have your health, you have so much more than many people. If you have love, you have more than many. If you have food to eat and water to drink, you have more than most of the world has had throughout human history. What do you have to be grateful for today?

Give it all away…

“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life is precious and short. It will end at some point for all of us. How you live each day will determine the depth of your life regardless of the breadth. I have come to realize that there are two simple axioms that should frame how you live. First, rid yourself of all anger and resentment. Second, give away all your gifts of self as soon as you can.

First, there is an old saying about anger has been attributed to a number of people over the years. “Hanging on to anger or resentment is like taking a poison and expecting the other person to die.” It is sad to see people that are so busy being hurt that they can’t see the joy in the world and in their own lives. Resentment hurts no one but yourself. Let it go. Strip yourself of it in every way and do what it takes to forgive or forget, ideally both if possible.

Second, hanging on to a gift or a kindness of self and not giving it is like buying a present for someone and putting it on the shelf. If you don’t give it there will be a time when you no longer can. All the great intention in the world isn’t the same as giving the gift. This is a time when the saying “it’s the thought that counts” truly doesn’t apply. If you have a kindness to give; give it. These gifts of self are perishable, the difference is that you don’t know when exactly they will spoil.

Don’t hang on to either your anger or your gifts. One will kill you, the other will cause regret at some point in life. You can’t get the time back.

For those who served…

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

Thucydides

“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.”

Abraham Lincoln

One of the principle regrets or “misses” in my life is that I didn’t take take the opportunity to serve my country. I didn’t have the honor to wear a uniform and take an oath that so many of our brothers and sisters have done in the name of freedom. It will always be one of my disappointments.

I chose two quotes today intentionally. The first quote to call out the bravery and courage that our service men and women take on when they put on their uniform and choose to protect our freedoms. THANK YOU.

I choose the second quote as a reminder to myself that even without having put on a uniform I have an obligation to do all I can to support those who are serving. To all those that give above and beyond to ensure that our Veteran’s are celebrated and supported not just on Veteran’s Day but every day of the year, THANK YOU.

We have the incredible gift of freedom because of the courage of those who stand in the gap to defend us each and every day. THANK YOU.

Say thank you…

“Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone.”

Gertrude Stein

Close your eyes. Think of one person who did something for you in the past 24-hours that you haven’t thanked. Now open your eyes. Take action to express your gratitude within the next hour. Write a note, send a text, pick up the phone, walk next door and find the person. Just don’t delay.

Say what needs to be said, who knows, you might change that persons entire day.

Compared to what?

“The fastest way to kill something special is to compare it to something else.”

Craig Groeschel

Do you remember that thing that you dreamed about forever, saved up for years? Perhaps it was a new car, a new house or a new apartment. Maybe it was the new role at your work or a job at a new company, or even a new relationship. It was SPECIAL!

Then something happened. Somehow that thing that was bright and shiny and special lost its luster. It wasn’t special anymore, in fact, it became just like everything else, just a part of the background of life and a new bright shiny object took its place.

Why does this happen? How does something that at one time is very special and pursued become something that is easily put aside and taken for granted? Teddy Roosevelt said that “comparison is the thief of joy” and he was so very right. The minute we take the thing that is special to us, and compare it to what others have, or we think that they have, our own thing becomes tarnished. The more we compare, the darker the tarnish becomes.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians that, “But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12

How do we ensure that we focus on the gifts we have, and not get lost in the comparison to what we think others have? How do we ensure that our gratitude is focused on the gifts and blessings received? There will always be a desire for more, for new, for something better, and at times that can be okay, but only if you are comparing within and against yourself and not to others.

What am I most grateful for in life today?

“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.”

James Allen

I journal daily and one of my practices is to think through the past 24 hours and reflect on what I am most grateful for in life. I am often amazed that no matter what else is going, no matter how busy or crazy or challenging life is at the moment, the simple practice of finding the things that I appreciate and am thankful for right now serves to reset my mental state and puts my focus back on what is truly important. Giving thanks to God for the many blessings I have been given, that I don’t deserve, puts everything else in perspective.

What’s interesting to me is that when I miss a day or two here and there because life gets busy I don’t feel as grounded or focused. I find myself focused on living, instead of why I am living. Practicing gratitude as a habit has become part of my worship time and helps keep me grounded in what is truly important.

If you have never tried it start by simply answering the question “What am I most grateful for in life today?” with 2-3 single sentences. It will take less than five minutes so give it a try and challenge yourself to do it for an entire month. See if instead of a chore it becomes a habit you look forward to each day.

Find gratitude!

“It is so easy to forget how blessed we are! That’s why maintaining an attitude of gratitude is something we need to do on purpose.” 

Joyce Meyer

Sometimes we can be so busy that it is hard to stop and really reflect on how many gifts and blessings we have been given in life. Having gratitude just for the simplest things that we so often take for granted.

I love to read about history and I am always amazed at just how hard life was not all that many years ago. Yet today we get frustrated if our Starbucks coffee isn’t perfect or if someone gets the closer parking spot and we have to walk 30 more feet.

Every day we are the recipient of some blessing or gift. Take the time to find and express gratitude daily. It will change your life.

How do you find happiness?

“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”
 
L.M. Montgomery

I just finished reading a fascinating and compelling historical fiction titled “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” by Mark Sullivan.  It is an incredible story about a young Italian patriot in WWII fighting against Nazi tyranny and oppression. When I read stories like this and what others have gone through it really puts everything in life firmly in perspective.  

One of my favorite passages in the entire book reads: “How do you find happiness?” Anna paused, then said, “You start by looking right around you for the blessings you have.  When you find them, be grateful.” “Father Re says the same thing,” Pino said, “He says, to give thanks for every day, no matter how flawed.  And to have faith in God and a better tomorrow.”

Finding happiness and enjoyment is truly a choice and a belief that, no matter what, there will be a better tomorrow.  

Gratitude into action = Thanksgiving…

“It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.”

Tim Keller

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  It is a time where all the demands of the world seem to pause, if just for a moment.  Even though it can be stressful with cooking and cleaning and preparing for guests, it is work that is enjoyable and rewarding because of what it stands for; a celebration of thanks for all the incredible blessings that we have received in life.

Reading and reflecting on the quote above makes me ponder on the power of Thanksgiving, on the actions taken because of our gratitude.   Perhaps that is why this particular holiday is so celebrated.  It is a time when we pause to convert gratitude into action as we gather with friends and family and share our blessings.

Every day is an opportunity for an active Thanksgiving day.  But just once a year we have the Super Bowl, the championship, the over the top day where we actively celebrate thankfulness.  Today I hope that your Thanksgiving day is filled with happiness and gratitude.

 “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”  Psalms 9:1 

Thank you…

“For the veteran, thank you for bravely doing what you’re called to do so we can safely do what we’re free to do.”

Unknown

Thank you…

Thank you to all of those who served our country. Thank you to the families that sacrificed while their loved ones were away from home on long deployments.  Thank you for hearing the call of patriotism and freedom.  Thank you for giving yourself, so we can all be free.  Without you there is no such thing as freedom.

Thank you…

Gratitude is the foundation of riches…

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I know that I have so incredibly much to be grateful for in life.  We all have so much to be grateful for.  When I read this statement from Bonhoeffer (and if you haven’t read any of his works, or the exceptional biography written about him,  I highly encourage you to check them out) I was reminded of the power of including gratitude as part of your daily routine.  

It is as simple as writing down three things that you are grateful for each day.  I wrote about this back in July but I wanted to mention it again as I don’t think the power of this habit can be overstated.  I can speak from experience because of late I have been in a particularly busy season and this is one of the habits that I have allowed to go to the wayside.  Shame on me.  Without this daily perspective and attitude of thankfulness it is hard to keep the thief of joy at bay.  But a simple practice reframes the mind and lets one carry forward to serve others with a cheerful heart.  

I challenge you to simply try it for a week.  First thing in the morning, or just before bed at night, write down three things that have happened in the last 24 hours that you are particularly grateful for.  See how you feel after a week.  Then see if you can complete the month.  What better month of the year to express Thanksgiving than November?

See what happens.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

Climb the wall!

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” 

Randy Pausch

If you haven’t read the Randy Pausch book “The Last Lecture” I HIGHLY recommend that you do so.  It is easily one of the most compelling and inspirational books I have read in my life.  I haven’t read it in a number of years but it is going to the very top of my queue to reread starting this weekend.  If you are interested there is also a video of his lecture that is well worth the time.  You can check that out here.

I believe the ability to overcome obstacles and achieve despite the barriers in front of you is one of the most critical to long-term success in life.  Whether you call it grit, determination, or perseverance it is a fundamental element that those who are successful (and defining success is for another post…) seem to have as a deep core character trait.  It is an attitudinal element that manifests through behavior.  Those that have it seem to live life with an “over, under, around or through” ethos that allows them to overcome any of the brick walls that life throws at them.

How do you approach the walls in life?  Is it with defeatism or an intense focus that allows you to drive and show just how badly you want something?

Give the gift…

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

William Arthur Ward

For some reason this reminds me of the age old philosophical question of, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?”  If you feel grateful to another person, but don’t share it, does it have the impact it could? I am HUGE proponent of daily journaling and specifically of keeping a gratitude journal.  Writing down the 3-5 things each day that I am grateful for, and why, has really been impactful in my life over the past 3-4 years.  To learn more check out this article on The Transformative Power of Gratitude.

As I read this quote it makes me think that perhaps I have been stuck in first gear regarding my gratitude habit. I journal daily about what I am grateful for, but I haven’t made sharing that gratitude a daily priority.  There are so many incredible gifts that we receive in life, isn’t the best and most appropriate response to simply say thank you?

Attitude of gratitude…

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I began a daily “gratitude journal” several years ago where I would write down the 3-5 things that happened within the past 24 hours that I was especially grateful for.  It started as a 21-day challenge that was nothing more than a simple bullet list of specific items. Over time this became an exercise of deeper and more reflective journalling.  Invariably “life” would take over and I’d miss a day, then a week because of the time it took to write all the pages that I now expected myself to produce.  So I stopped.  Why? Because I created an expectation of myself that missed the point of the exercise entirely. I made it formulaic instead of remaining connected with the essence of the exercise.  It was a religion versus a spiritual connection.

Why do we humans do this?  Why do we take the simple and make it complicated and overwhelming?  Maybe I am the only one who does this but I don’t think so.  I see it happen at work, I see it happen in my personal life.  I see it happen when I am not taking time to be grateful for the good things that are there and instead focus on all the ways I think things should be. Make no mistake, it is okay to be discontent with the status quo.  In fact, I think it is AWESOME to be relentlessly discontent with the status quo. But don’t sacrifice thoughtful gratitude in an effort to get better.  Gratitude is a launching pad for even greater things…

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