Cultivating Gratitude

I have a grateful heart this morning. Yesterday retired Pastor Ken Rouf, a member of Resurrection, preached. He preached on gratitude and he gave me the gift of a Sunday free so that I could spend time with the family campers at Camp Wapogasset.

I am so grateful for the families who attended; their children gave me and others a workout during our evening “Olympic” games. We laughed as we tried to play field hockey with foam float tubes and as we raced to find our shoes. Each night at campfire, we sang with thankful hearts and joyful memories.

I am also grateful for the staff of Camp Wapo and for Sarah and Jon Storvick who helped to make this such a special week-end. Jon attended Camp Wapo as a camper a few decades ago and lead us in song each night. Sarah guided us in making family prayer boxes and in keeping the program fun and meaningful.

Gratitude is a Christian spiritual emotion that we can cultivate within our lives. An important aspect of such gratitude is not simply to be thankful for when things are going well, but also to be grateful during the challenging times as well. I confess that I struggle to be thankful when things are not going the way I want. I too easily see God as my “provider” and not as ALMIGHTY KING. Robert C. Roberts describe my problem this way,

A more suburbanite version of this resistance to Christian thanksgiving is the pattern of appreciating our prosperity, health, talents, and successes without being grateful to God for them. Perhaps we call them our “blessings,” but God remains to us a vague principle of their origin, rather than a Giver clear and present to our awareness. Or if God does seem to the individual a vivid personal presence, he is a sort of Super-Size Sugar-Daddy whose function in life is to provide the goodies in sufficient abundance. This kind of person may be a churchgoer, but the telltale mark of ingratitude is that when the “blessings” are reversed, when the hard times come, she tends to get angry at God and feel he has let her down. We might call this the Savage* syndrome, since the individual treats God as a convenient source of blessings, rather than as God. It is as though God owes her the blessings. If God fails to serve his essential purpose, he is guilty of the injustice of not doing his job. (Robert C. Roberts. Spiritual Emotions: A Psychology of Christian Virtues (Kindle Locations 1956-1962). Kindle Edition.)

God is the source of all joy and life. Perhaps our greatest thanksgiving each day could focus on the simple truth that God creates, redeems, and empowers us. Thanks be to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

How do you practice gratitude?

For what are you grateful today?

*Richard Savage, an eighteenth-century English poet of whom Samuel Johnson wrote a short biography in which he described Savage as a man who always expected people to assist and lend to him.

2 thoughts on “Cultivating Gratitude

  1. sarahys

    Thanks for this timely post. Even surrounded by reasons for gratitude, I can so easily focus on what I think is not going my way. Visits to WAPO help me find that attitude of gratitude – I am so grateful for that place, and for everyone from all the WAPO visionaries to the churches who support them, to the amazing young adults who serve there ~ and the life and refreshing that God gives through WAPO.
    Somewhere I read that gratitude, and our relationship with God, provides a ‘looking up and then out.’ When I lack gratitude, I do find myself looking downward or inward. I’ve only journalled gratitude occasionally, but when I do make a habit of beginning a journal entry with gratitude, it does keep me looking up!

  2. Jeannie LeMere

    Thanks John, for this great post. I try to be consciously grateful for little blessings every day, especially the blessings that come through hardship. For me it takes daily solitude, which is increasingly difficult to find in our society. Often I find that time in the quiet of the garden, where God helps me alter my perspective as I care for his creation. Such wonderful therapy!


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