Recently I came across a "blessings" book at my local bookstore. It was a do-it-yourself sort of thing, where you use a rubber stamp included in the package that says "Thank you, God." I'd seen something similar on Oprah Winfrey's TV show. Members of the studio audience had talked about the benefits of recording their blessings at the end of each day, and how doing so had changed their lives significantly.
I liked the idea of the book and bought a copy.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, saw gratitude and prayer as inseparable. A chapter of her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" that's titled "Prayer" asks: "Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more" (pg. 3).
A friend said that when she's feeling low, she sits herself down and lists all the blessings in her life. By the time she's finished (and sometimes the list can go on for pages), she's feeling happy and inspired again.
We can all give thanks that God made us "in his own image" (Gen. 1:27). Knowing that we're designed as perfect as our Maker gives us the strength and patience to keep working to be that image! We can give thanks that we are always under His care and can never be separated from the wisdom, love, and goodness the divine Spirit gives. When we turn to God for help with whatever lays us low, we are empowered.
The blessing of turning to God is that it causes the right ideas to come to you, ideas that bring solutions. Trusting that God will care for you, you become more receptive to His ideas.
It's often recorded that when Jesus asked God for something, he thanked Him first. Even when a good friend of his had died, Jesus looked up and said: "Father, I thank you for answering my prayer. I know that you always answer my prayers" (John 11:41, 42, Contemporary English Version). And then Jesus raised his friend to life.
Being grateful for God's bounty purifies our thinking. It prepares us to have, to accept, more good. Let's face it, if we're depressed and feeling as if we're in a big brown sack, we probably wouldn't recognize a blessing if we bumped into it. It's the expectancy, the attitude of a trusting child, that receives the prize.
When I was single, I was always grateful for friends who invited me to their homes during the holidays. And interestingly, it was always the friends whose homes were already filled to overflowing who regularly adopted us stragglers. We had wonderful times, and I recall there was always plenty of food, fun, and joy. It just seems that the more one gives, the more one has - that "giving does not impoverish us in the service of our Maker, neither does withholding enrich us" (Science and Health, pg. 79).
It's in this spirit that my husband and I watch out for folks who might appreciate sharing the holidays with us. Sometimes we even invite people the day before. It's good to be spontaneous about such things. Sometimes you start thinking, "Probably he/she has family and already has plans." You decide you can't ask someone so late; that your place is too small; that you won't have enough food. Extend your love anyway! I was beseiged with those suggestions when I ran into a friend I suspected might be spending Thanksgiving alone. When I asked her over, she was thrilled.
"Gratitude is much more than a verbal expression of thanks. Action expresses more gratitude than speech" (Science and Health, pg. 3). I knew someone who had become so unhappy with her job that she could hardly drag herself to work. She really wanted to move into something more satisfying. But she began being grateful for what she had. She took action - worked at becoming more prompt, strove to be more courteous to customers, complained less, and made an all-out effort to be nicer to co-workers. And it was not long before she did move into a more satisfying job - undoubtedly because she was now ready for something better.
Just knowing that God loves us and that He is as close to us as our prayers is cause for thanks every minute of the day. Wherever we are, whatever we're doing, we can always be grateful.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society