I've started a new journal. People have kept journals throughout the ages, and in the past few years journal-writing has come into vogue again. From personal observation to contemplative essays to a chronology of events, people are recording their thoughts and the events of their lives.
Before I go to bed at night, I take a moment to record some thoughts on gratitude. It's not just a list of things I'm grateful for, but a record of quotations that inspire me to be more grateful, and my own reflections on life's deeper blessings. Here are some entries:
From a poem by William P. McKenzie:
"We thank Thee for work in the wide harvest field ...
And courage that rises undaunted by strife,
For confident giving and giving's reward ..."
("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 150).
I'm grateful for reminders that giving is more fulfilling than getting (and I do still need reminding).
I'm grateful for my family - to know that I have someone to live for, to work for, to give to, to share with. Grateful that I can do something for someone else; grateful for opportunities to be kind, patient, and forgiving; grateful to be challenged to live more honestly; grateful for merited rebuke; grateful for the opportunity that a family affords to practice these things.
I'm grateful for the insistent demand to listen to God instead of merely trying to figure things out for myself. It's just as well that that doesn't really work. This fact urges me to look outside myself for a higher source of wisdom and direction.
"I have more of earth now than I desire, and less of heaven" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Footprints Fadeless," page 124).
If I really think about it, I would rather hear God, Truth, speak with unmistakable clarity than see or have anything on earth.
I am grateful for the times I have heard Truth's voice, grateful to know that, actually, Truth speaks constantly, faithfully, imperatively. And my God-given nature includes the desire to hear, the humility to listen, the love to accept, and the courage to obey. I am grateful that nothing can block this listening.
Even today's "funk" has taught me to be grateful that it has been a long time since I've felt this way, and that I have grown in the way of spiritual dominion and authority. I'm grateful that I can no longer be content to lapse into mental drifting or indifference.
I am thankful for gentle lessons unfolding almost imperceptibly, and yet undeniably - maturing, deepening, spiritualizing, Christianizing my thought - leading me to more honest living. I am thankful to have been given a conscience. I am thankful for the ability to change and grow - to leave the old for the new.
I never know until I sit down and open the journal what I'm going to write. It's as though the very act of being open to deeper reflections on gratitude makes it possible to hear and understand more about the power and dynamics of gratitude.
I lead what feels like a pretty demanding life. I'm learning to stop resenting the demands, stop feeling sorry for myself that my life isn't easier, and start appreciating that these demands are not accidental. They serve a purpose in teaching me to love serving; to be more generous, patient, understanding, magnanimous, forgiving. I actually do like myself better when I am less selfish and more genuinely caring and thoughtful.
Somehow, somewhere deep within, I believe there is a being, conceived by God to be completely loving and pure. I believe that God has a design for uncovering and revealing that goodness, and that gratitude, even in the midst of struggles, somehow speeds this process.
If this approach to giving thanks strikes a chord with you, I'm glad. I hope we can all find deeper meaning in our lives and more fully appreciate life's deeper blessings.
Enter into his gates
and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him,
and bless his name.
For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting;
and his truth endureth
to all generations.
Psalms 100:4, 5