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The Beautiful Simplicity of a Gratitude List

And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. – Ezra 3:11

Dear Friends,

My first Sunday back in the pulpit, albeit the pulpit of Webster Groves Presbyterian Church, I mentioned the benefit of keeping a Gratitude List.  Those of us who struggle with depression, anxiety, shame, and/or trauma struggle focusing on the beauty of the outside world and our own inner worth.  We look at the world through the prism of negativity.  And, it can be difficult and time consuming to rewire our perception.  A Gratitude List can be a big step in helping us look at the world and ourselves through a different prism: a prism of thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving dinners will likely be different for our families this year.  And, that is a shame.  However, we cannot afford to let that reality drag down our mindset.  Instead, we need to focus on what is good and beautiful and brings us joy instead of what brings us frustration.  If you feel yourself being consumed by negative emotions and thoughts, please consider the daily discipline of a Gratitude List.

Here is how I practice my List.  Please know that you can adjust your discipline to fit your needs.  I would only urge you to practice this discipline daily.  I got a journal to use that I could dedicate to this activity.  I began by making an initial List of ten things I was grateful for in the world or in my personal life.  I tried to be as specific as I could: instead of just writing “My Wife,” I wrote “Karen’s Laugh.”  This frees me up to write everything about my wife for which I am grateful.

I kept my initial list to ten.  I found I wanted to write more once I got going.  But, I kept it ten to start.  Then, early the next morning, I got up early enough to read my list slowly.  I used it as a prayer: thanking God for each item specifically as I read out loud.  I found it put a smile at my face and started my day with a positive perspective.  That night, as I meditated and looked back over my day, I added three things to my Gratitude List.  I found that this meditation helped calm me down and helped me fall asleep quicker.  Then, the next morning, I reread my entire list prayerfully.

And, that has been my daily cycle each day since returning home.  My Gratitude List is now multiple pages.  If I don’t have time in the morning to read the entire List, I at least read the most recent page or two.  If I have more time, I read the entire list.  It takes some time, but I feel it has been worth it.  Now, when I go through my day, I have become conditioned to actually look for things for which I am grateful. 

This is a big change for me, and it could be a big change for you as well this Thanksgiving season.  I used to look at the world with a certain amount of fear and resentment.  I used to look at myself with contempt.  Now, though I don’t feel anything like “fixed,” I do feel I am looking at the world through God’s eyes, who pronounced his creation “Good.”  And, I look at myself through the eyes of Christ, who sees me as worthy of forgiveness, grace and love.

It may work for you as well.  And, for a divinely transformed perspective and an enhanced spiritual connection with our God, that is reason to give tremendous thanks.

Blessings in Christ,

Pastor Pat