An Attitude of Gratitude

This past Christmas, my wife and I received a card from a dear friend expressing thanks for support we had offered during a difficult time.

The card featured the title Gratitude and in it, our friend described how he was grateful for the friendship we’ve had the pleasure of sharing over the last few years.

It was not long after that I heard a program on the radio detailing the significance of gratitude and the challenge of giving thanks.

It made me think of a time when I was about 14 years old and wasn’t very happy – or thankful – for a significant Christmas gift my parents gave me.

Gratitude 1Wanting a Nintendo video game system that year, I had made my desires known to my parents for quite some time.

I made sure I behaved exceptionally well in the months leading up to Christmas, so as to earn my parents’ attention and convince them during their gift purchasing process.

When it came time to distribute the presents, my family huddled around the Christmas tree for my Dad to do his customary routine of passing out gifts to each of us.

NintendoI had noticed a large box under the tree, wrapped and containing my name on a tag, and so I had a strong suspicion I’d be getting the Nintendo I had been wanting.

 

Waiting until the last of the gifts, my Dad decided to finally call my name for that big box.

After ripping off the wrapping paper, my facial expression quickly turned from a look of awe and excitement to one of confusion and anger.

The gift? New hockey pants.

Sure, I loved hockey and had played in organized leagues much of my life. And yes, I likely could have used new pants, although the used pair I had been given a few years before were working fine, thank you very much.

Unhappy GiftBut I really wanted that Nintendo and was both mad and terribly disappointed I didn’t get it.

What a perfect example of how in society, we so often receive gifts and instead of being grateful, we complain about them and ask for something different.

How often do we act in this way when God gives us gifts?

Perhaps we want some nice weather during the summer in order to enjoy the beach, but then we grumble about how it’s too humid.

Maybe we pray long and hard to meet a person and fall in love, and then devote so much attention to that person’s faults.

How about a teenager blessed with beautiful freckles sprinkled on her face regretting her appearance because the person featured on the magazine covers has “perfect” skin?

What of the kid who won’t accept the clothes or cell phone his parents buy him as a birthday or school graduation gift since they aren’t the latest brand name standard?

If we are to always look past God’s blessings and offerings to us, we will surely never be able to fully appreciate them.

While it may seem farfetched due to social temptations and messages from popular culture, goodness can be lived when we focus on what we have from God instead of yearning for something bigger or brighter.

Gratitude 2So rather than griping about what God doesn’t give us, perhaps we can stand to concentrate more on what He does provide. (Psalm 107:8-9)

In demonstrating a little more thanks to the One who loves us, we might just be able to better apply – and reap the benefits of – all of those many gifts God bestows upon us. (Jeremiah 30:19)

Once we’ve learned how to live with such an attitude of gratitude, the game of life can be played that much more easily.

Will you be my Valentine?

With the month of February now upon us, we can look forward to different events and celebrations marking the road to spring.

We began yesterday with Groundhog Day, which often seems to brighten or dampen the spirits of many, depending on what side of the fence you sit when it comes to the winter season.

Certainly, February marks Black History Month and commemorates the many invaluable accomplishments of African-Americans throughout history, while also providing an important reminder of the work still needed to be done in order to achieve equality for all in society.

This year, February includes the Winter Olympics, showcasing the various talents of athletes from around the world.

And, in a little less than two weeks, we’ll begin the Lenten season and our spiritual journey to Easter by marking our foreheads with ashes on Ash Wednesday.

Oddly enough, Ash Wednesday this year falls on February 14, a date known by so many for a completely different reason.

Valentines Day Card 1Yes, Valentine’s Day – a day to celebrate your love with that special someone.

It’s a day for chocolate and roses, kisses and fancy dinner dates.

Back when I was in elementary school, I used to get so excited around Valentine’s Day.

On that day, students would bring a box of little cards to school and pass them to their classmates, inviting them to be their special valentine or thanking them for being such good friends.

The cards were of a particular theme – usually a popular cartoon character or superhero – and seemed to always have some catchy slogan or message like a train chugging on a track, saying “I choo-choo choose you!”

Valentines Day Card 3Indeed, Valentine’s Day would show us how loved and appreciated we were, and all the kids in the class would beam with joy at the number of cards they received that day.

But as enthusiastic as I was about Valentine’s Day, I remember also feeling very sad or disappointed, as I would often come home at the end of the school day without that special card from that girl for whom I had a crush, despite my sending her a thoughtful valentine.

I wonder if God can relate to these experiences and emotions when it comes to the spirit of Valentine’s Day.

Valentines Day Card 2Whether it be a sunshine or singing birds, acts of generosity from friends or community members, the gift of laughter or talents bestowed upon us, these and so many other examples illustrate how God gives us Valentine’s Day cards aplenty and seeks to speak with us daily, revealing His unconditional love for all of His creation.

In return, though, do we prepare a Valentine’s Day card for Him?

Do we tell God how much He is loved and appreciated?

Or, instead, do we avoid and ignore the Lord, leaving Him empty-handed when it comes time for Valentine’s Day cards to be distributed?

How many of us focus on other people or experiences, rather than devoting time and attention to God, who simply longs to lavish His love upon us and call us His children? (1 John 3:1)

But despite our sins, dismissal or even rejection of God, let us remember the Lord remains steadfast and faithful with His unconditional love.

Unlike those girls of my elementary school years on Valentine’s Day, God never breaks our heart.

Nehemiah Biblical QuoteQuite the contrary, He mends it by forgiving with mercy and understanding with compassion. He is slow to anger and graciously showers His blessings on His people. (Nehemiah 9:17)

So may this Valentine’s Day offer us an opportunity to fully embrace the love of God, while also gifting Him with our valentines, in order that we may show our gratitude to Him for everything in our lives.