A couple months ago I began a journey toward becoming more thankful. While the journey was ultimately sparked by many factors, the major catalyst was an intriguing book title: The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of a Lost Spiritual Discipline by Dustin Crowe. Through God’s providence I came across this book shortly before Thanksgiving and on sale.
The book begins with a Gratitude Quiz. I never considered myself to be a grumbler, that is until I completed the Gratitude Quiz. Initially I began answering the questions the way I wanted to answer, but then I started over and began answering the questions honestly. While the quiz was not pass/fail, I sure felt like I had failed. I never thought I was the epitome of gratitude, but I was surprised by the level of my ingratitude.
Sure, I began every prayer by thanking God for His many blessings. Sure, I was often the first person to say thank you to another person for something they did. While these outward displays of gratitude were an honest reflection of thankfulness, they also lulled me into thinking I was thankful enough.
As I read the book, I was continually confronted by three realities. First, I had plenty in my life for which to be thankful. This meant that I could never be thankful enough. There was always one more thing, one more person, or one more blessing for which I could be thankful. Thankful enough is not a real possibility.
Second, gratitude and thanksgiving requires words. Gratitude and thanksgiving must be expressed. Imagine for a moment that a spouse, family member, or friend was exceedingly grateful for you, but never once said thank you. Never once did they share how thankful they were for you and your presence in their life. Would we say that person was genuinely thankful? Probably not.
Third, I realized I had failed to put my gratitude into words. While I expressed thanks for something specific someone did, I rarely expressed any thankfulness for the person himself or herself.
These realities launched me on a journey of thankfulness. My journey began by picking up a little notebook and pen so that I might begin to make a list of all the things for which I am grateful. My goal was to add at least three items per day. My hope is there would never be a day I could not meet my goal.
The list below reflects a brief summary of the items in what I am calling my Thankfulness Project. I have combined many items into various categories for the sake of simplicity. (I have refrained from sharing names for the sake of privacy.)
My purpose in sharing my list is twofold. First, it is an expression of my gratitude for the many blessings in my life. Second, I hope my list will inspire you to create your own list, and perhaps, start a revolution of thankfulness.
- God. Psalm 107 opens with the admonition, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” Notice it does not say, “for the good things he gives;” but “for he is good.” Two things I learned as I read The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks was the need to be thankful – first and foremost – to God because He is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17). Second, and more importantly, we need to be thankful for who God is, not just what He has done for us.
- Salvation. Thankfulness for God must naturally lead to thankfulness for His salvation. While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8); not because of what I had done or who I was, but because of His grace and mercy (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- My Wife. I am grateful beyond measure for the blessing of my wife. I am thankful for her presence, goodness, and love in my life. She is the perfect suitable helper for me in every way. I am a better man, father, and minister because of her.
- My Kids. God has blessed me with two of the greatest kids a father could imagine. They are both true gifts of God. They constantly make me laugh and always leave me stunned by their capacity to love others.
- My Dad. As with many men, my relationship with my father was complicated. We did not always have the best relationship, but I am so thankful for his influence in my life (especially when I did not necessarily like it). His influence made me a better man in every way.
- My Mom. I am so thankful for my mom’s unconditional love for me and our family. While I have given my mom many reasons to write me off, she has continued to love me in ways both great and small.
- My Sisters. God blessed me with two amazing sisters. Sure there have been fights and we may not look like the typical close-knit family, but my sisters have always been there for me when I needed them.
- My In-Laws. Every time I hear a nightmare story about in-laws, I realize how blessed I am to have wonderful in-laws. Not only have my in-laws become a second set of parents to me, they are wonderful grandparents to my daughters. I am so thankful to have them in my life.
- Friends. I am so blessed to have a group of men in my life who “sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).” These men would not only drop anything if I needed their help, but they also sharpen my iron (Proverbs 27:17).
- Mentors. God has blessed me throughout the years with wisdom from a plethora of older Godly men who have pointed me toward Christ in innumerable ways. I am incredibly grateful for each of these men.
- Fellowship Baptist Church. Sixteen years ago God led me to Fellowship Baptist Church. This church has not only been my place of employment, but it has become my church family.
- Worshiping with My Church Family. Each Sunday morning I get the pleasure of gathering with my church family to worship our God. Even through I am a bit of an introvert and tend to not like crowds, I love gathering with these people for the glory of God.
- Students. I love teenagers. People often ask me how I can stand to be around teenagers and, to be honest, I do not understand their question. Teenagers are amazing and I am so thankful I get to work with them both inside and outside the church on a daily basis. But as thankful as I am for teenagers in general, I am even more thankful for the wonderful students I have worked with over the past sixteen years. There is no other group of people I would rather spend time with (outside of my family) than these students, both past and present. Each of them have impacted my life in ways they may never understand. I am so thankful God has allowed me to be a part of their lives.
- Ministry Opportunities. As I have served at Fellowship Baptist Church, God has blessed me with many opportunities both inside and outside of the church. Most recently, God has allowed me the opportunity to serve His people through Biblical Counseling.
- Bible Conversations. There are very few moments in ministry that can match a conversation which begins, “So I was reading the Bible . . .” I am so thankful for conversations I get to have with people about the Bible and theology.
- God’s Provision of Necessities. From a house to food to transportation, I am grateful for the natural and supernatural ways God provides for each of mine and my families’ needs every day.
- God’s Provision of Pleasures. Not only does God provide for the needs, but He often also provides pleasures as well. Food does not have to taste good, yet God blesses us with good foods that tickle out tastes buds. Add to this a billion other pleasures I do not deserve, and the goodness of God is on full display. I am so thankful that God does not only provide the need, but often gives us pleasures as well.
- The Beauty of God’s Creation. One of the pleasures I am especially thankful for is nature. Whether it is a walk through the woods, the amazing view from a mountain, or sitting next to a rustling stream of water; I am so thankful for the many beauties God gave us in His creation.
- Books. I’m thankful that God has given me a love of reading and provided many great books to go alongside that love of reading.
- Learning. To go along with a love a reading is a love of learning. I am so grateful for the many educational opportunities I’ve been provided in the past. I am also thankful that God has given me a desire to be a life-long learner.
- Rest. I have learned the importance of rest over the past year. I thank God that He has not only called us to work but He has also called us to rest.
- Chocolate. God could have made life boring, but He did not. Instead, He gave us chocolate. Let us all be thankful that God gave us chocolate.
- Freedom. We do not need freedom. Most Christians over the past 2000 years did not have freedom. But, I have been blessed to be born in a time and place where we have certain freedoms, including the right to the free expression of religion. I pray I would never take this freedom for granted.
I hope my list will continue to grow in 2023, not because I want to have a long list, but because I want to continue to grow in gratitude and thankfulness for the glory of God. I hope my list and my journey have inspired you to your own journey of thankfulness.
All Scriptures: The Holy Bible : English Standard Version
(Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).
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