Author Terri Blackstock said, “I was recently complaining to some friends about some stresses in my life, and one of them wrote me an email that I will never forget.”
That email came from her author friend, Athol Dickson. His heart had been crushed by the loss of his mother after an agonizing struggle with cancer. He couldn’t think about God, pray or read the Bible. Nothing pulled him out of his despair. One day his wife insisted on taking a road trip together, and during their drive, he saw the most beautiful sunset he’d ever seen. He wept with gratitude for that sunset. From that moment on, he began looking for God in everything and finding reasons to be thankful.
Athol instructed Terri, “Starting immediately, thank God for every gift He gives, from those as small as a whiff of honeysuckle or jasmine in your backyard, to the realization that you just had a few moments without back pain, to really big things like [hearing news that someone you love is safe.]
“I’m talking about the practice of intentional gratitude. ‘Intentional,’ because it involves an aggressive effort to remain aware of God’s gifts as you move through your day, and to actively acknowledge each gift with a simple, ‘Thank You.’
“. . . In a life filled with the practice of intentional gratitude, there can be no ‘Yes, but . . .’ or “It’s not fair,” or “Why me?’ downward spiraling kinds of thinking. The two attitudes simply do not mix. Also, to focus on life’s gifts you must live in the moment. With the practice of intentional gratitude, there is no time for regrets about the past, or worries about the future. There is only thankfulness for the here and now.”
Athol went on to say that a default setting in life is to take details for granted, when in fact almost every part of every day is a direct gift from God. He told Terri, “It’s not easy, but if you do take this seriously and work at it until it becomes a routine part of life, I promise unconditionally that you will regain your joy.
Terri decided to take Athol’s advice and try “spinning” her thoughts around. Instead of being perturbed about a crisis that cost her a lot of money, she thought to herself, “God provided every penny that we needed.” Instead of whining about having to do something she didn’t want to do, she adjusted her thinking to, “God gave me the strength to get through that.”
She explained, “I realized I was going through most of my life ignoring those things that God deserved thanks for. I wasn’t looking for God, so I kept missing Him . . . . Once I reviewed times when God quietly worked in my life . . . it changed my brain. Dread became anticipation. Complaining turned into praise.”
As I read those last two sentences about dread and complaining, I knew God was shining His flashlight on me. I’d allowed dread to infiltrate my mind and block my thankfulness to God for opening a door to something wonderful.
I had followed the encouragement of my publisher to become a member of AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association). That membership paved the way for me to register for the upcoming AWSA conference in Nashville. Immediately following the conference, the Christian Product Expo (CPE) will begin. My publisher invited me, as one of their authors, to be present at their book table at CPE so I can meet people, and sell and sign my books. I’ve been given a chance to step into a far-reaching network of writers and speakers who love and pray for each other and support one another in their endeavors. Without the open door to join AWSA, none of this would be possible.
You would think my excitement would be mounting as I contemplate these upcoming happenings in Nashville. However, I have allowed “dread” to run wild. What am I supposed to do to prepare? What promotional materials do I need? What should I expect during the training? Who will I room with? What clothes should I pack? How will I keep track of where I’m supposed to be with such a packed and varied schedule?
By focusing only on the unknowns, I created pressure for myself. Finally, I recognized my sin. When I confessed it and began expressing gratitude to God, my dread changed to anticipation! Now I can’t wait to learn new ways to enhance my writing and speaking ministry. I’m looking forward to meeting many new friends, embracing each day, and watching God orchestrate all the details.
These days my journal is full of thanks to God because I’m noticing the big and little ways He is filling my life with meaning and purpose. Getting into the practice of “intentional gratitude” has increased my joy of living life with God.
Is there something you would like to intentionally express gratitude to God for?
“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and
established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and
overflowing with gratitude.”
*Excerpts from “A Note from the Author” section of the book, If I’m Found, by Terri Blackstock.