Monday, 3 October 2016

CULTIVATING gratitude {how do I grow a grateful heart?}

I thought it would be a good idea to share with you some of my journey to "Cultivate gratitude" as I go through this month - just to share what the Lord is showing ME.

I think it's a wonderful thing that although we can all read the same portion of scripture, the same book, or hear the same sermon,God applies it to each one of us as He sees we need it.

As a parent, I would guess, like me, you seek to nurture your children as individuals? You can see that they each have their own God-given personalities. Equally, they have their own traits and qualities that require training and discipline to help weed out. It's a joy to see the little people (or big ones!) that they are. It's a heartache, often, to have to deal with the not-so-pleasant aspects of disobedience, attitude or other aspects of their sinful nature.

It's no different for our Heavenly Father. Well, it is. He is infinitely more patient, kind, and good than I can ever be as a parent. Yet, His desire is still to treat us as individuals that He created us to be. Each having our own struggles that the Lord has to guide us through, and our own sinful desires that He has to point out to us.

When we spend time getting to know our Heavenly Father, by reading what He wants us to know, we will each see how we need to be moulded and shaped to be more like our Saviour.

One of the first lessons that the Lord has laid on my heart is in the title of the challenge.

CULTIVATING gratitude.

As you may know, if you have been reading my blog for a while, I love learning lessons from my garden. It struck me, today, that "cultivating" is something that I haven't been doing in my garden so much this year.

"to promote or improve the growth of (a plant, crop, etc.) 
by labour and attention."

I simply haven't spent as much labour and attention on my garden this year and as a result there are parts that look neglected. It's evident, to even the untrained eye, that my garden could look better. There are weeds. There are pieces of edging that aren't where they should be. The mint has overrun a border. There are plants that need to be cut back and tidied up. 

Some signs of sporadic effort are evident. A few shrubs that have been cut back, on a whim, when I was fed up with lack of sunlight to a border one day. As a result, that border is doing much better. There are some pretty, newly-planted cyclamen, brightening a previously dull border and adding colour to the plants dying back in the chill of autumn. When work IS done it is equally evident.

It struck me that my life is the same. If I CULTIVATE gratitude - if I put in work and pay attention to living it out  - then others will see it. We're not doing it to receive praise, or accolade - no, quite the contrary. We should desire to be grateful, first and foremost, to give glory to GOD! As was the consideration in yesterday's devotional from "Choosing Gratitude", our praise and worship - our THANKFULNESS - should ultimately be towards our God and Saviour. He has done SO much for us, that we cannot be anything BUT grateful. Every. Single. Day. But, as a RESULT of our praise and thanks to God, others should see our lives to be one that is filled with gratitude. One that is quick to see the ways in which we can choose joy over negativity. A heart filled with thanks, despite our trying circumstances. But ONLY if we cultivate it.

We need to pull up the weeds of discontent and plant the beautiful flowers of thankfulness. We need to cut back the deadness of  grumbling and complaint so that the blooms of gratitude are seen instead. 

Gratitude is not our default attitude. It's far easier to fall into negativity and complaint than it is to be grateful, if it's not something we are used to doing. It only becomes our "default" if we work at it. 

My all-time favourite example of cultivating an attitude of gratitude, is from "The Hiding Place", by Corrie Ten Boom. I don't know if you are familiar with her life-story, but Corrie, and her sister Betsie, were imprisoned during WWII for helping the Jews. During their incarceration, they come to one barracks that is completely flea-ridden. As challenging as the whole experience had already been, this about sent Corrie to insanity. HOW could they get through such a trial??

Betsie discovered what they needed.

"'"Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus." That's it, Corrie! That's His answer. "Give thanks in all circumstances!" That's what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!'

"I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room…"

They thought hard, then they came up with things for which they could be thankful. They were together. They  had a Bible. They even managed to give thanks for the heaving crowds of prisoners, because they could share the gospel with them. But then, Betsie thanked God for the fleas.

"The fleas! This was too much. 'Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.'

"'"Give thanks in all circumstances,"' she quoted. 'It doesn't say, "in pleasant circumstances."  Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.'

"And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong."

FLEAS, guys. They thanked God for FLEAS! 

But, do you know what? BECAUSE of the fleas, the guards NEVER came in those barracks! They had free reign to read their Bible and to share God's Word with their fellow prisoners! Those fleas gave them opportunity to extend God's love to those who were equally suffering around them.

THAT, my friends, is the kind of hard, messy gratitude that I want to cultivate in my own heart and that can be seen in my life. I want others to be blessed by my ability to say "thank you, Lord", in ALL situations. No matter how easy it would be to say "WHY, Lord?"

I have bulbs that I spotted on a good deal in Costco. The images on the packet were those of great beauty! I LOVE anemones, and I can't wait to see them next spring. 

At least, once I have actually PLANTED them, I hope to see them flowering. 

Yup, they are SITTING IN MY SHED. Until I plant them in the prepared soil - until I put them in the ground, where they will draw up water and nutrients from the soil, and GROW - I won't see any beautiful flowers at all. 

That's us. We need to actually plant the seed of gratitude in our hearts. We need to put into action the way we need to live, in order to be the fruitful Christian that God desires of us.

In the letter to the Colossians, in chapter 3, Paul reminds the believers of a frtuiful life that God desires of them. He lists the attributes that we should "put on".

Mercy.  Kindness. Humility.  Meekness. Longsuffering. 
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. Love. Peace. 

The list ends like this...

"and be ye thankful."

To crown off all the other things we should be, we ought to be THANKFUL. 

That's what God wants from us. Gratitude. Thankfulness for the life that HE has made new, and transformed to the image of His Son. 

As we carry on through the month of October, let's CULTIVATE gratitude in our hearts and lives and live a life that wee seek to intentionally "be thankful".

*** Don't forget about the give-away, which ends at midnight GMT, TONIGHT!  Head over to this post to enter! 

1 comment :

  1. I really needed this today! Thank you xxx