About a month and a half ago I attended a day-long retreat designed to allow participants to focus on God and His Word. The theme of the retreat was on gratitude and thanksgiving. This is important when seeking to hear from God as sometimes we carry baggage in our lives. That baggage can lead us to focus more on our problems or on God’s judgment than on His abundant goodness and provision for our lives. Subsequently, we have trouble hearing His still, small voice because of our anxiety about such things. But as Karl Barth said, “Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightning”. When we reflect on His gracious goodness, it naturally follows that our views of Him as a judgmental, task-master floats away and is replaced by a more accurate and biblical view of one who, in the person of Jesus Christ, assumed His very own creation and gave up His very life for us – love incarnated.
Now obviously it is November and Thanksgiving is almost upon us. To take this increasingly sidelined holiday more seriously and to help transform your view of God this season, I encourage you to engage in the same exercise that participants at the retreat did. (Don’t worry, it’s harmless and doesn’t take vey long.) It involves answering two questions. To get you started, I’ve written down the questions and then what I wrote down at the retreat.
1) Write down every blessing in your life that you think has come from God.
Family, Books, Education, House, Travels in Germany and Turkey, Friends, Healing, Past Work/Jobs, Mentors, Clothing, Furniture, Food, Warm Memories, Chai tea, Cat, Wisdom, Car/Mobility, Sleep/Rest, Woodmen Valley Chapel (my church)
2) Pick 5 items and ask, for each one, what does this tell me about God?
Family: that God is relational, He is caring, nurturing, supporting, and loving
Books: that He is wisdom, knowledge, and that He longs to reveal His truth to us and give us insight
Chai Tea: that He is expressive, He enjoys flavor and zest in life, He is not bland or boring
Travels: that He is creative and has given us that ability, He celebrates culture and artistic expression
Work/Jobs: that He called us to work, that He is working and brings about order and harmony and reconciliation
As you can see, the exercise is quite simple. I’ve observed that many of my Facebook friends have been engaging in part one every day during the month of November. However, I believe that the second part is critical as it reminds of us of the character and nature of God. When we reflect on who God is as He blesses, our mental conception of Him changes from a demanding, rule-enforcing and mean-spirited god to One from whom all blessings flow.
I encourage you to try it. It really does transform your perspective and if you find you are having difficulty being grateful on a daily basis, this is a good way to get yourself jump-started. So take some time this holiday season to do this for about 10-20 minutes. After you do, feel free to share what you are thankful for as I’d be interested in knowing what insights the things you enjoy gave you about God.