I’ve always been a whiner. If you don’t believe me ask my mother.
As an adult I’ve learned to quiet down, this has mostly meant keeping my mouth shut while my mind continues to dwell on its own misery.
I have made feeble efforts against this mental negativity. I have tried to focus on being positive, pay more attention to my thoughts, or given myself some positive mantra to repeat. These efforts did help in the moment but nothing seemed to curb my overall bad attitude.
Unexpectedly, over the past year, I have recently realized that my spirit is increasingly inclined toward gratitude. Throughout the day I find myself overwhelmed with thankfulness. I still grumble, but notably less and my time spent consciously rejoicing is significantly more.
Now, I’m not facing any major disaster, which probably helps. But still life is not perfect. To be honest I’m still not sure what all has been involved in this transformation. Maybe it is simply a sign of growing up. But when I stop and look at my life there are several new practices that I think may have something to do with it. Here are some ideas on, cultivating gratitude
1. Liturgical Prayer: Before I start I want to be clear I have nothing against non-liturgical, there are certainly times when a free-form prayer it is the most appropriate and meaningful way to communicate with God. But for me oftentimes this sort of prayer ended up feeling a lot like complaining or asking God to do things for me which then stirred up a feeling of dissatisfaction when He didn’t do it.
Liturgical prayer on the other hand, like a well written song has been created with careful attention to the thoughts it expresses. Liturgical prayer helps me put words to the feelings in my heart. At the same time the words are instructive. They speak truth and direct my thoughts to a place that honors God and respects His will in my life. Liturgical prayer allows me to express myself while at the same time conforming my will to God’s.
I practice liturgical prayer in several forms but the simplest is the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” I can’t tell you how many nights I wake up anxious and fitful and end up reciting these words until I can go back to sleep.
To learn more about how to incorporate liturgical prayer into your daily life at home check out thetrinitymission.org.
2. Spend time with the poor: If the term “the poor” doesn’t set well with you. What I mean is build into a relationship with someone who has so much less than you that it is impossible not to notice and it makes you feel uncomfortable. It is easy to find organizations who work with the poor, but to truly connect with people who are entirely different in culture, education or socioeconomic status will not come easily. Try and find something to do that will truly be helpful but you should know from the beginning that you will most certainly get more out of your new relationships than you put into it and it will change the way you see the world.
3. Write thank you notes. We are grateful to have families all around the world who have given to us or to our ministry. It has become my job to write thank you notes to every one of them. Sometimes it can be overwhelming but I find that the more I write the more grateful I am.
4. Ask for and accept help. I appreciate my own self sufficiency most when I reach the end of it. In receiving help requires that I accept my own limits and rely on others. I am never so grateful as when I realize I need help and find that there is someone there who is willing to give it.
5. Be intentional about slowing down. For me this looks like waking up every morning and chopping fresh ginger into a boiling pan of Chai Tea or stopping at the farm to pick up our produce before we go to the grocery store. Choosing to do things the long way, makes me pay attention and helps me to notice the pleasure in everyday life.
There may be others, or certainly others will come. I am just so grateful to be more grateful.
Anyone else, how do you cultivate gratitude?
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