How do you want to be different by the end of next year?
That was the question I heard on the December 31, 2015, podcast of Revive Our Hearts. I didn’t even need to think about it. One of my most obvious needs: gratitude.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. I searched the internet for books on gratefulness. One title, Choosing Gratitude: Learning to Love the Life You Have, by James Autry, stood out. I read all I could on the Amazon preview. Amazon describes the book this way:
In his latest book, Choosing Gratitude: Learning to Love the Life You Have, renowned author James A. Autry reminds us that gratitude is a choice, a spiritual—not social—process. Made evident as behavior, gratitude is not the behavior itself. We may automatically respond, “Thank you” or “Appreciate it” in the daily course of our lives. These are polite, conditioned responses, but they are not gratitude. (read more)
My search reinforced my need to pursue gratitude. But how? Here’s how I describe my floundering and subsequent unexpected discovery in chapter five of my book, Soul Pursuit: The Busy Person's Guide to Biblical Meditation:
… I would catch myself mulling over a mental list of recent (and not-so-recent) challenges in my life. My complaints centered on the time required to care for my elderly parents-in-law and their interests, the energy-sucking demands of our small business, my ever-present physical challenges with the limitations of rheumatoid arthritis and declining vision, the ocean that separates us from seeing our only grandchild, and the deep cavernous ache of losing a son at an early age. Negative thoughts dominated my inner conversation and extinguished any sprouts of gratefulness.
The tipping point came when I intentionally captured all the moments I could to review, remember, ponder, muse on, reflect on, and think about scripture. God’s Word profoundly affected my spirit. I felt more thankful, even for the hard things that once formed my complaints. Gratitude began growing in my life for the opportunity to invest in family members who have invested so much in us, for the opportunity to add value to lives through our business, and for the lessons I am learning as I live with chronic health challenges. Besides that, I noticed a greater sensitivity to sin, neediness for God, compassion, trustfulness, joyfulness. I loved God’s Word more and temporal things less.
Yes, I moved closer toward gratefulness in 2016, but I’m not there yet. Next week I’ll talk about my next step.
In the meantime, ask yourself, “How do I want to be different by the end of 2017?”