Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Do not worry about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true,
whatever is honorable, whatever is just,
whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Years ago, an intern in the office where I worked gave one of the most memorable devotions I ever heard. She spoke about the profound and lasting effects of growing up in a family with addiction issues. She talked about her struggle to let go of past disappointments and she described how anxiety about the future kept her from enjoying the joys of the present moment.
The turning point came with prayer. She talked about turning her concerns and needs over to God. She spoke about the practice of gratitude even when circumstances were discouraging. Finally, she challenged her listeners, a group of busy, stressed and overly intellectual pastors who lived in the future, to name ten things for which we were grateful.
We went around the room. We quickly named ten and she prompted us to go for another ten, then another ten, and then yet another ten. When we finally stopped for lack of time we had a list of over a hundred things for which we were grateful and we could have gone on. Even more memorable, however, was how the very act of naming our blessings lifted our spirits and brought us more fully into the here-and-now of God’s grace and peace.
Gratitude anchors us in the present moment of grace. When Paul encourages the Philippians to think upon whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, and pure and pleasing and excellent and praiseworthy, it is not simply an exercise in high-mindedness. This is Paul’s way of encouraging them to make a gratitude list, to anchor them in the present moment of God’s grace.
The practice of gratitude can open our eyes to see the gifts that are in plain view: a beautiful sunset, the love of family and friends, the songs of bird, or a playful pet. The more we cultivate a spirit of gratitude, the less emotional energy we give to past resentments and future uncertainties. Gratitude roots us in the here-and-now moment of God’s care for us.
As our national holiday of Thanksgiving approaches, November would be a good month to develop the habit of gratitude. In addition to saying “Thank you” and expressing appreciation to others, why not try writing a gratitude list at the beginning or at the end of each day? Keep it simple; name four or five things for which you are grateful. You’ll be surprised how grace-filled life is once we start to name our blessings. And, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.