Confession: Gratitude doesn’t come naturally to me. I can find the black-winged fly in the pristine white paint. I can sound like an old church organ, creaks and sighs and whines. I can make mental spreadsheets of disappointments like an accountant in a plaid tie.
Maybe I’m not the only one.
I have read about how our brains have a negativity bias. We look first for what’s wrong or a threat. This helps us survive. I am typing in a nicely lit, espresso-scented coffee shop. But should a zombie or deranged clown walk up to the counter and order a latte I would shift my attention immediately to this phenomenon.
What this means is that recognizing our blessings is learned behavior. A choice. And it’s one that takes some preparation. If we sit down at the turkey table next Thursday and expect to immediately get into a grateful mood we’re likely to be disappointed. Especially with the twins throwing peas and the dog barking and Uncle Erwin doing political commentary.
In an experiment, two groups of people were given a list of words. One had positive words and the other negative. They were then both given the exact same story about a man. A simple tale. When asked to describe this character afterward, can you guess which group was complimentary and which critical? It all depended on what they’d recently been thinking about.
In other words, we prime our minds by what we put into them. Our perspective on our experiences is, at least in part, predetermined. Perhaps Paul understood that when he said:
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)
And because of this, I’d like us to do a little experiment of our own: Let’s start giving thanks now so that we really are ready for Thanksgiving this year. What’s below is a quick and simple countdown that we can go through each day . . .
1. November 18th – Who in your life are you thankful for? Think of at least one person.
2. November 19th – What is a memory that brings you joy? Look back and see God’s goodness in it all over again.
3. November 20th – How have you seen God answer your prayers this year? Pause and reflect on one “yes” you are living in now.
4. November 21st – When do you feel joy? Pay extra attention to one happy little moment in your day.
5. November 22nd – Where can you see God’s hand in your life? Consider one way He is taking care of you.
6. November 23rd – Why did Jesus come for us? Revisit His extraordinary love.
7. November 24th – Give thanks for all of the above.
We can simply ponder these questions or pull out a pen to make it official. It can also help to talk about the challenge of being grateful with friends, like I recently did (we put our conversation on video so you could be encouraged too).
We don’t have to feel guilty if thankfulness doesn’t come easily. God knows we’re human and He loves us that way. He’s the Giver of all good things — including the grace we need on the days when our attitude tries to compete with our gratitude.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)
P.S. If you get stuck, pie usually helps too. The kind with whipped cream and a crumbly crust. This is my emergency back-up plan: If you can’t make anything nice come out of your mouth then put something in it.Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I agree, we prepare our hearts for Christmas by celebrating and meditating during Advent – as we await His coming. How much more so do we need to prepare and cultivate a thankful heart for Thanksgiving (and shouldn’t every day be thanksgiving?). We think that thankfulness is something we do because God needs and deserves it. Yes, He does deserve it, but He doesn’t “need” anything from us…really. But God, being the unselfish and magnanimous God that He is, asks our obedience in giving thanks because it’s good for us. As you pointed out, when we dwell on what is good, and pure, and lovely…our hearts are lightened. When we cultivate an attitude of gratitude out of obedience, our minds are freed of from all the negativity we tend to carry around. God is so good…let us give Him thanks because He is, indeed, good and because giving thanks is good for us. Thanks for the great questions to prepare my heart each day!
I am Kenyan .You really inspire me.You have given me food for thought.May I always be thankful in everything.
Happy Thanksgiving Day
Gina Ricca says
I am grateful i read this this morning. It is just what i needed to hear. I have not made time to do my daily devotional readings cor quite some time. Alomg with my devotional readings I would write 10 things I AM GRATEFUL FOR on a daily basis. This keeps me in gratitude. I just wanted to share that in hopes it may help others feel grareful for even the pen and paper they get to write their heart felt feelings down with. Hugs to u all Gina
Gina Ricca says
Oops excuse my typos!;)
Michele Morin says
These are some wonderful ideas to incorporate into my gratitude journal for this week leading up to Thanksgiving! I’ll record my 5,000th gift at some point this week! So much evidence of the goodness of God!
Thank you Holley for helping me to not feel so alone in this place. For most of my adult life I’ve struggled with focusing on all that is wrong rather than what is right….most of it is about myself. Thinking how I got it wrong, I’ve failed, I’m never enough. The Philippians passage has been one of my favorites and put to memory long ago. It is my desire to think on these things but I keep going back to the struggle. I saw it first hand growing up with a grandparent and parent. It’s so hard to shake but I HAVE to change. God is so good, He is enough, and I want to live in the abundant life He came to give. Thank you for this message this morning! I want to life a grateful life.
Diane Bailey says
I love this post and the prep-challenge too! Preparing to be thankful, choosing it, it can be tough. The negative gives a topic to tak about after it’s all over.
But thankfulness gives us life after it’s all over.
Thank you for sharing this post Holley. Happy Thanksgiving.
Connie P says
Thanksgiving should be a daily, all year round, attitude of our hearts because of God is faithful & true every day in every way! Let us join together with songs of praise no matter what date appears on the calendar of our earthly days. Thank you for sharing God’s truth!
This is a great read today. Thank you for the encouragement and the questions. I’m going to write them down and discuss with my family.
LOL…”If you can’t make any thing nice come out of your mouth, then put something nice in it”….Hmmm, maybe that’s why I have been overindulging lately??? Subconsciously my mouth is protecting my thoughts??
Seriously, though…very nice thoughts for this season (week).
Thank you for providing a pathway toward Thanksgiving. Yesterday I learned that a loved one was killed in a car crash, so even amidst grief I want to be thankful.
Tracie, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m praying this morning for you as you lift up your broken hallelujah during this season of grief.
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
This is a wonderful post. I love your description about days when “attitude competes with our gratitude”. I also find a great bread stuffing and mashed potatoes work well too 🙂
Wishing you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving.
Day by day thanksgiving list…love it!
Adria Wilkins says
This is amazing. I just shared it on my Facebook to challenge and encourage my friends. Thank you for this article. I meet with some of the youth girls (from church) on a weekly basis. I encouraged them to commit to praying for a certain amount of time over thanksgiving. I told them I had committed to praying a total of three hours over the Thanksgiving weekend. It wouldn’t be three hours in a row but total. I like this article because it gives some real practical ideas of things to be thankful for and can be incorporated into prayer time. Challenge yourself this Thanksgiving.
Lisa Williams says
This is really needed at a time with so much negativity going on around us. It can be hard to find the silver lining with so many dark clouds lurking. I think that you hit the nail on the head with Philippians 4:8. Not only is that scripture good at a time like Thanksgiving when we are all trying to get into a grateful mindset. It can be life changing if we choose to incorporate it into our daily lives year round. Imagine the impact it could have if Christians everywhere really tried to meditate on what is good and true according to Philippians 4:8 on a daily basis. It doesn’t come naturally as a result of sin I think but if practiced for 21 days it can become a habit. Just imagine…wow! Thanks for sharing!
Rebecca L Jones says
It’s not unnatural to have thankfulness or any other attribute to not come easily. The proverb says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. We’re geared toward the negative, wired toward speaking it and thinking it. That is why we should think on good things, speak them and pray them and renew our minds in Christ. If we have His mind, and we do as believers, we have to open it to His Spirit to lead us. This Thanksgiving, I am truly grateful for my life. I was very ill in 2012, and has a couple of bad years, though Thanksgiving was never my holiday, I was sort of left out, either cooking or cleaning, or treated like someone at the children’s table. This year is different. I have peace in Him. I am healed by His wounds, I have an uncle who beat cancer, and aunt who just came to live with me that was on life support months ago. What the enemy means to harm, God uses it for good. Yes, I am truly grateful Lord, you are worthy of my praise.
Kathy Cheek, Devotional Writer says
I love the way Thanksgiving brings our focus on all we have to be grateful for, and I also love how every single day of our lives, we are already so immeasurably blessed because we have Jesus our LORD in our hearts.
Love the thoughts… but really love the P.S. !
Julie Roddy says
I am Canadian so we have already celebrated our Thanksgiving last month but these our wonderful reminders of how thankful we need to be. I am going to put these up in my war room and pray everyday. You really inspire me Holley. I always look forward to your newsletters. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving next week.
Emily at The We Files says
Oh, how I can relate! I always enjoy your posts, Holley, and appreciate the timeliness.
A recent read that helped alter my perspective is Karen Ehman’s _Listen, Love, Repeat_. I highly recommend it – and am actually giving one away on my blog this week.
Wishing all (in)courage readers lots of love this holiday season!
Paulita A. Hayes says
Like a lot of my Soul Sisters, I started journaling decades ago. On the tough days, (and it seems like we are having some tough days in our nation) I go back to the journals of praise notes. I am quickly reminded of the countless blessings God has given me. It’s both humbling and strengthening to see how much my Father in Heaven loves me despite myself. He has answered prayer upon prayer. True. He may not have answered them as I expected or directed Him to answer. He answered them better than I could have imagined when looking back at the proverbial “big picture”. Above all my blessings is the miracle Jesus Christ manifest in my soul the day I was able to trust and believe HE could save a wretch like me. That great day happened 47 years ago when I was about to turn seven years old. God never ceases to amaze me with His beautiful ways….except when I’m not paying attention. Holley, thank you for reminding me to pay attention right now to my Heavenly Father’s blessings. May blessings be poured you and all the Soul Sisters striving to live in the joy of Jesus’ journey.
Joanna @ Modern Ruth Project says
Great reflection! I am preparing myself for a Thanksgiving with family that is liable to be contentious and this is a good reminder that on the way down, I should think pleasant thoughts rather than picturing the arguments ahead. Thank you!
Andrew Harshaw says
God Morning Sweet Holly 🙂 Thank you for another lovely post. I really do appreciate your writing style~with it’s personal touch. So right my dear concerning ‘Gratitude over Attitude’, it always saves the day. May our Heavenly Father Blessed your Thanksgiving Season with many a Joyful surprises. The church of Christ salutes you. Your senior sister in Christ, mrs. ana <3
Thank you, Holley. This is awesome–good constant reminder each day!
I felt called to write on a very similar theme this morning. Funny how God is working in women’s lives so similarly. He is ALWAYS teaching me through His Spirit and others! Thanks for this. I needed it for this week!
Tammy Gonzalez says
Good stuff, Holley. I love your suggestions for orienting our thoughts and hearts toward thankfulness. Thank you!!
Tammy Gonzalez says
I may have had a technical glitch, so I’m trying again! Thank you for these suggestions for orienting our hearts and minds toward gratitude. I’ll be using them personally and with God’s help will be able to steer my family in this direction as well. Thanks so much!
Holley, your thoughts are so revealing it is true God’s blessings are the moments most Precious.
I need to put more pie into my mouth. And while in prayer to let my heart speak and move about the day.
Thank you so much for sharing
Happy Thanksgiving ,,
Good Lordy I love this…
“negativity bias. We look first for what’s wrong or a threat. This helps us survive.”
Has stopped me in my tracks and might has well have been God Himself speaking to me.
I have been in “survival mode” for 10 years. 10 long years.
My husband was in a traumatic accident 10 years ago that changed our lives forever. He is absolutely a walking miracle, but as a Wife, a Mom, a human, it threw me into survival mode & I’ve yet to escape it.
Here’s the thing…I used to be naturally thankful/grateful. (One of my children is the same way.) But since this event, I have found myself constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop…then wondering exactly how many shoes can a life have??
Don’t get me wrong…I am incredibly thankful on a larger scale now! I try very hard to not take anything for granted & to be grateful for people & moments & things that may never come my way again.
But this God-ordained phrasing has caused a paradigm shift in my psyche, in my spirit, in my soul.
Maybe, it’s not so much survival mode, as much as it is looking for the constant threat to my family’s well being. Especially for my kids…and my husband…and eventually for myself.
Oh Father, I give this brokenness to You. Fix it Jesus…
Thank you so much for listening to the Father’s heart & sharing this Holley.
Beth Williams says
Praying for a peace of mind for you and your family. Just take one day-even one minute at a time and rest in His sweet spirit. He will take care of you. I know how hard it is to wait for the proverbial “shoe to drop”. Waiting for the next thing to happen. Learn to lean on Him and praise Him daily for each good thing that comes your way!
Beth Williams says
I agree thanksgiving doesn’t come easily. When down or depressed I make myself go to my computer and being typing out ALL things big and small that I’m thankful for. I can include things like weather, pens, pencils, paper, etc. You get the idea. When finished I realize that I have a ton to be thankful for and my depression is gone.
1. November 18th – Who in your life are you thankful for? Think of at least one person. Doug (hubby); good friends (Kathy & Richard, Marie)
2. November 19th – What is a memory that brings you joy? Look back and see God’s goodness in it all over again. The day I got my part time job;
3. November 20th – How have you seen God answer your prayers this year? Pause and reflect on one “yes” you are living in now. I have witnessed a couple of miracles this year. My aging dad had bad dementia, was placed on hospice last year & then was hospitalized this year. God saw fit to completely heal him back to his normal. Now we go for walks & enjoy car rides.; A friend was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer back in 2012. Not given much hope. She is now completely cancer free! Praise the Lord Almighty!!!
4. November 21st – When do you feel joy? Pay extra attention to one happy little moment in your day. I am happy I have a good part-time job;
5. November 22nd – Where can you see God’s hand in your life? Consider one way He is taking care of you. He allowed me one (1) year off work to care for my aging dad. He made this part-time job happen & at a Christian company!!
6. November 23rd – Why did Jesus come for us? Revisit His extraordinary love. He came to save the lost. He wants ALL to go to Heaven & enjoy eternity with Him.
7. November 24th – Give thanks for all of the above. I have a prayer list. I can see at least 19 prayers that He has answered to the affirmative! In my quiet prayer time I thank Him for each one of these!!!
Nancy Ruegg says
Thank you, Holley, for the gratitude-inducing questions leading up to Thanksgiving. I want to keep a copy handy though, to keep myself uplifted and encouraged throughout the year. Recently I began memorizing Psalm 145; your questions will guide me to praising God, just as David proclaimed: “I will exalt you, my God the King…Every day I will praise you…and meditate on your wonderful works.”