For the month of July, I participated, along with about 80 other Twitter users, in a 30-day gratitude challenge. Stoney deGeyter issued the charge to give a daily tweet with one to three things we are thankful for, promising extra credit if it was the first tweet of the day. He moderated this on-line forum and gave encouragement to keep us going.
I remember years ago, Oprah challenged her viewers to keep a gratitude journal every day. That never appealed to me since it sounded like too much of a commitment. That sounded like “forever,” so I never started it in the first place.
But Stoney just asked for just one month and up to three things each day. No other rules. I could commit to that. I had read his gratitude tweets following the alphabet, so decided to try that approach.
I am grateful to the Lord for so many things, and tell Him on a regular basis – even daily, usually. If you notice my lack of certainty here, it’s because, perhaps, I take my gratitude for granted. It becomes an exercise like brushing your teeth or putting on a seat belt. An automatic action is so ingrained into our muscle movements and long-term memory that we don’t have to think about what we’re doing. We just do it.
To wake up every day knowing, after my “begin-the-day” routines, I would send out a tweet listing three more things for which I’m thankful was both a blessing and a challenge. It goes beyond simply, “my family, my friends, my food, amen.”
It wasn’t long before I took some time to work ahead on my lists, rather than continue a daily seat-of-the-pants approach. Under each letter of the alphabet, I came up with at least 10-12 things that I do appreciate in my life and in this wide world we occupy. Those sparks of inspiration helped fan the flame in ways I might never have thought of. It grew until I looked forward to opening my laptop each morning to write #FirstTweetOfTheDay and #DailyGratitude, then offering my new list of three things.
Not all were deep or profound. Some were frivolous, but none-the-less heartfelt, like “indoor plumbing” and “Chick-fil-A.” Many caused me to focus on people, like those who work nightshifts, those who do jobs I could never do, and neighbors helping neighbors. I realized how much I take simple things for granted. I also realized those may be things that mean the world to someone else.
I have known and quoted I Thessalonians 5:18.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
That’s ESV, but many other translations say, “In everything, give thanks.” I could teach a class on what that verse means. We could discuss all day how we should be thankful, even for hard times and difficult circumstances, because that is how we Christians show how faithful we are. We show trust in our God, who’s in charge of all things, by giving Him thanks. The Bible is full of verses about thanksgiving.
But when it comes down to mundane items like deodorant, quilts made by loving hands, vanilla extract, or street signs, we may not think to express our thanks to God.
This attitude of gratitude is certainly horizontal as well as vertical. Our appreciation should spill over into the lives of others around us. I’m not as diligent at this as I should be. Maybe another good 30-day challenge might be to offer a special word of thanks to someone different each day, using as many means of communication as I can possibly utilize.
The last thing I realized was how good it is to do this in July – or any month other than November. We have a month built into our calendar that gives a nod to being thankful and a special holiday to celebrate it. We ask children what they are thankful for, and get the usual replies from them. We ask our family around the Thanksgiving table the same question. Why is it so hard to come up with something, sort of original, right there on the spot? Maybe because our awareness is pretty dull most of the time.
Consistent practice of disciplines has always been struggle for me. I hope I can find ways to continue to have my sensitivity sharpened and be grateful, even for small things. I’m still finding items to add to my alphabetical list.
Oh, and thank you Stoney, for opening this opportunity for spiritual growth.