The conference was my first exposure to the deeply spiritual side of a properly understood, biblically grounded stewardship. It was also the beginning of a personal conversion journey towards gratitude and positivity that is still underway.
Those familiar with Stewardship: A Disciple's Response - the US Bishops' 1992 pastoral letter that helped launch the stewardship movement - know that gratitude is the first of the four hallmarks of stewardship (accountability, generosity, and return with increase being the others). But it was reading Thanksgiving: An Investigation of a Pauline Theme by David W. Pao that kicked my gratitude mojo into high gear. I knew it was time to get serious with this message.
And so, in late summer I began discussing with our stewardship team the idea of dedicating the month of November to gratitude. Inspired by Shawn Achor's amazing Happiness Challenge TED talk and book, I wanted to offer a twenty-one day growth opportunity. We printed booklets with a daily Scripture verse, spaces to write daily blessings and to journal, and check boxes for praying Psalm 100 and writing a daily note of thanks. The hope was to form new habits of gratitude and celebrate Thanksgiving with fresh perspective.
Remembering a Seth Godin blog called "The Four Horsemen of Mediocrity," I wanted to include a weekly series on four enemies of gratitude culled from the David Pao book, along with solid scriptural teaching for mind and heart renewal. Here, then, are summaries of the kickoff homily and the four sessions along with the audio and PDF's of the "Keynote" presentations I used to supplement the talks.
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
(1 Chron 16:8)
1) From Forgetting to Remembering
Audio - PDF
We can’t be grateful if we do not remember the blessings of God in our lives. We will focus on the command to remembrance in the Scriptures, then have the chance to remember the Exodus events in our own lives.
2) From Complaining to Proclaiming
Audio - PDF
We can’t be grateful if we are always complaining. Instead, we need to train ourselves to do as the Scriptures say: Proclaim the goodness of God and his wondrous deeds. We will focus on proclaiming in the Scriptures then have the chance to focus on what we should be proclaiming and begin practicing.
3) From Comparison to Contentment
Audio - PDF
We can’t be grateful if we are always comparing ourselves to others. Comparison is a thief of joy. In today’s social media culture, the temptation to compare our lives with the highly edited “highlight reels’ of others is rampant. We will focus on the Scriptures for guidance then practice making an inventory of the blessing WE enjoy.
4) From Entitlement to Enblessment
Audio - PDF
We can’t be grateful if we feel entitled to everything. Instead, we should feel blessed that we get so many wonderful blessings we don’t deserve. We will focus on the Scriptures then begin identifying areas where we feel entitled, and begin repenting to cultivate awareness of being abundantly blessed.
Gratitude is not so much a feeling… it is rather a practice and habit. In a world filled with negativity, we need to start pushing back. Being grateful means acknowledging that we are dependent on God and others. Being grateful means we know we live under grace. Being grateful means being a happier, more positive, more God-conscious person.