Gratitude — if it were a color, which one would it be today?
When I spotted this Japanese Maple seedling, its assertive color stopped me. Tree bling, albeit a little tattered at the edges. That the earth offers this rich, saturated hue delights me. It matches my mother’s favorite Christmas dress, worn yearly throughout my childhood.
Then there’s the seedling’s shape: flamboyant, open. A diva seedling. Botanists use the word samara for this winged shape. I like how that sounds, rolling off my tongue: Sah – mar’ – ah.
Notice the built-in transportation. When the stem lets go, the samara spontaneously whirly-gigs through the air.
Each seed has its mission: develop; break free; generate life
The longer I look, the more I see and the more I am moved by detail. Symbol. Potential applications to daily life. Insight develops. I need these small pauses. The wonder I absorb leads me to gratitude.
And being grateful defuses my fears when circumstances overwhelm me.
Last Sunday our bulletin featured this quote, by M. Craig Barnes:
Christians will always live carrying in one hand
the promises of how it will be
and in the other the hard reality of how it is.
To deny either is to hold only half the truth of the gospel.
Gratitude aids the balancing act—especially these days. Post-election, I’m grieved by how people are treating each other. How will I respond? How do I avoid becoming jaded?
For starters, I go for a walk every day, which often reminds me of the two years I used crutches, wheelchairs, and electric grocery carts. I don’t ever want to take mobility for granted. A walk triggers gratitude.
I also try to view my surroundings with new eyes. No matter how troubled I feel, creation offers unspoken, easy-to-miss invitations that stir me to give thanks.
Generate gratitude, generate life
Some days I need help—especially when there’s bad news, less daylight, dreary weather.
This little game (try it in a waiting room) helps:
Number 1 to 100, onscreen, or on a piece of paper.
Without stopping to think, quickly fill in the blanks. Yes, all of them.
Somewhere around 60, things get interesting.
Did I know I was grateful for brakes?
and dental floss
and wide-tooth combs
American theologian Jonathan Edwards called thankfulness for blessings “natural gratitude.” It surfaces easily, effortlessly, when things go well.
On days I can’t muster any, I ask God for a radical transfusion.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
In his excellent book, Breathing Under Water, Richard Rohr tells us: “Life is a gift . . . every day. In my experience, if you are not radically grateful every day, resentment always takes over.”
Don’t want to go there.
Researchers tell us gratitude promotes relational harmony and personal well-being, both physical and psychological. It boosts a sense of belonging. It improves our sleep and strengthens our immune systems. And here’s my favorite benefit, so relevant amid our nation’s current uncertainties: Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
Even if it starts small, gratitude by its nature expands, eventually pierces even the roughest terrain.
Philippians 4:7 goes on to say: [having asked and given thanks] the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
What color is your gratitude today, and why? I’d love some inspiration for long winter days ahead . . .