Gratefulness: small is actually big.


“Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things.

We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts.

We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious.

We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.

How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?”
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together

[Via Ann Voskamp]


Giving thanks in times of trouble. (When you need God’s justice.)

Each day has it’s own trouble. Our worries could come true, our fears take form. Yet, I think it is only those who can look over the landscape of their troubles and put a name to them who can personally plead for vindication.

It goes from, “Why is this happening to me?” (anxiety over circumstances) to “Lord, be my Protector, Provider, and Strength. You are my Justice.” It becomes personal. It begins with a twinge of moralism — since I’ve lived such a “good” life why has this bad come my way? — and leads through confession to redemption. I think it is harder to confess our faults when a clear enemy is out there hoping for our downfall. When we think we are in the right and cannot see our contribution to the problem.

When your troubles have a name — an enemy in flesh and blood — and you pour out your whole heart to God, you can miraculously shift from being mad at your enemy to being mad for them.

This only happens through the Grace of God, and it doesn’t just “happen.” Jesus is the Grace of God in human form. He loved His enemies to the end, not being mad at them, but being mad for them. (“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”)
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One sign it will be a good day.

How does your day begin? Why on some days are we happy and free, and other days we wake up on the proverbial wrong-side-of the-bed? Perhaps there are many reasons, but consider a broader question first.

Where does generosity come from? We might tend to think we will be more generous with our time, talents, and treasure if only we had more. Or, if there were easier ways to ‘plug in’ and invest our time, use our talents, and give our treasure to others.

All of those opportunities are already before us. Everyday, and (just about) each moment. Being generous begins with being thankful. Gratitude is the key to changing our hearts to want to want to give our lives away for a cause much greater than our little lives.

Here’s a simple exercise we started doing a couple years back: on garbage day, watch the garbage truck pick up your trash. Seriously. Let’s pause our breakneck speed and consider the beauty of how someone drives by and picks up our trash. Better yet, when we hear the truck around the corner, say to our children, ‘Let’s watch the garbage truck!’ and rush to the window together to be awed.

Wait for the questions … this is a routine for us every Wednesday morning as my son considers important questions like “what do they do with all that garbage?” It has sparked many conversations on how the world works, our chores and responsibilities, why the recycling container is 4x the size as that garbage can, and how we can today choose to be thankful (aka “have a happy heart”).

Since the garbage truck circles around the back of our house, then up the other side of the street, back around on our side, and exits our neighborhood to the one behind us, there are four opportunities to say “there’s the garbage truck.” Of course, this may be a boy thing, and I’m doubtful our daughter will one day be as enthused. (We do the same thing with the street sweeper.)

Can you believe we are able to roll our garbage out to the curb? For about $20 a month? Are you kidding me? (Remember those old tin cans with the round lids that tended to blow off? Just remembered they didn’t have wheels, AND we had to purchase the cans ourselves.

I remember being jealous once as a kid that the neighbors had a fancy set of cans; they were colored plastic with special lids and built-in bungee cords that would latch them shut. They never had to be late to school because their cans tipped over with trash littering the street. We did.

There are people in developing nations walking trash across the city, barefoot, in the heat of the day, parched and yet not complaining about their lot in life. And I get to witness someone come by my house weekly and take our garbage out of sight and out of mind. In fact, there are two, as the recycling truck comes along later.

Sure there are opportunities for us to complain, worry, and get anxious. But if today the garbage truck stopped by to take your stinky heap of waste — that’s a good sign today will be a good day.