A Life of Gratitude (Part One)

If you hadn’t heard, I was given the opportunity to be the speaker at a women’s event this past weekend. I am not a professional speaker by any means, but I felt as though the Lord was asking me to step out and share, so I accepted. The theme of the event was ‘A Life of Gratitude’, and I thought I would share my notes with you all. There are two parts: I spoke once in the morning, then there were breakout groups for discussion, lunch, an afternoon session, another breakout group, and the day ended with communion. Combined with awesome worship, it was a truly wonderful day. I don’t think I did all that spectacularly, but I did receive a lot of positive feedback and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be obedient in something that was a major stretch for me. 

Before you dive in, I want to clarify that though it’s written completely out, I didn’t read it verbatim the day of the event. But, this is the heart of what I shared and the message I felt the Lord wanted to get out. I hope you enjoy what you read! And please feel free to tell me your thoughts (I’ll even include the discussion questions, too.).

 

MORNING SESSION: WHAT KEEPS US FROM LIVING A LIFE OF GRATITUDE?

Who am I?
    My story: youth, rape survivor, depression, life as a mother, discovery of grace
    Who did I think I was? What did I believe about myself?

My goal for the day is share what I have learned about living out of a place of thankfulness and to point back to the One who is all things good. I am not an expert, seminary-trained; I am simply a daughter of Christ who longs more than anything to live a joyful life out of the freedom granted to me by grace. I am coming from a place of longing to live out my purpose no matter the cost and to have my life point back to Christ. I pray that you hear my heart today and that whatever is shared, it will penetrate and be used by God for your good. It is truly all for His glory. If I do nothing else, I hope that by the end of this day you will begin to grasp an understanding of who you are in Jesus and just how much He loves you. Everything else flows from there. Let’s face it, you don’t need me to tell you how to be thankful. You already know how to do that.

When trying to think of how to begin to address the topic of gratitude, there were so many things I wanted to say and tie in and different ways to go. But in the end, I realized that they all came back to Jesus and what He did. And so, we’re going to talk about Jesus. It’s that simple and complex at the same time. Nothing I will say will probably be earth-shattering or new for you. In fact, you might think to yourself, “Erin, this is common sense.” But to me, that is the beauty of grace and thankfulness; it’s simple. Also, I find I cannot separate the concept of thankfulness from the reality of grace. I have found in my life that if I separate the two, life becomes infinitely harder. So you will hear me talk about grace almost as much or slightly more than thankfulness. But I promise, we will talk about thankfulness and how it is that we can be a thankful person who is happy.

This has been my heart verse. God has used it in immeasurably different ways recently, most often through my kids’ favorite CD. Let’s look at Galatians 5:1, which says this: “It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set you free; stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” This has been the basis for my experience in living a life of gratitude. Christ came so that we would be free. His sacrifice on the cross obliterated the law so that we can live out of grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are no longer under the law. We no longer need to live a life based on standards that do not apply to us, or based on our own performance. What better reason to be thankful, right? Do you believe that you are free? Or do you feel a yoke of slavery (law) on your shoulders? Do you find yourself so weighed down with the burdens of life and things going on that it’s nearly impossible to look up and find something to be thankful for? Or are you feeling like life is pretty good, but you feel unengaged? To me, this verse sums up the basis for living a life of thankfulness. So, what does it mean to be thankful? Is it something we force? Or we have to look really hard to find? Just what is thankfulness?

gratitude: the state of being grateful (thankfulness)

thankful (adjective): glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.
    of, relating to, or expressing thanks
        conscious of benefit received
        expressive of thanks
        well pleased

grace: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
    a virtue coming from God
    a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace

    approval, favor
    mercy, pardon
    a special favor (privilege)
    disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
    a temporary exemption (reprieve)

I know many of you here have read Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.” In it, she explains that the word “eucharisteo” is used to describe the breaking of the bread at the Last Supper, meaning eucharisteo equals “he gave thanks” or thanksgiving. As she explains it, the root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning grace. The derivative of charis is chara or joy. So, when Christ broke the bread at that table, he saw it as grace and gave thanks. In the context of our practice of communion, it is an act of remembrance, but also one of giving thanks. Accepting grace and living a life of thankfulness are indelibly intertwined together. And in my experience, you can’t have one without the other.

When you look and think about being thankful as eucharisteo, the things we measure as our standard of happiness or thankfulness change. Suddenly, we can begin to see things with a new focus and see even in the hard places where there is much to be thankful for.

Grace and the tie to thankfulness/gratitude
    ~why is it so hard to believe grace for the here and now but not for salvation?
    ~what is the connection between grace and thankfulness?

PAINT CHIP STORY/ANALOGY:
My youngest, Clara, was sick with a cold. There’s nothing worse than seeing your infant struggle to  breathe, right? To help alleviate her discomfort, my husband ran a warm mist humidifier in her bedroom one night. The next morning, I walked into the room and was greeted by a floor covered in a blanket of white paint chips. The ceiling paint totally disintegrated. They were everywhere. The floor, the two changing tables, on the crib mattresses (Clara shares a room with Eliana), the dresser, nightlights….they were on every surface. My heart sunk at the thought of cleaning it up. I closed the door and ignored the issue till it was time for Clara to take a nap. I grabbed my broom and dust pan and went to town. If I had been thinking, I would have taken a picture of the pile to share with you. Just picture an entire dustpan filled to the brim with paint chips. Anyway, as I was sweeping, I started to feel less than joyful or thankful. In fact, I might have been grumbling about the mess and how much time it was taking and muttering under my breath about it being good for Matt that he wasn’t home (as if it was his fault the ceiling decided to shed every last bit of paint it had) and thinking I should have just left it. While completely unattractive and an absolute mess, it would have been easier to ignore than deal with what seemed to be millions of tiny chips. Then I realized this was exactly what I do with my life. The things that keep me from living out of grace (and extending that same grace to others) and the identity given me by God, and therefore living a thankful life, are like the paint chips I was trying so hard to sweep up. It’s messy and hurts to allow God into the areas that keep us from living out of the truth, so we ignore them until it’s like my girls’ floor was–covered like a blanket of tiny pieces. And those areas begin to cover EVERYTHING. If I am unwilling to allow the Lord into these areas, how can I possibly begin to live a life of gratitude? The paint chips of my heart get into every area of my life: my relationships, my walk with Christ, my role as wife and mother. They infect every part of me.

I eventually got all the paint chips swept up and thrown away. As I put the room back in order, I realized that the room looked exactly the same as it did before the paint chips fell. But I was able to look at it with new eyes because I knew it was clean. Different. Changed.

That’s what God has done for us through the cross. If we are in Christ and He in us, all of those pesky paint chips (even the itty bitty ones we refuse to acknowledge exist) have been dealt with. Handled. Nailed to the cross. We are like my girls’ room: clean. Different. New. Changed. Redeemed. Holy. Righteous. We may not look different on the outside, in fact, we may look exactly the same. But we will know that we are changed.

Christ’s example and sacrifice:

    “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

    “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

    “Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden in Christ with God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)

God wants to come in and sweep out every nook and cranny of our hearts where we might have things keeping us from living a life out of His truth. Are you willing to let Him? To embrace the truth of what He says about you and who you are?

TALKING POINTS:
    ~have you ever thought about how God sees you?
    ~what stops you from believing grace for your here and now?
    ~what would it mean to you and your life if grace is true?
    ~how can we practice thankfulness in a real and genuine way?
    ~what are the paint chips in your life that God is asking you to let Him sweep away?
    ~look at Colossians 2:6-7; what does it mean to you to be “rooted and built up in
      Him, strengthened in faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness?” Does this place on your heart a burden of performance or does it encourage you? If we are rooted in Him, will our thankfulness be natural and overflow from our hearts?

Part Two coming soon!

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