Tag Archives: Ann Voskamp

The JOY of Gratitude! (She PERSISTED Week Two!)

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Gratitude Quote

Here’s a little Bible trivia for you. In scripture, how many times to you think God speaks to us about gratitude in the New International Version?  Well, according to a word count website, christianbiblereference.org,  it’s 340 times.

That’s third in frequency only to directives regarding love, which comes in at number one at 551 times, and fear at 366 times (one for every day of the year plus leap year)!

We understand the importance of love, of course. It’s the very fabric of Christianity and woven into our DNA!  And we can also understand the need to reassured about fear and anxiety and to be directed to trust God! But gratitude?  Why would it have such a prominent place in terms of scripture themes?

Dr. Robert Emmons (UC-Davis), has helped to open the Greater Good Science Center at UC-Berkely to not only scientifically study gratitude and its effects on us, but also to promote the practice of gratitude world-wide.

Emmons and his associates have scientifically studied some of  the positive effects of a regular practice of gratitude (practices range from keeping a written daily gratitude journal, recording gratitude in some other way [like the 365grateful.com project we read about last week in  our Flow Book:  The Book That Takes It’s Time] to simply thinking of three things you are grateful for at the end of the day). The first thing they discovered is that you can rewire your brain to be happier by simply recalling three things you are grateful for each day for 21-days.  It all has something to do with neurotransmitters and the chemicals and hormones and stuff!  Basically, gratitude actually rewires the neuro-pathways in the brain to help release more happy chemicals than in the brains of folks who do not practice.

In addition, they identified these seven benefits mind and body benefits to the regular practice of gratitude:

  1. Strengthens relationships and helps to make new ones
  2. Improves your physical health and motivates you to take better care of yourself (less illness, quicker recovery times, exercise more, eat better, see doctors on regular basis)
  3. Improves psychological health (lead to improved memory, happier outlook, and a diminishing of depressive feelings and anxiety)
  4. Increases empathy and decreases aggression behaviors
  5. Improves sleep (one study states that if you spend 15 minutes recalling things that make you thankful at the end of the day will help you sleep better, deeper, and longer that those who do not)
  6. Improves self-esteem and helps you become an encourager of others
  7. Increases your mental strength and fortitude and makes you more resilient in times of hardship

Those are some pretty powerful and peace-inducing changes you can make to your body and your mind, right?  But, spiritually speaking, what’s so special about being grateful, other than the politeness of saying thank you?

Phil 1 3-4 Card

 

Gratitude breaks down the barrier between the mind and the spirit and is a TRIGGER for joyful and worshipful prayer!  How awesome is that?!

When we feel a sense of gratitude for something God has provided, (and let’s face it, it all comes from God!) our spontaneous response is prayer!  We don’t thank God because it’s the polite thing to do.  We thank God because we can’t help ourselves!  It’s our soul’s response to His goodness and our reward is His joy in our hearts.

Ann Voskamp, in her book 1000 Gifts, dives into the spiritual significance of gratitude.  She traces it back to the Greek word, eucharisteo, which, in Greek, encompasses the words:  grace, thanksgiving, and JOY.  Hang onto that for a sec, because we will be circling right back to it.

There is something called cognitive dissonance and that is a psychological term that means you cannot think and believe two polar opposite things at the same time. Like, you can’t be proud of your work while simultaneously being ashamed of it.

So with that in mind, you cannot feel gratitude in the spiritual sense (which we now know means grace, thanksgiving, and joy) and ALSO be sullen, burdened, and angry.

 

I did an informal poll over the weekend and asked people, spiritually speaking, what could they use more of in their lives. Unanimous two responses?

Peace and joy.

Okay.  So let’s do a quick recap of what we already know:

  • Number one thing gratitude does for your mind? Brings you peace.
  • Number one thing gratitude does for you spirit? Brings you joy.

Looking for more peace and joy in your world? The answer is to practice gratitude.

But , this is not something we do quickly, nor should we treat it as a “to do item” on a list of chores! It’s not just:  “QUICK!  Name three things you’re thankful for – GO!” and be done with it. It’s something we do persistently, intentionally, mindfully, prayerfully.  As Ann Voskamp says, “It takes a full twenty minutes after your stomach is full for your brain to register satiation.  How long do you think it takes your soul to realize when your life is full?”

I Belong to Jesus Mug

THIS is where we start getting intentional about mindfulness:  what it is, why it’s important, what it does for you, and how to begin a practice of it.  Our readings this week will be on mindfulness and gratitude and we’ll be stepping into exercises from our books to help nurture it!  Click here to access the homework exercises and click here to access additional resources for this week!

Go enjoy your week, sweet friends!  And get into the gratitude groove! 

I am GRATEFUL for YOU!!!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  A Special Conversation with some special guests!  😉

 

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We Are the Inmates Running the Asylum (and how gratitude graciously lets us off the hook)

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“The inmates are running the asylum!”

Have you heard that one before? It basically means that the least qualified and most incompetent people are in charge.

Um, yeah. Not such a good idea…

We humans are sort of insanely egocentric, aren’t we? I mean, we can really convince ourselves that all the good that comes our way is the result of our own effort and deservedness, while all the bad that happens to us is simply the fault of someone else (yes, even God). We love pointing fingers…while simultaneously patting ourselves on the back.

I include my own self in that mix, by the way. I’m totally guilty of the same behavior. The second something goes wrong, I can easily shake my fist at God and say, “What were you thinking? This isn’t what I had in mind! This situation belongs to someone else – I don’t deserve it!”

Then again, when something fantastic comes my way, I can also be quite quick to say, “Look at me! Look what I did! It’s all about me!” with little (if any) praise being sent up to my Father in Heaven who surely is the One who blessed me with the gift.

At the end of the day, this level of egocentricity just leads us to comparison, criticism, and discontentedness.

Dissatisfaction with the life and circumstances we’ve been given, added to our human tendencies toward jealousy and envy (not to mention dealing the realities of living in an imperfect world) can easily lead us into a good, long pity party.

I don’t want to run that insanely pride-filled asylum anymore, do you? It’s too tiring to remember all the lies that go with it.

The remedy to this egocentric life of pride is gratitude.

Gratitude, in all situations, leads us to love, joy, and humble satisfaction because – by immersing ourselves in thanksgiving – we eliminate the temptation to compare and criticize.

Placing our focus on the Creator and getting it off the “creation” helps to develop awe, reverence, and THANKFULNESS!

Romans 9 20

I don’t need to compare; to wish my life was the same as someone else’s. I ALSO don’t need to be criticizing the life I’ve got! Does the thing that is created look at the creator and say, “This isn’t good enough. I want it to be bigger and better! I want to have more, to be different…”?

Who am I to tell God He didn’t get it quite right, that His timing is off, or that what He has created and given me just isn’t how I envisioned my life to be?

I’m not the one who willed this world into being. I don’t tell the sun where to come up in the morning and again where to set at night. I do not have the first clue how to command armies of angels. (See Job , chapters 38-42, for this amazing “schooling” from God about who actually rules the Universe – spoiler alert: it isn’t us…!)

Job 42 1

Let’s move toward an attitude of gratitude together. Let’s give the glory back to the one who gave it to us in the first place, no matter what that glory looks like through our human eyes. Let’s build on our reverence for God, by adding intentional gratitude to it!

“Eucharisteo – thanksgiving – always precedes the miracle.” Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Miracles

If we learn to live with gratitude, the miracle of grace begins to seep into every corner of our lives and transforms our discontent into joy and peace. It melts pride into humility. It clothes insecurity with the merciful confidence of Christ. It takes that frenetic “need to control” feeling out of our hands, and places it back into the only Capable Hands that it ever belonged – God’s.

Sweet, fellow “inmates”, this earthly life we are living can often feel insane. I know. But let’s spend some serious time being grateful that what we’ve been given is seriously good, and that the “Someone” in charge is way better for the job than us!

Oooo, I need to pray:

Father, I am so glad and grateful that you are in control. I am sorry for those times when I try so hard to take the reins of my life away from you and then mess it all up. I am so grateful that You have it covered, that nothing surprises You, and that Your grace and mercy are infinite in abundance. I need it, Lord, and I need You. Thank you, Father, for your love, Your kindness, Your blessing, and Your covering. Help me remain grateful that, regardless of my circumstances, You call me Yours. Forgive me when I neglect to see the beauty and blessings around me and I pray you would bring them to my mind when my pride and complaining get in the way. I love you. In the gracious name of Jesus, Amen.

Let’s end today with a beautiful song about putting our pride aside, and giving the glory to God.  Here’s the JJ Weeks Band – “Let Them See You”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mgho0_JRetk

(I hope you enjoyed this re-blog, edited slightly from the one that originally posted here on February 27, 2014!)

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, my dears.

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  The Butterfly Effect!

Share It Up! Joy Dare Thursday!

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Well, my dears, it is a rainy morning here in Chicago and that makes it the PERFECT time to share up some of the amazing, funny, cool, and meaningful things we’ve each been recording so far through Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare Collection! (Click that cute tab up there that says Pure Joy Summer Series 2013 and you will find a tab that says The Joy Dare!  Click that for more information!)

Have you been enjoying it? I sure have! And remember, there are no rules as to how to record them (even just making a mental note of it is awesome) or if you do it at all! It’s just another way for us to experience God’s joy this summer (in no particular order)!

Here are our top 10 Joy Dare gifts that have been submitted so far this summer:

10. “An 8am run without rain!” submitted by Liz (who incidentally just completed a marathon – yes a big ole 26.2 mile marathon – last weekend! YOU GO, SISTER FRIEND!)

9. “Sunkist 10.” Submitted by Elle. A twelve-year-old’s favorite drink!

sunkist 10

8. “A gift of hope – prayer with my favorite gals.” submitted by Lyn (who just happens to be my fabulous Tuesday Bible study small group leader whom I cannot live without!)

7. “Prince of peace, hope in the darkness, light for the world.” submitted by Tammy. Beautifully said and photographed by Tammy (all rights reserved, please!)!

Tammy Miller copyright 2013

6. “One gift blue – a sweaty work-out shirt, means I’m DONE!” submitted by Didi (who is honestly one of the FUNNEST, FUNNIEST people I know – and I’m thankful she didn’t post a picture of said shirt…!)

5. “A gift I’ve given? You.” submitted by my mom, Sandy. Cause, you know, she gave me life and all. Thanks, Mom!

4. “A chocolate martini?!” Submitted by Amy. I gotta say – love the way this girl thinks, don’t you?!

3. “Peace, hope, and love – all in one beautiful package.” Submitted by me. I just needed you all to see this beautiful girl of mine! I seriously dare you to call me a liar!

Joy Dare June 5

2. “A gift from a conversation? ‘I appreciate you.'” submitted by Kait (who is an incredibly wise young woman with a big heart for God!)

1. A picture is worth a thousand words! This is my Joy Dare for today: something ugly-beautiful! I personally think she is beautiful, but you catch my drift!!!

I'm so pretty

Are you smiling yet?  Are you starting to realize that joy, Pure Joy – the Lord’s joy that is our strength – is intimately tied to GIVING THANKS AND GRATITUDE?!  It is!  And that is what this Joy Dare is all about this summer.  Thanking HIM for all the gifts that are already present in our daily lives.

Thanks for all your Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest postings AND emails with your Joy Dare gifts!  Keep them coming and we will do another one of these share it up days soon!

Up Monday:  I got the music in me!

Have a great weekend, sweet friends!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie