Tag Archives: gratitude

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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simpl.if.I: Thank GOD! (Summer Series Week #9)

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Sunflower

There are only two ways to live your life.

One is as if nothing is a miracle, and the other is to live as if everything is a miracle.

Albert Einstein

OOOOOooooo! I LOVE that! Two different perspectives; and you get to choose which one you will use as the lens with which you live out your life here on Earth.

As for me? I’m choosing the “everything is a miracle” plan. It’s the one that leads us down the gratitude path, and in turn grants us the great gift of grace – day in and day out.

Did you know that before every miracle Jesus ever performed, he stopped and gave thanks to our Father in heaven?  Gratitude.

Here’s the thing, sweet friends. Gratitude works miracles when we actually take the time to notice gifts and blessings from God. In other words, the second we can see something meaningful – even the tiniest of tiny things, like a smile from a stranger – as a little taste of God’s goodness, it activates something in our spirit to experience gratitude. And in that split second when we begin to feel that gorgeous feeling of gratefulness, we feel compelled to pass it along to someone else. And when we pass it along to someone else, we begin this incredible cycle of grace that cannot be stopped or contained.

It pattern that sort of looks like this:

See/experience blessings –> Experience gratitude –>

Express Gratitude –> Experience Grace –>

Pass It On –> See/experience MORE blessings…

and so it continues!

I’m loving that!

Thank God Romans 11-33

Gratitude precedes miracles and deserves our thanks in return. Always. And gratitude deposits gobs and gobs of grace. Always.

Gratitude is the state of being in which we get to take a deep breath and see things through peace-filled eyes. It’s when we see something as big as sunset and sense how blessed we are to be so small in its presence. It’s when we feel something as simple as hug and realize the hugeness of love. It’s the privilege of praying for someone in need and knowing a God as big as ours already has it covered. And it’s being in awe of the fullness of eternal life through Christ, yet confidently knowing the reality of it is ours.

Gratitude begins with “thank you” and expands into “let me bless you, too”. It’s the experience of “pay it forward” boosted by the goodness of God, which creates miracles we could never imagine, let alone create by ourselves.

You and I are never at a loss for something to be grateful for – big or small. Remember what Albert Eisenstein said – it’s all in your perspective. So this week, let’s choose the lens that helps us to see that ALL things are miraculous and trust that God prepared them with goodness and blessing in mind, regardless of how it looks in the moment.

Let’s spend our week focusing on blessings and giving thanks to God for all He provides. And when you really notice the miracles in your midst, you might find yourself surprised in how you, in turn, begin blessing others!

Practical Application: (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take today to amplify your attitude of gratitude):

  1. Find/print today’s mantra-scripture card for this week! Focus on the words and remind yourself that you have a choice on how you see life – miraculous or not!
  2. Here’s a fun exercise from our book for the summer by Max Lucado, before amen: take a sheet of paper and make a list from A to Z of things you are grateful for! Get your friends and family involved in the process and don’t stop until you have a list of blessings that make you smile at God’s faithfulness and goodness in your life!
  3. Go back through all our mantra/scripture cards from our series so far. Which ones still resonate with you? What moved you the most throughout our series?
  4. Check out this very cool song from Dara McLean “Nobody Like You”!

Following along with before amen? If so, it’s time to read Chapter 8 and complete the study guide at the back of the book!

Beautiful friends, next week we bring our summer series to a close. We cannot thank you enough for your support and encouragement this year with our simpl.if.I series. It’s been life changing for our team and hope it has been for you, too!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie and the Stringing Pearls Ministry Team

Up Next Week: simpl.if.I week 10: Be Happy!

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!

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. Not 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, along with our human tendencies toward jealousy and envy, and 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 we eliminate the temptation to compare and criticize.

Romans 9 20

I don’t need to compare; to wish my life be the same as someone else. 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 to God, by adding Intentional Gratitude to it!

(Intentionally Thank Him is our “I” in our RISE acronym! Click here to refresh yourself on “Revere God, and click here to read all about “Intentionally Thank Him“!)

“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”:

Enjoy the week, sweet friends! See you here next week!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week: Keep On Truckin’

THIS, my friends, is a Triple. Dog. DARE.

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Yep, you heard me right. A Triple. Dog. DARE.

And in case you didn’t know, you can’t refuse a triple dog dare. Once someone has issued one of these babies, you MUST accept the challenge at hand and see it through. I’m totally serious! It’s like a rule or something. “Somewhere it is written…”!!!

So now you know! And so NOW…I TRIPLE DOG DARE YOU to join us in this spectacularly life changing, Pure Joy inducing, portion of our summer series: The Joy Dare!

THIS is the final letter of our short but sweet summer word: JOY. “Y”, where we hope you join us in celebrating the JOY You already have right in your very own life!

Everything good comes from God. Every perfect gift is from him! James 1:17a, ERV.

I LOVE sharin’ up some good scripture with you! And this one just about turns my heart into happy bursting mode! EVERY GOOD THING comes from God! You heard it here first (or maybe second or third!), ladies and gentlemen! What He gives is GOOD!!! And I think it’s high time we celebrate all that good stuff we got, don’t you?!

The Joy Dare comes to us directly from author, blogger, speaker, mother, wife, Jesus lover Ann Voskamp. Ann is the author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are! And in case you haven’t read it, or even heard about it, let me just take a sec to tell you that it is LIFE changing. The premise? Take time each day to find three things, three blessed little gifts in your life, for which to thank God. The book itself is on our Summer Reading List (you can access the entire list above under the Pure Joy Summer Series 2013 tab!). The Joy Dare comes directly from Ann’s awesome blog, A Holy Experience, which can be found at: http://www.aholyexperience.com/. I highly recommend it for some awesome daily reading!

The Joy Dare is a collection of fun little cards that Ann made that break it down to an easy, breezy way to keep track of your daily gratitude! Click this link to see what I’m talking about:

The Joy Dare: http://www.aholyexperience.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/JoyDareCollection.pdf .

(This link will also always accessible under the Pure Joy Summer Series tab above!)

For each day of the year, Ann recommends three things to look for and to think on as blessings/gifts. For instance, yesterday (May 22nd), her Joy Dare was to find 3 gifts that made you laugh. If you know me at all, that wasn’t a challenge – almost everything makes me giggle, at least the good stuff! So here is what I found to list as my three Joy Dare Gifts for yesterday:

crazy boy ted

Smart Women

lemonade with straw

Oh my gosh – thank you GOD for ALL things that make me giggle!

Today’s Joy Dare is to find 3 gifts found in community. I think I’ll probably list something like children swinging at the park; neighbors laughing on my driveway; and the comfort of knowing Glen Ellyn is protected by our awesome fire department! Try it yourself and see what you can find today!

The whole point of the Joy Dare is that gratitude (the soul-feeling that comes from being thankful) is intrinsically tied to the experience of joy (come on  now, you cannot possibly be grumpy or hopeless AND be grateful – truly grateful – for something at the same time!). She also reminds us that gratitude allows us to find miracles in life, especially in the mundane moments! AND, in her book, Ann wisely shows us that before every miracle Jesus ever performed, he gave THANKS TO GOD beforehand. We honestly cannot expect joy and miracles without gratitude, sweet friends!

So this is how we are going to work “Y”! Each time (hopefully every joyful summer day!) you take a look at the Joy Dare Collection gift list for the day, you will record it in some way: you can make a mental note of thanks; write them in a journal; take photos of them; draw them; put them to music…the list of expression ideas is endless! AND for every day of the Summer Series, my sweet daughter, Ella, (who, I gotta admit, is a little bit of a budding photographer) and I will be posting photos of OUR three things on my Twitter account (@WendieConnors) and on the Stringing Pearls with Wendie Facebook Page: (https://www.facebook.com/StringingPearlsBibleStudyMinistry), AND my Pinterest page for Pure Joy (http://pinterest.com/wendiewu/stringingpearlspurejoy/) .  Anytime we post something – especially on Twitter – we’ll give it a hash tag that looks like this:  #stringingpearlspurejoy.  That way, we can all follow along if we search for that particular hash tag!

We are encouraging YOU to do the same! Share your thoughts, pictures, drawings, etc. on your own Facebook pages, our Facebook page, your Twitter, our Twitter, your Pinterest, and/or mine! Please access the technology section here on the blog for more information on how to do these things! Click on the Pure Joy Summer Series 2013 tab above (that’s a handy dandy tab up there, isn’t it?!). Ann even has a free app called 1000 Gifts for iPhone/iPad users available in the App Store that helps you take photos and keep track of them! It doesn’t follow the Joy Dare, so to speak, but if you like apps, check it out! It’s so fun!!

Whew! There we have it. Joy in Jesus, Joy in Others. Joy in Your Life. You can pick and choose how and what to do this summer – that’s the beauty of this series! No set rules, no homework, and just a smidgen of structure! As we like to say around here (thanks to Beth Moore), “Do What Blesses – Not What Burdens”! Summer is about hanging out, a looser routine, and experiencing a little bit of a slower pace of life – at least that’s what we are going for in the Connors household this summer!

Sweet friends, this summer, let’s build connections, and in doing so, we will build community. Let’s express gratitude, so we cannot help but experience miracles. Let’s fill our hearts with scripture and words of faith-filled wisdom, and in turn, fill our very souls with Jesus. Honestly, what could be more JOYful than all of THAT?!

Please join in the fun of Pure Joy, Stringing Pearls with Wendie Summer Series 2013 – it won’t be the same without you!!!! We’re kicking off this Monday (Memorial Day!), so –

On your mark, get set…

Up Monday: …GO!

Peace, love, and MUCH Joy!!!

Wendie