When your boss assigns you to write about something you're thankful for, how do you come up with material that is simultaneously serious and not cheesy?
I can list the same things everybody does: family, friends, health, job, house, food, stuff ... you name it.
We've all read those annual notes of thankfulness, and we've all nodded our heads in agreement. Even if we've had a tough year and things haven't been going our way, we still can relate — because we've been there before or hope to be there.
Despite the sincerity, though, it can begin to feel trite — or at least you fear it will appear so when it's your turn to share.
But maybe that list of things everybody else is thankful for, too, is the point — not the things on the list, but the listing of the things.
It all begins with recognizing you have Someone to thank.
A year ago, I began spending the first 15-20 minutes of my day telling God "thank you." It was a change of routine that I needed: I'd begun to take for granted the blessings in my life.
Instead of praying for things I needed or wanted, instead of repeatedly asking God to add more, I began to thank Him for everything was already a part of my life. I became intentionally specific in my thankfulness, lifting up names, faces, opportunities, items, places, whatever came to mind.
Rather than seeing what I didn't have but was striving for — none of them bad, by the way — God helped me see that I had taken as a given those things He had put in my life, that I had acted almost as though I was entitled to them.
He reminded me of His love for me, that He desired intimacy with me, that He had blessed me in ways I'd failed to recognize — ways that were intended for His glory. Those blessings were gifts that He had always intended for me to use to further His gospel message and to remind me of who He is.
● My family — my first witness, my living testimony.
● My friends — the people I'm to evangelize and disciple on a close, personal level.
● My health — the miracle of life (and its delicacy) that God began.
● My job — God's provision, and a mission field that is unique to my calling and gifting.
● My house — though it's a material thing, it's also a place of ministry, where people are loved, kids find care, youth find direction, the lost are helped, and the sick are treated.
● My food — the horn of plenty can be embarrassing when compared to the rest of the world, but being able to break bread with so many different people reminds of one of the greatest relationship-building occasions, which can be done daily, that goes back thousands of years.
● My stuff — resources that I have the privilege to use for Kingdom work or to give away or sell or sacrifice as God teaches me more about compassion for a world that needs help.
It doesn't end there. But it's a start.
A few months after feeling convicted to spend more time giving thanks and less time in petition, a friend issued a challenge to a group of us in our men's ministry.
He asked: "If you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today, what would you wake up with tomorrow?"
That question, and the meaning and sentiment behind it, has changed everything for me. My commitment is to treat every day as a day of thanksgiving to the One who has always had my best interests at heart.
Here's to perspective.