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I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise. – Psalm 138:1
My mother is famous for writing thank you notes. Famous in the way that when you are in community with people who love you there are things that are known about you that the community goes to for example in how to live well. My mother shines in thank you notes. We all have notes saved from her. They are precious to me because I know my mom takes the time to tell people why she is grateful for them. She installed the power of the handwritten thank you note in me at a very early age. Birthday parties and the joy of crinkled neon colored paper lying on the floor next to new toys could not be indulged in until I wrote thank you notes to all my friends who came to my party. I think this is where I learned the power of gratitude.
The research states very clearly that gratitude can help lower depression, decrease anxiety, and increase levels of dopamine in your brain which increase the satisfaction of your living. Even just asking “What am I grateful for?” increases the level of happy chemicals in your brain, even if you don’t come up with anything you are grateful for. Just asking increases your life satisfaction! Gratitude is powerful.
Gratitude increases our resiliency in the difficulties of life. Through the times in my life when things were very difficult it was gratitude that gave me hope and increased my courage. Gratitude is not a saccharine watering down of critical thinking, but gratitude reframes despair so that we might see the light on our path. Gratitude is honest, but it looks for “whatever is excellent and whatever is praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8)
In 2016 New York Magazine article How Expressing Gratitude Might Change Your Brain said that:
Now a brain-scanning study in NeuroImage brings us a little closer to understanding why these exercises have these effects. The results suggest that even months after a simple, short gratitude writing task, people’s brains are still wired to feel extra thankful. The implication is that gratitude tasks work, at least in part, because they have a self-perpetuating nature: The more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy its psychological benefits.
The more you practice gratitude the better you feel.
Since this past election I have increased my gratitude. Living in an age of Trump is very difficult and scary. I think of Psalm 138:1 and I think about the power of praising our God in the midst of those who want to make themselves god and the faithful practice this has in increasing our hope and giving us sustenance for the work of mercy and justice. Gratitude has a way of focusing me on what is important and not getting sidetracked into despair or even nasty meme sharing on social media from all sides. Gratitude helps me keep purity of heart and to will the good thing in life (as Søren Kierkegaard wrote).
There is a lot going on in our denomination in the RCA and there is a lot going on in the world. Join me today and this holiday season in the practice of praising our Lord with our whole heart and may our praise be an act of resistance and joy bearing love of Jesus. Let us have eyes of the Holy Spirit and look for the praiseworthy things and let us talk about it so that we can share the joy.
Here are 10 things I am thankful for today:
- The love and fidelity of the New York Classis and completing a year of service as the Vice President.
- Morning Coffee. This should probably be the first thing I’m thankful for.
- My fiancée.
- The grace of God reveled to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
- That my mom still writes thank you notes.
- My two cats
- My best friends
- FaceTime that dissolves the distance between loved ones.
Join me, Twelve Readers, in actively praising God today. I would love to see a chorus of praise in the comments. What are you thankful for? Let us join you in gratitude in praising our God.