THE FUN SIDE OF GRATITUDE
In the last blog, I suggested a process to combat feelings of depression. There are some studies indicating the healing power of acting in gratitude even when you don’t feel like it–especially when you don’t feel like it. I return to the iconic NIKE ad — JUST DO IT.
consider new categories of thanksgiving
After you have completed at least seven days, maybe more, of expressing thanks for members of your family, now expand your vision. If you work in the church, each day pick out a member of the church who you think makes a positive contribution to the church, and maybe to your life, and write them a note. If your ministry is in other contexts, simply write to people you work with the same note of thanks. Continue the practice for at least seven days.
Again, keep a record of how this is making you feel. Remember, you are recording how it makes you feel to write the notes — not whether you get a particular response or not. Gratitude is freely offered, not a negotiated deal for a particular response.
THE FUN BEGINS
Now you are going to expand your area of gratitude into new areas where your note will be received with more surprise. The first area of expansion is to write a note to your colleagues in the ministry. In my case it would be to other Presbyterian pastors. Each day, select one and write a note speaking of your appreciation for their ministry. Don’t fake it. Find some area of their ministry for which you can express genuine appreciation.
I think you will find it fun to anticipate their surprise upon receiving your note. Again keep a recording of how it makes you feel.
KEEP EXPANDING YOUR NETWORK
Next write notes to denominational people who work in the hierarchy of your church. It might do you good, and certainly will make your thanks more powerful, if you take the time on their webpages to note some of the specific areas where they work. Given both the conflicts in denominations and the budget forced cutbacks, you might want to thank them for weathering the storm and maintaining the connectional possibilities for the larger church.
those who work in other denominations
Can you imagine getting a sincere thank you note from a colleague from another denomination or even from a rabbi or Imam? Enjoy offering them that pleasure by picking out some colleagues in your community from other faith communities.
Another possibility which I suspect would have a very positive effect, would be to write a thank you note to the official board of another church expressing gratitude for some particular area of their ministry. In all your thank you notes, keep it simple and don’t ask for anything or suggest any response. A simple thank you without any further explanation can hold both mystery and power.
your not done yet
You may be past your sixty-day commitment, but I have one final suggestion, which may be the most fun and faithful of them all. Whether it be within your congregation or among your colleagues in ministry, choose seven people with whom you either have had conflict or disagreement, and write them a sincere note of thanks for some aspect of their ministry or their participation in the church.
If you have been following these suggestions and keeping track of your own feelings as you proceed, I believe you are experiencing the power of gratitude in your life and its impact on others. Maybe that is why I Thessalonians 5:18 says:
GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES; FOR THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS FOR YOU.