Practice Gratitude

I have my fair share of problems:

  • Finances are really tight. I just spent a lot of money on a new patio. And now my air conditioner is out.
  • Family life seems scattered more than it does sacred. I don’t get to see my kids as much as I’d like. And when I do, we’re always running from one activity to the next. I feel like I’m always juggling and rarely connecting with my kids.
  • Work has been challenging. Recently I had some issues to navigate with coworkers, an added project that my boss wanted me to complete with little direction, heavy expectations and lots of pressure.

I’m guessing that you have a few that you could rattle off, too. And if we’re not careful, they can suck the life out of us. Consume us. And keep our King, Lover, Warrior and Sage from being on-line as we navigate our days.

Lately, I’ve reminded of what I have to be grateful for. If I step back and look it thoughtfully, my blessings far outnumber the problems that stress me. In the height of my pity party, I received a simple, unanticipated text from my brother.

My brother came out to my place for the weekend. We didn’t have anything special planned, just a bland “suburban fatherhood” kind of weekend hanging with me as I moved from kid’s event to kid’s event. My daughter was performing her poms routine, so he joined my girlfriend, her kids, and I for that. The following morning, we had a hearty breakfast, went to my son’s soccer game and sweltered in some uncharacteristic 90+ degree days during late September in Chicagoland. That night, we enjoyed a simple dinner on my new patio. Later that evening, we attended a fundraiser at a nearby beach. It was a full day. We didn’t get back home until after 10 p.m. He left the next morning. To me, it was an busy, ordinary and uneventful weekend.

But for him it was different. He sent me a text the next day that indicated how special it was for him just to hang out with us. And, it made me think. He doesn’t come out that often when we’re just having a routine weekend. He was clearly grateful for it, and his gratitude helped me shift my heart from worry about my problems to gratitude for my blessings:

  • I am close with both of my brothers. We love each other and express that.
  • My parents are close and help me out whenever they can.
  • I have a beautiful girlfriend who loves me, helps me, and cares for me.
  • I have a good job that allows me to exercise my passions.
  • I can see color. I recently watched this video of an older man putting on glasses that helped him see color for the first time. He was speechless for a moment, but when he gathered some words, he spoke about the color of the trees and grass and how they didn’t even look real!

I guess God wasn’t done teaching me about gratitude because after I saw that, my list grew.

  • I can breathe well.
  • I am able to play basketball (some days better than others).
  • I can practice yoga, swim, go on hikes, ride my bike.
  • I get to cook, eat, and taste quality food.
  • I have a nice house that keeps me warm and out of the elements.
  • When my AC is working, it also keeps me cool. 🙂
  • I have friends who are affirming to me and I to them.
  • I get to see my children, and we have a strong relationship.
  • I attend a spirit-filled church.
  • I can play multiple instruments.

Practicing gratitude doesn’t always come naturally for everyone. Sometimes we need to activate positive thoughts about ourselves, our situations, and others.

Creating a gratitude list and communicating that with others is one way I’ve learned to think about what is good and honorable in my life. And once I did, the air conditioning, the finances, work, and the family craziness became a lot less overwhelming than they were before.

I guess I was sort of living our Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

My challenge to you is to flex your gratitude muscle.

Some questions to consider:

  • Have you created a gratitude list lately?
  • Have you reminded yourself of how God blesses you?
  • Have you reflected on how God has shown up when (or after) times were tough?

By Tony Bradburn

Tony completed his initial weekend in June of 2008 and is a graduate of our two-year transformational program. Tony hails from the idyllic shades found in Crystal Lake, IL. After being adopted from the Dominican Republic at the age of 6 months into a family in Elgin with two biological children, going through school, getting sober, becoming a teacher and a football coach, getting married, going to more schooling to get a few Master’s degrees, having four beautiful children, moving into educational administration, getting divorced, and now having principalship duties, it’s safe to say that Tony’s path has never been a straight one.

Photo Credit: Joy Holland via Creative Commons