Cultivating Gratitude

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving.  In our worship services we have focused on being a grateful people.  In my message, I referred to the legend of five grains of corn, from the story of the Pilgrims’ ‘starving time’ and how that affected their celebration of the Thanksgiving feast in 1623.  William Bradford proclaimed at that feast in 1623 that beside every plate there would be five grains of corn.  That was the daily ration each pilgrim was allowed during the starving period.

I also mentioned Colossians 3:12-17 where Paul contrasts our former life as broken people far from God and our life together.  I find it interesting that love is only mentioned once while ‘thanksgiving’ and ‘gratitude’ show up three times in that admonition.

Being grateful is good for us.  Robert Emmons, a professor at University of California Davis has done research in helping people be more grateful.  His book Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) lays out what his research has revealed.  He writes, “Those in the gratitude group felt better about their lives overall, were more optimistic about the future, and reported fewer health problems than the other participants” and “Interestingly, the gratitude group also reported getting more sleep, spending less time awake before falling asleep and feeling more refreshed in the morning.”  Research at the University of Connecticut found that gratitude can have a protective effect against heart attacks. Studying people who had experienced one heart attack, the researchers found that those patients who saw benefits and gains from their heart attack, such as becoming more appreciative of life, experienced a lower risk of having another heart attack

We can cultivate an attitude of Thanksgiving!   Just like we create an atmosphere where certain plants can grow, we can create a climate in our lives where gratitude can flourish.   We can train ourselves to look for things we are grateful for.  Why not take a few minutes at the end of each day and list five things you experienced today that were good from God?  You might be in a tough place or facing a huge challenge, but there are things for which you can say ‘thanks.’  Why not start today?


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