Grateful Hearts

On this Thanksgiving Day I’m reminded that following Jesus begins with our heart and proceeds to our actions and lifestyle. As Donelle and I sat drinking coffee this morning in the sunshine on our back courtyard enjoying the view of palm and citrus trees, we were both reminded of how much our heavenly Father has blessed us over the years. In a few hours friends and family will come over to share a meal with us as we give thanks for all that Father has done for us.

As I reflected earlier this morning I was reminded of the apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians, a group of believers with whom Paul seemed to have a particularly close connection. He reminded them to rejoice always in the Lord, not sometimes, but always. I’ve noticed that I have a tendency to be more joyful when I perceive that things are going well for me and less joyful when I perceive difficulty, but this is not what Paul instructed. I’m reminded of Jesus’ instruction to the seventy, when they returned full of joy after healing those they encountered. Jesus told them not to rejoice because disease and demons obey them, but because their names are written in heaven. When our names are written in heaven, no circumstance will ever change that. If our joy is rooted in that reality then we can easily do what Paul instructed, to rejoice always.

A few verses later, Paul gave them counsel regarding how to feed their joy. They were to reflect on that which is honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent or praiseworthy. These are the subjects with which we are to fill our minds. That practice, I suspect will bear additional fruit along with joy. To the Galatians, Paul identified that fruit as the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I also believe we must be intentional in this practice, because we are surrounded by information that is anything but what Paul told us to fill our minds with. Much of the media that we encounter more and more with the advance of technology is negative and violent provoking in us anger, anxiety and fear. While it is next to impossible to avoid the media, we must approach it through the lens of heaven so that we can continue to practice what Jesus and Paul taught us.

When we practice gratitude, not only for the material and relational blessings we have received, but also and more importantly are grateful for our continual relationship with our heavenly Father through Jesus, then our lives will be filled with light and love, which will be both a blessing to us as well as those we encounter each day of our lives. May you have a grateful and blessed day this day and everyday!

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