Five Ways to Remember with Gratitude (Part 5 and last)

237e0-img_1276How are you coming along in the ideas for developing fluency in gratitude? That’s the point of all this. In a culture where getting more than anyone else and taking offense seem to be the most popular skill sets, being people of obvious gratitude makes us radical. We stand out. We are the ones who live by another rule, who make those other rules look as meaningless as they are.

Fluency Matters

But like my daughter studying in Spain, we need practice to become fluent. Fluency in gratitude makes it our first language. Our go-to when life hands us something we could complain about. The auto-response when fear or hopelessness threaten.

The final way to practice thanks is physical. We practice through worship. And worship is not the lukewarm thing we have made it to be.

You’ve got to move it, move it.

The Israelites had masters degrees in this thanksgiving through worship thing.

They burst into song, with tambourine accompaniment, after going through the Red Sea. Who wrote the words? How did they know them all? I don’t know how this spontaneous song thing works. But they had it down. (Exodus 15)

c3078-img_0982They walked all around the new walls of Jerusalem with the entire worship team and all its backups making so much noise it could be heard in three counties. All to praise God and thank him for making the rebuilding possible. (Nehemiah 12)

The Psalmists repeat the pattern 150 times (more or less). “I’m facing danger/ridicule/loss. But I remember God!” Cue the harps and poetry slam.

Movement Matters

They also had no reservations about posture doing worship. They knelt, danced, stood with raised hands, fell on their faces. It was all fair game. The uptight Scandinavian in me has trouble turning my palms upward during worship. That’s as radical as we get.

When we let ourselves go in a physical release of joy, our bodies respond in a real way. We release the stress. It loses its hold on us when we let go of our inhibitions and give thanks in worship.

I’m not suggesting dancing down the street naked like David. Some inhibitions keep us out of jail. (Although in your own home, alone, hey, whatever man.) But when is the last time you shouted, sang, danced your gratitude to the Lord without reserve?

6aaf7-p1000926Here are some possibilities:

  • Sing songs of worship and praise. Loudly. Softly. However you need. With the windows open, if you want.
  • Read poetry of praise. Write it, if that appeals to you.
  • Read testimonies of others’ faith. Hearing what God has done in the lives of others helps us remember what we have to be thankful for.
  • Do something physical. Dance. Kneel. Go down on you face and praise God in awe. A change in the body often produces a change in the heart.
  • Find an instrument and play along with your iTunes list. Get in front of those piano keys again. Pick up a set of bells or maracas at a teacher store. Bang a frying pan if that’s what you’ve got. Bring the whole family in on this one!

Thanksgiving through physical worship offers a release many of us don’t even know is open to us. Try it every day this week and see if you don’t feel more thankful through your day.

Let me know in the comments what you have discovered though these exercises in gratitude fluency. We’d all love to know!

Five Ways to Remember with Gratitude (Part 4)

Did you know there was a scientific “naggy ratio”?

Does the very thought scare you a bit?

IMG_5311It’s true. Scientists studying gratitude have created an “appreciation to naggy ratio.” it divides the total number of positive expressions (support, encouragement and appreciation) made during a typical interaction between people by the number of negative expressions (disapproval, sarcasm, and cynicism).

Here are some of the scary/cool findings: When there were 11% more negative expressions than positive expressions, marriages plummeted toward divorce or languishment. Those marriages that lasted and were found satisfying were those with a positivity ratio above 5.1 (five positive expressions to each negative).

Building regular practices of gratitude into your marriage is an easy but effective way of raising your positivity ratio.


I suggest that this is true of parent/child, friend, and coworker relationships as well. Not that you are headed toward divorcing your coworker. (Sometimes you wish it was that easy.) But harmony is far more likely if the naggy ratio is way lower than it probably is.

Not that I personally know anything about a naggy ratio. Not. At. All.

Tech-free Christmas?
Sometimes I feel this is the best thing to do to me. Can’t talk, can’t say something I will regret.

I know I don’t utter enough words of affirmation to the people n my life. Part of the reason is that I don’t need those words so much myself. My love language is not words—that one’s pretty low, in fact. Mine is acts of service. Unfortunately, this is a problem. Because if people (ie my spouse and children) are not doing the things I want them to, I don’t feel loved. Leading to me nagging. Leading to them not feeling loved. And it’s a vicious cycle.

Crazy time. Send in the clowns. (Wait. Don’t. That’s a real thing now. Talk about crazy.)

So I have to be intentional.

Speaking gratitude is a super easy way to feel gratitude. And yet not so easy. Because we just don’t want to speak it sometimes. What we have to realize is that when we speak it, whether we feel it or not, we will come to feel it.

I don’t mean speak thanks in a fake way. Do not passively aggressively “thank” your spouse for taking out the garbage when it’s sitting right there in front of you both. This is not gratitude. This is bad. Bad. Naggy.

But we can speak thanks even when we do not feel it by finding something we can be thankful for. Anything. Speaking brings feeling. We don’t wait for people to deserve our words. We just offer them freely because we are created to be thankful beings. When we act on that created purpose, we reinforce it.


Words have power.

Putting them out there in the air (or into cyberspace) creates an atmosphere of thanks that will get into your lungs. I promise.

Do you want more gratitude and peace? Try a few changes.

  • Take a few minutes at breakfast or dinner. Speak words of thanks to your family members.
  • Email a note of gratitude to someone.
  • Randomly text your kid a sentence of thanks for something.
  • Send a card of thanks to a friend or a boss.
  • Tell your spouse something you’re grateful for before he or she goes to work. (If you do it first thing, there hasn’t been time to build up any issues that day.) Put a note in his or her lunch.
  • Tell your kids as you put them to bed what you appreciate in them.
  • Tell that cashier how grateful you are for her service. Ditto for the waitress, valet, receptionist, doctor, basically anyone whose job it is to serve. Tell her something specific you liked. (I told our cashier at Target yesterday she was a fantastic bagger. She was. She beamed at the recognition of her efforts.)
  • Tell a stranger you like her shoes, or her car. Tell her she has mad parenting skills as she navigates three kids and two carts and four meltdowns. She will need that. Mean it.

You get the idea. Give thanks through words. It will come back to you in peace. I guarantee it.

This post is a ink up for Live Free Thursday and a fantastic series on living a life of gratitude. Hop on over there to read today’s simple way of showing thanks. 

Fear Fighting and Holding Spiders


I am fascinated by insects. Yes, I like them. They are interesting to watch, amazingly varied, and just plain cool. You know the odd thing, though? Add two legs and subtract one body segment, and what does that make an insect?

A spider.

And they are decidedly not cool.

I cannot explain this.

All I know is, my dear spouse has never allowed me to forget the time he came home and the following conversation ensued:

Him: Sweetheart, why are all of my shoes in the bathtub?

Me: There was a spider.

No further words were necessary.

I used to hyperventilate going down the aisle in Petco where I knew they spent their creepy crawly existence. Actually looking in the aquarium would have required an EMT situation.

So what, oh what, could have ever inspired me to willingly walk into a pet store and hold a tarantula?

It was Jesus’ fault.

img_8804The team of fifteen adults and teens I was about to lead to Costa Rica for missions had fears. Where will the money come from? What if I get sick? Should I really take my kid? Can I take two weeks off of work? I had answers for all of them. I wrote the book with those answers. Literally.

Yet in the middle of convincing other team members to cast off their fears and go for the trip, I realized I had that one niggling fear that I refused to face. The spiders.

It seems small, to think of fear of spiders as a huge impediment to mission, but the truth was, I knew I had to face it or be a hypocrite. I couldn’t coach others to take medicine I would not swallow.

I marched into the pet store (OK, I crept into the fourth pet store, after failing three times) to find a tarantula and–you got it–hold that baby. The very helpful pet shop guy talked me through the traumatic process. He assured me the spider would just sit there. And you know what? It did. You know what else? They’re actually soft. And even cute in a . . . creepy, way-too-many-legs-and-eyes, spidery sort of way.

I’m not saying I’m going to go out and get a bird-eating tarantula for a housemate anytime soon. But–fear only has the power we give it. And I was tired of giving it.

Get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.” (Romans 8.14-15, The Message)

Grave Tenders or Adventurers?

IMG_5020What do grave tenders do? They make graves neat and lovely. They ensure pretty, clean plots. Over dead things. Past things. Things with no life and no future. I don’t want to be a tender of dead things. I want to live adventurously expectant.

So why don’t we? Why don’t we feel like we are created for incredible purpose? Why don’t we wake up every morning asking, “What’s next, God?” Why don’t we expect wonder?

Because we fear. Rather than jump into our days, we dread them. We look at our lists and groan. We plan our next escape. We go on tending to the same dead things every day.

If my identity is being God’s representative here on earth, the imago dei to my neighbors, family, and total strangers, it’s a whole lot safer to remain a grave tender. No one in a grave ever expected anything hard of me. It could involve things I’m not ready to give up, risks not I’m ready to take, changing values and ideas I’m not ready to reexamine.

It could involve holding that spider. And we hyperventilate at the thought.

In her new book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, author Kelly Balarie’s relates her journey with fear and living into her identity as God’s child. I think you and I will find it relevant to the question of fearful adventurers everywhere. As Kelly herself relates:

“I wrote the book Fear Fighting as a desperation call to God. I knew God’s greatest callings were before me, but I couldn’t stop trembling and to start walking into them. God answered my cries; he moved me from fear-‘full’ to fear-‘less.’ He took me from unsure to unbelievably excited to move forward with him.”

Isn’t that the identity we cry out for? But grave tending keeps holding us back.

Observers or Participants?

Jesus said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” In is fullest definition, “rich and satisfying” means “over and above, more than is necessary, exceedingly, abundantly, supremely, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon, beyond imagination.

Wow. That’s a whole lot of satisfying.

So the question for me in front of that spider aquarium was: Do I want to observe an extraordinary, uncommon, abundant life–or do I want to participate in one?

Do I want to live into my identity as His child or live into the lie of fear?

God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

Five Ways to Remember with Gratitude (Part 3)


Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

Here are some statistics that ought to get your attention:

In an oft-replicated study, one group of people was assigned to keep a gratitude journal (writing down things they were thankful for) and the other was left alone to do their own thing. Those who kept the journal reported: 16% fewer negative physical symptoms, 19% more time spent exercising, 10% less physical pain, 8% more sleep, 25% increased sleep quality, and reduced depressive symptoms by 35%.

I don’t know about you, but I will take that 25% better sleep, thank you very much.

There is empirical evidence of a gratitude/well being connection. In another study, participants were divided into three groups (i.e., one group was asked to journal about negative events or hassles, a second group about the things for which they were grateful, and a third group about neutral life events) and were required to journal either daily or weekly. Across the various study conditions, the gratitude subsample consistently evidenced higher well being in comparison with the other two study groups.

In a study in which 221 adolescents were assigned to either a gratitude exercise (i.e., counting one’s blessings), a hassles condition, or a control condition. As predicted, the gratitude condition was associated with greater life satisfaction. The authors concluded from their experience that counting blessings seems to be an effective intervention for enhancing well being in adolescents.

Finally, the kicker—A five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent. That’s the same impact as doubling your income.

We all know how happy we think we’d be with twice the income. Can you really get the same well-being affect with a pen, paper, and give minutes?

Who would not take that bet?


How many gifts?

Ann Voskamp’s best seller 1000 Gifts chronicled her journey back toward gratitude and peace by journaling 1000 things she was thankful for. They were not huge things. She thanked God for little things, like light in lace curtains or the smell of children’s shampoo.

She learned a lesson for us all:

“In this counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life. A lifetime of sermons on “thanks in all things” and the shelves sagging with books on these things and I  testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time. Though pastors preached it, I still came home and griped on. I had never practiced. Practiced until it became the second nature, the first skin. Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.”

Nonfuzzy Gratitude

Gratitude as a lifestyle can’t be murky. It must focus down on the daily specifics. One nail at a time. That’s the only way it’s sustainable.

This is such an easy way to peace. Do as Ann says—practice it. Practice by writing. Every day. Just three things Or five if you’re feeling especially good. Be specific. Don’t thank God for your spouse or kids. Thank him for the way your husband makes room in the garage for your car first. Thank him for the curl of your baby boy’s hair on his forehead. Thank him for your friend’s weird laugh that makes you forget all your woes.

Specific, small things.

This specificity allows us, forces us, to remember in detail, a key to real gratitude.

Gratitude in the abstract almost never sustains. We need details we can latch our hearts too.


Here are a few things I wrote this week:

*flowers from a son-in-law

*blue kitchen appliances

*swirly colors in homemade soap

*Snoopy notepads

*a husband who makes me tea in the morning before he leaves

A dollar store journal. A free pen you swiped borrowed gratefully at church. Five minutes between diaper changes or after morning coffee or before bed. You will be amazed.

I cannot guarantee you you will double your income. (The study just says you will feel like you did.)

But I can guarantee—peace.

This blog originally ran in December of 2015, but it’s being reposted as part of #LiveFreeThursday and #LivingaLifeofThankYou. Because who doesn’t need more of that?

Five Ways to Remember with Gratitude (Part 2)


(You will find Part One of this series on gratitude here.)

Have you ever gone hiking and found those stone piles? They’re popular particularly on beaches or mountain trails. I suppose that’s where you find rocks. And solitude. They’re called cairns, and they have been used over centuries for various purposes.

Cairns mark a trail.

They tell people “This is the way. Don’t detour. Don’t get lost. This way.”

Cairns show where necessities or treasures are buried.

They say, “What you need is right here. The things you treasure are right in this spot. Don’t look elsewhere for what matters.”

Cairns stand as memorials.

They remind people of loved ones, won battles, divine intervention, or important days. They cause us to remember what has gone before by their very existence.

Cairns create identity.

In North America in particular, they can stand for Native American identity, a way of reminding others, and themselves, who they are and what matters to then as a people. They yell an echo to the landscape—“As long as this stands, I will not forget who I was made to be.”

img_1438Cairns could come in handy for Christians, too. Don’t all those purposes sound like things we could use?

  • This is the right way.
  • This is your treasure.
  • This is where something amazing happened.
  • This is who you are in Christ.

Those little piles of stone say some big things.

Stacking stones claims ordinary moments for God and asks others to notice the holy ground in their presence.

Samuel stacked stones as a battle victory memorial. (He called the memorial Ebenezer—“the stone of help.” So now you know when you sing that song what the heck an ebenezer is. It has nothing to do with Charles Dickens.)

Joshua stacked stones to remind the Israelites of their safe crossing over the Jordan River.

P1000275It’s not just stones, though. Look at God instructing the Israelites to put tassels on their clothes. What??? Why?

“When you see the tassels, you will remember and obey all the commands of the Lord instead of following your own desires and defiling yourselves, as you are prone to do. The tassels will help you remember.” (Numbers 15)

God knows that often we need physical reminders. We are visual people. We want to see, touch, smell, so we can remember. There is something about a tangible, visual reminder that jump starts the memory.

It’s why we have photo albums and snow globe collections and Dad’s old navy uniform.

We remember better when we can see and touch. God gets that. Thus, tassels.

I am not suggesting you put tassels on all your clothes. That gets a little tedious. And it gets you a lot of odd looks. Not to mention, goats at the petting zoo and cats will take an inordinate interest in you. (Don’t ask how I know this.)

But can you raise your own ebenezers?

  • Frame a photo on your desk of something God accomplished?
  • Put up a screensaver of something He gave you?
  • Maybe make your own cairn—there are river rocks at the dollar store. White Sharpie, and you’re set. Write down a word or two on your rock of what God has done. Put them where you can see them.
  • Use sticky notes to remind yourself of who God is, what He has done, who He has said you are. Stick them anywhere you will see them and be reminded.

Create any reminder that you can touch and see — out of whatever has meaning for you.

55cc1-img_4545Raise an Ebenezer. It’s an easy way to remember and “thank him for all he has done.”

Then, peace.

Next week: remembering with a Dollar Store piece of paper.