Project 3:  Cultivating Thankfulness

 
 

a DESIRABLE way of life

Paul describes a desirable way of life in his letter to the Colossians:    

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:1-17 ESV

 

This is a remarkable description of a rich life. This is clearly a desirable life. In some ways this life sounds almost too good to be true. How can we reshape our life to look more like this?  

In the last paragraph, thankfulness is mentioned three times. 

“And be thankful.” 

“with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” 

“giving thanks to God the Father through him.”    

 

More important than the number of times mentioned, we see that the practice of thankfulness is interwoven into a life of love, a life of perfect harmony, a life of peace, a life of oneness with others, a life with Christ dwelling in you richly, a life of wisdom, and a life of worship.   

Could it be that practicing thankfulness is what will lead you into the remarkable life in Christ described in this passage?  

It has been said that thankfulness and greed can not exist together. The beginning of this passage identifies covetousness, or greed, as idolatry. Clearly this is something that we want to avoid. No one enjoys that greedy feeling that can rise up in our hearts.

When we are thankful, it is hard (maybe impossible) to lust for more at the same time. Could it be that simple? Could the greed, lust, and covetousness that creeps into our lives actually be prevented by a practice of thankfulness?  

To look at this same topic from a more positive perspective, it seems that thankfulness and contentment go hand in hand. It seems logical that thankfulness leads to contentment and contentment leads to peace. 

When we experience peace, we don’t experience fear. Fear and peace can not exist together at the same time. Peace and contentment are qualities of life that so many people in the world aspire to. People spend their whole life searching for peace.

Maybe there is a simple relationship here, that people (even the ones that know Jesus) are missing…  

The peace of Christ comes from thankfulness to Christ.

The practice of thankfulness to Christ will lead us into the experience of peace. Practicing thankfulness leads us into a life of worship.  

A worship pastor once said, “The courts of praise are entered through the gates of thanksgiving.”   

In other words, thankfulness leads to praise. 

This is the idea of Psalm 100:4. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Thankfulness leads us into praise and blessing the name of God. Thankfulness leads us into worship. Worship is what we were created to do. It is what makes us fully alive.

Understanding thankfulness is easy. It is a bit harder to appreciate how thankfulness changes all the other parts of your life. But we can experience these benefits without fully understanding how it works. 

Only by practicing thankfulness in our lives will we experience this remarkable life. Practicing thankfulness is where the true transformation comes from.  

We can practice thankfulness and prevent greed.

We can practice thankfulness and experience peace.

We can practice thankfulness and worship God.

Here is a simple way to practice thankfulness using the outline of POET.  

People.  Write the name of a person you are thankful for. Then think about why you are thankful for him or her. 

Opportunity.  Write down an opportunity coming up in the future that you are thankful for. Then think about why you are thankful for it. 

Experience.  Write an experience in the past that you are thankful for. Then think about why. 

Thing.  Write something that you are thankful for. Then think about why. 

The POET outline is helpful because it causes you to think in different directions. People, future opportunities, past experiences, and things. The order here is important. We are starting with people, having hope in the future, and experiences in the past and then ending with things. 

Without this outline, people often just list things they are thankful for. Things are important, but they probably deserve the bottom spot not the top. 

One tip is make at least one of the four very simple. For example, being thankful for the sunrise. Or the wind on your face. The smile of a child. That great hug from yesterday. The fragrant coffee that you are sipping. The deep breath you just took. 

Let us be thankful for the grandness of what God has blessed us with as well as the simple things he has blessed us with. And it doing so, we may grow to realize that it is all grand. 

Bonus: If you are feeling especially grateful after making your list, occasionally take a bonus round and write out who made each of those four things possible. Who introduced you to the person you are grateful for? Who made the opportunity possible? Who made the experience possible? Who made the thing possible?  

This bonus round will increase our thankfulness tremendously. And it will show us how much we have that actually comes as a gift from others and ultimately from God. The gifts are from him. They are not a wage I deserved. They are a gift. 

Furthermore, it will show us that we are not a self-made. We are blessed by the generosity of God. We are blessed by the generosity of others. We are not independent. We are interdependent. We belong to each other.  

 

Action. 

Part 1. 

Write what you are thankful for using the POET outline and post it to your blog. Include not just what you are thankful for, but also why you are thankful for each of one. Take the bonus round and write who made each one possible.   

 

Part 2.  

Learn the practice of thankfulness

We need a practice of thankfulness not just knowledge of thankfulness. The key is to develop a thankfulness habit. Habits come from triggers. Pick a trigger in the first hour or two of getting up in the morning. Then identify the action you will change or do at that trigger. 

Here are some examples:  

When I wake up, I will not immediately pick up my phone. Instead I will lay in bed, look at the ceiling and work through POET in my mind. 

While the coffee brews for four minutes, I won’t walk off or rummage around the kitchen. Instead I will spend the four minutes standing at the coffee brewer, breathing deeply, and giving thanks through the POET outline. 

When I sit down with my coffee, I won’t jump right into the news, email, or even the Bible. Instead, I will write my thankfulness in my journal. Then read the Bible. 

When I start my morning commute, I will not left my mind drift into distracted wandering while I walk, ride the train, or drive to work. Instead I will pick a stop light or some other monument that I pass every day. When I see that monument, it will trigger my time to give thanks to God through the POET outline as I travel. 

Write out your simple habit plan for practicing thankfulness in your blog post.  

Then practice the habit everyday for the next 21 days.  

Part 3.  

Pass this on to someone else. In the three days, teach someone else why thankfulness is important and how to practice it with the POET outline. You might want to go ahead and think about who would like to share it with.

 

Deadlines for cohort 3:

Post the writing section from parts 1 & 2 to your blog by 

Sunday, January 20, before your meeting.

Feedback is due by

Tuesday, January 22, at 11:59 PM

Your Reflection Summary is due by 

Thursday, January 24, before your meeting.

Deadlines for cohort 4:

Post the writing section from parts 1 & 2 to your blog by 

Thursday, January 24, before your meeting.

Feedback is due by

Saturday, January 26, at 11:59 PM

Your Reflection Summary is due by 

Monday, January 28, at 11:59 PM.