28 July, 2010

Choose Gratitude - 1 of 4 from July, 2010

First of Four sessions:

A few of us got together for the first of our chats over the book, "Choosing Gratitude" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, this past Wed. [1st Wed. in July] It was a fun, refreshing time to get to know each other, to pray together, and to compare highlighted passages from our readings in the Intro thru ch.2.

Here is a summary of some of the high points as we look forward to our next get-together:

Importance of Gratitude

*opening quote to intro by William Law gives having a thankful spirit credit for (at least) 3 things:
1) working miracles,
2) healing with a word, and
3) turning all that it touches into happiness.

(could it be true that gratitude is that tranforming?)

*we need to be "ceaselessly vigilant" or we get swept up in our own emotional frenzy, a world of self-focus, characterized by worry, complaining, resenting, discontentment - our "natural bent" is "toward doubt, negativity, discouragement, and anxiety," and a tendency to become "bitter, prickly and sour." (What a list of symptoms!)

*All of these things are able to be kept in check when we practice the discipline of giving thanks to God. Gratitude = "life preserver even in the most turbulent waters" but "doesn't come without effort and intentionality."

*Nancy says, Gratitude is "a choice that requires constantly renewing my mind with the truth of God's Word, setting my heart to savor God and His gifts, and disciplining my tongue to speak words that reflect His goodness and grace - until a grateful spirit becomes my reflexive response response to all of life." (First reaction) "A grateful child of God can't help but be a joyful, peaceful, radiant person." (p.17)

From Discussion questions: "We rarely think the source of our problems is tied to our lack of gratitude." Q: Is gratitude essential or non-essential for every Christian? (p. 22-23)

*what is the difference between a kind of universal, Hallmark card kind of "grateful feeling" and Christian gratitude? True Gratitude MUST have a Person as its object. (p. 36) "...True thankfulness requires a 'you' to say 'Thank you' to." (!)

*"Gratitude is a lifestyle. A hard-fought, grace-infused, biblical lifestyle. And though there's a sense in which anyone can be thankful - for God has extended His common grace to all - the true glory and the transforming power of gratitude are reserved for those who know and acknowledge the Giver of every good gift and who are recipients of His redeeming grace." (p. 29)

In ch. 2 we see that "charis" is the root Greek word for "gratitude" and itself means "grace" - similarly, "charis" is the root also for "gift" - and the word "eucharist" which is a word to describe the sacrament of the Lord's supper, taking of the bread and wine together in remembrance of him, literally means "a giving of thanks."

*Guilt + Grace = Gratitude

*So GRACE GIVES and so produces a GRACE-FULL response = GRATITUDE. We cannot worship without being grateful, or "grace-filled."

*Similarly, "Grace begets giving." (p. 40) Nancy takes us through 2 Cor. 8-9 as one example, where we see that the "grace-full" response is to give generously/sacrificially, which produces more gratitude which in turn produces even more "grace-full" giving, and so forth. So Nancy likens God-given grace to the rain cycle - bottom of page 41. "Much the same way as water comes down from the sky, replenishing the earth, then returning to the air in evaporated moisture, Christian [uniquely Christian!] gratitude keeps God's grace churning in full circle...and leaving who knows how many fruits and flowers and refreshed lives in its trail of glory."

*So God's grace poured out on us produces a grace-full - or grateful (or worshipful and praising!) - response which causes us to pour out graciously to others which in turn produces a grace-full response in them, and turns back to praise to the Lord....beautiful.

*"Imagine the impact in a world characterized by isolation, selfishness, and fractured relationships, if we were to adorn the gospel we profess to believe, with a culture of mutual care, concern, generosity, and sacrifice. The truth we proclaim would become believable. And God would be glorified." (p. 43)

From discussion:

*The equation is pretty "simple" - guilt + grace = gratitude. So if we are NOT grateful, we either haven't really appreciated how guilty we are (how in NEED of grace we are), or we haven't received grace (or haven't realized the kind of grace we've received!).

*Application - examine ourselves! where are we characterized by ingratitude, or by the symptoms listed off at the beginning of the book? have we not realized our sinfulness? our dependence on God? or have we perhaps not repented and received his grace? or having received his grace have we perhaps allowed the enemy to steal our joy?