Transforming the Home with Thanks
I'm naturally quite driven, which means I often am wanting something. Typically, this isn't a physical or consumerist tendency, but an urge to want things to be better or more efficient - not just for myself but for others too. Now, clearly this isn't a bad thing in and of its self - but it can be. Being driven means I'm often not so good at being still and taking time to simply appreciate what I have or what others have - I'm not so good at being thankful!
I've tried to remind myself to be more thankful over the last decade or so and to build it into my daily rhythm. I've also tried to ensure that, as far as it depends on me, to create a culture of thankfulness in the home so that the next generation have an orientation toward thankfulness (and so that every one in the home benefits from a less grouchy Jake!)
Originally written for the ywamwildfire.com blog.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise: give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100).
Psalm 100 has often been the proof-text for the idea that when we want to come into the presence of God in a particular way (because in one way we are always in his presence and being indwelt by is presence) that the key is thankfulness. Throughout the centuries theologians, mystics & people who have gotten close to Jesus have recognised this to be very clear. Thomas Merton in Thoughts on Solitude says that 'Gratitude (or thankfulness) is the heart of the Christian life" because to be thankful is recognise God's love permeating all things. When we recognise God's love and goodness we 'choose-in' to the fact that he is present - we acknowledge him.
As we do this we undergo a reorientation, a recalibration. We chose in to acknowledging the source of whatever it is we're thankful about - the one who made all things good (see Genesis 1). In recognising him we also re-recognise ourselves as the ones made in his image; the ones called to share in who he is and his goodness. As we remember we are 're-membered' (put back together - with out oft-conflicted self, others and God). This is what it means to be at peace in the Biblical sense; to be whole, to have integrity. It's no wonder that scientific studies have found thankfulness to be so revolutionary for human health.
This thankfulness switch, flicked in the mind, kick-starts us into stewarding goodness (see Genesis 2), reclaiming the place of worship-leader over the whole of creation - to live and act in such a way that all we touch and all we give our time to ends up reflecting God's beauty and giving him glory all over again.
If we want our homes to be a place where God is present and our families are a people who ooze the fruits of the spirit - then we need to get thankful! We need to do whatever it takes to cultivate a culture of thanks! This isn't just something set aside times of prayer but a full-on lifestyle. Remember, we can't create a culture of thankfulness to God without also being thankful to one another and vice versa just as we cannot love God without loving one another and vice versa. Here are some things to try out in the home today as kick-start:
Say thank you to each other for the tiniest things (dishes washed, shoes put away, a smile). Even if it seems ridiculous and people give you weird looks!
Thank God before a meal - for the food/the cook/for time together/for Jesus' death on the cross & more.
Leave notes of thanks in the kids lunch box for how they've blessed you that morning
Write thank you cards to friends and relatives who bought you gifts for a birthday/Christmas etc.
Create an interactive art piece that comes alive as thanks is given (see our hallway thankfulness tree).
Sing songs of thanks as you hoover (thank God that you have a hoover!)
When it rains, go outside and dance in it! Thank God that he sends rain to water the fields.
Give something you hold dear away - thank God for your time with it & the opportunity to bless someone else with it.
Hold a thanks festival where you invite people over and let them know how thankful you are that they are in your lives by serving your best food and drink and send them all away with a momento of thanks.
Experiment with others in your household and let us know how you get on so we can add them into our daily rhythm.