Thank you vs Thankful

An ongoing lesson in gratitude

Being Thankful

Mind your manners.

Don’t forget to say thank you.

Did you write those thank you letters?

One of the first things parents teach their children is to say please and thank you. They are prompted until they remember these magic words by themselves.

But how much do we teach children to just fit in to a polite society and how much do we encourage them to be truly thankful?

There’s a story in the Bible that is often used in Sunday schools to remind children the importance of being thankful. It tells of the time when Jesus healed ten men who had leprosy. You can read the full account in Luke 17:11 – 19. The point we often focus on is that only one of them returned to say thank you to Jesus. But there is more to learn.

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Image (c) Henry Martin

All ten men showed faith in Jesus. They asked him for help and obeyed his instructions. All ten men were healed. We know that one came back to say thank you, but what of the other nine men? We can assume that they went to the priest who declared them to be clean. We can assume that from that point on they lived vastly improved lives – they were no longer the outcasts of their society but were able to live and socialise with their friends and family again. They would be able to secure jobs and live normal lives.

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Image (c) Henry Martin

All this would be true of the one man as well. But I think that in addition to all these outer changes he also experienced an inner change. His response when he noticed he was healed was not to just carry on with the others but to acknowledge the one who had brought about the change in his life.

“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voiceHe threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him…” (Luke 17:15 & 16, emphasis mine).

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Image (c) Henry Martin

This is no polite formality or social nicety. This is exuberant, heartfelt gratitude. It was also his choice. He could have chosen to carry on with the other nine men. Instead he chose to go back and express his gratitude.

It’s easy to judge the other nine men, to say that they were wrong for not returning to say thank you. But how often do I make a conscious decision to say thank you? Especially when it might cost me some time or effort to do so.

God showers us with gifts every day that I often take for granted – a home to live in, food on the table, a comfortable bed, central heating, clean water, a stable income, good health, breath in my lungs. Do I respond with deep, heartfelt gratitude? Or do I expect them as my right and almost ignore them?

About a year ago I read this book.

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Ann Voskamp responded to a challenge to write a thousand point list jotting down the every day things she saw as God’s blessings. And the more thankful she was, the more thankful she became. She began to notice more and more of God’s goodness, even during very difficult times.

I was challenged to do something similar. Not necessarily to try to reach 1000 on my list in a year, but to take time to notice the good things around me every day. So I started my thankfulness list in the back of my journal.

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My intention was to write something everyday. The reality was that some days I forgot or was just too tired. I even went for 4 or 5 months without writing anything. But by the end of the year, even with some huge time gaps, I had a list of 408 things. Small things and big things. Things I have enjoyed. Things that have enriched my life. Things that were sent as blessings from God.

I am thankful for...

I am thankful for…

So this year I want to continue learning to be grateful. I’ll carry on writing my list in the back of my journal, documenting the every day blessings before I go to sleep each night. But I want to take it one step further.

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I read about 365 Grateful this morning, encouraging people to take a photo every day for a year as a way of recording things they are thankful for. So I’m planning to do that in addition to the list. I’ll probably post a week’s worth of photos each weekend (I know it won’t last long if I try to do it every day!) so that at the end of the year I have photographic evidence of God’s blessings.

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Hopefully by the end of the year I will have learned more of the joy and contentment that comes from being truly thankful.


5 responses to “Being Thankful

  1. […] So, to keep track of all my photos, I’ve started a new blog. If you would like to take a look the first post is here. And if you would like to read a fuller explanation of why I started the blog, have a look at this page. […]

  2. creative pixie says:

    This sounds really good and a great encouragement, it would be good to remind myself of God’s blessings on days when things don’t feel they’re going how I would like. I have a notebook ready to go. Thanks for sharing. Jean

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