Have a thankful heart every day of the year

By Rev. Marty Armstrong, Special to the Tri-City HeraldNovember 17, 2012 

RICHLAND, Wash. -- I look forward to a great Thanksgiving Day celebration with my family, but in reading my Bible, I've come to realize that Thanksgiving is more than a one-day celebration. It tells us that being thankful really us an everyday way to live life.

"Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Jesus Christ." (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Thanklessness is all too common. Rather than being grateful for the good gifts we have received from God, people often focus on the "why me?" or "what if I had that?" mode. It's so easy to get in the grumbling, complaining mode. Instead, I'll focus on -- and be thankful for -- my blessings.

I've learned so much from my grandkids about expressing gratitude for what I have. It can be the simplest of things we take for granted.

I have a tradition of sitting out on my back deck with my grandkids and looking over things of God's great creation. We then each share a list of at least 10 things we have discovered that we are thankful for.

What joy this has brought me to discover through these precious little ones, things I never before had on my "thank you, God list" -- things out there like clouds, rocks, the train tracks, the moon, and their list goes on and on.

I believe we really need to try to make Thanksgiving not a once-a-year celebration, but a 365 days-of-the-year thing! It's the kind of thanksgiving that can be sincerely communicated every day and in countless simple ways through a few words of encouragement, a compliment, a smile, a helping hand and more. The key words for me are thankfulness that is simple and sincere.

I like the Bible verse above that says, "never stop praying." The word "never" is the key for me -- all the time praying with a thankful heart to our loving Heavenly Father for all he does for us. (I do pray when I'm driving, but I don't close my eyes to pray!)

I recently read in a book that each morning our first thoughts can tend to be moaning and groaning with an "I have to" attitude. These thoughts can make an overwhelming and discouraging impact on our daily lives.

Instead of negativity, I've decided to make Psalm 118:24 my very first thought each morning: "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." I'll change this verse a bit by saying "... I'm gonna rejoice and be glad in it!"

It doesn't mean everything all day long is perfect, but with that attitude, I'm ready to walk through the day with a sincerely thankful heart; one that's aware of the thorns, but concentrating on the roses.

* Rev. Marty Armstrong is a former pastor of Cathedral of Joy in Richland.

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