The Secret Sauce of Gratitude

STEPHANIE FORMENTI|GUEST My family and I lived in Brazil for a little over three years. And while I grew to appreciate many things about Brazil, probably the thing I learned to love the most is the delicious food! I love the tropical fruit, the beans and rice, the meat, and the cheese bread. But the best Brazilian food is my mother-in-law’s cooking, and here is the secret to her food: she starts almost every dish by sauteing fresh garlic and diced onions in quality olive oil. It’s the base for nearly everything she cooks, and this flavor combination makes all of her food really delicious. I think gratitude is the garlic and olive oil in our walk with Jesus. Just as food can still nourish and fill me up, if it doesn’t start with my mother-in-law’s secret sauce, it lacks the deliciousness that garlic, onion, and olive oil bring to a dish. In the same way, gratitude enhances our everyday experience with Jesus by bringing flavor and beauty. We can read our Bibles, spend time in prayer, participate in godly fellowship and partake of the sacraments. Those things do provide spiritual nourishment and are essential to cultivating a love for Jesus and for others, but a posture of gratitude aids us in more vividly tasting and seeing the goodness of God. This action of giving thanks is captured in the Greek word eucharisteo. The root word of eucharisteo is charis or grace. We also see its derivative—chara— which we translate as joy. Displaying gratitude then seems to imply a connection to both grace and joy. Maybe gratitude is a repeated decision to receive grace which then results in joy. I believe this happens in our lives in three specific ways. Gratitude provides perspective. Thanksgiving reframes things for us. Gratitude is a perspective changer. It shakes us up and gives us proper sight in two ways: First, gratitude moves us from a position of ownership to a position of stewardship. It rightly places God as the giver of all things (James 1:17), the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), and the one who gives generously without reproach (James 1:5). This necessitates an acknowledgement that we are simply recipients; to receive a gift is foundationally a posture of humility. We do nothing other than stretch out our hands and accept it. Whatever we have, whether that be material goods, children, financial stability, healthy relationships, athletic prowess, or spiritual insight—we receive all of it as an immeasurably gracious gift from God. He created it all and He owns it all. Whatever we have is a gift from him. Gratitude gives us this perspective. Without it, we spend a lot of time hoarding things and even more time protecting them. We approach life tight-fisted, exhausting our emotional energy and the hours of our day fighting to protect the wealth, relationships, status, achievements, abilities, looks, and power which aren’t even ours to begin with. Secondly, gratitude moves us from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance...

The Secret Sauce of Gratitude2022-05-04T23:17:11+00:00

On Possessions, Contentment, and Eternity

Early in the pandemic lockdown, I was determined to be productive. Like many of my friends, I used some of my new-found time to do deep house cleaning including purging things that tend to collect in every available closet, shelf, and drawer. Before long, my Tupperware was properly matched with lids and arranged by size. The junk drawer was decluttered. Clothes were tried on to see if they “sparked joy” a la Marie Kondo. Then came the big stuff. Stuff that has not been used in years but somehow, I haven’t wanted to let go. The waffle maker that would have to be dusted to be used. Shoes that once matched an outfit no longer in style. Books I enjoyed but will not reread. Finally, the attic! Holiday decorations so abundant that every year I have to decide which items I will display because they all can’t be used at the same time. It became clear that I am clinging to too much stuff! Not that I am not grateful. In fact, I am very thankful for the abundance that I enjoy. But during this period of self-quarantining, I am haunted by the role these possessions have in my life. This was on my mind when, during a morning devotion, I read Matt 6:19-21 through this new lens. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Ouch! Have I been busy “laying up treasures on earth?” I don’t want my mind and heart to be so obsessed with the physical things in my life that I lose sight of eternal treasures...

On Possessions, Contentment, and Eternity2022-05-04T23:46:58+00:00

So Grateful, So Grateful

My friend was telling me the saga of her teenage son’s illness. As a Down syndrome child, he had trouble enough with swallowing and digestion. But then he developed urgent issues that landed him in the hospital, and even after getting home, he could not eat solid food for almost two months. She and her son, both Christians, prayed together for mercy and healing, but it was a tough road to recovery. She described his first taste of normal food: a few potato chips. She told me that with each bite, he murmured, “So grateful. So grateful.” What she hadn’t expected is that he continues to say the same with each bite, days later. “So grateful, so grateful.” I carry a humbled admiration at a boy feeling such a sustained yet spontaneous gratitude for the simple blessing of healthy eating. What pleasure that must bring to God’s heart. As I have studied the conclusion of I Thessalonians 5, I find this little volley of exhortations: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances.” As I have turned these over in my mind the last several weeks, I’ve sensed that they are almost the same command stated three ways. Finding things to rejoice over and thank God for constantly will require ceaseless prayer, not only for expression to God but to seek His voice and vision for the good in all circumstances. If we give thanks in all circumstances, we will rejoice. We will offer those thanks by praying as much as we rejoice. It all goes round in a wonderful wreath of heartfelt communion with the Lord...

So Grateful, So Grateful2022-04-28T02:16:41+00:00
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