In this time of so much turmoil and uncertainty, most people aren’t losing their minds, killing strangers or giving up.
Instead, they are hunkered down, pulling together, depending on one another and finding their own solutions to the times.
So I thought of a series of sermons on “Simple Gifts: 30 Days to Thanksgiving.”
The inspiration, grace and God-givenness of life cannot be conjured up, but we can surely put our attention on them and practice them.
I recently shared “30 Practices You Can Try in the Next 30 Days.” It was a reflection on Philippians 4:8-9: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”
A simple action each day can express, encourage and deepen our sense of gratitude. Something here might help.
- Express appreciation to someone important in your life verbally or with a note.
- Volunteer to help in a ministry to those less fortunate. It’s as easy as calling your church office, local service organization or other place of caring and signing up.
- Choose to forgive someone who made you angry in the past and act toward them as though it never happened.
- Sing with some other people, not just your iPod. Sing with a baby if you can.
- Give until it hurts and then give some more until it quits hurting and becomes second nature. Get where you can see somebody else getting help and enjoy it.
- Change the way you talk about your life. Make a list of the negative things you say most often. Can you turn them into positives instead? Reframe them into deeper truth?
- Get to know one person you walk past, see every day, sit near in church, work with or see at the store.
- Create a behavioral set for your devotional life. Clear out a space or have one place for prayer time. Light a candle, or do the same thing every day to create readiness.
- Carry your Bible to church as a physical reminder to yourself to read it daily. Memorize some verses. Encourage children to bring their Bibles.
- Read Psalm 4:8. When you go to bed tonight, pray this prayer: “Lord, I turn the world over to you. I have carried too much of it on my back and it was never mine anyway. Be with me in my dreams, my weariness and my endless lists of things to do tomorrow.” Then go to sleep.
- Laugh, hard, at least once today and remind yourself that you are not the center of the universe. If you need a little help, go to the funny birthday card section at the drugstore, watch children playing together or look at your high school yearbook picture.
- Sit in silence and breathe calmly for 10 minutes. That’s all. How was it?
- Do something for someone you love that tells them you do.
- Fast from the Internet and television for 24 hours and give some of that time to loving someone in your life instead.
- Put a short appointment on your calendar today and leave it fallow. Sit, even for 15 minutes, and absorb a spiritual truth, look at something beautiful or pray.
- Share time and attention with someone who is suffering, in trouble or who needs you. It will pull you out of yourself quickly.
- Make a list of people who have been mentors, encouragers and who have blessed you. The length may surprise you.
- Give money and pray for a missionary you know or for a country.
- Practice acceptance. Accept God’s acceptance of you – remind yourself that because of grace, you are free to forgive, free to love and free to welcome.
- Get reacquainted with your inner child – play, do something you’re not good at, draw, or roll on the floor with a baby if you know one. Give it a rest with the serious adult for a while.
- Accept that God has given you spiritual gifts and start using them for the sake of the church. They have nothing to do with how other people see you and everything to do with what God wants to do through you.
- Pray without ceasing by spending a whole day praying a verse or thinking about God. Just be there.
- Make a list of your close calls and then think, “It could have gone really badly for me. I was given a second chance.” Now consider giving someone else a second chance.
- Put a dollar in the mission offering of your church for every complaint you make today about your life, the government, Congress, the schools, society, “those people” (whoever they are), your parents, your loved ones or anyone else. At least you can help missionaries.
- Read Philippians 4:6. When you start worrying about something today, turn it into a verbal prayer.
- Try praying all the way through your church’s prayer list. You don’t have to know what their issue is. Someone was distressed enough to put it there.
- Spend some time in nature and pay attention to its joyful truth to you.
- Think back to when you were at your most difficult time. Did you learn anything as you went through it that could help you now?
- Give out 10 affirmations today. Don’t go to bed with one or two still in your mouth unoffered.
- Spend a little time jotting down everything that touches your life today that took other people to get it to you – at work, your food, every part of your life. In your time of prayer, consider the complexities of God’s giving through others to you.
Gary Furr is pastor of Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.