I still remember when I was a little boy and my family would go to McDonalds. I would get so excited. I couldn't wait to get my happy meal and the fries.
I distinctly remember one occasion when I was eating my fries and my mom leaned over and grabbed one. And then a few minutes later she grabbed another one! And then another one! I was furious. I exclaimed, "Mom, what are you doing, these are my fries!!"
My mom, shocked by my reaction, kindly reminded me that she paid for my fries and for my happy meal. I don't think my mom was so much requiring me to share but just taken back that I didn't get it. The meal and the fries were a gift to me and she wanted to teach me to value the gift so that I could value people's generousity. I now realize that everything I had to eat was given to me by her. I look back on that day and realize how unaware of things I was. How I so easily forgot that my mom provided for all my basic needs, including my McDonald's meal.
The reason I share this story is because many times we have the same attitude towards God that I had with my mom. James 1:17 tells us that "every good and perfect gift is from above." Which means that every blessing (good thing) in our life is from God. How many times do we complain when something is taken away or when we have to share what we have with others?
In Luke 17:11-19 there is a story of Jesus healing 10 lepers. One of them, realizing he had been healed returned to Jesus. He then glorified God in a loud voice and fell at Jesus' feet, thanking him. He happened to be a Samaritan. Jesus said to him, "Ten were cleansed were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"
May we not be like the nine lepers and rather be like the one that pours his heart out to Jesus in gratitude for all he has given us.
In recovery people are encouraged to write gratitude lists to reflect on all the blessings in their life. This is especially helpful for people who are going through tough times and depressed or resentful. The idea is that if we spend one or more hours thinking about the blessings we have we will foster a more positive outlook on life and grateful heart. Now if we spend 10 hours thinking about what we don't have and negative thoughts we will end up feeling depressed and resentful.
And when we realize that it is God who gives us the blessings it naturally produces gratitude towards him and an intense joy because we understand that we are loved and thought about by the Creator of the universe.
A friend of mine shared a story regarding joy and connection with me a couple years ago. My friend, who worked at a middle school once told me that he saw parents come and pick up their kids all the time. He said that many times the children did not want to go home or did not seem excited to go home. He then shared about one child who when he saw his father at a distance dropped his favorite toy that he carried with him everywhere and ran to him at full speed. The boy leaped into his father's arms and was so happy to see him that he forgot all about the toy.
He told me that when it comes to our Heavenly Father hopefully we can act the same way. Hopefully when we encounter God we drop everything that we are holding onto and just allow ourselves to experience the joy of spending time with our God. This joy and gratitude stems from a love and trust that is always present. When we have the proper perspective we can experience joy and gratitude all the time.
If I am not eager to spend time with God I try to ask myself what am I holding onto that is keeping me from doing this? Is it a special project, work, watching TV, a resentment, worry, etc? Once that thing is loosed I can then run to my Heavenly Father and experience not only gratitude but also the joy that comes from having a strong connection with God.
CAPTION: "Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org."