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The Simple Practice that Changes [Almost] Everything

September 6, 2019 4 min read

I like to think of myself as a pretty joyful person—quick to point out beauty even in the mess, to see hope even when reality is bleak, to notice Jesus even in our splintered stories. But somedays, joy isn’t quick to come. Somedays, it seems to hide in the shadows.

On these days, I’m faced with a choice. Do I call it out, encourage it to come into the light, to take up space in my cluttered mess? Or do I let it be? Do I bypass the difficult work of choosing joy when cynicism or complaining or comparison seem to be much easier? 

In this particular season, joy has felt distant and difficult. As my world spins in the chaos of transition and change and the in-between, it becomes more and more challenging to lean into this thing called joy. It becomes more and more challenging to rejoice, to sing and celebrate, to rest in hope. And I have a feeling I’m not the only one in this battle. 

I bet I’m not the only person who fights for joy. I think more of us, if we had the courage to admit it, find joy a bit challenging. Joy is a choice. Joy is vulnerable. Joy is risky. Joy is difficult. 

But joy is also life. It’s hope and grace. Joy is beauty. It’s holy and sacred. 

Joy is worth fighting for, and it starts with gratitude.

Gratitude changes our hearts, doesn’t it? It’s so very hard to complain, to be cynical, to compare ourselves with others when we practice gratitude. Gratitude calls us home. It calls us to the place we belong—a place of rest in the Father. It reminds us that this very big and beautiful and complicated world isn’t about us. 

And aren’t these the kinds of reminders we need every day. On the days we can’t seem to get out of our own head. On the days when our circumstances feel overwhelming. On the days when we have more questions than answers. On the days when the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t even the tiniest dot. 

Gratitude is our guard, the sword we draw as we charge into battle. It’s our song, our hallelujah, the foundation of true and holy life in abundance. It’s a daily decision. Gratitude does not just appear. It needs exercised. It’s a practice.

For me, this practice looks like list-making. Daily adding moments of gratitude—big and little, subtle and obvious. 

A warm blanket in a cold room.
An overwhelmingly generous support report for the month. 
Running without getting chased by street dogs.
Eating fresh blueberries by the fistful. 
Catching up with an old friend. 
Coffee in the morning. 

It’s not revolutionary or innovative. But I think that’s the point. Gratitude calls us to a place of profound simplicity—to the deeply beautiful basics of our life. 

And from the shadows, gratitude beckons joy. It invites joy to take up space and tells complaints and comparison and cynicism to move out. Gratitude puts us in a posture of humility and grace and dependency. Gratitude reminds us that even in our most scattered, fractured, splintered seasons, the Father remains faithful. He is still good. He is still God. 

On your feet now—applaud God!
    Bring a gift of laughter,
    sing yourselves into his presence.
Know this: God is God, and God, God.
    He made us; we didn’t make him.
    We’re his people, his well-tended sheep.
Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
    Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
    Thank him. Worship him.
For God is sheer beauty,
    all-generous in love,
    loyal always and ever.
Psalm 100 (The Message)

Today and tomorrow and the next day, may we choose gratitude and joy. Let’s choose to see beauty in the big and the little, the subtle and the obvious. Let’s choose to do the courageous work of calling out joy from the shadows, choosing it over cynicism, complaints, and comparison. 

Gratitude will be our guard, the sword we draw as we run into battle. 

May we be people who choose gratitude, and in doing so, choose joy. 

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