In November 2018 we had a post about gratitude titled "Spiritual Gratitude." It focused on the science of gratitude, how it rewires our brain, and how it enhances our spiritual life.
This week we are exploring gratitude once again because it is such an important part of happiness and spirituality.
Expressing Your Gratitude
Research has found being thankful increases our level of happiness. They have also found that expressing that gratitude with others shows even larger increases. In the video below they did a gratitude experiment with expressing their thankfulness to another person. Check it out and I encourage you to even give it a try.
The Benefits of Gratitude
The blog Daily Greatness states there are both intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of gratitude. Intrinsically our perspectives can change and our senses become heightened. Extrinsically thankfulness can positively impact our social connections with others just by showing appreciation for them. It enhances our focus and allows for more openness in our communication.
Amy Morin writes about the "7 scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round." These 7 benefits highlight how being thankful positively impacts our mind, body, and spirit. Enjoy the read!
What Are You Thankful For?
So the question is who and what are you thankful for? Is it your best friend, the coffee you had this morning, your neighbor, the birds chirping, the song you are listening to on the radio, or maybe the comfy shoes you are wearing. Identifying the things in our life that we are grateful for changes our perception.
I encourage you start making a list. Maybe you can quickly come up with 25 things or maybe you can start a journal and do five each day. The key is to practice thankfulness and allow it to be a bigger and bigger part of your daily life. If you are struggling with coming up with things check out Kid President. He has a list of 25 things he is thankful for.
What characteristics do I appreciate specifically about someone else?
What in my life makes my life better?
How has someone positively impacted me in the past and present?
What in my life can I not do without?
Where do I want to spend my time doing right now?
Be thankful for whatever responses come to these questions.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to all those sharing and supporting the blog.
Answer the questions above and be thankful for those things in your life.
Every year the Salina Community of Christ holds a clothing drive for three weeks helping those out in the city that need extra items. This last year they saw over 150 people come through and gave out three turkey's to families in need. One interesting situation took place this year that took those helping by surprise. There was a family in attendance whose house had just burned down. The Pastor took the family through helping them find the sizes they needed. At one point he looked up and everyone else in the room had stopped. They were all looking at the family and apparently knew of their recent situation. Some people stepped back so they had room while others began shouting out the sizes they needed. The attendees of the clothing drive searched table by table and even gave up the items they had already taken for themselves. The people provided service by searching and disregarded their own desires for the sake of others who they felt needed it more than them. This was not pity but a sacrificial love for others.
Sacrificing our own wants and desires for the benefit of something more important or worthy can be powerfully freeing. Sacrifice is an interesting and controversial issue among some groups. Let's look closer at how sacrifice can play a role in our spiritual life, what is sacrificial love, and if we should have limits of what to give.
Drum Major for Justice
Since today we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., I think its imperative we take a little time to pull him into this discussion of sacrifice. Martin Luther King believed in equality for all people. It was a cause that meant so much that he was willing to take the risks of harm, jail, and even death in order to ensure those for others. The peaceful, non-violent marches raised awareness of the injustice happening in America. He believed his sacrifices and personal harm was little compared to the worthy cause of equality. There are many ways Martin Luther King lived this out in his life but maybe there was nothing more widespread as his sacrificial love for others in the belief we are "the beloved community". This spoke through his actions in attempting to end racism and give equal rights to all. For more information on Martin Luther King please read the TIME Magazine "What People Still Don't Know About Martin Luther King Jr."
Injustice still happens in our world, even surrounding some of the same issues Martin Luther King Jr. fought for and against. It is our actions as a beloved community which can eliminate injustice and show sacrificial love for others.
Sacrificial Love and Our Spiritual Life
Sacrificial love is about giving up our own selfish desires for those of others. Agape love would be another term used for it. You are making a choice to respect and honor another individual while seeking their overall well being. This type of love is of moral integrity and is at the heart of God. Our spiritual lives can thrive when we choose to love sacrificially in the situations life presents.
Check out this video by the Bible Project describing Agape love and how Jesus modeled this in his life and ministry.
If we allow our love to expand for the well being of others around us people are impacted in creative and life changing ways. Are you currently living out sacrificial love in your work and personal life? How would you be different if you choose to sacrificially love those around you?
When we seek the heart of God by sacrificially loving those around us our spiritual lives deepen. Our own personal desires suddenly become aligned with the will of God for our lives. We listen more attentively, walk more confidently, and open our eyes to the needs of others. I love this song by Jeremy Camp "Empty Me" because it speaks to opening ourselves up to the Spirit of God in our lives.
Limits and Boundaries to Sacrificial Love
Sometimes we will go out of our way to help others. We might think if we just give more and try harder it will happen. However sometimes that is not the case. Giving can be tiresome, and emotionally exhausting, especially if it is always one-sided.
Somewhere along the way we have equated sacrificial love to giving everything for others, even if its not good for us. Sacrificial love is at the heart of God but does God want us to personally suffer from our giving? And if so how does that impact our spiritual life?
I think it comes down to us really knowing who we are and what we want. Sometimes others can take advantage of people knowing they will give if they ask. Other times people might try to shame or guilt us into actions. Sacrificial love always comes from our desire to help but it has to be our desire. If we are doing it from a position of obligation, worry, or attempt to keep a relationship than I would argue it is not sacrificial love. It seems like we need to have healthy boundaries that protect us and lead us into relationships of respect and accountability.
Aaron Ben-Zeev wrote an article on Psychology Today titled "Does Love Involve Sacrifice or Compromise" which discusses sacrifices in relationships which might be helpful for you. Chiara Mazzucco's blog "3 Toxic Signs of Sacrificial Love: Why it Doesn't Work and How to Detach" describes some of the issues of not having healthy boundaries in our life and how they impact our relationships.
Now there are some people who would argue sacrificial love is never wrong. We give and do not expect anything in return. We love without conditions and do not look back no matter what or how others treat us. What do you think?
I think its important to remember Jesus had boundaries and expectations for others especially those in power. Jesus met the needs of others but did not let others walk all over him. He peacefully and confidently handled concerns upholding the worth of others and himself.
As I stated above sacrificial love is a controversial topic however its important we think and talk about it. We each have to decide what it means for our lives and what boundaries we should have.
Questions for Discussion
When have you seen sacrificial love displayed?
When is a time you have given of yourself for another?
What injustices are happening in your community?
Should there be limits or boundaries for ourselves when we love sacrificially with others? If so what should those be?
How do you align values, lifestyle with God's will for your life?
Thank you all for following along and sharing! This week think how you sacrificially love others and what boundaries are helpful for you.
With Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to spend some time focusing on gratitude. One memory sticks out to me more than the rest when it comes to being thankful. In college I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Now if you know me musical talents somehow skipped out of my gene pool. Despite this inconvenient circumstance, I pushed forward practicing countless hours attempting to get better and find this mysterious thing called rhythm. I did improve through practice and repetition but progress was slow.
One day my friend, now wife, Emily was heading back home for a few days. Before leaving she reached into her bag and handed me a blue sheet of paper. I inquisitively opened it up to find the guitar chords and lyrics for the song, "Thank You" by Ray Boltz. Immediately, I was taken back by this simple, thoughtful gift. She knew I loved playing the guitar though my abilities were limited. But more importantly she remembered the importance of this particular song to me. It was the song sung at my father's funeral 13 years before always holding a special space in my heart.
The story highlights my thankfulness for someone who listened and cared for me. However gratitude is not just a feeling we receive from a gift but can be a way of life if we allow it to be. Read along as we explore the science of gratitude and how thankfulness can enhance our spiritual lives?
Science of Gratitude
Why should we be grateful? How does it change who we are? This 2 minute video gives you the quick and easy to understand version on the science of gratitude.
Enhancing Spiritual Life
As you watched above, gratitude can rewire our brains, evoke happiness, and increase our overall well-being. It is also essential for our spiritual journey. Dr. Robert Emmons a researcher on gratitude says gratitude is "an affirming of goodness "good things" in one's life and the recognition that the sources of this goodness lie at least partially outside of the self."
If we look at gratitude as a spiritual practice with this definition than we first have to acknowledge the goodness in our lives. For example writing down or just mentally being thankful for: the day before us, supportive people in our life, shade from a tree, a drink of cool water, shoes on my feet, the warm memories I have shared, and each and every breath I take. What is the goodness in your life? What are the little things you miss out on everyday? What is at the center of your heart?
Secondly, we have to acknowledge the goodness we have comes from outside of ourselves. This may mean believing in a higher power or spiritual being that has provided this goodness by means of the worlds motion. Or it may just mean relinquishing the thought that we control everything in our lives; that everything we get is from our own means.
Gratitude brings humility in our lives. When we step back and humbly become appreciative with what is really in our hearts suddenly our perspective begins changing. Our perspective moves from our past and future to the present. Everyday moments are suddenly treated as a gift to take in and behold. This is spiritually powerful as it allows us to stay present with people, with nature, and with ourselves. It can reshape our spiritual lives if we allow it.
If you have felt spiritually lost, disconnected, or unsure about what you believe, I invite you to try the spiritual practice of gratitude. There are many forms for this practice to take. For three specific ways to engage in this spiritual practice go to the CanyonRanch blog.
I challenge you to have the first thought in your head when you wake up be "Thank You." Not who posted last night, what do I have to get done, or I just need five more minutes as you press the snooze, but simply "Thank You." For me this is hard but a goal to shoot toward because I know when I wake up thankful for another day, most likely I will be more thankful throughout that day and end the day with gratitude.
I will leave you with the song "Thank You" by Ray Boltz. The line that I love the most is "each life somehow touched by his generosity." What are you thankful for in your spiritual life? In what ways can you further others spirituality?
A big THANK YOU for all those following and sharing this blog! This week practice being thankful! The advent season is here so over the next 4 weeks we will specifically look at the virtues of Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. The first will be about Hope leading up to the 1st Sunday of Advent on Dec. 2nd.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting. They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation. They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response. They support sacramental ministries by preparing people for baptism and/or confirmation, presiding at sacramental services, and performing most sacraments. They promote community by inviting individuals, households, and families to respond to Christ’s call to discipleship. They promote justice and peacemaking by inviting people to experience all aspects of Christ’s peace through active discipleship. They create ministry partnerships with mission center officers, apostles, elders, and evangelists.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.