Is Your Gratitude Obvious to Others?

GratitudeA few years ago, I read everything I could find by Henri Nouwen.

His writings were formative and very encouraging.  On one occasion, I read his book Gracias.  The book is actually a journal chronicling Nouwen’s time spent in Peru and Bolivia.  Near the end of the book, he writes:

The title of this journal summarizes what I found, learned, and heard.  The word that I kept hearing, wherever I went, was: Gracias!  It sounded like the refrain from a long ballad of events.  Gracias a usted, gracias a Dios, muchas gracias — thank you, thanks be to God, many thanks!  I saw thousands of poor and hungry children, I met many young men and women without money, a job, or a decent place to live.  I spent long hours with sick, elderly people, and I witnessed more misery and pain than ever before in my life.  But in the midst of it all, that word lifted me again and again to a new realm of seeing and hearing: Gracias!  Thanks!  (Henri Nouwen, Gracias!, p. 187)

Question:

When have you felt particularly moved by someone’s gratitude?  What made the situation particularly moving?

 

What is a Gracious Person Like?

Gracious. coffee_cup (1).jpg

Now I like this word.

Like you, however, I have been around some people for whom the word “gracious” doesn’t seem to fit.

It was a busy evening. This particular church was attempting to feed a lot of people. Volunteers had been working in the kitchen in their church building throughout the day to prepare for a big crowd that evening. Other volunteers had come the day before after purchasing food at the local Sam’s. Here were lots of people working together. Again, all were volunteers.

One couple came through the line. He complained because his portion was smaller than what he wanted. The person serving apologized and explained that they were trying to give small portions of this particular dish because they wanted to make sure that everyone got some before they ran out. The man was visibly displeased and muttered something about the volunteers needing to do a better job of planning. No thank you. No gratitude.

That is not graciousness.

On the other hand, I have known gracious people. For example, I witnessed one gracious man interact with people many times in social settings. He would never humiliate, embarrass, or in any way communicate displeasure over something like the above example. He spent his time thanking people and expressing gratitude to them for the work they had done. At such dinners, he often wandered through the kitchen complimenting people and thanking each person for their service.

Graciousness is reserved for people who recognize 
that they are privileged to receive what they have been given. Or as Fred Craddock once said, “The final act of grace is graciousness.”  

So what is a gracious 
person?


A gracious person is slow to take credit and quick to lavish praise.

A gracious person never seeks to embarrass another. Humiliating another is not in this person’s vocabulary. (Please don’t say something that humiliates another and then try to escape responsibility by saying, “I was only joking.”)

A gracious person is always thanking others. Do you go through an entire day without thanking another?

A gracious person doesn’t monopolize the conversation. Someone else has something to offer.

A gracious person doesn’t try to play one-upmanship. (“That’s nothing, you should have seen what I did!”)

A gracious person pays attention to people. Sometimes people come away from such conversations saying, “He made me feel like I was the most important person at that moment.”

A gracious person desires to say what is appropriate. (There is no redeeming value in emptying one’s mind of whatever fleeting thought has happened to land at the moment.)


A gracious person looks out for the comfort of others. 


A gracious person looks for the good. Maybe 
you are visiting a friend who lives in another place. Instead of 
pointing out the inadequacies of your friend’s community, you are 
constantly finding things that are good. “This cafe has outstanding
 peach pie! That was delicious.” “I just love the way you have planted
 your garden. It is beautiful!”


I believe that in so many of us, there is a genuine hunger 
to experience the beauty of graciousness. After all, this is nothing
 more than grace lived out. And — that grace originates in the heart of God.


Question:

What else would you add to this list? What have you observed about gracious people?

  

Grateful People Are Refreshing

Now this was refreshing!gratitude.jpg

The other day I was in Wal-Mart. I had my three or four items and found a checkout counter with no line. The checker was a Hispanic woman in her late 30s. I asked her about her day;

“I’ve had a fantastic day!” she replied.

Then I asked her, “What happened today that would cause you to say that the day was fantastic?”

She said, “I have two jobs and the Lord does provide.”


Gratitude is refreshing.


Some of the most grateful people who I have ever met were just getting by financially. On the other hand, I have known some people who had a lot of possessions including the latest technology gadgets and yet expressed little gratitude to God or anyone else. Such people can unfortunately be stingy, self-centered, and miserly with what they have. Some of these people even seem to resent being asked to give to the needy. Ingratitude has a way of shrinking the heart.

Some examples:

  • The man whose idea of tipping at a restaurant is to leave as little as possible.
  • The woman whose good friends treated her to a birthday party. She complained afterward that no one gave her the present that she really wanted.
  • The man who is aware of needed work in his home and then manipulates his wife into doing it.
  • The couple who took expensive vacations and yet could be stingy when it came to giving to the poor.

There is something refreshing about gratitude. I really think that grateful people are often gracious people. They are not tight, stingy, and self-centerd. No, gracious people have a way at looking out for the best interest of others.

Some years ago, I became very intentional about paying attention to gracious people. I have tried to learn from such people.   There is a stark difference between someone who is gracious and someone who is not. I suspect that some of this graciousness is rooted in that person’s sense of gratitude.


Conclusion:

Think about the people who you know who are gracious and those who are not gracious. What characterizes these people?


The Importance of a Thank You

Today, I heard a “Thank you.”

The gentleman who said these words did so as a weekend of training for our small group leaders came to a close. He thanked the speaker, the leaders of our small group ministry, and all of the life group leaders. I really appreciated what he said. Expressing gratitude to these people was important–very important.

Far too often men and women serve in a variety of ways only to hear nothing. Absolutely nothing!

They serve and serve and the response is…gratitude.jpg

…Silence.

Or, they may hear something like this: “Uh the next time we have a seminar, let’s do this instead of that.”

Really?

No thank you. No gratitude. Now the guy is going to make suggestions to these people when he has not even thanked them for what they did?

I suspect that a “thank you” is long over due for some people.


Question:

Can you think of people in your world who really need to hear a word of gratitude from you? Name a few people who really need to hear this.

The Apology

I used to drive a UPS (United Parcel Service) truck. dallas.jpg

Really.

This was the job I had when I one day received an apology.

I had been working for UPS during college. I was a student at the University of North Texas I worked at the Dallas location in the evenings, loading and unloading trucks. Each day, I drove from Denton to Dallas and then back again. I usually got home about midnight.

I was a business major with an emphasis in management. As graduation came nearer, I still had no idea what I was going to do with my life. However, I worked hard at my job and received some degree of satisfaction from it. I was offered the opportunity to work full-time with UPS. It was an opportunity to get into management with them but meant that I must first drive a UPS delivery truck. So after graduation, I delivered packages each day to downtown office buildings in Dallas. Most of my days were spent in high rise buildings going in and out of offices. Then in the afternoons, I would return to about a dozen different businesses and pick up packages that were being mailed out that day.

On a given day, I might deliver to a restaurant, a drafting supply company, a uniform company, a jewelry store, a sporting goods store, a convenience store, a large hotel, a library, a movie distribution company, etc.   Each day, I interacted with many, many people.

I learned to respect the people who quietly went about their work. For example, I regularly delivered to two older English ladies who owned a small travel company. They seemed excited when I came into their office. After handing them their packages, they always wanted me to have two lemon drops. These lemon drops were from England and I sensed that they felt like they were sharing a bit of their country with me.

I also came to admire the many receptionists, clerks, and administrative assistants who worked very hard in the many offices to which I delivered. I was impressed with the people who were cheerful to this non-descript UPS guy coming into their office each day.

Then one day, I made a delivery to a small cosmetic jewelry manufacturing company on the 5th floor of a smaller office building. The company was located at 500 S. Ervay, a historic building in Dallas. It was a company that I delivered to occasionally. On that particular day, I got off the elevator with three or four large packages. A clerk had obviously been instructed to get his supervisor when I arrived. The supervisor came out of his office and began yelling. Apparently, he had been waiting for many other packages and they had not arrived. He went on and on about how frustrated he was over not getting the packages that he needed.

I apologized for his inconvenience. (I really had nothing to do with his predicament but I was the physical face of UPS at that moment.) I gave him a direct telephone number and the name of a supervisor. He ignored this.

He kept yelling.
He got louder.
He became animated.
He went ballistic.

People stopped what they were doing and came over to see what was happening. It seemed like more and more people were stopping to watch.

The guy had a complete meltdown.

Finally, people who had been watching this awkward situation began to leave. I apologized again to this guy for his inconvenience and then I left.

The next day, I made another delivery at this company. This time, as soon as I stepped off the elevator, I was met by a man in a suit who said that he and another gentleman would like to visit with me in an office. I followed him down a hallway to an office. He introduced me to the president of this company and then he closed the door.

I looked at both of these men and they seemed very somber. Then the president said, “I want you to know how sorry I am at the way you were treated when you came here yesterday. This is very embarrassing. This is not the kind of company that we want to be. We will deal with Mr. Smith. There is no excuse for his behavior. That kind of behavior will not be tolerated. If you ever have any problem from anyone in my company, I wish you would let me know about it.”   

I never forgot that moment.

I was 22 years old and had little or no direction in my life. But for a moment, these two guys in the office of a small manufacturing company, communicated to me with this apology that I had value. For many years, I have been grateful for that moment.
     
Question:

Can you recall an important lesson that you learned from an earlier job? (Perhaps this is a job you had in high school, college, or beyond.) How has this particular lesson impacted you?


Thankful

thankful.jpgToday, I am thankful.

 

I am thankful to God who is the giver of everything else I am thankful for.  I’m grateful to him for the relationship that I enjoy with him.  Through it all, he has stayed with me, sustained me, prodded me, and has shown his grace in so many ways.

 

I am thankful for my wife Charlotte.  I am grateful that I can honestly say that our marriage is enjoyable.  She has loved me through years of life — and that says a lot!

 

I am thankful for two daughters, Jamie and Christine, and our son-in-law Phillip.  I am tempted at this point to tell you the many, many reasons why I am proud of them.  Perhaps what means the most to me is that I see in each of them a love for God that is real and genuine.

 

I am thankful for encouragers.  I can remember the encouraging words and actions of others from decades ago!  These moments of encouragement are stored away in the safety deposit box of my mind.

 

I am thankful for sweet moments in which someone has taken the time to call, write a note, or in some way express care.  What a nice moment when someone has initiated in some way: "Hey you are on my radar screen today!"  (By the way, this happens so frequently on this blog.)

 

I am thankful for the smell of hot coffee, the taste of cinnamon, and the sound of children laughing.  What else?   Dark chocolate.  Guacamole.  The smell of anything on the grill.    

 

I am thankful for anticipation.  How I love those moments just before one of my daughters comes home.  Many, many times I have looked through our kitchen window waiting to see them drive down our street toward home.  Finally, I see that familiar car and I hurry outside to greet her.

 

I am thankful for Thanksgiving.  It is a yearly reminder that I have so many reasons to be grateful to God.   

*****

These reflections were written in response to an invitation by L. L. Barkat

 

You are cordially invited by L. L. Barkat to join a Thanksgiving Celebration
Just post about a Thanksgiving memory, something you are thankful for
this year, a special family Thanksgiving tradition, your favorite
"thanksgiving" Bible verse, or anything else you can dream up.

Be
serious, spiritual, creative, beautiful, humorous, whatever … it’s a
celebration and good celebrations welcome all kinds of expression!

Grateful Today

coffee_cup.jpg

I am grateful today. 

 
I am grateful as I pay attention to what I can see God doing around me.  I am grateful as I see what God is doing in the midst of people I love and value — people who are in the middle of my life.  I am grateful not because everything is wonderful in my life.  I am grateful because I often get a front row seat as I witness person after person being used by God to encourage another.

 
Our younger daughter returned from Scotland on Thursday of last week.  She told stories of the graciousness and kindness of the good family she was with.  I am very grateful to them.

 
Our older daughter and her husband are a part of such a good church in Franklin, Tennessee.  She regularly tells stories of men and women who encourage them.  I am grateful.

 
My cousin Lynette is caring for my second cousin in Memphis as she is under hospice care.  I am grateful to Lynette for her care and ministry.

 
Last weekend, wonderful people from our church helped put together a special gathering for our church that took place late Sunday afternoon in our Community Center.  John, Joann, Donnis, Tom, Billy, Brian, Lane, Randal, Kevin and Michelle, Jack, Joy, Bage, a host of volunteers from our life group, and thirty-three "table coordinators" who helped with each table where people were sitting were among those who served in special ways.  I am grateful for these people. 

 
In my e-mail inbox are seven encouraging e-mails expressing gratitude and joy regarding that same event.  (We called this "Family at the Table.")  I am grateful to these people for expressing their own gratitude. 

 
A great guy wrote me such a meaningful note on Sunday afternoon regarding the message that morning.  I am so grateful for his encouragement.

 
On Sunday, I watched as one of the elders in our church talked with several people in our church.  I could tell, even at a distance, that he was encouraging people.  He was smiling and laughing and seemed full of joy.   Earlier in the day, he prayed with me and another one of our ministers about the day’s events.  I am grateful for this man (and so many other encouragers like him).

 
Today, I will meet with nine wonderful church leaders representing a number of congregations for a time of prayer, discussion, and encouragement.  I am grateful for these friends and encouragers.

 
I like this wonderful line, spoken by David, in I Chronicles 16:34:  "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."

 
As I begin this new day, I want to remember to be grateful to God for his good gifts.  I pray that I might pay attention to the sweet, wonderful moments that God provides each day.  I pray that I will not get wrapped up in anything unwholesome, anything discouraging, or anything that in some way might cause me to miss what God is doing all around me.

 
Now I suspect that, like me, you have much to be grateful for as well.  So, what are you grateful for today?  

Graciousness

coffee9.jpgGracious.  Now I like this word.  No, this word is reserved for people who recognize
that they are privileged to receive what they have been given.  Or as Fred Craddock once said, "The final act of grace is graciousness."  So what is a gracious
person?

 
A gracious person is slow to take credit and quick to lavish praise. 

A gracious person never seeks to embarrass another. Humiliating another is not in this person’s vocabulary.  (And
please don’t say something that humiliates another and then try to escape responsibility by saying, "I was only joking.")

 
A gracious person is always thanking others.  Do you go through an entire day without thanking another? 

A gracious person doesn’t monopolize the conversation. Someone else has something to offer.

 
A gracious person doesn’t try to play one-upmanship. (That’s nothing, you should have seen what I did!") 

A gracious person pays attention to people. Sometimes people come away from such conversations saying, "He made me feel like I was the most important person at that moment."

 
A gracious person desires to say what is appropriate. He doesn’t just say what is on his mind or whatever he might be thinking. (There is no redeeming value in emptying one’s mind of whatever fleeting thought has happened to land at the moment.)

 
A gracious person looks out for the comfort of others.<!–
A gracious person understands that she is not indispensable. You've
seen this person.  She desires constant attention.  She has a way of
constantly focusing most any conversation back on herself.  There is a
humility in realizing that you are dispensable. A gracious person constantly points out the good that he sees  "Would you like a cup of coffee?  What about a coke?  Can I get you a newspaper while I’m out?" 

 
A gracious person looks for the good.  Maybe
you are visiting a friend who lives in another place.  Instead of
pointing out the inadequacies of your friend’s community, you are
constantly finding things that are good.  "This cafe has outstanding
peach pie!  That was delicious."  "I just love the way you have planted
your garden.  It is beautiful!" 

 
I believe that in so many of us, there is a genuine hunger
to experience the beauty of graciousness.  After all, this is nothing
more than grace lived out
And — that grace originates in the heart of God.

 
I’m
curious, what would you add to this list of ten?  I suspect you could
add another characteristic of a gracious person that might be helpful
to us all.

 
(This post has appeared on this blog before.  It seems appropriate for Thanksgiving week.)

When You Feel Frustrated

scale.jpgThis conversation has taken place many times.  Only this time, the setting was a living room.  I sat across from this woman who was many years older than me.  In front of her was her walker.  She had seen some difficult days, in terms of her health.  At one point in this conversation, I asked her how she managed to keep going in spite of some of the frustrations that she was facing.  "How do you keep going?"

 
That is a good question for all of us at one time or another.  Last night when I got home, I was feeling very frustrated for a variety of reasons.  None of these frustrations had anything to do with home.  I just happened to be home when I realized just how frustrated I was feeling.  Frustration is very real at different points in life.  It can be work related, family related, health related, or a combination of several factors (which seems very common).   So how does a person keep going in the middle of frustration? 

 
I have no quick and easy answers.  Nor do I want to suggest some sort of formula.  I don’t have one.  Yet, I know that it is very helpful for me to remember that I have much to be thankful for.

 
1.  I am thankful that we got to visit with Jamie (our younger daughter) last night through Skype (like the telephone except it happens through the computer).  Jamie is studying abroad as a part of a group from Oklahoma Christian University.  She is in Japan and staying with a very nice family.  Her study each day is at Ibaraki Christian University.  She is having some amazing experiences and is learning so much.  (See pictures here.)

 
2.  I am thankful for Christine (our older daughter) and our son-in-law Phillip.  This past weekend, he was part of a men’s retreat at which my good friend Scotty Harris spoke.   I was impressed that Phillip took advantage of this great opportunity to learn.  He and Christine are part of a very fine church.

 
3.  I am thankful for my health.  The other day, I spent the afternoon at Baylor Rehabilitation Center where my mom is recovering from knee replacement surgery.  At one point Friday afternoon, I went to therapy with her.  In this massive room were men and women of all ages who were receiving therapy for all kinds of conditions.  One person seemed to have no use of his right side (appeared to be about 30 years old).  Another appeared to have had a severely broken leg.  I left there grateful for my health.

 
4.  I am thankful for good conversations.  Just yesterday I had a few brief but pleasant conversations with my mom, my brother, and my friend Doug.  I am learning to be thankful for these moments.

 
5.  I am thankful for our life group.  This is a wonderful group of people who really make an effort to encourage one another.  This is a real highlight for me each week.

 
6.  I am thankful to people I interact with regularly through this blog.  I have been very blessed to become acquainted with a number of men and women who have made my life even richer because of their regular thoughts and encouragement.

 
7.  I am thankful that my life in Christ really does not depend on circumstances being just right.  Nor does it depend on the behavior and functioning of others.  

 
8.  I am thankful for people who have added so much to my life.  Have I ever been blessed!  I can’t believe the people who through the years have in some way made a positive contribution to my life.  I don’t take this for granted.

 
Most of all, I am thankful for God who is the treasure that I need more than anything else in life.  I am thankful that there is a completeness that I have experienced in Christ.  I am thankful for the forever presence of the Holy Spirit which is a regular reminder to me that I am not doing life by myself. 

 
Of course, all that I have just mentioned does not make frustration or issues go away.  Yet, just remembering what I have does have a way of at least taking the sharp edge off the frustration.  Perhaps most of all, my gratitude has a way of bringing some perspective and clarity to the day.

Can you relate to this?  Does this connect?

Gratitude

I returned yesterday after spending a couple of days in Florence, Alabama.  The alumni association of Heritage Christian University (formerly International Bible College) invited me back to speak on their annual alumni days.  The invitation came at the request of former students who were in some ministry classes I taught as an adjunct teacher while we lived in Florence during the 1980s.  I spoke twice.  One message was entitled: "How to Stay Fresh and Alive for the Long Haul."   The other message was entitled: "When I Am Tempted to Quit."  

 
This was an emotional/sentimental two days with these people.  I had not been on the campus but once in the last seventeen years.  (That was the occasion of my father-in-law’s death, the former president of the school.)  The highlight of these two days was seeing a number of people who had been students in my ministry classes.  All of them were so gracious, encouraging, and affirming. 

 
While in Florence during those years, I preached for the College Church, which met on that campus.  Thursday, when I walked into the main auditorium on campus, my mind was flooded with memories.  After all, this was the room where I preached for almost eight years.  This was the room where I participated in countless conversations with people who were a part of our church family or who were visiting our church.  This was even the room in which Charlotte and I were married almost 29 years ago.

 
I am so grateful for those people whose paths I crossed during those years.  On this occasion, I was especially grateful to former students.  So many of them contributed to my life in important ways.