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I tend to overpack when I travel.

Well … in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m actually a chronic, habitual, borderline OCD overpacker who can analyze approximately 103 scenarios in which I will need [insert item].  I mean, I know I’m going to the beach and will only wear flip flops but yes I do NEED the four pair of socks I’m bringing just in case. And even if I leave the socks at home because I know I’ll be in flip flops, I’ll still pack four pair of flip flops just in case, fully knowing that I will only ever wear my very favorite raspberry pink flip flops the entire trip.

If you ever run into me on my way to or from a trip, you’ll note the amount of essential baggage that comes with me.  I’ll likely make a joking remark about how really it’s not THAT much stuff because after all I take one hair dryer regardless of whether I’m gone one night or seven.  But don’t let that humor fool you, I’m just trying to deflect the real issue.

You’d think that since I’m so skilled and, shall we say “practiced,” at packing all the extra things I most assuredly will need on a trip that I never find myself without some item that I need.  Nope. That’s not true at all. For all of my forethought and compulsive list making so I don’t forget something, there ends up being at least one thing that I wish I had brought that didn’t make the final cut.

Thinking about how I prepare and pack for a trip, got me to thinking about the bag that I often pack every single day of my life.  I fill it full of condemnation to carry with me, with a little bag of guilt, and of course some resentment, unforgiveness, distrust, entitlement, disappointed expectations … oh, and some offense, just in case.  See, I carry an attitude with me every day, and very often that attitude reflects some of the very characteristics that I just mentioned, and let me tell you, that bag is HEAVY! It’s all the things I carry around in case I need them, or want them, or FEEL them.  But is carrying around a giant duffel bag full of bad attitudes and sin the way to reflect our Savior and show His goodness and salvation to others? I really don’t think so.

I have a much lighter bag for you to carry around with you – gratitude.  Gratitude is like filling your bag with helium – it’s lighter than air and tends to make every other burden feel so much lighter too.  Gratitude pushes out my need for all those other “just in case” feelings.

Be thankful for the easy things.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so it’s the perfect time to start filling your bag with thankful expressions.  The best place to start – the easy things.

Praise the Lord!  Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.   Psalm 106:1

That verse says to give thanks because God is good!  When I make that a continuous thought throughout the day, it’s easy to find ways to be thankful.  What “easy” things are you forgetting to be thankful for? Purpose to include gratitude for those things this Thanksgiving season and beyond.

Be thankful for the hard things.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.   1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

My whole life I’ve heard preachers admonish their congregations that if you’re desiring to follow the will of God to start by giving thanks in everything, and they’d quote 1 Thessalonians 5.  They are right – giving thanks in everything is the will of God, and I suppose that means to give thanks for the hard things too. Honestly, though, that never sat well with me at all. I mean, realistically does anyone expect another person to give thanks FOR a trial in the midst of the trial?

Actually, yes…because that’s what Scripture says.

I somehow always felt exempt from that because I had been through hard things. Somehow I always gave myself permission to ignore Scripture and to wallow in self-pity and to let my actions tell everyone around me that God wasn’t good. Which is a complete lie.  God is good! God is good! God is good! That truth has nothing to do with the feelings I allow to take up residence in my heart.

Recently I’ve been praying for God to help me to declare that He is good in every circumstance, especially the ones that are hard or that I dislike.  In the moments when I’m lonely and I start to blame God and accuse Him of not being good because He hasn’t fixed my loneliness, I stop wherever I am and say out loud, “God, in this moment of loneliness, this is Your goodness to me.” God is worthy for me to speak about Him in truth – so my declaring anything except that He is good is untruth, and what right do I have to speak of Him like that? Be thankful in the hard things, and tell your hard things that your God is good!

Be thankful on purpose and out loud.

I recently heard someone say that gratitude is felt in your heart, but thankfulness is spoken out loud to someone else.  I thought that was an interesting differentiation. I always have kind of used gratitude and thankfulness as synonyms, but I like the idea of them having different connotations.

We’ve talked about thanking God in the easy things and the hard things, now I encourage you to be thankful on purpose and out loud.  Thank people around you, thank your children, thank your spouse, thank your parents, thank a stranger. Look people directly in the eyes and with sincerity say, “Thank you.”  I promise you it’s a lost art in our culture, and it’s up to Christians to resurrect sincere thankfulness in a society to which entitlement comes so easily.

Luke 17:11-19 relays a story of ten lepers.  Leprosy was a hopeless disease that just bides its time until it consumes its host.  It seems like a terrible way to live. These ten lepers knew that Jesus was passing by, so they called out to Him to have mercy on them.  He told them to go show themselves to the priest, and as they went, they were miraculously healed.

Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”  And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”   Luke 17:15-19

One out of ten gave thanks to God for what He had done.  This was a life-changing event for these men. They could be clean and go back to their families, and when they asked mercy of the God of the universe, He granted it to them.  And yet, only one gives thanks. I wonder if any of them even had thoughts of gratitude that never turned into them expressing thankfulness or if gratitude didn’t even cross their minds?  Examine your habit of thankfulness and determine if there’s room for you to discipline your mind towards thankfulness more often.

So, pack your bags, throw in some extra socks if you feel the need, but don’t leave home without your essential baggage – an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.

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