Tag Archive: gratitude

yesterday, tbV and i went to visit our friend Lilly Lewin in Napa for a morning activity of prayer, reflection and listening to God that she calls ‘Time in the Vines’.

one of the activities was selecting a stone with a random word on it and the word i picked was ‘Gratitude’ and one of the things i did while reflecting was write this poem:


as i drag my almost lifeless body

one more step forward

towards the hope of an unseen oasis

my dry mouth listens out for

the possibility of even a solitary drop of liquid refreshment

to forever banish this dusty cough

i shield my eyes from the sun

beating down directly at me

as i stand at the bottom of this well and gaze upwards

fingers numb and brokenly bloody

from scratching at the walls

of my undeserved prison

voice reduced to a hoarse mumbling

as i talk back at myself

and chastise my very existence

for holding out this hope

as i lean a little closer to the fire

to try and squeeze some small measure

of warmth into these aching bones

my fingers curl tightly around the edges

of this shard of glass i hold tightly to

which acts as a defender of this body

from those wretched sores and boils

“Yet will I rejoice”

Yet will I? Re-joice?

“Can we accept good from God and not evil?”

Well, in times that are good, surely we can easily hold to this

to account for the bad?

“The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

The joy. Of the Lord.

What if, right now, right here…

i don’t have any strength?

“Father, forgive them!”

Oh come now, now you’re asking too much…

What of that is ever deserved?

By them i mean?

“Consider the lilies…”

Now this i do try to do

And there, out of the corner of my eye

Calling on all my powers of peripheral vision

I think, just for a second , that i may have spotted a hint of blue

The sound of a vehicle arriving, perhaps

And footsteps heading towards my pathetic pit

Of a voice from somewhere above

Readying to clear His throat

and, despite all of this present now

i am reminded of all that has passed

and know so effortlessly

what my response has got to be…

[If you are interested in any other poems i have written in recent, and less recent, times, click here]


DAY 14ish

Task: Today is a simple but profound one. Intentionally show gratitude to someone for something you tend to take for granted.


I know we have looked at Gratitude already in this series, but i really want to take it a step deeper and for us to really look for someone in our day who does something for us and probably does not get thanked or appreciated or maybe even noticed.

Imagine if we could turn sad cashier [top] into happy cashier [slightly less top] simply by stopping for a second, addressing her by name, giving her thanks for the work she does and speaking a promise into her life. If you can take a moment right now to plan this intentional act and add a layer to it, even better.

Maybe it is writing a thank-you card and taking it on a shopping trip [even if you don’t need to go shopping] or baking some treat for your mailman or the guy who puts petrol in your car [if there is a guy who puts petrol in your car]. Perhaps it is a note for a teacher at school [maybe even the one you like the least] or a colleague or even your boss at work or secretary. The woman standing behind the snacks counter at the movies or the waitress who serves you your coffee. I’m not talking about simply saying , “Thank-you!” because i hope that’s a given – i am talking eye contact and name mention and a smile.


and salt, and light, and just being the bride or the body of Christ…

maybe even how we observe Lent today will help us fashion a positive habit of being like this on a more regular basis.

your little intentional moment might just make someone’s day. let’s let someone know they mean something good today. 

[for the next day’s observance of Lent, click here]

i hope that you are enjoying our observance of Lent and if you have just joined us – as some have – it is good to have you along – never to late to jump on this train and see where it goes.

i read an excellent piece on Lent on Relevant Magazine today and if you have some time, give it a read.

Zachary Perkins gives a broader definition and picture of the idea of Lent that the early church held on to as opposed to simply giving something up:

When we talk about “giving something up for Lent,” let’s be honest: we usually mean “I’m going to throw God a bone.” But the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday is meant to be a time where we take ourselves out of time and out of the business of our world to spend time dying to ourselves. It’s not just our way of giving Jesus Christ a pat on the back, but it’s first about re-centering our will to His and secondly living that out in the world.

DAY 3 

Task: Make time to be grateful


This follows on directly from yesterday’s five minutes of stillness to just be:

Take time to know. To realise. To remember. To speak to. To think about. To listen to. To be awestruck by. To call on. To rage at. To praise. To invite.

You may want to consider adding another five minutes, or even a separate time every day for the rest of this observance, to make some space for Gratitude, for Thankfulness, for Appreciation, for Praise, for Worship…

What are you thankful for today?

i literally just this moment was interrupted with news from a friend from Philly who i said i would pray for yesterday who went into hospital for some tests and they came back clear so giving God thankx for that.

and there are so many things in my life to be thankful for, but instead of listing them all here, i want to help create a space for you, for us, to be able to slow down long enough to actually get to the place of giving thankx.


i encourage you to perhaps grab a pen and paper and physically start making a list of things you are thankful to God for, starting with something that happened today and then moving on to this week – what is one thing from this week you can say “Thank-you” to God about… then think back to the month and come up with another different thing – and onto this year – one thing in 2014 you can thank God for.

You should have a list of four things already and maybe you needed to write more than one for some of those times. That is amazing, don’t limit yourself. Let my invitation be a minimum, so force yourself to find at least one for each time period.

Once you are done with that, look back and pull one thing from last year that you can really give thankx for. And then another thing from the last decade. In the past ten years, what is the biggest thing that stands out in your life that you would like to reflect back to God.



How often do you take the time to say “Thank-you” to the important people in your life? If you want to get super involved in this, you could commit to one person a day for the rest of this Lent period – dropping an email, sending a text, calling up on the phone, arranging a Skype, writing a note or even a full on letter… but at least start with one today.

Why not take it up a notch and write a message to someone who may not expect to receive such a thing from you, but someone you have appreciated maybe even for the simplest of tasks that they do – perhaps a regular bus driver you often see, or a neighbour who has a garden you really appreciate, or even a checkout person at the store you frequent. That kind of thing can be gold.


Take a little time to focus on you. If your health is half decent. If you have a job or contribute in some way that pays the bills. If you’re a dad or a mom or a son or daughter or uncle or aunt or brother or sister or friend. If you’re a mentor or confidante or counsellor or tag team buddy. If you have gifts or skills or talents or hobbies or successes  or attempts or dreams or hopes. For your sense of humour or appreciation of small things or ability to raucously celebrate or athletic ability or skill with words or favourite cooked or baked dish or ability to listen or speak or rally or protect or assist. Stand in front of a mirror and smile at the person you see and give thanks for both the person you’ve been and the person you are becoming. I think Dr Seuss just may have gotten this one right.


Even if you choose not to do this as a regular practice for each day of the rest of this Lent observance, try to find times and spaces to work it in on different occasions and in different ways. This is a great time to remember that there is so much to be thankful for.

[To continue on to day 4, click here]

freeso last nite was week 6 of our ‘Free: Spending your Time and Money on what matters most’ book study and we vulnerabled [it’s a verb!] things up a notch as a few of us shared the money plan/budget we had spent this week working on [an interesting point of note was someone realising that it had been all the married couples who had volunteered to share theirs first – don’t worry singles/daters, your time is coming…] and it was such a powerful experience – it is amazing how speaking about money [especially when it becomes personal] has become such a big thing for so many of us – definitely think i want to write a bit more on money soon…

i would highly recommend this book as a catalyst for getting some great, helpful and healthy conversations going [like the big one of DOES THE WAY YOU SPEND YOU TIME AND MONEY REFLECT THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO YOU?]

– for married people, especially young [as in recently] married people – the parts on money, budgeting and debt alone are worth it.

– for small groups of people – this is part reading book, part workshopping book and so it has proven really helpful to be working through it with a group of twelve people who committed themselves to the eight week process – so whether a church group or just a group of friends who feel like it’s a good idea, it is.

– for anyone else. it’s just a good solid book.

do i agree with everything in it? absolutely not. but there is enough good stuff to make it worthwhile and some of the stuff you disagree with might make for good conversation and reflection

and there are some great challenges or experiments which i invited a bunch of you to do with me, with some interesting results:

[1] First up was the invitation not to rush – to take a bit of time every day for a week to slow things down and look and listen and just be and a whole bunch of you dived into that one with me and gave some great feedback.

[2] Next up was the Gratitude log where I invited people to join me for ten days of taking time at the beginning or end of a day to write down five different things from the day that you were grateful for and a medium amount of you decided to join me for that one, although there was not quite as much feedback.

[3] Lastly, I invited people to join me in a discipline of contentment, in which you were invited to give up something you liked [I chose coffee] for a week and the response was deafening. I’m sorry, that should read ‘deaf’ – there was the sound of the absence of crickets. Could it be that not rushing and being grateful both feel like things that have an immediate payoff for me, whereas something like fasting [even just one thing for a week] just feels like a bit of work? Interesting.

Which brings me back to the prayer at the start of Mark Scandrette’s book which is called a prayer of abundance and the invitation is to meditate on these words and see if this prayer is or can become true for you as you pray it with me?

I know that I am cared for by an abundant Provider

I choose to be grateful and trusting,

I believe I have enough and that what I need will always be provided.

I choose to be content and generous.

I know that my choices matter for myself, for others and for future generations.

Help me to live consciously and creatively,

celebrating signs of your new creation that is present and coming.

Creator, who made me to seek the greater good of Your kingdom,

Guide me to use my time, talents and resources to pursue what matters most.

Teach me to be free,

to live without worry, fear or greed in the freedom of Your abundance.

Give me my daily bread, as I share with those in need.

Thank You for the precious gift of life.

[From ‘Free: Spending your Time and Money on what matters most’ by Mark Scandrette]

So seriously consider getting hold of this book or maybe a bunch of these books, and your friends or spouse and set aside time to work through it [a slow eight week approach works well – you could even do it regularly around a meal] and then come back here and let me know how it went…

Why wouldn’t you want to be more free than you are now? 


So these experiments of various disciplines began with tbV and me running a book study of this book called ‘Free: Spending your Time and Money on what matters most’ by our friend Mark Scandrette which none of us had actually fully read yet [we’re discovering it as we’re leading it which has proved interesting and fun]. And which i highly recommend that you totally just order and get and work through.

If you are married it’s an excellent book to work through with your spouse and if not then with a group of friends or small group. It is practical and inspirational and challenging and just really helpful. For some of you this will literally change your lives. For others of you there will be some helpful stuff. But yes, so good.

txSo it started off with an experiment of inviting people to slow down the rush and take time every day for a week to be still for ten to fifteen minutes and just be and meditate and pray and observe and listen… and a bunch of people got involved in that and it was really great reading through some of your comments over here.

And then next up was the invitation to keep a Gratitude Log for ten days [i have done 8 so far] and to come back and share some of your reflections with us in the comments section below here [so please do that!]

In the meantime, here are two of my days from this last week or so…

I am grateful for…

an old crazy friend visiting for two fun-filled nights

the opportunity to lead a listening to God exercise at a home group from church

a request met on our behalf that will lead to urgent dental work being covered for Val

an inspiring marriage blog post by Rachel Held Evans

corn/mielies left in the fridge for me by my beautiful wife to eat while she is away

God completely showing up and rocking the house at the home group tonite

I am grateful for…

a repaired bicycle tyre

date nite with my beautiful wife

some great 3D ‘Gravity’ movie action

the likelihood of getting to see my Jhb/Pta friends in January

some fun online connection and silly banter with Re:Generation church okes

what has stood out for me is that it has been so incredibly easy once you actually make the effort to sit down and write things down.

i tried to find a range of things to be grateful for, from simply daily pleasures like a good meal or drink to deeper experiences and realisations.

i found that relationships and people tended to dominate many of my entries as well as awareness of and experience of God moments.

today i sat outside and combined the being still and just taking in everything around me and the meditating on things to be grateful for and found the combination to be completely inspiring and life-giving.

doing this has caused me to want to make time for it more often and to continue to notice and speak and write and relive and above all be grateful for things both large and small that i have in my life and that take place in the world and people around me.

i have two days to go, but it is not too late to start… if you begin today then when you are done come back and share an entry or two of yours with us.

So what do YOU have to be grateful for today?

[For the next part and the challenge to Fast Something you Enjoy, click here]


coffeefastIn the Anderson household [Val is away in Atlanta this week] a variety of yellow post-its have suddenly appeared saying things like ‘No coffee’ and ‘Coffee fast’ as reminders to me of what i have committed myself to.

Who is up for a new challenge?

So by now if you’ve been following this blog you will know that tbV and i are leading a book study of Mark Scandrette’s book, ‘Free: Spending your Time and Money on what matters most’ and have been engaging in a variety of experiments which i have been inviting others to join in via this blog and the book of facings.

First up was the invitation to stop rushing and to be still and it was most excellent reading the feedback in the comments section of others who gave it a try with me [so thank you for that gift!]. Next up was the gratitude log, making a note of at least five things every day for ten days that you are thankful for [and the feedback post for that will be coming later this week].

This coming week the chapter we are looking at is titled, ‘Believe you have enough’ and the experiment we have been invited into looks like this:


‘We are challenged to believe that we live in a world of abundance and that our true happiness comes from receiving the lives we’ve been given. As with all of His teachings, Jesus’ instructions about money and wealth point to the heart and invite us into greater freedom. They are designed to help us see accurately that we live in a world where God provides all that we need.

Take a voluntary fast. To experience the freedom of enough requires us to take new risks of action and practice.

For thousands of years the discipline of fasting has helped earnest spiritual seekers to curb the desire for more and to distinguish between needs and wants. Jesus seemed to have assumed that His followers would fast [Matthew 6.16] A fast can also help to reveal our disordered attachments – those things we habitually go to that are not a true or lasting source of comfort. Many people find that abstaining from something they normally us as a coping mechanism brings them face to face with pain, worries or deeper wounds they have been avoiding. Dallas Willard suggests that fasting helps prepare us to do good, because it trains us to say no to bodily desires in favour of intentional choices of obedience.

What do your patterns of spending or consumption reveal about a potential disordered attachment? Is there something that you consume on a daily or regular basis that would be revealing for you to abstain from this week [snacks, coffee, alcohol, media, meat]? As an act of contentment commit to a seven-day fast from something you regularly enjoy… Remember, your fast is something between you and God. Jesus taught that fasting should be done discreetly, in a way that wouldn’t be obvious to others. [Matthew 6.16] 

You may also want to consider the potential benefits of a longer-term fast of some kind. Our friend Melanie has challenged herself to live on $1.50 a day for forty days, giving the money she saves on daily living expenses to an organisation that helps people get access to food or clean water. The next year she tried to live on $1 a day. Each year our friend Darin gives up something he enjoys and will miss as a reminder that his true happiness isn’t dependent on always having more or getting what he wants.  One year he might abstain from meat or caffeine; another year he might abstain from watching movies or buying books. Many people have found it helpful to fast from shopping or buying new clothes for a specified time. To make it more fun, people often make these commitments with a group of friends.’


So i am inviting you to join me in a week’s fasting of something you enjoy. I have chosen to abstain from coffee for the week. And I know there is the line about keeping fasting to yourself but I am going to invite you to share with us what you choose to fast from as a form of accountability. So don’t make it a status and let everyone else know, but if you choose to join us on this, then leave a comment telling us you’re in and letting us know what you will be choosing to abstain from for the next seven days [if you start this late just do seven days from when you begin]

As with the other challenges, i will do a follow up post later and you will also be invited to let us know how it went.

So is anyone with me and what is your thing?

[For the Final Part Summary and Conclusion and Invitation to you to get involved, click here]

txSo a bunch of us are nearing the end of an experiment of avoiding the rush, which you can read more about here, and i am going to share some of my experiences and hope others will do the same in the next day or two…

…but in the meantime our ‘Free: Spending your Time and Money on what matters most’ carries on and this week we are focusing on Gratitude and Trust.

And one of the pieces of homework is a Log of Gratitude and once again i would love to find at least nine other people who will commit to doing this with me for the next ten days, so, if you are one of them, please leave your name in the comments below…


The practice of gratitude helps us recognise how we have been lavished and loved. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” [Psalm 106.1]

Living gratefully is an important discipline because it affirms what is evidentially true – that we are cared for by an abundant Provider who delights to give us many good things. This week keep a daily gratitude log. At the beginning or end of each day write down five things you are thankful for. Try not to repeat. If you write each item in sentence form, your list will begin to take the shape of a poem. For example:

I am grateful for…

the taste of coffee in the morning

how sunlight fills a room with warmth

the gentleness of a kiss on the cheek

the power I feel in my legs when I run

Your list could be a random collection of things that move you, or you might pick a theme for each day: food, people, nature. Or you might want to spend some extra time outside looking and listening for signs of God’s abundance. At the end of the week read your poetic list to a friend or small group. ‘

[from ‘Free: Spending your Time and Money on what matters most’ by Mark Scandrette]

So there it is, and if you’re feeling particularly brave and sharey then i will invite you to share your ten day’s worth of Gratitude with us in the follow-up blog.

Anyone up for this? 

[For Feedback from my Week of Gratitude, click here]

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