Gratitude and Love Lead the Way

Glorifying - expressing and reflecting - God is satisfying, refreshing, full-time work. Being grateful and actively loving is one fast way out of the pit of self-centered discouragement and apathy.

By Amy Sparkman

Categories: Gratitude, Gratitude (Thanksgiving), Jesus' Commandment - To Love as He Loved, Love

You and I have work to do. What work? The work of following our Way-Shower, Christ Jesus, in living a God-centered—that is, a Love-centered—life. This work begins with being grateful for what we have—for ALL that we have—instead of whining about what we think we're lacking. And this work continues day in and day out, centering us, focusing our thoughts and actions, and stringing them together to create a life-long strand of iridescent pearls. (Yes, these are "pearls of great price," but that's another story!)

Why must we get going on this work? Because as soon as we dig in, we will find ourselves living the way we were intended (by our Creator) to live: expressing—that is, reflecting—Love. There is nothing more satisfying, refreshing, restoring and renewing than reflecting. That's what we're here for—that's our job.

The image in any mirror does exactly what the original is doing. God created man in his "image and likeness"—as His reflection. God is infinite, All; and God declared everything He made to be "very good." (See Genesis 1) Based on these spiritual facts, our identity and integrity are established firmly and forever. What we do with this God-centered foundation is up to us, and is reflected in the way we conduct ourselves every day.

As my children head off to an activity, a class, a friend's house, a job, anywhere, I remind them to "be an influence for good." Simultaneously, they say, "We know, Mom!" The stories that come home at the end of the day often feature a moment when that good influence was exactly what was needed to dissolve a conflict or to redirect thoughts and actions.

How we're thinking makes a huge difference in the way things go. Starting with gratitude for the good in our lives, the good God created, we are primed to see more good as our day unfolds. Starting with a negative or cynical attitude brings about the exact opposite result: we struggle to see anything good and we find ourselves digging a deeper rut of discontent.

We've all been in that rut! The trick is climbing out of it. One sure-fire exit strategy for me is a line from a hymn:

My prayer some daily good to do to Thine, for Thee
An offering pure of Love whereto God leadeth me.

Every morning, I pray to God to guide my day. No matter what's on my "to-do" list, I silently insist, "Thy will be done" rather than mine. And then I wait—with great expectations, actually—for whatever comes into view to be done. While I'm waiting, I go about the business at hand, beginning with the items on my own list. But, without fail, the phone will ring or an email will come in that invites me to change gears and head in an unexpected direction, a direction that requires me to let go of my personal agenda and follow where God leads me. The results are better than anything I had planned. What's more, they are more interesting, more accomplishing, and decidedly more engaging of the qualities I most want to be expressing. Why? Because I am fully immersed in the selfless activity of reflecting—of being "about my Father's business" (Luke 2:49).

What about the deeper rut of discouragement, which can lead even deeper to self-pity?

What I often tell my kids – and myself – is to "sing your way out!" A familiar hymn comes to mind:

Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory
Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory
Children of the Lord!

This is not just an order to get out of bed. It's an "any hour of the day" wake-up call to look up and out rather than down into the bottomless pit of self-centered thinking and acting. It's a command to BE God's "image and likeness." To "give God your glory" is to give God your full attention – not partially, not just on Sunday mornings, not only when you feel like it. But, right now. And now. And now—especially when you DON'T feel like it.


Our family starts with loving more: There is always someone who would really appreciate feeling more loved, and you can be the one to express it, sincerely and genuinely. That expression might take the form of an unexpected hug, a helping hand, a quick phone call to say, "Hi! I'm thinking of you…" It might also require you to step out of your comfort zone and into someone else's space in order to truly lift their spirits or to meet their particular need. It will always invite you to reflect more of the love that Christ Jesus taught us to express by his unparalleled example. How many healings and teaching moments can you think of that reflect Jesus' love for others?

Our work begins with counting our blessings and looking beyond ourselves for a way in which we can love more than we did a moment ago.

Now, let's "rise and shine" and get to work!