Contemplative Life

Cultivating Gratitude

This week our nation will take a day or two away from its normal rhythms to focus on thankfulness.  Many of you have been able to join us for our Tuesday morning “Space for God” devotionals, and this week I took a page from Ann Voskamp’s wonderful book, “One Thousand Gifts,” in honor of the upcoming national day of Thanksgiving (watch it below).  I’d like to share with you some of the points that made a deep impression on me as I thought about the act of giving thanks– not because of the holiday, but because of who God is, and who He is is worthy of thanks and praise! 

Near the beginning of the book, there is a beautiful observation from Alexander Schmemann, “If the Church is in Christ, its initial act is always the act of thanksgiving, of returning the world to God.”  I love the idea of giving thanks as the act of returning to God what he has given us.  He, in his generosity and graciousness, (yes, I can say that even in the midst of this crazy year of 2020) has been so good; what a sweet thing to be able to give him back just a small bit of what he has given us by simply the act of thanking him for it.  The other important observation is that thanksgiving always precedes the miracle.  Simply look to the celebration of communion, to Jesus in the Upper Room.  Giving thanks and miracles go together.  

As you think about giving thanks this week, look no further than what is directly around you for things you can be thankful for.  Where are the gifts in your here and now?  That’s what Ann Voskamp would advise, I think.  You may also look at a couple of Psalms of Thanksgiving: 111, 95, 92, 89, and 138 are ones I’ve enjoyed in this respect.  I’ve included several prompts below to aid you in the practice of thanksgiving.

Bless you all this week as we pray that the Lord will reveal his good gifts to us over and over again as we practice the act of thanksgiving.



  • Write about a person in your life that you’re especially grateful for and why.
  • What is there about a challenge you’re experiencing right now that you can be thankful for?
  • How is where you are in life today different than a year ago–and what positive changes are you thankful for?
  • What about the city you live in are you grateful for?
  • What about your day today can you be thankful for?
  • List 5 people in your life who are hard to get along with—and write down at least one quality for each that you are grateful for.
  • What materialistic items are you most grateful for?
  • Write about the music you’re thankful to be able to listen to and why.
  • Who has done something this week to help you or make your life easier and how can you thank them?
  • What foods or meals are you most thankful for?
  • What elements of nature are you grateful for and why?
  • What part of your morning routine are you most thankful for?
  • Write a letter to someone who has positively impacted your life, however big or small.
  • What is something you’re grateful to have learned this week?
  • When was the last time you laughed uncontrollably? Relive the memory.
  • What aspects of your work environment are you thankful for?

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