For the past four years, I've engaged in this discipline of gratitude that has been so transformative for me. Last Sunday and this morning I had the opportunity to recount to two different congregations my story of how after a year of renouncing negativity and embracing gratitude, the melancholy that had been my lifelong companion simply and unexpectedly vanished. This four years I've documented the details of my gratitude in writing, posting them nightly on Facebook and on blogspot.com under the title "Refrigerator Word Art." Like our grandkids' paintings and drawings on our refrigerator, I figured my musings wouldn't necessarily interest anyone outside the family, hence the title.
The more I observe people, both face to face, and through social media, the more I realize how our lives are poisoned by all the negativity that surrounds us. I suppose some of it is unavoidable; we cannot hide our heads in the sand and pretend that the world is all sweetness and light. Evil is real, the world is often harsh and cruel; there is plenty to complain about, and more than enough work to be done to try to make it a better place. But making a better world is not accomplished by negativity, hostility, anger, or complaining; those attitudes and activities that are so prevalent among those who claim to be making a difference.
Since retiring from preaching, it has been especially gratifying to put in writing that for which I am thankful. Without the discipline of writing sermons, it would be easy to just stop thinking altogether. I had been worried that in retirement my world would shrink to the dimensions of our 2 1/2 acres, a pretty small world, indeed. I am content here, but need more than this as a reason to get up in the morning. Nightly writing has made me stay aware of a world larger than my immediate surroundings, kept me looking for grace in unlikely places. I am grateful for many things tonight, not the least of which is what this discipline has done for me, and for the opportunity to share it with others. If just one or two people take it seriously and begin to similarly forsake criticism, complaining, and negativity and begin learning to give thanks in all situations, all my writings will have been worth the effort.