July 2, 2010

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Living with an attitude of gratitude for God and others

Patti LambMy 5-year-old son, Henry, had a case of the “grumpies” a few weeks ago and, as a result, he was in whining mode for the entire day.

Nothing met with his satisfaction. His oatmeal was too hot. His bath water was too cold. The tag on his shirt was itchy. The list of his grievances continued.

After a day of continuous complaining, bedtime finally drew near and I silently cheered. When I gave my son a drink of water before he retired, I heard him mumble something under his breath. That was the last straw, and one more complaint would make him lose his television privileges for the following day.

In a stern tone, I demanded to know what he had just complained about.

His response: “I said, ‘Thanks for the water, and for cutting the tag off my shirt.’ ”

My son’s shift in attitude from complaining to gratitude caught me off guard. It was a pleasant surprise, and it was very much what I needed to hear after a day full of demands and belly-aching.

At that point, a passage from one of my favorite books, titled God Calling, came to mind: Praise moves mountains.

The passage goes on to say that a person doesn’t send further payment until acknowledgment of the first payment is received. I suppose that is true—I am never eager to pay a bill until I notice that the previous payment has been processed.

And so it is with praise.

Recently, I received a handwritten thank you note for a baby gift. My friend’s note was so heartfelt and gracious that it brought a smile to my day. It made me want to go out and buy her another little treat just because I knew how much she appreciated the first. Her note was refreshing. It is so much easier to give to someone who is grateful.

I think God must feel the same way. He loves, and showers, a grateful heart.

I once read that we should pray until prayer merges with praise.

Instead of coming to God with a laundry list of problems and requests, I need to remember to include my thanksgiving. St. Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6).

Being in a mode of praise, and not just petition, helps shift the focus from our problems to our blessings.

My wise friend once let me in on a little secret. She said to be thankful for little problems. This advice comes from someone who has seen big problems. She reminds me that it is not until we run into big problems that we realize just how small our other problems are, and that they’re not worthy of so much fretting.

After the difficult times my friend has been through, her motto is “I’m too blessed to be stressed.”

She puts a grateful spin on everything. I remember the time I called her while she was sick. “I have the stomach flu,” she said, “but the good news is that I’ve nearly reached my goal weight in just two days!”

My father-in-law has a similar attitude. Whenever I ask him how he’s doing, he always answers with, “better than I deserve to be.”

Being expressive of our genuine gratitude to God, and to others, is a gift we can all employ. Thankfulness does not go unnoticed.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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