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April 26, 2011

Choosing Gratitude

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to JoyChoosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 2009 by Moody Publishers
Read April 2011

Have you ever had a book to kick you in the pants? Choosing Gratitude did for me. I have dealt with mild depression in my past (in high school and college), but seemed to move past it as I grew up and began to understand myself more (and through lots of prayer). Then about 10 years ago, I had a bit more severe case of depression and again with God's strength I was able to overcome it, for the most part. However, about 2 years ago issues that I thought I had dealt with came back with a vengeance and would not let go. I could not fight the negative thoughts on my own and was so lost that I couldn't even turn to God. I knew I was going down a slippery slope and turned to a friend for help. I realized then that I had lost my focus on God and my faith had all but dried up. It was during that time that I knew I needed to fully surrender to God and I spent much time learning about and putting to practice submission to God. I also started a weekly time of thanksgiving - focusing on the positives of that week no matter how small it were. A family I support as missionaries saw my weekly Thankful Thursday posts on Facebook and sent me a copy of this book.

I tried to read it when it first arrived in the mail, but it just couldn't capture my attention. I believe now I just wasn't ready to hear the message. My church has been having an emphasis on revival with a special team of musicians and teachers from Life Action Ministries the last 2 weeks. Though I didn't attend the week day services I still felt the quiet voice of God, by Sunday He has talking much louder. The service was on bitterness, but ingratitude was touched on. I had to recognize who I was resenting and why (shockingly enough it was not who I thought it would be). By the end of the service I knew I had to read Choosing Gratitude. I was no longer bitter about the situation that happened 10 years ago (though I was bitter), but my problem was ingratitude. I think it is a bit ironic that I started reading this book a week before the most important celebration of the Christian faith - Easter.

A friend and I at work have had several conversations recently about how inconsiderate, ungrateful, and entitled Americans have become (we can't speak for other nationalities, but I wonder if it is more a human condition rather than a citizenship problem). As I began to read DeMoss' book my eyes were open to just how ungrateful I have become in my life. God promised a rose garden, but He didn't say it would be thornless. But, oh, how resentful I had become of the thorns (there seemed to be more thorns on my roses than other people's roses). However, the opening pages of  the book could have been written by me as she voiced every complaint I have had. How often have I said "why me?" "this isn't fair", etc. Then she hit me with "without gratitude - and your faith will eventually forget the whole point of its faithfulness, hardening into a practice of religion that's hollow and ineffective." Oh, how hardened my faith had become.

DeMoss shares story after story of people expressing gratitude in the midst of dire tragedies - complete paralysis, death of a child, loss of all material possessions. Then there are the stories of sacrifice - a young man risked his life to save others from drowning, as a result becomes too ill to continue his studies and fulfill is career dreams. He rescued 17 of the 30 survivors from the shipwreck, yet not one thanked him. I imagine they were thankful, and how often has someone sacrificed for me but I never took the time to say thank you.

While the entire book was opening my eyes to the condition of my heart, it was this statement that was the turning point for me... "If we go on without gratitude - choosing to be bitter, constantly bemoaning our fate - we force ourselves to live in already unhappy conditions with the added drag of our gloomy disposition." This is where I am and I don't want to be there any more.

Choosing Gratitude is not your typical self-help book. DeMoss takes this journey with her readers (she even admits at the end that weeks before releasing the book she realized she was not practicing what she preached) and inspires as much as gives practical steps to take towards choosing gratitude for your life. If you are not a Christ follower, I am not sure you will find much in the book helpful to you as it hinges on recognizing that Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice and who wouldn't be thankful to the One willingly dying in your place.

Now, I must go write a thank you note to the family who sent me the book.


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