Gratitude

“Skin Time” not “Face Time”

“Nothing is ever lost; things only become irretrievable. What is lost, then, is the method of their retrieval and what we discover is not the thing its self, but the overgrown path, the secret staircase, that ancient sewer.” — Francois Assuermain 

My youngest grandson was born one week ago today. Hawkston Noah Keith Faulkner. His journey into this world has been supernatural. The last five months have been filled with tears and prayer. Sudden miracles are so much easier on our patience. I suppose they don’t require any. Maybe that’s why we like them. 

This journey has reminded the family that we must remain grateful in the midst of difficult times. We have focused on remaining happy by staying grateful for every little victory and every person who has taken care of my children during and after birth. We have focused on thanking every person who has given care to Hawkston and today we are celebrating the very miracles of God. 

The psalmist told us to, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits…” (Ps. 103) But I think that maybe Christianity has forgotten itself! Forgotten is the reality that, “happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.” (Ps. 144:15) 

Have you noticed how many people are unhappy? Go visit your local hospital and you will see what I’m talking about. Have you noticed what people will do or spend to be happy? People want and need to be Happy! 

The greatest need in the world today is for HAPPINESS! 

According to all the research out there, happy people are also healthier. They have a better immune system, less cardiovascular disease, live up to ten years longer than their less happy peers! The have better mental health, greater resilience, and an increased capacity to deal with adversity and trauma. It has been proven happiness leads to greater creativity and improved mental functioning. 

The benefits of happiness extend to the workplace as well, happy individuals perform better and enjoy greater personal success on every level, including higher income. 

Extensive research has also shown that organizations with happy employees are more successful, consistently demonstrating greater profitability. This isn’t surprising considering that happy workers are more productive, more loyal to the company, take fewer sick days, show up to work more consistently, have fewer conflicts with coworkers, quit their jobs less frequently, and generate greater customer satisfaction. 

So there is no question that happiness brings tremendous personal rewards. But it is also critical to point out that cultivating greater happiness benefits not only oneself, but also one’s family, community, and society.

The beneficial effects of happiness extend to the broadest level of society. Another study for instance, found that increasing the average level of happiness among the population of a nation will result in an increase in freedom and democracy in that country!

Assuermain reminds us nothing is really lost, but we forget the methods or the path towards what we long for, in this case “happiness.” Happiness continues to elude many because they don’t know the “way” to recover happiness. 

In a consumer world, happiness is touted as being attainable through buying or owning something. When the truth is that true happiness is the results of relationship. We are impoverished because we have allowed ourselves to be relationally impoverished. 

Last Wednesday evening, Hawkston took his first breath at 7:06. It was an exciting moment. We had been told that they would quickly take him to NICU. There would be no opportunity for holding. But thanks be to God, Hawkston was healthy enough to be held. 

My ears, my heart, my whole being were awakened by the words of the Doctor; “Skin time is the best thing we can give to Hawkston, right now.” 

Skin time not face time.

Facebook will never replace skin time. While Mark Zuckerberg is trying to explain the mistakes of Facebook, we are enjoying the truth of relationship. Relationship that cannot be duplicated by some virtual reality. You and I were created by and for relationships that involve spirit, soul, and body. Only when our relationships include the totality of our being will we be able to rediscover what “happiness” really is all about. 

When we discover or re-discover something or someone, we realize how truly impoverished we have really been. We are deprived of happiness not because we don’t know what it is, but because we don’t know how to walk back into its grasp.

Our individualism has impoverished us all. We live lives separated from one another. This separation is the root cause of our unhappiness. And our connection is the basis of our health. 

How do we uncover the stairway to happiness? What are some of the steps that need to be taken to once again enjoy life; to be happy? 

The primary step towards happiness is gratitude. 

I’ve discovered that gratitude truly is my life preserver. Even in the most turbulent waters, choosing gratitude rescues me from myself and my runaway emotions. It buoys me on the grace of God and keeps me from drowning in what otherwise would be my natural bent toward doubt, negativity, discouragement, and anxiety. 

Over time, choosing gratitude means choosing happiness. It’s a choice that requires constantly renewing my mind with the truth of God’s Word, setting my heart to savor God and His gifts, and disciplining my tongue to speak words that reflect His goodness and grace, until a grateful spirit becomes my reflexive response to all of life.

In virtually every language, “thank you” is part of vocabulary 101. But there’s a world of difference between being able to say “thank you” and actually having a thankful heart.

“Why me?” 

How often have you clung to this tart complaint, hoping to draw from it enough strength to protect your heart from further danger and damage? 

  • “Why is life so hard?” 
  • “Why can’t other people just be normal?” 
  • “Why did this have to happen to me?”
  • “Why won’t anybody love me for who I am?”
  • “Why isn’t God answering my prayers?” 
  • “Why do I have to live alone like this?” 
  • “Why doesn’t the Bible work for me like it does them?”
  • “Why does this problem never seem to end?”
  • “Why am I supposed to just accept this?”
  • “Why me?” 

Feeling betrayed, feeling left out, feeling inferior, mistreated, or under appreciated, we are left feeling ungrateful for anything or anyone. Like a whirlpool spinning around in never-ending circles, tugging and draining and pulling us down with every sweep of self-pity, we sink lower and lower into ourselves, into our problems; away from God.

Gratitude is not something that we can rely on others to provide. Gratitude must become our own a lifestyle. We must stop and realize that life is a gift. We must receive ourselves as a gift. Are you grateful for yourself? God made and gave you, to you, first and foremost. The person, the life, that you are right now is a gift to you. Learning to recognize and express appreciation for the benefits we have received from God is absolutely the first step in discovering happiness. 

Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits,The God of our salvation! Psa. 68:19 

Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Psa. 103:2

What shall I render to the LORD For all His benefits toward me? Psa. 116:12

Being mindful of “the benefits we have received” helps squeeze bitterness and entitlement from our hearts, replacing negative, depressing thoughts with the realization that our loving Father has showered us with good things, and that even the “bad things” in our lives are “benefits,” intended to make us more like Jesus. 

Over the last few months we learned how to be grateful for every moment, for every movement towards life. We learned that every thought is either “helpful” or “harmful.” And in order to remain grateful you have to discard those thoughts that are harmful. I would not tell anyone that it was, or is, easy, but it is the step that we both learned and took every day. 

I am deeply grateful for every prayer, for every word of encouragement, for every nurse, every doctor, for ever person that worked behind the scene. I know that God’s Grace continues to bless Hawkston.

Perhaps this blog is more about having the opportunity to say “Thank you.” If it gives you a little encouragement, remember to “Give Thanks.” 

Every time I hear the word grace, I am reminded that I must live a life, every day, which reflects my gratitude to God. — CHARLES W. COLSON

GRATITUDE CHANGES THE WAY WE:

  • START THE DAY, 
  • SPEND THE DAY, AND 
  • LOOK BACK ON THE DAY!

Gratitude is the first step towards rediscovering what it means to live a happy life.