Gratitude In The Gravel
When you woke up today, what was your first thought? Your first spoken word?
Yesterday it was our honor to again be with our brothers inside a max security prison.
We had a simple but tasty Thanksgiving feast. We worshipped and then centered the Word around the topic of gratitude. Specifically, gratitude in the gravel.
Each week I am forced to a raw level of candor: How am I possibly qualified to speak into their lives? What do I know of waking each morning in a cell and what they deal with each day?
And so it requires an even greater emptiness of self so that Jesus can speak, for only He truly understands and communicates rightly with these men.
Yesterday, I was keenly aware as I prayed, prepared, and taught, how much I need to let these points about gratitude transform me.
And so I thought, these may be for you as well:
We don't have to feel grateful to be grateful.
For we cannot force feeling but we can choose to be grateful for what we do have and what is promised. (Phil 4:11-13)
Being happy is not what makes us grateful; being grateful will make us happy.
As those in Christ - everything we face now is temporary. (2 Cor 4:16-18) Including life without parole.
What we choose to focus upon fills our hearts, forms our speech, and creates our expectations. And what we expect to find and experience, we will.
Gratitude is a muscle that we develop and that takes time, repetition, and discipline.
Being with these brothers each week challenges me in ways I cannot begin to explain. It requires that I confront my own levels of presumption, entitlement, ingratitude, and more.
I asked a brother to close in prayer and I wish it could have been recorded. It was amazing.
A couple of lines still vibrate in me:
'Lord, thank you that even though we can't be with family, you brought family here to be with us...'
'Thank you that we are your sons and not orphans and that you love us...'
This man is serving a life sentence.
A true test of gratitude comes when our face is in the gravel, as it is for these men.
But we develop that 'muscle' now so that when we face-plant, our hearts will not betray us.
We are so very grateful for all of you, dear friends and allies, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers in Christ.
Happy, Happy Thanksgiving!
We love you.
Stephen and Kim