The Other Sure-Fire Way to Generate a Thankful Spirit

Last week’s column How to Get What You Want in Ten Minutes a Day provoked a large number of excellent responses. (Since nearly all 900 of you subscribers receive these postings as an email, you reply via email and therefore only a few comments appear in the comments section of the blog.)

Some of you told me that after a few days of sorting and refining your list of ten things you really want, you focused so hard on what you didn’t have that you forgot the good things you do have. You sensed a spirit of ingratitude and you had to remind yourself to “Count Your Blessings” as the old hymn tells us to do.

Good advice. Good practice. Counting our blessings is the first sure-fire way to generate a grateful spirit.

Like you, I counted my blessings, then went one step farther. I made a list of ten things I do not have and I really do not want. I was surprised how much gratitude this exercise generated in me.

I omitted mentioning the details of my Ten Things I Want list, but I will list the things I don’t want and I’m glad I don’t have. I just jotted them down as they popped into my mind, without prioritizing. (To preserve anonymity, I’ll use a * in place of people’s names.

  1. I do not have a future without God as multi-millions of people around to word have.
  2. I do not have a selfish, harsh, and unloving wife as my friend * had until the divorce.
  3. I do not have children or grandchildren that live far from God and break our hearts as our friends * and * have.
  4. Neither Jo nor I have cancer as * has, and our friend *, and *; nor do we have Alzheimer’s as our friend * has.
  5. I do not have severe inexplicable chest pains as our friend * suffered a few weeks ago.
  6. Day After Condo Fire in Edmonton

    I do not have to face the loss of all our possessions as did the 100 residents of the condo building that burned to the ground in south end of the city last week.

  7. I did not have a car accident, like * had just before Christmas, which totally destroyed his vehicle and hurt his passenger.
  8. I do not have any form of osteoarthritis requiring knee and hip replacement as my friend * has.
  9. I do not have a job I hate as my friend * had for years until he had a nervous breakdown.
  10. I do not have a debilitating disease that keeps me in constant pain as our friend * has.

Oh, and one more:

  1. I do not have to wait for years and years until someone translates God’s Word into my own language like 350 million people who are still waiting around the world right now.

Numerous passages in the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New, command people to be thankful. Gratitude won’t bring us to God, only repentance will do that. But not being thankful is one of the first steps away from God.

First we need to stay close to God, count our blessings and be thankful to Him for them. Then we need to count all the things we don’t want which we don’t have and be thankful for those too.

How to Get What You Want in 10 Minutes a Day

This is not about New Year’s resolutions, but it can apply.

Long ago, in the dim, dark, misty past, when I was in my twenties, I read a very old, long-out-of-print book with the intriguing title, How To Get What You Want.

The simple ten-minutes-a-day strategy that ancient author presented is scary not only because it works, but because you also discover some amazing things about yourself. My favourite college professor used to say, “Look carefully where you are going, because you will go where you are looking.” Exactly!

Since this strategy is so effective, don’t practice it in a spiritual, moral or ethical vacuum. Read the Bible and pray for guidance before you start.

  1. Take a spiral bound notebook with lined paper and on the first page write down, by hand, ten things you really want. Limit the list to ten only items.
  2. Study your list and write a (1) in front of the one you want the most, a (2) for the next, and so on in order of priority. Read the list as a prayer, out loud if possible. Close the notebook and go on your way.
  3. The next day, after Bible reading and prayer, open your notebook, study your list, and clarify or refine where necessary. Then copy your list of ten items, in order of priority, on page two. Pray through your list, close the notebook and go on your way.
  4. You may be tempted to do this on your word processor. Resist that urge! Keep doing this by hand. The simple act of your hand writing out your desires every day drives you to think more deeply about them.
  5. By the third day you will probably have thought of an eleventh thing you really want. Simply add it to the list and delete one to keep your list down to ten. Then rewrite your list, in order of priority, on page three.
  6. Simply keep doing this every day, page after page, notebook after notebook and be prepared to be amazed and thankful.

If you’re like me, it won’t take more than a month for at least half the things on the first day’s list to be replaced by other, more important things you really want. That’s one scary part–to realise you didn’t really know what you wanted on the first day!

By the second or third month you will have deleted and replaced several items, not because they were not important, but because you got them. That’s the other scary part–this strategy really works!

Be careful what you put on that daily list. That list will influence your mind, your daily decisions, and shape your life, your family and your ministry.

I remember putting things like a new car, a high income and other such material things high up on my earlier lists. They soon slid lower and lower as God showed me things that were far more important, like a godly wife, healthy children, an exciting ministry and, eventually, the Scriptures translated into Canela. I did get a new car, by the way, a 1962 Volkswagen bug that served my beautiful young wife and me well for years.

I have practiced this exercise in one form or another for the past fifty years. What are the things on my list now that I am in my mid-seventies? The top ones are about my relationships with God, my wife, and my family. I want some specific successes in our current ministry, and I have some health goals.

What about that new piece of high-technology I saw last month? Yeah, it would be nice to have, but it’s not on my top ten list of things I really want.

Not anymore.

Happy New Year 2012

Welcome to 2012!

A new year is ahead of us and with that brings a new fresh look to my Wordman website. Please check it out at www.thewordman.ca

In addition, I have also amalgamated my 2 blogs The Mandate & INsights & OUTbursts to my newly designed Blog website at: www.jackpopjes.com

Please visit both sites often to check out what’s new.

Best wishes for the year ahead.

Jack Popjes