Three Psalms to Inspire Gratitude


3 psalms to help you pray grateful prayers

Gratitude is so good for our hearts. It reminds us to look past today’s temporary troubles to see the big picture of God’s everlasting care and concern. It reminds us that life is not as dark as it sometimes feels. It heals our wounds and protects us from bitterness. It reminds us of God’s faithfulness in the past, which gives us confidence as we look to the future. Gratitude strengthens our faith, cures our self-centeredness, and makes us happier people. The minute we start thinking about things we are grateful for, our mood and perspective start to shift. (Try it! Quick—think about 5 things you are thankful for. I bet you feel happier already, don’t you? Keep going with that list and you might even hit warm-and-cozy-in-a-cuddly-blanket-on-a-cold-fall-day levels of happiness!)

With Thanksgiving upon us (How is that possible? I just vacuumed the summer sand out of my car!), we are all looking for ways to express gratitude. I love borrowing words from the psalms to guide my prayers. I start by reading the psalm aloud to God, and after a few verses I usually find myself taking detours, adding praise and thanks of my own inspired by the psalmist’s words. If your prayer life needs a boost in gratitude, try praying through these three psalms! I abbreviated them a little here, but they are (of course) beautiful in their entirety.

3 psalms to help you be thankful

Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God. . . .
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion. . . .

10 Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Psalm 89

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
    with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
    through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
    that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
    I have sworn to David my servant,
‘I will establish your line forever
    and make your throne firm through all generations.’”

The heavens praise your wonders, Lord,
    your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord?
    Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?
In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
    he is more awesome than all who surround him.
Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?
    You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

Psalm 66

Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
    Sing the glory of his name;
    make his praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    So great is your power
    that your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth bows down to you;
    they sing praise to you,
    they sing the praises of your name.”

Come and see what God has done,
    his awesome deeds for mankind!
He turned the sea into dry land,
    they passed through the waters on foot—
    come, let us rejoice in him.
He rules forever by his power,
    his eyes watch the nations—
    let not the rebellious rise up against him. . . .

12 You let people ride over our heads;
    we went through fire and water,
    but you brought us to a place of abundance. . . .

16 Come and hear, all you who fear God;
    let me tell you what he has done for me.
17 I cried out to him with my mouth;
    his praise was on my tongue.
18 If I had cherished sin in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened;
19 but God has surely listened
    and has heard my prayer.
20 Praise be to God,
    who has not rejected my prayer
    or withheld his love from me!

Thank you for reading, and for sharing a bit of life with me here on this little corner of the Web. Wishing you a wonderful holiday with the ones you love.


Looking for a great gift for Thanksgiving or Christmas? When God Says “Wait” is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook.com. I am deeply thankful to all of you who have read, reviewed, and shared WGSW. You are on my heart and in my prayers.

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind


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Teaching Kids to “Go the Extra Mile”


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Me: “Hey, {insert child’s name}, will you help me {set the table/carry the laundry/vacuum the floor} ?”

Kid, with a dramatic groan: “But that’s not my chore this week!”

**Repeat variations of this conversation a dozen times, with all of my children, over several weeks.**

Me to myself: Time for a family talk.

With this attitude problem in mind, last week the kids and I held a quick devotion time before school. We turned to Matthew 5:41–42: “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Kind of a strange passage, right? Not your usual “encourage the kids to help around the house with a good attitude” scripture.

But hang with me.

First I had to explain the context of the passage to the kids. During Jesus’ day, the Romans occupied all Jewish territory. By law, Roman soldiers could force Jewish people to carry their equipment for them—they could just stop them on the side of the road and conscript them into service. No matter what the Jew was doing or where he was going, he had to stop and travel with the Roman as his temporary slave. (Remember Simon, the man who was forced to carry Jesus’ cross when Jesus couldn’t carry it himself (Mark 15:21)? That’s an example of this law in action.)

The only redeeming aspect of this law was its built-in limitation: the Roman could only force the Jew into service for one mile. We can imagine how humiliated the Jews must have felt by this practice—how slowly and angrily they must have walked while shouldering their enemy’s burden, how violently they must have dropped the baggage at the end of their mile of service.

To help the kids connect with the story, we acted this scene out using pillows from our couch. I played the part of the Roman soldier, and forced my son to carry my pillows across the room. I piled pillow after pillow into his arms, until he was giggling his head off, and his giggling head had completely disappeared behind a pile of pillows. Then he had to attempt to walk across the room.


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When everybody stopped laughing, we used this story to talk about Jesus’ expectations for his followers. Jesus called his disciples to have a completely different attitude than anyone else. Instead of giving in to anger and resentment, he called us to show the love and grace of God by going the extra mile. (And now you know where that phrase came from! Cool, right?) The disciple of Jesus shouldn’t just count his steps till he reaches the end of his required service, then drop the burden and stomp off in a bitter huff—no, the disciple of Jesus says, “Hey, Roman soldier, I’m enjoying your company so much, why don’t you let me carry this for you for another mile? And while I’m at it, let me tell you about a preacher named Jesus…” Jesus wants his people to exemplify kindness and grace, even in the face of injustice and cruelty. He wants us to do more than expected, and better than expected!

And how does this lesson translate into our daily life today? It means that as people who love Jesus, we always seek to have a great attitude no matter what—even if we are being mistreated. It means that we show the love of God to people who don’t “deserve” it. It means we do more than we have to, and we do it with a great attitude. In Colossians 3: 22–24, Paul has these words of admonition for slaves with their masters (I emphasized some phrases): “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” What a challenging attitude to attain, under painful circumstances—but what a great reward in the end!

We talked about having a “second-mile” attitude in our family life—in everything we do at school, in sports, in friendship, and at home. We talked about always looking for ways to serve and give, above and beyond what we are required to do. I asked the kids to work on having a better attitude about helping around the house—not thinking in terms of what’s on the chore chart, and what they have to do to earn allowance, but always striving to serve as much as they can, and with a generous spirit.

I have to say, the Bible is powerful. Jesus’ ways work. This simple scripture brought immediate change to all of our hearts (the kids’ and mine!), and has made our house a more helpful and Christ-like place to live. If you do this devotion with your family, I hope it inspires you all to give your best and go the extra mile! (And come back and let me know how it goes— either here in the comments, or on Facebook—I love hearing from you!)

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5 Simple Ways to Bring God into Your New Year


family devotion ideas for the new year

I’ll be honest: I’m not a big new year’s resolution girl. I find the idea of making a list of commitments for an entire year daunting. Perfectionist that I am, new year’s resolutions feel like an invitation to fail and feel guilty, all year long. (I know, I’m kind of dramatic. I’m working on it.)

But new starts and fresh attitudes for the new year? That I like. Drawing closer to God in the new year, and having a more spiritual focus? That I get excited about.

So now, instead of making new year’s resolutions, I view January as a time for re-charging my personal life and my walk with God, and for jump-starting our family’s spiritual life. January provides a fantastic opportunity to redirect our family’s focus outward and upward after the self-focus of the holidays.

Here are 5 simple ideas for helping your family jump-start your new year spiritually. Whether you’re married with no kids, or up to your ears in sippy cups, or spending your whole life chauffeuring teenagers around town, these ideas can help you kick off your new year with fresh focus and with God as the center.

Look back on the old year together.

We’re quick to look to the future, but what about the great things that have already happened? Spend an evening remembering the blessings and answered prayers from last year. Write them down and spend time praising God for what he has already given. If you made a prayer list last January, bring it out and look at it again. Can you cross some prayers off your list? God loves it when we remember his gifts and come back to praise him.

Start a new year prayer tradition. 

Every January, we take our kids out to the beach for a new year prayer. Once we convince the kids that making sand angels is NOT the same thing as making snow angels, and will involve hours of hair-washing to get the sand out, we spend a few minutes shivering in the sand, talking about our hopes for the year. Each of us describes one thing we plan to ask God for in the coming year. And then we all pray together and take home a sea shell to commemorate the prayer. At home, we write our prayers on the shells. Simple, fun, and frigid!

godly family traditions

Come up with an “impossible prayer” list. 

“Impossible prayers” are things that seem impossible from a human perspective, but that our amazing God can do if we are bold enough to ask. Sit down as a family and come up with a list of things you all hope God will do this year—the crazier the better! Write them down where you’ll all see them, and commit to pray your impossible prayers all year as a family. Then sit back and watch what God does for you. (Want to read our family’s so-amazing-it-sounds-like-we-made-it-up “impossible prayer” miracle story? Click here.)


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Pick a theme scripture for the year. 

Choose a scripture that represents what you want your year to look and feel like spiritually, and revisit that scripture often as a family. Memorize it. Write it on the fridge and on the calendar. Remind each other of it frequently. Bring it up in family prayers and devotional times all year long. You can either pick one scripture for your whole family, or each person can choose their own.

Pick a theme word for the year. 

What one word describes the focus you want to have in the coming year? Faith? Discipline? Kindness? Patience? Renewal? Selflessness? Vision? Generosity? Pick one, and make it your theme word! Find a scripture or scriptures that relate to the concept, and study them on your own and as a family. You can choose one word for the whole family, or let each family member pick their own word.

 

I wish you and your family a fantastic beginning to the new year, a year full of faith and joy and spiritual growth. A year rich in love and lasting memories. A year embracing the messiness of life, remaining faithful through the unexpected twists, and having the wisdom to find joy in imperfection and small blessings.

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Have a “Mary” Christmas (More sitting, less stressing!)


how to relieve stress over the holidays

“Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things. But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42, emphasis added).

Welcome to my world. I’m hosting Christmas for oodles of beloved family members, and the Martha in me wants to show my love by making everyone else’s Christmas perfect: Decorations? Check. Clean house? Check. Gourmet food? Check. (“Sort of. Wait. Let me run into the kitchen to prep a few things . . . I’ll be back in five hours.”)

But you know . . . the clean house, and gourmet food, and Pinterest-worthy Christmas decorations, aren’t what’s most important for our family holiday. A great holiday is about time spent together, about laughing so hard you snort egg nog through your nose, about the light of magic shining in our children’s eyes. So I hope you’ll join me in taking Jesus’ gentle words to Martha to heart this holiday season. Let’s “choose what is better.”

And what did Mary choose? She chose to be present. To be engaged. To be with—fully with—the people who had come into her home. To spend time sitting at the feet of the Lord, listening and learning. That’s what makes the holidays great. That’s what is “better.” So won’t you join me?

Let the dishes soak a little longer.

Let the pine needles rest on the carpet a little longer.

Let the meals be a little simpler.

Let’s just be there with the people—and the Lord—we love.

That, my friends, is better. That’s BEST. And Jesus will not take it away from us!

Merry Christmas to you and yours, from the Thompson Crazies! (Here’s hoping we don’t actually GO crazy.)

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13 Readings to Help You Find the Thanksgiving Spirit


13 readings to help you be thankful

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In honor of Thanksgiving, I’m honored to share with you thirteen fantastic articles from blogger friends, all about gratitude. If you haven’t caught the Thanksgiving spirit yet, these will do the trick. Some readings are devotion–style, with scriptures to meditate on; others are essays to get you thinking; a few give practical tips for cultivating a spirit of gratitude in your family life; all will inspire you to feel (and live) thankful! Read one a day, or splurge, Thanksgiving–style, and read several at once—this is the best kind of feast, one that lets you go back for seconds and thirds, without getting a stomachache!

Bringing Gratitude into Your Daily Life as a Parent

71 Ways to Show Gratitude to Family, Friends, and Strangers by Lauren Cormier (Oh, Honestly). I absolutely love this list of fun, practical ideas for ways to show gratitude—things like giving lots of hugs, or doing a chore no one else wants to do. Lauren writes, “By living life in a way that constantly looks for ways to improve the lives of others, we are showing gratitude.” Read the article here

Today’s Lesson from a Grateful Mom by Traci Rhoades (Traces of Faith). Track writes about slowing down the hectic mom-life pace, and choosing gratitude along the way: “When we force things to slow down, things get better… Because the years we have together are gifts. Memories in the making every day.” Read the article here

4 Tips to Teach Your Children Gratitude by Lauren Cormier (for MissHumblebee). This is an insightful take on getting to kids’ hearts, raising grateful kids, not entitled ones. And guess where it starts? “Model gratitude. This may be the most important tip of all since our children learn what they see.” Read the article here

Gratitude Turns Who We Are into Enough, by Meredith Ethington (Perfection Pending). Encouraging thoughts for moms who never feel like enough, who think, “I yell sometimes, and a good mom would never do that… I want peace and quiet at the end of the day instead of loud laughter and kids running through the house wild and happy. Good mothers don’t think like that. But this mother does.” Read the article here

Devotional Thoughts on Gratitude

Which Letter Is Yours? by Jeanie Shaw (My Morning Cup). This is a hilarious rewrite of the letter Paul wrote to the Philippians. He had every reason to complain, and yet he chose joy. But what if he hadn’t? “Nobody really cares about me…everyone is just thinking about themselves. Well, except maybe Timothy and now he’ll likely go to you and then you will ‘need’ him.  Sheez…what else do you want?” Read the article here

One Thing to Be Thankful for (that’s Not Based on Your Circumstances), by Ellie Fulton (Gumption). Ellie writes about the wondrous reminder that God is always at work in the details of our lives, to bring us to him: “God worked in the very details, every day, of these twenty souls. And I was reminded—it is not just those twenty people. God has worked in the very details, every day, of my life since before I was born…and he keeps doing it…” Read the article here

Giving Thanks, by Debbie Williams (Blogger Loves the King). Debbie writes a simple reminder to live (and thank God) intentionally every day, not just on Thanksgiving Day: “We may not be able to change our circumstances, but we CAN change our attitudes to attitudes of gratitude.” Read the article here

How to Have a Real Thanksgiving This Year, by Stephanie Robertson (Barnabas Lane). Seeking a true Thanksgiving, the kind that begins in your heart and not with your fork: “Heaven forbid we put more preparation into the meal we eat or the way we eat it on Thanksgiving than the way we really experience and really have Thanksgiving.” Read the article here

Monday Thankfulness: Simplicity, by Destin Wells (Arrows of Content). Destin writes about finding joy in life’s simple, daily blessings: “We don’t have much, but we have everything we need. We aren’t wealthy in terms of money, but anytime I spend a weekend doing simple things with the ones I love, I feel like the richest person in the world.” Read the article here

Looking for family devotion ideas? I’ve written a couple of devotion ideas to teach gratitude to kids: A Fun Family Devotion to Teach Kids Gratitude, and A Fun Way to Teach Gratitude to Kids of All Ages.

Gratitude During Hard Times

Choose Gratitude, by Sarah Philpott (All–American Mom). I loved this reminder that gratitude is a choice, even we’re struggling, or suffering, or grieving: “Anchor your soul in gratitude for what the Lord has done.  You might not be rescued from the storm, but you can look around for the beauty in the midst of the upheaval…in the midst of the tempest choose to cherish.” Read the article here. (Sarah blogs about miscarriage and pregnancy loss, so if you or a friend is going through this, Sarah’s blog is a great resource.)

Giving Thanks: Not the Usual Suspects, by Bonnie Lyn Smith (Espressos of Faith). This Thanksgiving, we’re all wondering, how do we find gratitude in the midst of so much fresh pain and terror in the world? What does it really mean to pray for our enemies? Bonnie writes, “…Good rises up in horrifying circumstances, and I have the privilege to pray for change and sometimes to participate in it… I cannot be as self-focused when I am willing to pray back the dark.” Read the article here.

You Are Alive! Savor It, by Christine Carter (The Mom Cafe). If you battle depression during the holidays, this post will encourage you, helping you find ways to savor life even when it’s hard, or you’re not up for the daily grind: “Despite those hard days, those trying trials, those sometimes suffocating sacrifices we endure just to get through the day, we are aliveWe haven’t been taken from this world, just yet.” Read the article here.  

This Is Living, by Jennie Goutet (A Lady in France). Jennie lives in Paris, and had a birthday in the midst of the recent tragedy—and yet she found joy and light in the midst of heartbreak: “Outside it’s dark and it feels like the night is only getting darker. It feels like the heavens are weeping over the tragedies without cease. But we, my friends, are lit from within.” Read the article here


Want more parenting tips and devotion ideas? Sign up for my monthly parenting newsletter, and you’ll receive a free download with seven two-minute devotions to do around the breakfast table with kids!


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A Fun Family Devotion to Teach Kids Gratitude

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