I drove down the road, listening intently to the radio, as one of my favorite marriage and family talk show hosts spoke into the heart of a troubled caller.
A heartbroken woman had called in looking for guidance in dealing with a painful family situation. Lisa Popcak, who co-hosts More2Life with her husband Dr. Greg Popcak, offered the most unexpected piece of advice…
“Have you ever heard of a gratitude list?” she asked the woman.
Wait, what? Here’s this woman, pouring out her heart and all the crap going on in her life, and Lisa didn’t focus on any of it. She immediately turned the spotlight from this woman’s stressings over to her blessings.
“I want to encourage you to make a gratitude list,” Lisa continued, instructing the woman to pick up a pen and write down every single thing she could think of in her life that she was grateful for. To look for the good, in the midst of the bad; strengths, in spite of weaknesses; success, despite failure; gain, even in loss.
Lisa explained further, “Did you know that when addicts enter into rehab, one of the first things they are assigned to do is make a gratitude list? The process of shifting their focus from the negative to the positive is absolutely fundamental to their recovery. Giving thanks is therapeutic; even healing.”
“If you can cultivate a spirit of gratitude in your life,” Lisa urged the woman, “I think you will be amazed by the changes you see.”
I heard this radio exchange many years ago, but it has never left me.
I may not have an addiction to alcohol or drugs. But I know what it feels like to be enslaved - just like an addict - to negative thoughts like fear, anxiety, doubt, comparison, guilt, self-condemnation, anger, resentment, the litany of why me’s, and if onlys.
I’m all too familiar with focusing so much on how stressed I am, I forget how blessed I am.
That day listening to the radio, I might as well have been that caller, because I needed to hear Lisa’s advice just as much as she did.
So did the Israelites.
Lisa Popcak’s wise counsel about the transforming power of gratitude isn’t anything new. It’s as ancient as our ancient ancestors, God’s chosen people, whom He freed from their own slavery in Egypt thousands of years ago.
God had performed signs and wonders to set the Israelites free, and then worked countless more miracles for them along their difficult journey through the desert to the Promised Land.
But they made the same tragic mistake you and I do. They forgot to remember.
The Israelites became so consumed by their hardships along the way in the desert, they forgot to remember everything the Lord had done for them. They began to moan and grumble and complain. They even wanted to turn around and go back to their life of slavery.
So God mercifully reached out to remind them, through Moses - the man He had chosen to lead them through the desert into the Promised Land.
I love what Moses says to this weary and desperate crew. He gathers them together and addresses them with comforting reassurance, ”We have a God who is close to us and answers our prayers...”
Then he follows with words of cautioning conviction, “You must be very careful not to forget the things you have seen God do for you. Keep reminding yourselves, and tell your children and grandchildren as well.” Deuteronomy 4:9 (CEV)
Don’t forget to remember. That’s pretty much what Moses tells his broken, despairing people.
Hundreds of years later, God spoke through another one of His leaders. David also understood how intentional we have to be about remembering what God has done for us.
You can hear it in this convicted cry from his heart, “Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things He does for me.” (Psalm 103:2, NLT)
Friends, let this be the cry from our hearts too - as we choose to remember the good things God has done FOR us, and IN us - remembering who He created us to be!
In her bestselling book “One Thousand Gifts”, Ann Voscamp writes, “I wonder if all the bad brokenness in the world begins with the act of forgetting - forgetting God is enough, forgetting what He gives is good enough, forgetting there’s always more than enough…
Forget to give thanks - and you forget who God is.”
I believe this wholeheartedly. Yet Ann, I hope you don’t mind me adding one more dimension to your profound insight. When we forget to give thanks, not only do we forget who God is, we forget who we are; who our husbands are; who our children are; who the people around us are. And when we forget that God is enough, we forget that we are enough.
Recently, a mom shared her excitement with us about her Mother’s Prayer Companion that had just arrived in the mail. “I love it! What a blessing to have a tool to encourage such intentional gratitude and prayer! I’m so thrilled to share this with other moms I know!”
When I read this, I wanted to jump out of my chair and scream, Yes, yes, YES!!! She nailed it.
The Mother’s Prayer Companion offers us as moms a sacred place for intentional gratitude and prayer; a place where we can pick up a pen and follow Lisa Popcak’s wise counsel - write our own gratitude list - thanking God for the unique gifts He has given each person in our family, beginning with ourselves.
At the end of MPC, we also provide gratitude pages - specifically intended for us as moms to remember the things we have seen God do for us and our families, so we can tell our children and grandchildren! (From Dt. 4:9)
The MPC was designed to empower moms to pray intentionally - through intentional praise (Stand in Wonder), intentional gratitude (Don’t Forget to Remember), and intentional intercession (my upcoming blog).
When you see your Mother’s Prayer Companion sitting at your bedside, or on a shelf, or nestled with your Bible and other prayer books, we hope it offers you a gentle yet urgent invitation - to pray with intentionality - praising and thanking the Lord for what He has done, and praying with expectant faith about what He is going to do!
I stumbled across this reflection from a recovering addict on the importance of intentional gratitude...
“Choosing to be grateful, to practice gratitude in spite of changing moods and circumstances,
is a cornerstone of recovery... A very simple, very straightforward way to begin practicing gratitude is to make a list. Ideally, this is done daily, but it shouldn’t be avoided simply because it can’t be done everyday. The list can be long or short, but should most definitely be handwritten. Taking the time to write everything out helps get it embedded in our hearts... Our thoughts become our reality. For addicts and alcoholics, it’s easy to become enslaved by the mind’s power. Putting a pen to paper, despite negativity, has an immediate impact.”
You know what inspires me about recovering addicts? They live every day with intentionality. They work their program with discipline. They train their minds to feed on truth. They know they’re sobriety and freedom depends on it.
The word “recovering” means “restoring oneself to health; the act or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.”
I want to live every day as a “recovering” daughter of God - seeking restoration, striving to become the healthiest version of me; reaching to regain the freedom I was created for.
I also want to live as a “remembering” daughter of God - choosing to remember who He is, who I am, and all He has done for me.
Ann Voscamp reminds us that the word remember is to re-member.
“We’re called to be a people known by our remembering - a remembering people… remembering the heart of God for us… so Jesus can re-member all our broken hearts.”
Lord, may I never forget to remember, with awe and gratitude,
the wonderful things which You have done.
(From Psalm 105:5 AMP)
(*Note: The quote from Lisa Popcak is not a direct one; it is a paraphrase of what I recall her saying.)