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Cultivating the habit of thankfulness

I'd like to propose that we start a group project to change our lives in a simple, but potentially profound way. Every weekend, I'd like to meet you and some other blog readers here to cultivate the habit of thankfulness. If you want to join me for a while, then share something below t…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
I'd like to propose that we start a group project to change our lives in a simple, but potentially profound way. Every weekend, I'd like to meet you and some other blog readers here to cultivate the habit of thankfulness. If you want to join me for a while, then share something below that is potentially negative and share why you're grateful for it.
This website can help jumpstart you. Leah writes notes to various things and people in her life that threaten her attitude. For example, not many of us enjoy uncertainty. But Leah writes, "Dear Uncertainty, Thanks for also essentially being possibility. I'm a lot more into you when I think of you that way. All the best, Leah"
Or her note to Scott: "Thanks for calling out my name as I ascended the steps to the party. You do wonders for my mild social anxiety.  xo Leah"
We can't control what random things sideswipe us in life, but we can control our response. Maybe you're like me – basically a positive person. But then life happens to you. This week, I've had a wicked cold – a scratchy throat and hacking cough made it hard to sleep last night. And I'm so tempted to let my attitude just go in the toilet.
But then I look around at the positive things in my life – the stuff I take for granted that isn't broken, that works – and I'm able to gain perspective. So here's my note to my cold: "Dear Wicked Cold, Thanks for making me more aware of what a gift it is to have a normal, healthy body. And thanks for leaving my kids alone. Cheers, Seth"
I suggest that you try it and that you begin to work on seeing things from a different perspective. We cooperate with God as we take note of everything he has placed around us that is a gift. As we thank him for his good gifts, it releases a positive energy – faith – that can be harnessed to accomplish his purposes. Life works much better when we're working in tandem with our creator rather than pulling against him.
You may want to read Psalm 136 to jump start yourself – you may want to make a list of things that look like curses, but which have silver linings.
I'll meet you at this spot every weekend for a while. I invite you to join me. We can encourage one another and have church together. Go ahead and try it – write a note below.

Comments (29)

  • Dear zit. thank you for keeping me humble and teaching me that your never too old for humility. yes even if that means you have adolescent acne in your 40’s. thank you zit for making me more like Christ.

  • Thanks for sharing. Leah is amazing and has a lot she can teach all of us. The little bit I’ve been around her has always been a blessing.

    Dear 115 heat index, Thank you for helping me sweat all the toxins out of my body and for helping me appreciate the wonderfulness of cooling mechanisms.

  • Oh haha… I did my comment before popping over the web page. I thought you were talking about your Leah… with that said though, my comment still stands just in regards to your daughter 🙂 (this is why I should not reply to things within 10 minutes of waking up)

  • dear disappointment, thank you for driving over my fear & pride & bringing me to my knees again. the view & aroma is a little funky down here, but I know I’m not alone. Counting on his mercy enduring forever.

    your pal, al.

  • dear sickness, thank you for making me rest, cause i’m not a very good rester otherwise. now i can watch movies without feeling guilty. love, talia

  • dear faith,
    sometimes you’re very difficult to believe, endure, and hold onto. but thanks for being a divine mystery that keeps me intrigued to the point of attachment. i have hope that you’re worth it.

  • Dear mom’s hydrocephalus,

    Thanks for being something treatable and not a progressive incurable disease. Thanks also for allowing me to care with my mother with tenderness as she slows down.

    Peace, Kathy

  • Dear never-ending, depressing, worldwide political and economic news,

    Thanks for keeping me mindful that this world is temporary. You cause me to be more eager about the coming of my King — and He will set everything right.


  • Dear Mr and Mrs Snowbird,

    Thank you for coming to my sleepy little town for most of the winter months. Thank you for clogging my traffic, for not using your turn signal when turning and for going at least ten miles UNDER the speed limit. I am reminded that patience is a fruit of the Spirit, and one day, I will be your age and hopefully folks will be patient with me:)) It also reminds me I live in such a beautiful place, that so many people want to come here for vacation!!

  • Dear Addiction,

    Thank you for always giving me the opportunity to be an overcomer. You’ve always reminded me to look to God when I’m at the end of my rope.


  • Dear truck thief,
    I’ve learned way more than just appreciation for wheels to take me places and the need for wheels to help others. I learned more of my current culture and the people I love that lived here long before I arrived. When I walked the roads, instead of comfortably riding past many houses, I now have met more of God’s lovely people. I learned that the reason attendance is down in church during a hard rain is NOT because people don’t want rained on, it’s because the roads flood and they only have one pair of shoes,,,or it’s dangerous,,,or because they don’t want to be late, OK,
    not that reason! So God, thanks for loaning me that truck for a while and may those who took it, find all the bible tracks! loveya Abba!

  • My darling cellphone,
    When Ona gifted you to me last Christmas, though he’s meeting a great need at the time, I didn’t like your kind. Today, in this remote corner of God’s world, I treasure you more each day as I discover your capabilities. I thank God for you and for the wisdom behind your existence in the world today. I promise never to drop you nor let your power run out. I will continue to reward you with good credit… and of course use them later:)
    Your buddy,

  • Dear infertility,

    Thank you for the tender place you hollowed out within my heart. The hole you left has been filled with a Savior’s love in ways I surely would have missed. You taught me tears are nothing to hide or feel ashamed of. Because of you I have a heightened awareness of “heartpain” experienced by fellow travelers. Even if not the same pain that you inflict, my empathy and intuitiveness are deep. Without you, maybe I’d be less sensitive and more self-involved. Anyway, I’m mostly grateful because I have learned over these nearly-30 years since your unveiling that God allowed you to be. And He is always right.


  • Dear Flood Waters,

    Thank you for giving me an opportunity to serve my neighbors, down the street and across town. Although several lives were lost, thank you for not taking more. Thank you for bringing out the best in the people of my community and reminding me how blessed I am to live here. Thank you for the reminder to everyone that material things are not that important. Thank you for giving so many people the opportunity to be heroes. And most of all, thank you for receding quickly!


  • Dear Flesh,

    I can’t stand your cravings and attempts to control. You’re so selfish. Wise up and be thankful that God allows you to even breathe another breath. Thanks for the reminder that you’re weak, temporary and nothing without Him.


  • Dear Huntington’s Disease,

    You killed my father. You killed my cousin. You killed my uncle. You killed my grandmother. You are killing my sister. You have a genetic rifle focused on other siblings, nieces and nephews.

    For whatever reason your sordid bullets will not kill me.

    And while that is joyful news for our birth children there are days I feel guilty because you were a seducing mistress for so long.

    I thank you for teaching me the value of not wasting days even as life is changing for me now.

    And I thank you for giving me a “story” to tell a global suffering tribe against the backdrop of “pretty faith” and self promoted kingdoms slightly resembling the rabbi I follow.

    I am better for your terror.

    In Jesus name,


  • Dear pain & disappointment from shattered dreams –
    thank you a million times for ripping my heart out and lighting it on fire, burning away the dross, and all the stuff I thought was from the Lord, but turned out to be the same old snare the enemy of my soul has cultivated since I was a child. Thank you for visiting me this last time and unveiling yourself for who you really were … for reminding me that potential remains ONLY that without healing and action. wow … from your ashes Jesus has brought forth a most beautiful freedom and I can’t say thanks enough. What a priceless gift you have turned out to be.

    Thank you for satisfying me in the morning with your unfailing love, for letting me sing with joy for the rest of my days. Thank you that you are giving gladness in proportion to my former misery, replacing the evil years with good ones. I eagerly await more of your miracles – for me and for my children. Let all of us see more of your glory – your mysterious, paradoxical ways. I love them … (Ps. 90:14-16, paraphrased).

  • Dear Life:

    I don’t know why you have to be so impossible to predict and why you so very rarely line up with my expectations of what I thought you’d be.

    I’m not sure why you choose to be quite so difficult when you could just as easily, in my opinion, be quite easy… at least for me.

    But I thank you for being what you are… because you’re the only life I have. I don’t completely understand some of the dips and turns we’ve taken during our time together, but I am nonetheless grateful for you.

    I’m growing as a result of the challenges you’ve placed before, and I know that ultimately, I’ll be even more grateful when I see the good that’s resulted from these tough times.

    I’m sorry for living in denial of your existence for so long, trying to measure myself and others up against an idealized version of you. The real you is just that… real. And I prefer to live in reality. While it doesn’t make absolute sense right now, I know that it will eventually. Until then, I choose to be thankful.

    I know that we’ll make it through this.

    Thanks again,

  • Dear Loneliness,

    Thank you for reminding me that even when I feel alone, I’m not. Even when it feels like I’m doing life by myself and no one around really understands or cares, that there is the one Rock in my life I can always count on. If it wasn’t for your sometimes overwhelming presence, I’m not sure I would fully appreciate how much my God loves and cares for me. Because I need comfort from your existence, I know the warmth of my God and His love. So while I’d much rather not deal with you forever, I know I can and could if life leads that way.

    Thanks for your lesson even when it’s hard to learn,

  • Dear Esophageal Cancer-

    You killed my dad – but I thank you for reminding me how life is so short.

    Thanks for making me reevaluate what is important and how I spend my resources and time. Without you I may not have known God as intimately and turned to him with such fervor. You have also reminded me that this world is not my home and to make my investments in things eternal.

    Bittersweet thanks-

  • Thanks for that, really valuable way of looking at things, if it can be done sincerely, not sarcastically. I think it’s good because in order to do so we need to go through that process.

  • Thanks for joining with me in this project, folks. I’ll see you back here next Saturday, when I’ll be thanking God from Highlands, NC. Feel free to keep posting here until then.

    I suggest that you hit the “Notify me of follow-up comments” box below – then we can be reminded of this process of habit change. There’s power in a group effort – even one that is virtual. And few things are as important as cultivating the outlook of gratitude.

  • Missing Money, though it was desperately needed , if you hadnt been stolen we would never had known the depth of despair and the horrible addiction our son was dealing with . Because of you he is now at Jericho House growing in his relationship with the Lord and has been clean for over 5 months. Thank you Lord !

  • Dear body growing old,
    Thank you for all the years of wonderful service. Thank you for showing me thru all of the new challenges to keep my life simple and that there is no pride in a garden, only beauty and peace! Thank you for teaching me to listen more and know the we all own the choices we make. Thank you Lord for this time of spirtual growth in your garden that is a wonder every day.

  • Dear Challenging Person,

    Thank you for being a mirror to my own weaknesses and insecurities and for holding that mirror up to our entire team. Thanks for being a reminded that it’s ok to have needs and that all needs aren’t bad. Thanks for making us face hard things from the start instead of pushing them under the rug. Thanks for challenging me as a leader and putting me in a situation where all I can do is depend on God and trust in his divine plan! I appreciate it!

    – Morgan

  • Dear Adorable kitty of mine who has vommited 5 times today (Sat),
    Thank you that you didn’t do this on top of me in bed. Thank you that it came up that end, and not out the other. It reminds me how parenting includes the soft and cuddly as well as the smelly and unpleasant. I love you and am glad you’re mine… Time for some OxiClean, but mostly, I pray that you feel better soon. Thanks for being my companion 🙂

  • Dear Jesus,
    Thank you for the opportunity to go to vocal lessons tonight. You bless me so much, sometimes I feel spoiled. Thank you that you have “plans to prosper me and not to harm me.” – Jer. 29:11

  • When i was marathon training a few years ago we practiced this as we ran mile after mile….thankful i have shoes, thankful i have clean water to drink, thankful my socks are only mildly wet, etc….:) my training partners hated me and loved me all at the same time!

  • Dear Breast Cancer,

    THANK YOU so much for reaching my only sister at 30years of age. I thank you because you have shown me how little I know her as a person. Breast Cancer you have been a catalyst for my family to get to know her and come together. Thank you also that you remind me of God’s Word that NO WEAPON formed will prosper. Thank you that you remind me that if God can heal me, HE is no respect of person and desires that my sister be healed as well. Thank you that you will force my sister to KNOW THE LORD INTIMATELY. Breast Cancer, its a shame you won’t be here long but thanks for what your evil presence has reminded me concerning the holy presence of my FATHER in heaven!


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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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