Mark Batterson: It's called Thanksgiving -- To master the art of gratitude, start with this number

The Batterson family has four values: gratitude, humility, generosity and courage. Those values are the cardinal points on our compass, and they are not unrelated. Generosity rises or falls to the level of our gratitude. And gratitude is both an art and a science.

A wide variety of well-substantiated studies have found that gratitude increases patience, decreases depression, replenishes willpower and reduces stress. It doesn’t just lengthen life; it improves the quality of life. And if you want a good night’s sleep, don’t count sheep. Count your blessings!

The science of gratitude is pretty straightforward, but putting it into practice is an art form. Not only is experimenting with new ways of expressing gratitude advisable, but it’s also biblical. Isn’t that what the psalmist advocates? “Sing to the Lord a new song.” God doesn’t just want to be worshipped out of left-brain memory; He wants to be worshipped out of right-brain imagination.

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Finding new words and new ways to worship God is part and parcel of living in wide-eyed wonder. That said, I still haven’t come up with a better way of staying positive than the good old-fashioned gratitude journal.

Lora and I have each kept a gratitude journal for the better part of a decade. My journal is multipurpose. It’s my prayer journal, gratitude journal and dream journal. After all, it’s the answered prayers and fulfilled dreams that translate into gratitude anyway. I’m just getting a head start.

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Several years ago, Lora and I were inspired by Ann Voskamp’s wonderful book “One Thousand Gifts.” We decided to start numbering our gratitudes every year with the goal of hitting a thousand. I usually fall short of a thousand, but I end up with a lot more than I would have otherwise!

Numbering our gratitudes may be the most practical way to count our blessings, naming them one by one. But it’s more than just a best practice; it’s the baseline of obedience.

The apostle Paul said, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.” That’s easier said than done, but jotting down what I’m grateful for every day is like a gratitude alarm reminding me that His mercies are new every single morning.

Why is it so important to keep a gratitude journal? It’s the way we take inventory of the blessings of God. Then, and only then, are we able to flip those blessings and pass them on to others.

Do you remember the 10 lepers that Jesus healed? All 10 were healed of leprosy, but only one of them was healed of a much worse ailment — ingratitude.

“One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, ‘Praise God!’ He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.” (Mark 8:22-25)

Gratitude is a pilgrimage back to the foot of the cross. It’s giving thanks and giving glory to God.

Flipping the blessing is giving unto others as God has given unto us, but radical generosity starts with profound gratitude for every good and perfect gift.

Let me double back to the gratitude challenge and give you a few guardrails.

First, buy a journal. I like unlined journals because I can doodle, but you choose what works for you.

Second, write down three gratitudes every day. Why three? Because one or two is too easy! And you may not be ready to identify a hundred blessings every day just yet!

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Third, do it for 40 consecutive days. There is nothing magical about 40 days, but there is something biblical about it. Plus, it’s long enough to establish a gratitude habit. The goal isn’t 40 days of gratitude; it’s a double-blessing mindset that lasts a lifetime.

Fourth, recruit a friend to do it with you. Taking the challenge with someone you love will make it far more meaningful, and it will also keep you accountable.

Why is it so important to keep a gratitude journal? It’s the way we take inventory of the blessings of God. Then, and only then, are we able to flip those blessings and pass them on to others. But let me push the envelope even a little further.

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Most of us are good at praising God for the big things, but we fail to praise God for the little things. And we’re good at praising God after the fact, but not a second before.

Gratitude is thanking God after He does it, and that’s great. But faith is next-level gratitude. Faith is thanking God before He does it. It’s prophesying your praise!

Excerpted from “Double Blessing: How to Get It. How to Give It.” Copyright © 2019 by Mark Batterson. Used by permission of Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House. 

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