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Dave Dealy: Gratitude, Psalm 23:1-6

November 29, 2023

Audio Recording

The life rhythm of gratitude has beautiful benefits in the life of the believer. Pastor Dave proposes four ways we can grow in gratitude: seeing, cultivating, connecting, and remembering.

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Dave Dealy: Gratitude, Psalm 23:1-6
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Sermon Transcript:

You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

There was a man sitting on a beach at the end of a beautiful day.

The sun was setting and the water was warm and the air was warm and salty and he was praying a prayer of gratitude as he had his fishing rod shoved in the sand next to him. Out in the break, as he soaked up this moment, another man came walking by, a bit disheveled and walking way too fast for a walk on the beach.

And the busy man stopped, and he looked at the man sitting, and he said, what are you doing?

And the content man said, I'm fishing.

And the busy man said, you know, if you saved up enough of your fish each month and do you own your home? Because you could take out a home equity loan, you know what you could do? You could buy a boat and catch way more fish.

And the man considered this, and he said to the busy man, and then what would be my reward?

And the man chuckled at the innocence of the content man. He said, well, don't you get it? So you take the loan out, you buy a boat, then you save up, you start hiring a crew, and then maybe you have like three, four, you could have a whole fleet of boats.

And the content man considered this, and he said, and then what would be my reward?

And now the busy man rolled his eyes because he was annoyed. And he said, don't you get it? You got enough people working for you. Get enough boats out in the ocean, you have enough money. You can do whatever you want.

And the content man smiled and he said, sir, I live this reward every day. And as we begin to unpack a little bit today of how we cultivate not just an idea of gratitude, but a life practice, I would ask you, which life do you want?

Which life do you choose?

We started this whole series with a wonderful quote that I love that Pastor Evan brought in the very first week. It said, whatever life you're living right now is completely structured for the outcome you're getting.

Whatever life you're living right now, the condition of your life and your heart and your busyness and your stress and your angst, or your contentment and your grace and your kindness. However you have structured your life right now, you are living in the perfect design for that outcome, which means you get to choose. The science around gratitude is off the charts. It has so many health benefits.

It has so many health benefits. It is great for your mental health.

It can completely affect depression and anxiety in massive ways. Cultivating a life of gratitude, it's really good for your physical body and your sleep and your rest. When you practice gratitude, it's awesome for your relationships and growing and building your connectedness by practicing gratitude. It has all these different ways that science has shown us have real, real good outcomes, tangible outcomes.

Some scientists refer to this as a perspective of headwinds shifting to a perspective of tailwinds. Now, we all have headwinds in life. Headwinds are the barriers between where you are and what you want and where you're going and the hardship and the challenges that come at us. And we are a culture that really celebrates taking on the headwinds, right? We celebrate the underdog who starts with nothing and builds a big business or becomes famous or builds a platform and we kind of idolize these people and say, that's the good life right there.

But we have to recognize and hopefully as we become more aware and open our eyes and our hearts we begin to see that this cultivates a certain kind of person. And I think of Michael Jordan when I think about this. Did anybody watch The Last Dance? Watched it during COVID It's a series that Michael Jordan produced to tell a story about himself which that kind of tells you the whole story right there.

But it's a story of where Michael Jordan started all the hardship, all the challenges of going to a franchise that was terrible and making it this global brand, him becoming a global brand. All these amazing things that we celebrate. But there's something that I noticed in this and that was at the end of the story, the kind of person that Michael Jordan became is not someone I would want to be around at all.

He was addicted to gambling. Like he needed the rush. He needed something else. His family completely fell apart.

Did not have close relationships. Was just all ego, all gas, no breaks.

And that is a life cultivated to see everything as a headwind, everything as he would make things up that other people didn't say trash talk, but he'd think they said it or he would tell the media they said it so he could be angry enough to go play this person later and destroy them. This was what he was. He was cultivating this way of being. Science calls this a perspective of headwinds. But they say we can change this. We can change this. And we can begin to see all of the tailwinds in life. The winds behind us that move us forward, that help us overcome that give us a perspective of the gifts we're given that we don't earn.

And it actually helps us become different kinds of people. And this is good not only for us in our individual life, this is great for us collectively.

This is great for us collectively. One of the scientists I read said that feeling gratitude, the emotion of gratitude is really only half the equation.

Expressing gratitude is equally as important to reap the benefits of the emotion of gratitude.

Multiple studies have shown that expressing gratitude to acquaintances, coworkers friends, romantic partners can offer a relationship boost and helps bind us more closely together.

Isn't that amazing?

Just the act of expressing gratitude can bind us closer together and boost a relationship.

Would you look for places in your life with your neighbor, your waitress, the person you cross on the street, who makes eye contact and smiles? Go ahead and say, how you doing today? Give it a little something. Just little acts of expressing the gratitude we experience will not only change your experience, it'll change the person that you express gratitude with.

It's really good for all of us. So today, as we lean into this idea of cultivating a life of gratitude, I want to give you four steps, four ideas around ways that we grow gratitude in our life. Here we go. First, seeing.

Second, cultivating.

Third, connecting.

And fourth remembering.

Seeing, cultivating. Connecting. Remembering.

First step seeing.

I want to contend with you today that we live in a wondrous world and there is beauty and goodness packed in all around us. But we have to see it.

We have to train ourselves to see it.

To tell us more about this and look at someone in the Bible who experienced this, if you have a Bible, turn to Exodus, chapter three.

This is the story of Moses.

And I have heard this story so many times growing up, and I thought of it in a certain way. But as I've gone through this process of leaning into seeing wonder in the world as a gateway to gratitude, I see this story differently. It's Moses. Chapter three, verse one to four.

It says, now, Moses was tending the flocks of Jethro, his father in law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to horeb the mountain of God.

There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.

Moses saw that the bush was on fire, and it did not burn up.

So Moses thought, I will go over and see this strange sight why the bush does not burn up.

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to take a look, will you underline that if you have a Bible or mark it in your brain?

Verse four. When the Lord saw that he had gone over to take a look, god called to him from within the bush. Moses. Moses. And Moses said, here I am.

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to take a look, God called him. Another translation. I read that. I love the way it puts. It says, when God saw that Moses saw, he called him by name.

When God saw that Moses saw, he called him by name. Now, I had heard this story all growing up, of course, and I read this story as kind of a flag that God was waving, like, over here. Hey, come I got a job for you. I got something I need you to do. So let's talk. That's the way I heard the story, but I'm beginning to think of it in a different way.

What if Moses, in this life of shepherding, this life in the wilderness, this life of quiet, had cultivated in himself eyes to see God crammed into all of life's goodness around him? What if it was the fact that his heart was ready to see, that he noticed the bush?

What if there's burning bushes all over the place?

Poet Elizabeth Barrett Barton puts it this way this had a real impression on me. I hope it does for you. She puts it this way she said, earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush a fire with God.

But only he who sees takes off his shoes.

The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

I love that the earth is crammed with heaven. It's everywhere. It's in this room. It's going to be when you walk outside. It's going to be in the leaves and the rain and the smell.

It's crammed in there.

But only he who sees considers this holy ground to take your shoes off and be present.

The rest of us pick blackberries.

Do you believe earth is crammed with heaven?

As we talk about creating this practice and idea of gratitude, starting with what you see all around you, what do you believe about it?

If you're here today and you don't you don't believe that heaven is crammed in to earth, that's okay. It's okay.

I would just ask you, could you believe? Is it a possibility that you're open to?

That might be the first step of embracing wonder in this world is just a possibility that there is a Creator Master Planner who has his eyes on you and loves you and delights in you and that the good things you smell and that you taste and that you see and you experience are a love note to you.

They're just crammed in everywhere? Is that even possible? Would you be open to that?

If you're here today and you do believe that earth is crammed with heaven, how are you letting yourself smell it and taste it and see it?

My case to you this morning is the small act of letting yourself be in wonder with the fascinating world all around us that is a gateway to gratitude.

It opens up the possibility of gratitude. The opposite, of course, is living in a headwinds world. Everything is a thing to conquer. Every day you wake up is a grind.

Every conversation is a debate. And that, unfortunately, is so much of what we live in right now. It is so cultivated in us. So you have to create an act of resistance.

You have to choose it. It will not be chosen for you. You have to decide, what kind of person will I be in this life? What life am I cultivating. Here's a few little tips for seeing wonder in the world. The first is and there's so many. There's so many. This is not an exhaustive list, but a few first step in seeing wonder. Recapture your beginner's brain. Recapture when you were first learning something, the joy and the excitement of that thing. When my girls were little, I have three girls who are older now, but when they were little, we would take them to a magical place called the Discovery Museum.

The Discovery Museum. They don't make these for adults. It's sad. At the Discovery Museum, when you walk in with your kids, they are set free and everything is on limits. Not out of limits, not off limits. It's on limits. You go, you touch everything, you play with everything. You try things on, you paint things, you make a mess of things. You go for it.

And I would just watch my girls, and so they had a dress up room and like hundreds of outfits, firefighters and doctors and all these different and they would just try all these things on for no purpose, zero purpose, just the fun of doing it and pretending. And then they had driven in a 1960s VW Beetle and parked it in the middle of the museum, and kids could come up and paint it whatever color they wanted. It was disgusting. I mean, it was like gray, basically, because it was all the colors just smashed together and it was awesome. And then they had a miniature grocery store, and it had miniature carts and had miniature shelves and had miniature cans of soup and a miniature register, and it was so fun. And our kids just, like, loved being in this place.

It fostered a beginner's brain of wonder and curiosity, and everything was on limit. Go for it for maybe as we get older, these for me are art museums.

Like, where can I go? Where I'm going to see something different that's going to challenge the way I think about an idea or a picture that's going to be curiosity stoking. Look for places like that. So capture the beginner's brain.

One, gift of seeing the world in wonder. Second, examine the lens through which we see the world.

Most of our culture, most of our media, most of the noise in our world is telling you, be afraid, be angry. Everything's a threat. Everyone's a threat. And you should be outraged. You should be outraged.

And whether you sit all the time in that or not, it is just around us constantly, and it's volumes going up, right? So we have to choose something different. Is life a threat or is life a gift? Is it a threat or is it a gift? I would contend to you, regardless of your situation, regardless of how you walked in this morning and what's going on in your life, there are gifts for you today.

Gifts.

Go hunting. Hunt for the gifts.

Go look for them. Go dig them up, have eyes to see them. And when you see them move towards them, you have to choose it. It won't be chosen for you.

You have to cultivate a life to look for it. What is the lens through which you see life? Is it a threat? Or is it a gift? And finally, one other tip for creating wonder.

Create something.

We believe that in Scripture it says that you and I were made in the image of the great Creator, and that our bodies and our voices and the things in this world are all this expression of a great Creator, intricate creator. I love the fact that Jesus was a carpenter far longer than he was a preacher. He spent most of his life working with his hands, working with wood, and taking mangled broken, messy logs and forming them into something beautiful.

He does that with us, too.

Create something. Music, paint, bake. You were made to create. And I can hear the voice in your head. I'm not artistic.

Who cares? No one's asking you to be an artist. You don't have to sell it. You don't have to post it. You don't have to put it in a gallery. Make because you were made to make. You are made to create things. This is what humans do. Let your eyes be open to wonder as you begin to create stuff. Okay, I got to move. Seeing the world in wonder.

First step of cultivating gratitude. The next, cultivating gratitude. Like a garden.

See the world for wonder. And then get your hands dirty. Get in the ground.

Cultivate. It takes work. Like I said, this is not given to you. You have to choose a life. Seeing and expressing and living in to gratitude. The beautiful thing about gardens is they are everywhere. No matter what city you go to on this planet. If you go to Hong Kong, if you go to London, if you go to Buenos Aires, if you go to La, there's a garden. Because this is what humans do. We make gardens because we like beautiful things. Gardens serve no purpose.

This isn't a farm where we make food. All it is is living art.

That's it.

And to cultivate a garden, you have to get your hands dirty. So soil may be hard, and that might be our heart. We might be conditioned right now into a place where the ground is hard.

Get dirty, start breaking up the ground. Do this by practicing gratitude. I do this in a little gratitude journal I have, and it takes five minutes.

And each day I write one sentence for each one of these ideas. What is true, what is good, what is beautiful? From where I sit in that moment. What is true, what is good, what is beautiful? That is an act of cultivation. It is breaking up the ground. Whether I've just fought with my kids or money's tight or whatever, the circumstance might be. This is my act of cultivation, breaking up the ground. What is good, what is true, what is beautiful, cultivate it. And then as you cultivate the ground, you drop seeds in it. And these are just the little gifts that you start to as you open your eyes to see the wonder of the world, you drop the seeds into the open, soft ground and you let them sit there, and you do it over and over and over. Remind yourself of the tailwinds that you have. Gifts that you have not earned, you've just been given.

Put them in the ground of your heart. And then it takes time. This is the hardest part. It takes time and patience to change this. Gardens aren't built in a day. My wife and I, beginning of 2023, we took a trip down to the little town we had lived in when we had all of our kids. It's a little town called Camarillo. It's just south of Santa Barbara in California. And we were living in below market rate housing because we were so poor. That's the only way we got this little kind of townhouse that was so small, and it just had a garden about the size of this table. And we were like, we're going to build and we're going to make a garden. And we put fruit trees in the ground. It's obviously a little bigger than this table. Put fruit trees in the ground and some flowers and things. And when we went down to Camarillo in January of this year, let's go back by the house, and we went. It's been a decade, more than a decade, and I could cry right now because it was so we saw all the fruit trees we had planted, and they were beautiful and full, and they made that place look amazing. And we were trespassing, so we couldn't stay long.

We literally walked on the side and looked over the fence, and it was beautiful. The time had grown. The thing we'd cultivated and planted, your heart will do that. Your heart will do that as you practice, as you do a little bit every day.

Third thing connecting.

So seeing the world in wonder cultivating a life of gratitude like a garden.

Third, connecting body and soul. We don't talk about this a lot in the church, that our bodies matter. Our bodies matter. When God decided to show himself to you, he didn't come in thunder and lightning. He didn't put a big advertisement in the sky. He didn't light everything on fire.

He came as a baby.

We're about to celebrate this a lot, so get used to this idea. This little baby the most vulnerable creature in all the earth. A human baby can't do anything, can't feed itself, it can't walk. It's basically useless for nine months.

That's the way God shows up in a body that needed to be cultivated, that need to be cared for. Our bodies matter. And they matter not only in the good times where we're playing and we're touching and we're kissing and we're holding hands, and all those things are beautiful and wonderful.

Connecting our body with our soul matters in the dark times, too.

A pastor I heard told this story. His wife had cancer, and they had gone through chemo and thought they came out the other side and the cancer returned. And he was living in this hell of a rhythm that was going to the treatment center every week for chemotherapy. Every week they sat there, and it was awful.

And he decided to create an act of resistance to this headwind. And he would go down to the cafeteria when his wife was resting, go down to the hospital cafeteria, and he ordered the same slice of chocolate cake every week.

But he didn't just sit there and smash it into his face. He sat at that table and he smelled the chocolate cake.

And he took, like, a little bite and let it sit on his tongue and notice just the texture and squishiness of it and the way it felt good to taste something like this. And he said, this is good.

When I tell you that these things are all around us, the things we see, that we hear, that we taste, that we touch, connecting our body to our soul. And these little acts of resistance are a gateway to gratitude. He could sit there in that moment with that silly piece of chocolate cake in a hospital cafeteria and have gratitude in the worst of times. And it was his act of resistance. It was beautiful.

Finally seeing the world in wonder. Cultivating gratitude like a garden connecting our body and our soul. Finally, a step of cultivating gratitude is remembering.

Remembering memory is both a two edged sword.

It's wonderful and it's tragic, and it's unique to our human experience.

We are creatures capable of remembering, and oftentimes we remember the worst of things, and we hold on to those and we relive them. And that's okay. That's part of our human experience. But it's not the only thing.

Remembering is also a practice of fostering gratitude. Noel and I have a faith journal that we have written down throughout our life in different seasons. And it is reminders of what God has been faithful to do and say in our life in all different seasons. And it's our little practice of memory, of remembering. The good God knows this about us, that we forget easily and we move on. That so many times we contend and we fight and we lean in and we pray for something. And then when that thing is accomplished two weeks later, it's as if that thing never happened. We've already gone on to the next headwind.

Cultivating a practice of remembering can lead us to gratitude. God does this multiple times in scripture. One of them is with Moses, who we read about at the beginning here. And when he brought Israel and Moses across the Red Sea to deliverance out of slavery, out of oppression, into a new life he was creating for them, he said, I want you to build an Ebenezer. Anybody know what an Ebenezer is?

It's a little structure, it's a little memorial. It's a little remembering symbol.

And he said, build this ebenezer. Go. You will remember who I am and what I've done. And then tell it to your kids. And then tell it to your kids kids. And tell it down through generations who I am. Remember.

Remember.

And then Jesus gives us this beautiful practice of remembering in Communion.