Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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So Many Reasons to be Grateful

Dannah Gresh: It’s not hard to find advice telling us to be thankful. But Mary Kassian says if you’re a child of God, thankfulness takes on a whole new meaning!

Mary Kassian: Christians ought to be the most grateful people because we have the most to be grateful for . . . and the ultimate object of our gratitude is God.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for November 12, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If your heart were a garden, what kind of flowers or vegetables would be growing? Would it be something pretty and dainty like gentleness, or how about the rich, sweet rose of love? Do you have any gratefulness growing there, or is your heart-garden kind of neglected and full of weeds?

Well, if you’re like me, there’s always room to grow more grateful. Mary Kassian is here to help us do just that. Here’s Dannah Gresh with a further introduction . . . and thank you, Dannah, for covering some of my normal Revive Our Hearts responsibilities for me as I’m caring for my sweet husband, Robert.

Dannah: Our guest is Mary Kassian, and Mary is one of the most brilliant female minds in the Christian world. She’s an award-winning author and international speaker; she’s a distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies at Southern Seminary, hailing from Alberta, Canada. 

Here’s what I love: as bright as she is, she makes truths so accessible and important. Today she’s going to help us with the simple act ofgrowing grateful. Mary, welcome back to the Revive Our Hearts studio!

Mary: Thank you, Dannah, it’s good to be with you. Thanks for that introduction. I am flattered, but let me tell you, if you could have a look at my house right now, you would not think, Oh, she’s such a great, brilliant woman! There’s so much clutter!

I’m actually working on another book right now and I am in the final push, and so everything is . . .

Dannah: . . . about the book.

Mary: Yes! About all I’m doing right now is writing, so there’s a lot of clutter around. But it actually ties into our topic today. 

Dannah: Tell me how.

Mary: I was watching this TV show about how to clear clutter from your life and from your home, and I was kind of into it. It showed how to roll up the socks properly and how to stack your clothing vertically instead of horizontally (so it gets all messed up).

Dannah: I think I know what show you’re talking about, because I was so into it. And most importantly, it instructs you how to throw things away . . . because that’s part of the problem, right?

Mary: Exactly, because you just hang onto things instead of getting rid of them when you don’t need them anymore. But here’s the odd thing that really struck me. As I was watching that show. “Get rid of the clutter,” but then before you throw it out, there was this little ritual that you were supposed to go through.

You were supposed to give thanks to the object—like give thanks to the clothing: “Oh, thank you, piece of clothing . . .”

Dannah: “Thank you T-shirt . . .”

Mary: “Thank you holey socks (not holy, but socks full of holes).” But it was confusing to me, because the “thank you” didn’t have an object. Okay, what exactly were you thanking? Were you thanking the T-shirt? Were you thanking the people who made it? Were you thanking the “decluttering gods?” Like, there was just no object to the thank you.

Dannah: Well, I think the object was the T-shirt. I tell you, I was so into that show that I have drawers to prove it. I was into it until I saw that episode. Then I was like, “This is just a little strange for me.” Why was it? What was the discernment going off in my spirit? What was that, Mary?

Mary: Well, yesterday we talked about the fact that Christian gratitude has a far different texture to it than the type of gratitude that the world peddles. For the Christian, gratitude is always linked to Someone; gratitude is always linked to God, who is the Giver of good things.

We talked about James 1:17 yesterday how that every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.

Dannah: I love that verse; it’s one of my favorites. It reminds me that whether it is my socks (with holes in them!) or whether it is a T-shirt which I have worn out because it just fit me so well and was so comfy, I can be thankful to God as the ultimate Provider of those things.

Mary: Exactly! We can declutter our homes, and we can say, “God, thank You so much for taking such good care of me that I even am able to choose among possessions and throw some out. You have blessed me so richly! You provide my every need.

If our thanks and gratitude are aimed toward the Lord, then we’re aiming it toward the right place. Ephesians 5:20: “Giving thanks always for everything . . .” Even for our T-shirts, even for the socks that we wore out, “Giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (CSB)

You know, that’s a powerful statement: “Give thanks always for everything!” That’s pretty all-encompassing, isn’t it?

Dannah: Right. Immediately I think about when my house is cluttered and I’m feeling a looming pressure or deadline—like you are right no—gratitude doesn’t come quite as easily in those times. And that’s not even a hard trial; that’s just a messy house, right?

Mary: That’s just a messy house or pressures or anxieties. You know, if your kids have so many different activities so that you’re running out, shuffling them to sports, and you barely have enough time to feed them, or you’re feeding them in the back of the van as you drive to the next appointment . . .

We spin around in our lives and we’re anxious and stressed. And yet, Ephesians 5:20 gives us this amazing charge to give thanks always for everything. And not just to give thanks, but to give thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Dannah: As you’re saying that, Mary, what’s unfolding in my mind is that when I face an epic, horrific trial or tribulation, I don’t find it that difficult to be grateful and to direct my thoughts and my heart to God. It is those smaller mini-trials—let’s call them—the messy house, the noisy kids, going into the Thanksgiving season and the Christmas season—it’s like a part-time job for a woman to host all of the gatherings. Those are the things that very quickly will quiet my gratitude. Do you identify with that?

Mary: I certainly do identify with that. It’s that constant stress in your mind . . . the clutter! We were talking about clutter in our houses, and I know when my house gets cluttered, I start feeling anxiety. It’s the clutter in our minds and in our hearts at times that stresses us out and causes us to lose sight of gratitude and lose sight of that “giving thanks always for everything” kind of attitude. 

The Bible places such a huge emphasis on gratitude, Dannah. There are more than 2,000 verses in the Bible that encourage us to be grateful. Now that’s a lot of verses!

Dannah: And you know what, my immediate thought is, “Yeah, I guess we’re not the first ones to struggle with it. God wanted to get this message across!” Right?

Mary: Absolutely! You see, for the Christian, gratitude is a Spirit-filled discipline. As Nancy said—we had a great quote yesterday—”gratitude is a lifestyle, a hard-fought, grace-infused biblical lifestyle,” and so that’s why there are over 2,000 verses.

The verses are things like, “Praise the Lord.” “Give thanks to the Lord.” “Bless the Lord,” and giving gratitude. But it’s not just giving gratitude or having an attitude of gratitude instead of having a grumbling attitude. It’s directing that gratitude to God in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks always for everything.

Dannah: Okay, so help me get through this holiday season more grateful than I have ever been. What do I need to know?

Mary: Well, I think the thing that you need to do is think of it as a discipline. When you’re trying to reach some sort of goal, you keep that goal in mind, and maybe you write it down. Maybe you do what Nancy and Robert are doing through his cancer journey. You write out the things that you’re grateful to God for and put it on a sticky note and have a “gratitude wall.” Or put it around the doorway of your home, or perhaps plan to have a time during your Thanksgiving celebration where you just focus on giving thanks always for everything to God and directing that gratitude toward God.

Dannah: Actually, Mary, I think we have a video of Nancy giving us a tour of that gratitude wall. It’s on the ReviveOurHearts.com webpage today. 

Well, you bring an interesting word there: “thanks.” Is that the same as gratitude? What’s the difference between praising God, giving thanks and maybe even blessing God?

Mary: Well, all of those three really are used in Scripture. Praise really focuses on God’s character and nature. It expresses gratitude and awe for who He is. When we’re praising God, we are saying, “God, you are (that) and You are (this).” 

“You are so generous to us, God. You are so helpful. You are our peace, You are our comfort.” So that’s praise: we’re focusing on God’s character, who He is. 

Giving thanks overlaps that, but it’s a little bit different, because when we give thanks, we focus on God’s gifts and the benefits He gives us.

Instead of just talking about His character and praising Him for who He is, we express gratitude for what He does. So, “Thank You, God, that You provided this for me. Thank You for answering this prayer. Thank You for providing safety. Thank You for my family. Thank You that You are helping me through this trial.” Giving thanks is gratitude for what God does.

Then there is that other word we don’t really understand that word a lot at times . . . and that is to bless God. Now, to bless is to make someone happy. But to bless God, we make Him happy when we thank and praise Him with the right attitude—that’s with an attitude of reverence, when we recognize that He is God and we are not.

That is our biggest reason to have gratitude and not to have an attitude of being grumbly, is that He is Sovereign. He is God. He is in control. Throughout history, we’ve been told to bless Him and to direct our praise toward Him.

Dannah: So, in other words, praise and thanks are really forms of gratitude.

Mary: They are, yes. And actually, when you’re in church and you say “hallelujah,” that’s actually also expressing gratitude. It’s a really interesting word, hallelujah. You might not know what it means. That word, “hallelujah,” is actually an English transliteration of a Hebrew phrase.

The first part, “hallelu,” means “praise ye,” and the final syllable, “jah,” is a shortened version of God’s Name, Jahweh. And so it means, “praise ye the Lord; praise God; praise God, have gratitude toward the Lord for who He is.” That’s actually what hallelujah means.

The word is so fascinating. Originally, it was a call to worship. It was a command where the priests would go, “Okay, it’s time to give thanks to God, people. It’s time to come to worship and to praise God.” The priests used that to open up their service and then to close this liturgical reading. You see in the book of Psalms, where hallelujah often will open up a psalm or close it.

Dannah: It makes me want to use that word. I feel like we’ve lost it in many of our denominations; we have lost the beauty of that word, and therefore the use of it. But it seems like it might be a pretty significant one for us to reclaim.

Mary: It’s a huge, significant word! You know, in the New Testament times they often called out, “Hallelujah!” as a spontaneous cry of gratitude, of praise and thanksgiving toward God. In the book of Revelation (here’s where it gets really interesting) it shows that the angels in heaven are singing out, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” before the throne of God.

So they are actually giving God gratitude and recognizing who He is, praising Him for who He is, on a constant basis. That’s what’s happening in heaven right now!

Dannah: It’s beautiful! I heard somebody recently say that when we come to church, we don’t begin to worship. When we wake up in the morning and open our Bibles or our journals to praise the Lord, we don’t begin to praise, we don’t begin to write our thanks to God. We’re joining what has already been happening all night long before the throne of God. We are ushered into something that is not only global, but otherworldly and supernatural.

Mary: It’s supernatural, and it’s happening constantly. I think that’s one of the reasons that the Bible instructs us to put gratitude into our lives, to work gratitude into our systems as an ongoing lifestyle, because that’s what’s happening in heaven. That’s the lifestyle, in a sense, of the angels in heaven, of the heavenly host. They have this lifestyle of recognizing the greatness and the goodness of God!

That’s actually what gratitude boils down to, and that’s where it is so different than just a secular idea. Gratitude is a Christian discipline where we recognize the glory of God.

Dannah: Yes, it’s directed at Him. I noticed that your book Growing Grateful, this book of 101 meditations, which, by the way, is phenomenal . . . It’s kind of like having training wheels on, in terms of just starting your day out, with the inability to fall over in grumpiness or grumbling. It just kind of forces you to have the language of heaven on your tongue. 

But one of the things I noticed, Mary, is that almost all the meditations are about God; they’re not about our holey socks (and that is socks with holes in them) that we don’t want to give up, or our T-shirts or our “things.” They’re about God. Why is that?

Mary: Well, I think Christians ought to be the most grateful people because we have the most to be grateful for, and the ultimate object of our gratitude is God and who God is. He’s good. He’s all powerful. He reigns. He’s holy. He’s wise. 

When I look at a sunset . . . I just snapped a picture when my husband and I were driving on the highway the other day. There was just this sunset . . . the sky was crimson, and there was like this spotlight of red in the middle of this gold and yellow sky, and the fields of harvest all were alongside. It was breathtaking! Breathtaking! 

My cry at that moment was not, “Oh, I am so grateful for the scenery.” My cry at the moment was, “I am so grateful, God, that You are so creative! You are an artist. This is spectacular!” Our gratitude is being directed toward Him. And oh, He’s happy, He’s merciful. There are so many things about God that are spectacular and that we can be grateful for.

Dannah: You know what word is rising up in my heart that I feel like I need to say? Hallelujah!

Mary: Hallelujah!

Dannah: As you were saying that, I just felt it in me, like I wanted it to come out. I think there have been times in my life when I would hear a conversation like this and tune out, like, “Those kooky women! What . . .?”

And what I have learned is that the more I’m in the Word and the more I’m in the presence of other women like you who speak the language of gratitude—the language of praise, the language of thanks—the more it makes sense to me, and the more it naturally pops out of me.

I love gardening. I have dahlias and gladiolas and roses. I marvel every year to just grow something new that I’ve never grown before. And when it blooms, I burst into praise! It’s a miracle to me every time!

I don’t think I was always like that, but I direct my thanks to God: “Lord, thank You for that beautiful Dinnerplate Dahlia that is brightening my day. What a wonderful God You are! You must have been feeling very cheerful when You made that bright yellow color.” You know, that’s how I talk when I’m walking through my flowerbeds. And that would, I guess, sound a little crazy to some people.

Mary: Well, that Christian perception on gratitude is so much different, because the Word of God moves gratitude away from a me-centered focus to a God-centered focus. It’s not just, “Oh, I’m happy about this because this serves me, this is about me, this is about my happiness, my joy, about me feeling comfortable, about me being in a place where I’m feeling it. I’m feeling good.” 

This is more gratitude for who God is, what God does. It’s about Him. A lifestyle of gratitude involves the discipline of meditating on the attributes of God, and giving Him thanks and praise

And you know what, Dannah, just the fact that you look at your flowers and the flowers evoke praise to God, and I look at the sunset while I’m driving and that evokes, stirs up in my spirit, this praise and this adoration of the God who is so creative; that just shows that the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts and in our lives, because that is a mark. 

Directing the praise to God and all of creation speaking His name and calling out to us through the beauty and through what’s going on and pointing us towards God . . . that’s why He created those things!

Dannah: Yes. So, of these attributes you just listed—good, all-powerful, reigning, holy, wise, creative—you’re really landing on this whole idea of God being creative. But that was a few days ago—or awhile ago—that you saw that. What are you feeling grateful for today, Mary?

Mary: You know with this whole year of 2020 just being so tied up with all the stress and all the worries of COVID and all of the conflict that’s going on, I am really grateful that God reigns! I know that our friend, Nancy, always texts . . . When we’re texting back and forth, she’ll tell us about something very difficult, and then she’ll finish her text with, “Heaven rules!”

Dannah: Heaven rules!

Mary: “Heaven rules!” How many times have we heard that, Dannah, from Nancy?

Dannah: Over and over! Yes.

Mary: Over and over . . . that God reigns! This hasn’t taken Him by surprise. He’s in control, and when our world seems out of control, He is in control. I am so grateful for that, because it would be easy to feel overwhelmed and out of control with all the circumstances that are going on. But God reigns! We can be so grateful that He is still on the throne!

Dannah: I don’t know if this is a character quality of God; I think it is, because it’s a name of God: Emmanuel. I’ve been so grateful that in the middle of this crazy year. God is with me; God is with us; He is here; He is in the midst of it.

I think about the fiery furnace of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Seeing in that fiery trial, King Nebuchadnezzar looked and saw Jesus was there in the flames with them! He’s with you in this hard year! We can be grateful for that alone.

Mary: Absolutely. I’m grateful that God is my Helper! I can’t tell you the number of times each day—especially right now as I’m struggling with the end of a writing deadline . . . I’m just going, “Oh, God! I need Your help! I need Your wisdom. I need You to give me words. I need You to untie my tongue so I can speak in a way that honors You and actually tells Your story in a way that does it justice. O Father, please be my Helper, and I’m so grateful that You help me in all things!” When we make that discipline of gratitude and focusing on God, it changes us, doesn’t it?

Dannah: It sure does! 

If your heart is being stirred by this conversation, as I know mine has been, you’re going to want a copy of Mary Kassian’s newest book Growing Grateful: Live Happy, Peaceful, and Contented.

It’s a collection of 101 meditations that will help you celebrate, with praise and thanksgiving, the qualities of God. We’d love to send you a copy as our way of saying “thank you” when you make a gift of any amount to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

You can do that by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com, or calling us at 1–800–569–5959. When you make your donation, be sure to ask for a copy of Mary Kassian’s new book Growing Grateful. Mary, tomorrow you are going to help us “get our grateful on.” What can we expect? 

Mary: Get our grateful socks on . . . Well, tomorrow we are actually going to be talking about how we choose to be grateful, even when life is hard. That is the most difficult thing of all—choosing to have gratitude in those tough times.

Dannah: We certainly need that conversation this year! Please be back for Revive Our Hearts. 

Hoping to inspire more “hallelujahs” in your life, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Guest

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian is an award-winning author, an internationally-renowned speaker, and a frequent guest on Revive Our Hearts. She has written more than a dozen books and Bible studies, including Conversation Peace, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, and The Right Kind of Strong.

Mary and her husband, Brent, have three sons and six grandchildren and live in Alberta, Canada. The Kassians enjoy biking, hiking, snorkeling, music, board games, mountains, campfires, and their family’s black lab, General Beau.

About the Speaker

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh is the best-selling author, speaker, and founder of True Girl (formerly Secret Keeper Girl), America's most popular Christian tween event. She has authored over 20 books that have …

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