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What The Practice of Gratitude Requires

I have a weird name. Unique, maybe, might be the term for it. Once people finally understand what I’m saying during an introduction, learn how to spell it, and then confirm that it is my first name we’re talking about, we get around to the origin question. After years of people asking me where such an unusual name came from and if it has any meaning attached to it I’ve got the answer down.

My parents wanted less popular names for us since our last name was so common. It doesn’t really have any significance, but it’s Scottish and it means watchful.


And then, around the seven hundredth time giving this spiel, I began to contemplate the possibility of my name having some significance. Not because my parents named me after a hero, or because it was the name of the town they met in. Maybe it was significance they never intended but maybe it was a mark left on me intentionally. Maybe God knew I would need to be reminded again and again of how I am to live.




Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Col. 4:2)


I’ve always wanted to have a full life. To brim over with vivacity. To truly experience the abundant life promised in John 10:10.


I’ve found, however, that without gratitude this is impossible.


Instead of full I am depleted. Instead of brimming over I am dried up. Instead of vivacious I am lethargic. To neglect thankfulness means to neglect all things that lead to abundance. I am left grasping and bitter.


So gratitude. It’s important. We all know that.


But try being thankful without being watchful and you’re bound to fail. Prayers of gratitude will become static, as trite and irrelevant as the childhood sing-song prayers we learned to say before meals. “Thank you Lord for our food, our shelter, our family, our health.” We repeat this daily, calling it gratitude, all the while wondering why we feel so angsty and dissatisfied.


Watchful, be watchful.


With every signing of my name I am reminded again.


Open your eyes. Look around. Notice. Be alert. God is blessing you as we speak.


You try it, this watchfulness thing. What do you see?


Thank you Lord, for the food you’ve given us. For that first sip of coffee that slides down and warms our bellies at the start of each day. For the ability to keep fresh fruit and throw it into our yogurt, our cereal, the blender, to provide our bodies with nutrients. Thank you for the food groups, how each one nourishes us in different ways. Thank you for water and ice that crackles as we drop it in. Thank you for refreshing treats on hot afternoons. Thank you for Bryers mint chocolate chip ice cream – the best taste this side of heaven.


Thank you Lord for our shelter. For the roof that kept us dry during a thunderstorm. For the soft bed and perfect pull out couch that provide resting spots at the end of each day. Thank you for the window that looks out into a lush green backyard and grazing deer. Thank you for the modern conveniences, toilets that flush and showers that pour hot water on my tired body every evening.


Thank you Lord, for our health. For the strength to get out of bed each day. For bodies that fight disease and for medicine that aids in the process. Thank you for legs strong enough to run, arms strong enough to row, lungs strong enough to breath at the top of a mountain.


Thank you Lord, for the people that fill our days. The spouse next to us when we wake up. The siblings a phone call away. The parents that support. The children that throw their arms around us and tell us we are loved. The friends that know our favorite junk food and Starbucks order. The community we walk in and exchange smiles with.


Watchful. Be Watchful.


Don’t let apathy dry up your gratitude.


Open your eyes. Notice the abundance waiting for you at your doorstep. Be alert, be attentive. Be who you were created to be.


Be Watchful.


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