Roots and Shoots – The Powerful Link Between Faith and Gratitude

What’s Faith Got to Do With It?

Is there a connection between our faith and gratitude?

What does faith have to do with our ability to be grateful?

Most of us understand that gratitude is a choice.

Dr. Viktor Frankl says, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Our circumstances don’t dictate our attitude; we do.

Our attitude, in turn, has the ability to propel us out of our circumstances.

Root and Shoots - The Powerful Link Between Faith and GratitudeHal Urban quotes a study in his book, Life’s Greatest Lessons, which concluded that up to 85% of our success in life is due to attitude, and ability only makes up the remaining 15% (p. 40, Life’s Greatest Lessons).

That is both a sobering statistic and an encouraging one. Sobering, because it puts the responsibility squarely in our court. Encouraging, for the same reason.

You’ve surely heard the old axiom, “attitude determines altitude”.

What then, is the basis of a positive attitude? What enables us to live each day with grateful hearts?

Faith is the Root; Attitude the Shoot

I believe a great attitude and a truly thankful heart are the outgrowths of the root of faith.

Sure, we can go about it another way, and read lots of books on positive thinking.

We can try to patch up our bad attitudes and give ourselves a 30-day thankfulness challenge.

Or we can look below the soil and see why our lives are producing what they are.

Our basic, bedrock level beliefs are the roots of the shoots that spring up in our daily lives.

If the shoots need to improve, we need to check the health of the root.

Very much like in math, where one small miscalculation takes the equation on an entirely different trajectory to the wrong Root and Shoots - The Powerful Link Between Faith and Gratitudedestination. The trajectory of our lives will take us where our root beliefs determine, whether or not we admit those beliefs to ourselves or others.

A healthy root of faith that God is, that He is good, that He loves us, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him will produce shoots of trust and gratitude (which will be seen in our attitude).

A root that has been (and here my garden knowledge becomes thin and spotty) attacked by grub worms and eaten through will produce very different growth…poor, stunted, and withered.

The root of our faith will always determine the health of our attitude.

Do I truly believe that my steps are ordered by God, that I am here to serve Him and to allow my life to bring Him glory? Or do I believe He is untrustworthy, doesn’t have my best interest at heart, has “done me wrong” and owes me better?

Those beliefs, even if we don’t consciously admit them to ourselves, are the basis for our attitudes and actions. The root determines the fruit.

Does a healthy, solid root of faith ensure a carefree life? No, it sure doesn’t. We will still have struggles, disappointments, and heartaches like everyone else, but even in the midst, our faith will enable us to see evidence of God’s care. We will be able to look back over the path already traveled and see many reasons to be thankful. Faith will enable us to live in the tension between who God is and what we see what our natural eyes before everything in this world is made right once again.

Root Health Check

If we discover that the root of our faith needs some attention, what can be done?

We can pray, along with the centurion, “I believe! Lord, help my unbelief!”. We can ask Him to remove from us that which blinds us to His goodness and to give us eyes to see Him as He truly is. We can immerse ourselves daily in His life-giving Word and allow the measure of faith He has already given us to grow as it is tended.

Root and Shoots - The Powerful Link Between Faith and GratitudeMy daughter recently planted some herb seeds. She has made several herbal remedies lately and is branching out into cultivating her own plants. If she simply poked the seeds into the dirt and went on with her life, it is highly doubtful that she will have flowers and leaves to harvest later on. The young plants must be carefully tended, watered, placed in the correct amount of sunlight, and kept weed-free. They must be sheltered enough, but not so much that the wind can never reach them, for without adversity neither plant nor human will grow.

Such is our fledgling faith. If we are trying to increase our faith, it must be tended. It needs to be watered daily with God’s Word, given the light of His presence, and the practice of being put to use in real life trials and tribulations so that it will be strengthened and proved real. Everything about our lives can be greatly impacted for the good by a daily choice to be grateful and have a great attitude, and our choice to have a great attitude is given wings to fly by the faith that grounds it.

What choice will you make today?

Happy Thanksgiving from my heart to yours to all the American readers, both here and abroad!  May our hearts be truly thankful.

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey

Why We Need Thanksgiving

Some of you may have seen the turkey meme going around Facebook that says “Back off, Santa! This is my month.”

Sandwiched between the more profitable Halloween and the mega-fest of consumerism, Christmas, Thanksgiving airtime seems to shrink more every year.

I must admit, I agree with the turkey.

For rushed and harried denizens of the postmodern era, a season of thankfulness is a blessed balm to the soul.

The shopping season is pushed on us earlier and earlier each year, it seems, crowding out the solemn pause that should accompany our Thanksgiving feast.

Why We Need ThanksgivingSales and dollar figures blot out images of Pilgrims, sacrifice, and suffering. The crumbs from the last bite of pumpkin pie are barely brushed away before we dash out the door for the madness of pre-sales.

But…isn’t all this just normal?

Why not simply take the path of least resistance and allow ourselves to be swept away by the treacherous current that would rush us past the shores of quiet contemplation? Why not just relax and be carried and jostled along with myriads of other hapless shoppers in the quest for more stuff to cram in our over-stuffed homes?

Because Thanksgiving is more than the day before the Black Friday sales.

Thanksgiving is a way of life, a spirit, and the way to enter into the presence of the Giver of all good gifts.

Thanksgiving is what grounds us in reality and guards us against excessive consumerism.

Without it, we are blind and grope in the dark for things which cannot restore our sight. Thanksgiving is what gives us eyes to see the many profound gifts we daily take for granted.

Legs, with which to get out of bed, and which give me independence, the glory of which I may never fully grasp.Why We Need Thanksgiving

Eyes to see the brilliant sunrise over the horizon, the tousled heads of my sleeping children, and the smiles on the faces of the precious souls I help serve at our church food pantry.

Ears to hear the sound of my husband’s voice praying over our meals, to be filled with strains of music, and the joyful songs of birds.

A sense of smell to savor the aroma of brewing coffee, an apple pie in the oven, bubbling under its flaky crust, and the tang of wood smoke on a crisp, cold night.

A sense of touch to feel the cozy, soft blanket that enfolds like a gentle embrace; to feel the silky lengths of my daughter’s hair, and the safe, honest, work-roughened hand of my husband as he holds mine.

These treasures were given to us – given! Many of us make it all the way through the long days of our lives retaining every one of them.

If we own a Bible, we own an even more valuable treasure – one that many have shed their blood and persevered through desperate danger for us to one day be able to own freely. Many countries today do not offer that freedom.

The freedom to live and worship as we choose, if we have it. Many don’t.

The ability to love, because One considered us worth loving.

These are among the things most precious, and for which we should be most thankful.

Why We Need ThanksgivingWill you accept the challenge to see through the lens of thanksgiving and to verbalize your gratitude? Thanksgiving, by definition, is gratitude expressed – thanks given.

Is there someone today who needs to hear the kindly spoken words that you are thankful for their life? That they matter to you?

Is there a blessing that has gone unnoticed for which you can express heartfelt gratitude today?

My challenge to myself and all of us is, every day for the rest of this month, to choose to express gratitude to those around us and to our Maker.

Then, when the dazzling lights of the Christmas season momentarily blind us, we will still be able to see.

We will enter that season solidly grounded by the preparatory work of feeling and expressing our gratitude and seeing the bounty we already embrace. We will firmly hold to the thread of thanksgiving that will sew the seasons together, uniting our thankful hearts with the coming of the Christ child, and we will then truly experience the joy of both.

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey






P.S. – for great inspirational quotes on gratitude, check out this post:

Simple Life Hack That Will Make Others More Thankful For You

the Life Hack That Brings Light

I love learning simple solutions that are immediately useful and actually make a difference in my daily existence, don’t you?

I recently learned that one can use a stick of uncooked spaghetti to light candles with hard-to-reach wicks. After years of sticking my arm up to the elbow in jar candles and simultaneously burning my fingers while getting covered in soot, I was ecstatic to learn this handy tidbit of information.

Simple Life Hack That Will Make Others More Grateful For YouBeyond revolutionizing the lighting of jar candles, how wonderful would it be to learn a life hack that could bring light and joy to the atmosphere of our homes and workplaces? One that not only can transform the atmosphere around us but inside us as well by increasing feelings of happiness and well-being? Today, I am going to share just such a treasure with you. If applied regularly and sincerely, it will also make others more thankful for you! Sound like a winner? I think so too!

The secret? Well, it’s no secret. It’s something you use already every single day. What will make a difference, however, is eliminating (as much as possible) negative uses and incorporating positive ones. The item in question? Words.

We use them all day, every day. But few of us really take time to think about the impact our words are having. I suspect an even smaller number of people recognize that each time we open our mouths, we make a choice about what emerges. No one’s mouth “runs away with them”, not really. We hold the reins on that pony the whole time, but too often we refuse to use them.

The Power of Words and the Power of choice

Our words can lift, or they can crush. They can bless, or they can curse. They can bring life or they can speak death, but we are the ones who choose how we use them.

Making a conscious choice to use words to lift, bless, and encourage can truly change the atmosphere in our homes and workplaces. If I am feeling super irritated with one of my kids and the downward spiral has begun, I have learned how to turn the situation around. Most of the time. 🙂 Stopping, looking into the eyes of the guilty (or perhaps innocent) party, and affirming something positive about them can completely change both the atmosphere and my current emotional state.Simple Life Hack That Will Make Others More Grateful For You

Consciously use words to affirm the value and good in others and see how things change around you. Examples: “I know we haven’t been getting along the best today, but I want you to know I can’t even imagine life without you, and I’m so thankful every day that God put you in our family” or “I noticed that you took the trash out this morning before I even asked you to do it – I so appreciate the ways I see you turning into a mature, responsible young man – you are a blessing to me”.

If at first, this kind of language sounds foreign to you, and if at first, you get suspicious looks from your family or coworkers, don’t give up! Mastering how we use our words can be the one factor that makes the difference between people running in the other direction when they see us coming, or intentionally seeking us out because we are positive, affirming people others enjoy. The key is to be sincere, not smarmy, and certainly not sarcastic.

The Book I Wish I’d Written

Need a resource to help get you moving down this path? I have The. Most. Incredible. book to share with you!

It would make my short list of books to take to that desert island people always discuss – Positive Words, Powerful Results by Dr. Hal Urban (and thank you, Jan, for recommending it to me years ago!). After reading it, I became so much more aware of what was coming out of my mouth and how much I actually choose to complain – ugh. My kids and I read the book together, and doing that really helped us stay accountable – and without my having to do anything else they, too, were filled with a desire to use words in a more positive way. That right there is worth the price of the book and music to a parent’s ears!

Dr. Hal’s book is filled with real-life stories and examples from his many years as a teacher. We considered the lessons learned in this book (which really just reinforced in a fresh, easy-to-apply way what I already knew from Scripture) to be so important that we keep the book in our everyday reading basket with plans to read it through at least once each year.

November, when our focus naturally shifts to thankfulness, is the perfect month to do it! For me, reading this book and putting its principles into practice helped me to become a more thankful person, and I know my family appreciates the changes, too.

Another great way to stay mindful of the power of our words is to commit verses like these to memory:

“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Pr 15:4, NIV


“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Pr 18:21, NIV


“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Pr 12:18, NIV


“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Pr 16:24, NIV

Be Someone Others Are Thankful For

  • I want to be master over my words, not let my words master me and keep others and myself from a joyful and victorious life.
  • I want my words to bring life, healing, blessing, and encouragement to others.
  • I want to be an example to my children of the way God wants us to use words.
  • I want to be someone who makes a positive impact on others and makes them feel better for having been with me.

I think it’s time to refresh those Scriptures in my memory, grab my copy of Positive Words, Powerful Results, and spend some time absorbing the wisdom of both.

Simple Life Hack That Will Make Others More Grateful For YouDear friend, what about you? Do you want to commit this Thanksgiving month to use your words to be a blessing to others? The benefits will bless you in return!

Harnessing our words – simple, though not always easy.  But the results, I think you’ll agree, are so worth the effort it takes to achieve them.



With gratitude,

The Beautiful Journey











Here is Dr. Hal Urban’s website for those who would like to read more about him and his books!

If You Don’t Like What You See, Then Change What You Look For!

We Will Find What We Look For…Is What We’re Looking For Worth Finding?

Nothing seemed to be going well, and my attitude matched the glowering sky, darkened by clouds that threatened an imminent deluge.

One negative thought flowed seamlessly into another, and some remote corner of my brain was slightly surprised at how many things there were about which to be grumpy.  Fretting over dirty dishes left in various places by what I deemed thoughtless family members soon mushroomed unhealthily like an unsightly stinkweed into feeling unappreciated and taken for granted.  My eyes swept critically over the house, crossly finding places that needed repairs and repainting. A hovel! Soon my peacefully sleeping children became part of my lament, as I considered their various flaws and deficiencies.  All around me were problems and issues which I morosely projected into the next ten years. Before long, the future seemed as depressing as I had made the present moment.

I had found what I was looking for, but it didn’t turn out to be very good company once I had it.

“What in the world were you looking for?”, you might ask.

Reasons to be unhappy, it would appear.

If You Don't Like What You See, Then Change What You Look ForI didn’t exactly get up that morning with a conscious decision to think of every possible reason to complain I could, but I might as well have.  That is the choice I made when I allowed my thoughts to continue down that track.

As Martin Luther famously said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

My nest was about 6 feet wide and growing.


Another day, I may wake up to cloudy, threatening skies but choose not to imbibe their depressing mien.  I may begin my day by thanking God for my wonderful husband who is out working hard to provide for his family; for my kids who are becoming more mature and thoughtful all the time; for my home – a cozy, safe place full of light and warmth and music and love.  When my eyes take in the scene around me, I see things for which to be grateful.  A pair of my husband’s socks left lying around? Three pairs?  I am not promised tomorrow with him – I will choose to be thankful for him and his socks today.  Necessary repairs waiting to be done?  A part of life, and potential for future family projects to tackle together.

What has changed?

Not the house, the people, or the socks and dishes scattered about.  None of those are any different.

Proverbs 11:27 (NIV) says:  “He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to him who searches for it.”


What changed is my focus – looking for things to be grateful for, I found them.

We will find what we are looking for, so wisdom dictates that we decide beforehand what we would like that to be.

If when I leave in half an hour to go to the library book sale (I’m back – it was great!), if I decide to look for idiots driving on the roads, I will be quite sure to notice (with grim satisfaction) many such individuals.

Conversely, should I make a better choice and try to find people being kind and thoughtful, throughout the day I will be made aware of that very thing.


The Bible has many things to say on the subject, but I think my favorite is found in Paul’s letter to the Philippian church.  He knowingly instructs,

“…Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Phil 4:8, NIV)

What a wonderful plan!  If that is what we are mentally focused on, our eyes will constantly be looking for the true, the noble, the lovely, and the excellent as we go about our days.

Most assuredly, we will find them.  Oh, some days we may have to hunt for them…to search harder and longer than other days, but they are there to be found by the determined seeker.

Like I tell my kids, if Corrie and Betsie ten Boom could find reasons to be thankful in a Nazi concentration camp, we can find reasons to be thankful here today.  It’s just a matter of what we’re looking for.If You Don't Like What You See, Then Change What You Look For

I encourage you today to give yourself the gift of seeking out the lovely, noble, and excellent. Train your eyes to watch for the praiseworthy, and then enjoy the finding of what you seek.

It makes for a much better day than doing the opposite, I promise.

And with our hearts full of gratitude, we become the very thing we have sought, and bring a smile to the face of our Father.

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey

Do You Know How to Use Your Sword?

You Can’t Use a Sword That’s Not With You

One of my two sweet sisters-in-law gave me a bottle of pepper spray two weeks ago. She knows I have a crazy schedule that involves being out late a few nights each week. I was truly touched by her thoughtfulness and the love which inspired her to share her supply with me (Thanks, DeAnne!!). I felt safer just knowing I had it! A week later, at the end of a text, she mentioned that she hoped I was carrying my spray with me. Eek! There it sat, next to me, on the coffee table! I had learned the technique of unlocking and spraying it with the practice canister, had thought about using it, had even considered which key ring I should attach it to…but I forgot to actually do it. A canister of pepper spray in my cozy living room is not going to be much use to me in a parking lot across town in the middle of the night, is it?

Do You Know How to Use Your Sword?Having a weapon but not keeping it in good working order and ready at hand is in effect the same as not having a weapon at all. No matter how excellent or powerful the weapon, it is rendered useless.

This is true of tangible things like cans of pepper spray or guns, and it is equally true of the spiritual weapons we have been giving for the advance of God’s Kingdom and for our own defense.

Last week we talked about the shield of faith and how we must get in the habit of using it, every time we are assaulted so that we can achieve a level of proficiency. We must persevere through the awkward stage if we are to attain mastery. Having a shield and being proficient at using it is a wonderful, useful thing, but combining it with a powerful sword is exponentially better.

My children have had a year or two of fencing lessons, and I have seen them progress through the footwork, the sword drills, and the learning of terminology to being able to fend off an opponent and launch counterattacks. There is a very big difference in only having defensive skills and in also being proficient at offensive moves.

The same applies to our learning to wield the weapons we have at our disposal to fight off attacks of the enemy. I’m incredibly thankful for my shield, but I don’t want to spend my life hiding behind it. Who is going to be attacked for longer periods and more frequently – someone who never fights back but only cowers behind their shield, or someone who immediately and deftly launches an effective counterattack?

Good reason to learn to handle our swords too, isn’t it?

Using The Sword of the SpiritDo You Know How to Use Your Sword?

Yes, you have a sword! Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:17 that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Awesome! If you are reading this, you have access to the Word of God.

Now what?

  • Step 1: Know Your Weapon. Know what isn’t your weapon. The Word of God is your weapon. You may have plenty else going for you – financial status, important career, good standing in the community, powerful friends, etc., but not one of those is your weapon. When it is time to draw our swords, we cannot rely on ANYTHING except the Word of God.
  • Step 2: Practice, practice, practice. Hint: we don’t use the Bible as a sword by clubbing the devil (or people) over the head with it. We have to know what’s inside it. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” This is sword practice. Make it part of every day. There is no shortcut.
  • Step 3: Use your weapon to counterattack, and use it with confidence and boldness.  It works, and we can be confident that if we use it, it will get the job done.  Our faith is not in ourselves, but in the Lord Almighty and His powerful Word!

I had to do it this morning. Assailed by doubts and wondering I am doing anything right in life or making a difference for eternity, I chose to use my sword instead of curling up in the corner with a piece of carrot cake, calling a friend, or worse – agreeing with the enemy that he’s right, and I should just quit everything.

I used my sword by speaking Isaiah 48:17 over myself: “This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.(NIV)”

If God is teaching and directing me, I can have faith that He is leading me correctly.

I used my sword by reminding myself that “…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6, NIV), and that “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose (Phil 2:13, NIV).

I’m not there yet, but He is at work in my life, causing me to do what He desires, and He will continue His work in me!

Instead of feeling depressed and victimized, I was encouraged to keep on doing what God has given me to do because my obedience is what matters – the results of my life (and yours!) are in His hands.

This is using the Sword of the Spirit to counterattack, and my friends, it works. God didn’t give us toy swords that flimsily bend when any pressure is applied, but a powerful, sharp weapon that cuts right through the lies of the enemy – if we use it. The weapon is not faulty. The question is, will we use it?

Do You Know How to Use Your Sword?Too many Christians are hampered from living victoriously by a lack of basic knowledge of God’s Word and the skill to apply that knowledge. God’s Word is highly practical, but too often believers find a great disconnect between sitting in church on Sunday and then actually applying what they hear to the rest of their lives. This should not be the case.

2 Peter 1:3 tells us that God has already given us EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. Where do we get our knowledge of Him? Through His Word, as His heart and character are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. So as our knowledge of God grows, we have more access to what we need for victorious living. It is not a magic formula, reserved only for a special few hand-picked by God, or for seminary students and pastors. Victorious living is available to every single child of God who has access to His living, powerful Word.

Are you ready for some sword practice? Me too! Let’s encourage each other to know God’s precious Word – such a gift – and to apply it regularly and effectively to our lives.

With faith, hope, and love,

The Beautiful Journey