We Inspire People to Live Better Lives

10.23.2019

40 Days of Gratitude

Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Featuring: Rev. Richard Rogers

Click HERE to download this transcript.

Rev. Richard Rogers: Okay, so how many of you have figured out my system?

[Congregation murmurs]

Good luck! I have a system… and I’ve been using that system for a long time. And my system is something like this: have you figured it out? I start with a question. How many know that I always start with a question? Have you figured that one out? I always start with a question. You know, Socrates was right; if it worked for Socrates, it works for me. Right? The idea that questions really are the most powerful thing. Sometimes we allow little answers to be the answers to questions, and if we don’t challenge ourselves by better questions, we tend to live lives where little answers tend to work. And so, every talk, I want to start with a question, because I think there’s a question that I think really calls us deeper: calls us to a higher level of Truth, calls us into a greater experience of God.

And then, if you’ve been paying attention, what do I end with?

Congregation: Scattered shouts of “Homework!”

Rev. Rogers: Homework! Right? Homework! I have to end with homework, because it’s not enough just to hear the truth; you have to be able to apply it to your life, right? It’s not how much spiritual truth you know that matters; it’s how much spiritual truth can you live. Because living it is what matters; it’s not just being able to spew out spiritual stuff, because that’s not really helpful. What’s helpful is what you can do. And so, if we don’t have homework to take these spiritual ideas and practice them, then it doesn’t really make sense to me.

And then, in the middle, I try to say something semi-enlightening, right?

[Congregation laughs]

On a good week, right? Semi-enlightening, just to get you from the question to the homework, right? Because I figure, if I do a good job with the question and the homework, the rest of it will take care of itself. So all I do is these semi-good in the middle to get to the end, and then, somehow, it always works out. Right? Is that true?

So tonight I’m going to do it backwards. I’m going to start with the homework and move to the question, alright?

[Congregation laughs]

When I was a young pup minister… There was a time in this ministry when I was doing four services; I was doing a Saturday night and three Sunday morning services. And there were times where I felt like, if I nailed it on Saturday night, or I nailed it at the first service on Sunday morning – you know, giving the same talk that I’ve already done really well wasn’t really interesting to me. So there would be times when I’d do the whole talk backwards to see if it would work. Sometimes it didn’t!

[Rev. Rogers and Congregation laugh]

But, you know, after a while you just have to be creative when you’re doing the same thing four times. You’ve kind of got to bring some juice to it, so I would do the whole thing backwards.

So, tonight, to get to the point… Tonight I’m going to start with the homework. Are you ready for the homework? I want you to make a list of the habits that you’ve created that are expanding and moving your life forward. AND I want you to make a list of the habits that you have that are contracting your life. Because I want you to see tonight is how much your life is being created unconsciously. And there’s nothing wrong with habits, right? But they tend to be unconscious reactions to life.

How many of you have ever had a habit, and when you finally saw the habit, you were like, “Ooooooh.” Right? You were a little taken aback that you actually do that. And the people who loved you, for years knew that you did that. And you’re the only one that didn’t know that you were doing that. Right? And so what I want us to see tonight – what I want you to really look at – are your habits. I want you to see the habits that are working for you, and the habits that aren’t working for you.

There was an article in Positive Psychology that said this about habits:

“Habits are the rituals and behaviors that we perform automatically, allowing us to carry out essential activities, such as brushing our teeth, taking a shower, getting dressed for work. We follow the same routine every day without thinking about it. Our subconscious habits free up resources of our brain to carry out other, more complex, tasks, like solving problems, deciding what we’re going to have for dinner.”

Like, if that’s really your biggest decision all day, we really need to re-look at our lives, right? If that’s really our biggest decision is what we’re going to have for dinner!  [Continues reading]

“All of our habits and activities – hundreds of them every day – can be divided into three groups. The first group are habits that we simply do and don’t even notice we’re going them: tying our shoelaces, brushing our teeth. The second group of habits are those that are good for us – that work for us: like exercising or eating well or getting enough sleep. And the final group of habits are those that are actually bad for us: like smoking and procrastinating or overspending.”

How many of you could see a habit that you have that really isn’t working for you anymore? And it might be a habit that one time made sense, and you’ve simply outgrown it. It no longer makes sense; it no longer supports the higher level of life that you’re trying to live. Right? And so, over and over again, the first thing about changing any habit is simply being conscious of it. You can’t change something until you can see it: you can name it. And then, once you can see it – once you can name it – then we can actually begin a process of actually picking a habit that works better for you.

So for every habit that’s not working for you, what I also want you to begin to do, is see what new habit would you rather participate in – would you rather practice – so that you can really get it down. And so, over and over again, what we’re going to do is practice creating habits that are good for us.

And the place I want to start – because we’re starting our “40 Days of Gratitude” tonight – is I think that gratitude is a habit. And I think, for many of us, it was a learned habit. Let me read from tonight’s lesson. [Picks up the 2019 “40 Days of Grateful Living” booklet.] And we’re on Day 4. You can pick up these booklets in the Bookstore if you haven’t already gotten yours. Tonight’s lesson is Inspiration. [Reads from booklet]

 “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  John Quincy Adams

“I am grateful for Spiritual inspiration that guides me to step out into the great unknown and aspire to greater things. Whether I am taking a class, learning a new skill or teaching something to someone else, I know that I am always inspired to create something better. Every dream is a quiet whisper from Spirit…

I love that line! [Continues reading]

“Every dream is a quiet whisper from Spirit, urging me to use my innate gifts and talents to live my life in a new and improved way.  I inspire myself and others to explore all the ways we can use the gifts of Spirit to live full, creative, productive lives.”

So what I want us to look at is, really, gratitude as a habit. And as I was looking back over my life… You know, when I was a kid – when I was a little kid – you know, in the family that I grew up in, saying “thank you” was something that our parents helped us remember. Did you have parents that helped you remember to say “thank you”? And what I noticed is that, as a kid, that was not an expectation that I had. Like, I don’t know why it was. But, as a kid, I never – as a child, if I was left alone on an island all by myself – I don’t know if I would have ever said, “thank you.” Like, it just wasn’t pre-wired into me. Like, it was something that I had to be reminded over and over and over again. And, apparently, I didn’t come in with that. It wasn’t that I wasn’t grateful, but I just didn’t have that sense. And, I don’t know; maybe you did. But I didn’t. Like, my parents had to say to me over and over again, “Remember: say ‘thank you.’” Right? And maybe it’s just a guy thing. I don’t know… But it wasn’t a part of me. So I had to be taught how to write thank you notes, and now I’m really good at them. But I had to be taught to write thank you notes.

And the other thing that really changed the way I did gratitude was, when I was in high school, I belonged to the YOU teen ministry. And one of our teachers said for 21 days – that no matter what happens in your life – say, “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!” And it was a game-changer for me!

You know, there’s a lot of research that says if you do anything consistently for 21 days, it can actually become a habit. That if you do it over and over again for 21 days, you can actually build a habit. And so, for 21 days, our Sunday school teacher in high school said, “We’re going to do a class project, and for 21 days – no matter what happens in your life… No matter what the experience is – whether it’s the best breakfast you ever had or cold cereal, whether it’s a red light or a green light, whether you get an ‘A’ on the test or an ‘F’ on the test, whatever it is – your only response to life for the next 21 days is, “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God.” Will you say that with me?

[With Congregation]: “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!”

And instantly, there was a part of me that just said, “Well, that’s not right!”

[Congregation laughs]

Right? How many of you were taught to be judgers? Anybody else taught to be a judger?

[Congregation laughs]

And so, as a judger, you have a clear mindset on what you’re grateful for, and what you’re not grateful for. Green lights: grateful. “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!” If I have to put my foot on my brake, it’s very hard for me to say, “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God.” Right? Because one is good, and another is clearly bad! It’s bad, right? It’s bad! And so the idea of lying to God, I was opposed to! Right?

[Congregation laughs]

Because this is bad: you don’t say, “Thank you, God” for things that are bad! You just acknowledge that God messed up, right?

[Congregation laughs]

I was willing to say, “I forgive you, God,” right?

[Congregation laughs]

I forgive you for the red light. I forgive you for Corn Flakes.

[Congregation laughs]

I forgive you, right? I forgive you! But [laughs] is that the spiritual principle? No! I’ve been a work in progress all my life!

[Congregation laughs]

You get that, right? I’ve been a work in progress all my life! So the idea that I was going to just say, “Thank you, God!” for craziness seemed repugnant. I wouldn’t have used that word as a teenager, but it just seemed wrong and bad. But I tried it. For 21 days, I made a personal commitment that I was going to say, “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!” – three times – in every experience that I could be conscious of. So, if it was a red light: “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!” If it was a green light: “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!” If I got the grade I wanted on a test: “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!” If I didn’t: “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!” If I got the date: “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!” And, more likely, if I didn’t get the date: “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!”

[Congregation laughs]

And that’s just how it worked. For 21 days, I committed to this crazy idea that I wasn’t going to judge anything. I didn’t know you could do that! Literally, I did not know you could go 21 days without judging life, and deciding in every situation – whether it was “good” or “bad” – that I was just going to stay in gratitude. Literally, it was one of the most profound, life-changing experiences I’ve ever had. That, for 21 days, all I got to say was, “Thank you, God.”

Now, did I always mean it?

[Congregation laughs]

I didn’t! I mean, honestly, straight up! There were times when I said, “Thank you, God!” that I did not mean it. But there was an awareness in me that, saying it anyway, was actually opening something within me that I could feel was beginning to be unleashed. In that habit of gratitude, over and over and over again, there was a quality in me that was actually being unleashed that I didn’t understand, but it was this idea that life isn’t my judgment of it. Life isn’t the way it always looks. Life is supremely bigger, more wonderful, greater than I’ve ever been able to see. And it was gratitude that opened the door for all of that.

Gratitude is the thing that allows you to go from however you’re living – wherever you’re feeling stuck or broken or wherever you’re feeling not good enough… “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!” is the thing that transforms me.

So, literally, I don’t know… I’ve been 27 years here? On and off? We began a program here for 40 days to focus on gratitude. Started in my very first ministry: little ministry in Merced, California. And we spent 40 days – my second year in ministry – spent 40 days focusing on gratitude, because I knew it worked. And I knew that, if you could get a group of people to spend 40 days giving thanks, things were going to change. Things were going to change in their life, and things were going to change in the ministry. Because you can’t go into gratitude for 40 days without having breakthrough after breakthrough after breakthrough. Because you can’t acknowledge God that much without realizing how incredibly blessed you are.

And the reality is that most of us live in a world where we think we’re blessed about 50% of the time. Like, 50% of the stuff we think that comes into our life is good, and we think about 50% of the time, stuff coming into our life is not good; it’s bad! And what I really believe is: It’s really more like 97/3. I think about 97% of our life is fabulous: it’s wonderful; it’s great; it’s fabulous. And there’s about 3% of our life that we’re working on. But we get so distorted – because we live in such a level of judgment – that we don’t realize that we’re really blessed about 97% of the time. And the other 3% of the time, we’re still being blessed… We just don’t see it as a blessing yet. Right? You’ve all had that experience, right? Where it doesn’t look like a blessing yet, but we give God some time and it’s like, “Oh, that was the biggest good… That was the best thing that ever happened to me.” And it looked nasty and awful in the beginning. But we don’t really realize that, 97% of the time, we’re actually living this phenomenally, fabulous, wonderful, blessed existence. But our mind is so jaded that we simply don’t see it. And we actually make a habit of, over and over and over again, saying, “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God.” 

Now, I don’t think there’s a magic to three times. That’s my challenge; that’s the way it came to me, and that’s the way I pass it on to others. But if you want to 27 times, you just go on it, right? But I want to make sure that that three times – for me, anyway – really locks me in. It really makes me say, “Thank you, God!”  and stay in that moment more than a nanosecond. It requires that it takes at least a second-and-a-half to say, “Thank you, God!” three times. Even if I don’t say it out loud – even if I just say it in my head – it takes a moment just to acknowledge that blessing. And I believe it’s more powerful if you say it out loud. So we’re going to say it one more time. Together:

[With Congregation]: “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!” 

Now, can you imagine that there’s probably billions of things in your life that have never been acknowledged as blessings? Billions! That’s the number! And I don’t think that’s an exaggeration! I think there’s probably billions of things that we take for granted – day in and day out – that we don’t even acknowledge as blessings. And it actually has to be that way. Because you can’t live in victim consciousness and think that you’re wildly blessed in the same moment. And I think most of us spend far more time in victim consciousness than we realize! And as we actually move into gratitude – over and over and over again – it just changes everything. It literally changes everything.

And the research on gratitude is stunning. It’s crazy. I mean, the research on gratitude; there’s, like, no reason not to do it! Like, the research on relationships: If you give thanks for your partner, the statistical appreciation of your relationship goes up through the roof. If you actually say to your partner – if you don’t say it, it goes up – but if you do say it out loud, it goes up through the roof! As a manager, if you say “Thank you” to your employees, their productivity goes up through the roof. In every way, saying gratitude matters!

There’s a research study that I’ve shared here before that shows that, if you write a thank you note to somebody in your life that you have not yet thanked for something, your mood increases – it gets better – for up to 30 days. Thirty days! So, 12 thank you notes a year [laughs] is better than anti-depressants!

[Congregation laughs] 

Right? Your mood will go up for 30 days from one thank you note! If you write a thank you note a month, you’re going to be happier than you’ve ever been before. Over and over and over again, the research is crazy about how gratitude impacts your happiness. And it’s all because we can either look at life from two points of view. Life is either rotten and terrible and we’re a victim. And your mind does not have to work to create that paradigm! For most of us, a world where we see ourselves as victims – the world is hard or bad or unfair – we can mentally get to that place pretty quickly. That’s one option. The other option is to see yourself wildly blessed. And wildly blessed requires that you’re actually looking for the good and praising it over and over and over again.

So, for the next 40 days, I’m going to challenge you. And if you can only give me 21 days, I’ll take it, but I’d prefer 40. If you give me 40 days, I want your mantra – your meditation – to be, “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!” Together:

[With congregation]: “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!”

Now, do you have to believe it? I don’t care! Right? Because what I know to be true is: If you practice it over and over and over again, you will absolutely believe it. There’s another research study that says people who, in prayer, give thanks – acknowledge God, give thanks in prayer – their sense of happiness is about 87% happier than the people who don’t have time of prayer every day to acknowledge God and give thanks. You are going to be happier in every way, because it’s hard to be negative and give thanks in the same moment. I would like to suggest it’s actually impossible to be a curmudgeon and give thanks in the same moment! You simply cannot do it! And so, what if – for the next 40 days – you just give thanks?

Now, I have a belief that, as you give thanks, you are going to become more blessed. Because… You know the word “appreciation”? The word “appreciation”: you know what that means as a financial term? To increase. To increase in value, right? So, in financial language, when something appreciates – if your home appreciates in value – does it go up in value or does it go down in value? Up! It goes up in value! So, what I know to be true is that the more you give thanks, the more you open to a greater level of good. But even if that wasn’t true, the more you give thanks – the more you acknowledge the millions and millions of blessings – will allow you to feel profoundly blessed in a way that you never have before.

I know that this looks like the simplest – maybe even the silliest – spiritual practice. But, for the next 40 days, I want the only thought you think to be… Together:

[With congregation]: “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!”

Now, you remember what your homework was? So your homework was to look at the habits that are working for you and the habits that aren’t working for you. Guess which habit I want to be the top of the “good for you” habits? Gratitude. Because I believe that, when gratitude is on the top of your positive habits – when you build a habit of gratitude – you’re different.

Now, your cranky friends may not dig it so much.

[Congregation laughs]

Right? Because they’re used to you being cranky! And when you show up happy, man; it’s going to rock their world!

[Congregation laughs]

Right? But we can use a little world-rocking right now! Are you ready? For the next 40 days, one more time:

[With congregation]: “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!”

Will you pray with me?

I invite you to open your mind, your heart, your soul, and I want you just to spend a moment now to give thanks. And tonight I want you to give thanks for all the things that you didn’t notice. All the clean clothes that you never said thank you for. All the food that you just didn’t truly appreciate. For all the times that you were warm on a cold night. For all the times that you were cool on a very hot day. For all the times money came into your life when you didn’t expect it. For all the people who loved you, even when you didn’t deserve it. For all the people who were kind to you, even when you were a grouch. Tonight I want you to give thanks for all those things. For all the blessings that were greater than you felt like you earned. And we call those things Grace. They are the Grace of God. And, tonight, we open our minds and our hearts and we look up to see the infinite blessings of God flowing fully and freely into our lives. And from the deepest, most grateful, most humble place within us, we simply say, “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!” Together:

[With congregation]: “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God!”

In the name and through the power of the Living Christ, we give thanks. And so it is. Amen.

Copyright 2019 Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center/Rev. Richard Rogers

 

Location and Contact Information

Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center

1500 E Greenway Pkwy
Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone: (602) 978-3200

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