I have read ‘One Thousand Gifts’ before, a book by Ann Voskamp. I have just (re)read a selection of extracts from the original book on my bumpy and crowded London Underground train and felt compelled to share. 
Voskamp speaks of the challenge of finding joy and grace in the ordinary, in the day-to-day slog of the mundane. The ‘one thousand gifts’ are recognition of the things we have to be thankful for, the things to be grateful for. They are not the extravagant presents one might receive on a birthday, rather they are the very ordinary gifts that are revealed to be achingly beautiful when we stop and give them time. They are the smell of coffee brewing, they are a warm smile from a stranger on your commute, they are the sound of a dear friend belly-laughing, they are the taste of melting cheese on your tongue. The book is about practicing gratitude, making a discipline of it. The book is also about joy, a word not used enough and a concept not experienced enough in our modern world.
So often in January we speak of resolutions that relate to our outer-selves. We want to be thinner or bigger, we want to be stronger, we want a beer barrel to become a six-pack, we want to defy the aging process with better, less wrinkly skin or we want to complete physical challenges that will see medals hung around our necks. How often do we resolve to change our inner selves in the same way? Sat on the tube this morning I asked myself whether I really was practicing gratitude and joy, or whether I was just blindly hoping it might materialise. 

Discovering more joy does not, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreaks without being broken.- Desmond Tutu

I love this quote. Another book I heartedly recommend is the joint effort on the subject of joy written by Tutu and Dalai Lama XIV, ‘The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.’. Both see the practice of gratitude as a way to foster joy. Practicing gratitude doesn’t change the reality of the world around us, but it does lead us to refocus on what we have rather than what we do not. As Tutu says, joy (born out of this practice of thankfulness) “emboldens” us and allows us to experience the same world in a different way.

So where do we begin with being grateful? I am not sure I am ready yet to identify 1000 things. But I do want to align myself more with God’s calling on my life so talking to him more often seems a good start. I also suspect too often I just pray when I have a moan, a cry for help, or a petition for someone else. I don’t thank God enough. So every day I am going to commit to three times a day (minimum) recognising something I feel grateful for. I am going to write this list in my phone, at the end of 2020 if it makes sense I will publish it. I will then, most importantly, take those things to God and thank him for the gifts bestowed on me. 
Secondly, I am really trying to avoid the traps of moaning about things. Moaning and complaining does no one any good. At best, it just makes you feel grumpy and negative, at worst it leads to gossip and unhealthy patterns of community. 
Finally, I hope to create moments of joy for others. I don’t really want to list what I intend to do here because I don’t want it to be done as a public show of how gracious and joyful I am! I intend instead to try and dedicate a little time every day in to creating moments, gifts or tokens of my appreciation of others. It can be so easy to focus on trying to escape the dreary and dark world we are living in, how much more radical (though difficult) it is to instead choose to create light in that darkness. The more of us doing that, the better things could be for everyone.