Lessons in Gratitude

Who would have guessed there would be lessons in gratitude—and the consequences of ingratitude—from the president of the United States and the father of a college basketball player accused of shoplifting in China. If you don’t know the story, here’s a brief recap.

Donald Trump, who was in China a few weeks ago at the time the incident took place, evidently persuaded the president of China to go easy on three players who took some expensive sunglasses from a high-end store without paying for them.

After the three players were arrested, questioned, detained, and then released and sent home, they expressed their gratitude to president Trump. But the father of one of the players refused to offer thanks. His omission might have gone unnoticed, but the dad was vocal about his refusal.

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The Spiritual Discipline of Giving Thanks

When you think about it, saying "Thank you," is one of the first manners we encourage small children to adopt. This simple practice of remembering to thank the people around us is so basic to positive human interactions that, when absent, it is a glaring rudeness that paints the withholding party as arrogant.

Somewhere along the line, then, we've learned that gratitude for services rendered or a job well done is an appropriate and meaningful human to human response in life.

But what about thankfulness as a spiritual practice and a way of life?

In Psalm 50, the poet is speaking for God when he says--

"I don't need bulls from your farms or goats from your herds. All the animals in the forest are mine and the cattle on thousands of hills. All the wild birds are mine and all living thingsin the land... Let the GIVING OF THANKS be your sacrifice to God..."

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Why do I always forget how blessed and lucky I am? Why do I always have a hard time recognizing the many things I should be thankful for? How every little thing in my life—both easy and hard, painful and pleasurable—has been orchestrated by God to form a purpose far grander than my own ambitions?

I think part of it is that I’ve grown up in a world of entitlement. Ours is a world of debilitating entitlement. We are raised to assume that we have the inalienable right to be happy and healthy, that we are entitled to money and security and insurance and freedom to do and say whatever we want. We think it’s our prerogative, our destiny, our right. And so when good things happen to us we’re liable to shrug it off as “our due” instead of being humbled to a place of deep gratitude.

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Ten Things About My Spouse

So, I’m in church on Sunday, at Metro Hope in Harlem. Pastor Humphries is talking about relationships. To be honest, one of the best “sermons” I have ever experienced on the topic. I started thinking about Ticia, my bride of nearly twenty years. Somehow, as my brain randomly connects things, I also thought about Facebook and the “25 things about me” phenomena. To be honest, while I like reading others, I don’t really want to write one, probably for the same reasons as you.

I started thinking about a different kind of list. Not about me, but about my spouse. What if we started a “ten things I love about my spouse” phenomena? Not all gushy, not cheesy. Just ten things that you love about your spouse.

So, I started this on my Facebook page, tagged a bunch of my friends. Same Facebook rules apply. If I tagged a person, I encouraged them to write ten things about their spouse and then tag a few friends.

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Bloggers in Thankfulness

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