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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Abraham Lincoln and Thanksgiving

I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Maybe this year, you haven’t made as money as you would like. With our economy, many people have had a tough time, but I want to encourage you during this Thanksgiving season.  Maybe like me, you have wished at times, that things were a little different here in America. Nevertheless, I still believe we still live in the greatest nation in the world. You and I have a lot to be thankful for. We still have a great opportunity to go out and be innovated and make money. We still have the rights to own property and make decisions and pursue education. We still have the freedom to worship through the religion we choose.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I want to invite you to think about the words of Abraham Lincoln.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans had died during a horrible civil war, but he encouraged the American people to set apart a day to be thankful. Here’s what he wrote in proclaiming a day of thanks:

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Food, Thanksgiving, Shabbat

A major biblical theme as it relates to food is thanksgiving for God’s provision. One of the most interesting food-related stories in Scripture is the miraculous appearance of manna each morning for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness (Exodus 16:4). That they gathered only enough for one day on each morning demonstrated the extent to which they had to trust and depend on God’s faithfulness. For them, the manna was a very tangible, honey-tasting reminder of why eating food is an act of thanksgiving.

Frequently in scripture, thanksgiving manifests itself through celebration and feasting on food. In the Old Testament, meals were often events that symbolized the ratifying of an agreement. After Isaac and Abimelech made a covenant of peace, Isaac “made them a feast, and they ate and drank” (Gen. 26:30). Similar feasts happened after Jacob and his father-in-law made an agreement of peace (Gen 31:54), or when David and Abner patched things up at Hebron (2 Sam 3:20).

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I Am Thankful For....

It’s the season of giving thanks.

A couple years back, some friends of mine began what is now called The Thanksgiving Challenge. Beginning November 1st, we use our Facebook status to give thanks for something or someone or anything we are thankful for. We’ll do this everyday throughout the month.

Here are a few reasons why I think it’s a good thing to be not only be thankful but to also express our thanksgiving.

  • Being thankful keeps me from fretting over what I do not have. My eyes are opened to all that I do have. Its crystal clear then that not only are all my needs met, I see just how abundantly blessed I am beyond what I need. I’m not so easily suckered into thinking I ‘have-to-have’ all that I see because I recognize all that I already have. The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. Ps. 23:1
  • Being thankful helps me to recognize and be mindful that every good and perfect gift is from God. All that I have and all that I am is his. My ego stays in check. James 1:17
  • Being thankful allows me to have a spirit of gratitude which leads to joy and contentment in all circumstance in life, especially the painful and difficult ones. All of which are evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Gal. 5:22
  • Being thankful keeps me humble and ultimately draws me closer to my Heavenly Father. Phil. 2:1-11.

So far during this thanksgiving season, I am thankful for getting the giggles with friends. I'm thankful for my family who serve me daily with joy in doing so. I'm thankful that I get to be an aunt to some pretty rad nieces and nephews and I’m thankful that as a woman I can wear blue jeans and even reveal my ankles without shame.  I have many more days to express all that I am grateful for. My hope is that I become a person in who a spirit of thanks is an attribute that reflects the goodness of a good God!

Having a heart of thanks is contagious. I hope you’ve caught it bad this season!

Why is it important to you to give thanks publically and what are you thankful for?

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  Col. 2:6-7

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A Psalm for My Community

Three years ago, in a very desperate place, our Mika community took a week between summer and fall to pray and seek God together in an intense way.  This has become a precious tradition that has since been part of our rhythm of life together.  This past week we started with a day of praise and thanksgiving, recalling  all that the Lord has done for us.  We ended the day each writing a psalm of praise and reading them out together.  This is the psalm I wrote for our community:

 My Psalm

I praise you God for you are GOOD.  

Your faithfulness is our shield and guide

Your provision has become our song

When we were young and unexperienced, You led us with wise counsel

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Stereotypes For Thanksgiving

I find stereotypes very convenient. They’re just so handy when an SUV with NJ plates cuts me off in traffic, and I can instantly assign the driver’s rudeness to a function of their geographic origin. Sometimes my stereotypes are kind of knee-jerk reactions, like when I’m driving. At other times they simmer quietly, like when I see a local southern guy at church wearing a pink oxford, a brass-buttoned blue blazer, and a bow tie. 

I’m not sure that negative stereotypes can exist without the opposite, more accurate positive narratives to be true. As I pedal my Trek to work, I can believe/expect/assume most people are not going to run red lights, but will stop carefully and let me cross the street intact. When the Jersey boy in the white Nissan blows past, I apply the stereotype because he stands out; he’s the exception to the rule. It’s the greater positive reality that allows the lesser, negative stereotype to exist. Negative stereotypes are created in response to a small few, but such generalizations slake our cynical thirst to categorize and simplify.

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Thanksgiving Proclamation

George Washington's Proclamation: A National Thanksgiving, October 3, 1789:
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
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Quotable Thanks

"Giving thanks to God for both His temporal and spiritual blessings in our lives
is not just a nice thing to do - it is the moral will of God.
Failure to give Him the thanks due Him is sin."
[Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins]

"O Lord, who lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness."

"He who remembers the benefits of his parents is too much occupied with his recollections to remember their faults."

"We never approach God without cause for gratitude.
Thankfulness, a duty and delight greatly prominent in the Bible, is the declarative mood of gratitude - a bright fire in the world's frigid zone,
the memory and homage of the heart, a master force in soul-building, the greatest tonic faith has. Be ye thankful."

Eat, Drink and Be Wary

Let’s see. What are you doing this Thursday? Could it be that some turkey is in order?

I’m not one of those lineman-caliber eaters myself, but I do enjoy a number of the holiday’s particular flavors. I’ll let the cooks in my home do their thing, then I’ll set to carving, and soon we’ll gather and eat, friends and family. Perfect.

What I’m not so sure of is whether the TV will be buzzing in the background. We watch our share of football in our family room, but we’ve no fans in-house of any of the particular teams this Thanksgiving, and since the day kicks off with one potentially horrendous mismatch—Lions vs. Patriots—it will be hard to get sucked into the day’s “drama.”

Christmas is coming, though. For several seasons now that has meant one mammoth matchup or another, usually involving the Lakers, who are both a regional favorite and wear championship mantles.

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Checking-in: A Self-Care Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is upon us.  At the same time this thrills me, I am also struck by its ever rapid approach this year. I have been pondering the pace and meaning of time and Thanksgiving quite a bit as I skim cookbooks and Food Network.com as well as navigate through Trader Joes like it's boot camp.

Last week I wrote about the reality of "what is" in terms of books and this week I find myself wrestling with a similar conundrum around food and neighboring.

For the past year, I've found myself speaking in different arenas about what self-care is.  It's hard to define a lifestyle change in a one-time visit, as exciting and great as these events have been.  So I've broken my latest definition of self-care down even further (probably for myself even more than audiences).  Self-care is a "checking-in" to your life, not a "checking-out."  It is a concept flanked by the Word of the Lord saying, "Be still and know I am God" and the gospel of Luke asking -- no, telling -- that we daily need to take up our crosses.  As John Wesley writes, the option of no one not having a cross to bear is gone.

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