All I want for Christmas is a grateful child.

We are about to launch into that season where parents and grandparents (that’s right, I’m going there) are about to spend copious amounts of money in hopes of making children happy. “Slow down,” we plead as they rip through present after present with barely slowing down to enjoy the gift purchased with blood, debt, and tears. Or worse, if they stop to enjoy one present, they are encouraged to, “Keep going” and “play with that later, we have a lot of presents to get through!” Finally, after the ripped up Christmas/Hanukkah paper has settled, we expect to see one particular yet elusive emotion evoked from said little ones.
Gratefulness.
Yet more often than not, only moments after this grand display of affection, we find ourselves saying the same thing.
“You should be grateful!”
Similarly, this same fruitless technique for producing gratefulness is utilized at popular theme parks. Thousands of dollars are shelled out for a week of extreme delight, yet this sacrifice is quite often met with temper tantrums, melt downs, and requests for more! A visit to see Mickey isn’t enough. We want a special Mickey ice cream too. A picture with Elsa isn’t enough. Next comes the request for the Elsa doll. All is given in pursuit of the much sought after grateful child. Yet no matter how much is doled out,  we find ourselves saying,
“You should be grateful!”
Here’s the reality. We have it all wrong.

 

Material possessions will not satisfy.
You may feel thankful, in that moment, yes. But it doesn’t last. I have attended many churches that told us that healing and prosperity would lead people to Christ. If I was healed, people would see that, marvel, and be saved. While this absolutely can happen, it is actually not the norm. Take this example from the Bible in Luke 17. Against all odds, these 10 lepers received the one thing they all craved with every fiber of their being. Healing. All ten! Healed. However, what was the result?
15 Then ONE of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not TEN cleansed? Where are the NINE? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Getting doesn’t garner gratefulness.
Like almost never.
True heartfelt gratefulness decidedly comes from want,not plenty.
This concept clearly resonated with me a few years ago while listening to Pastor Doug Sauder in a parenting class. “If you want to make someone grateful for hot water, take them on a missions trip where they will get one cold shower for the whole week. When they get home they will feel more grateful for that hot water than ever before.”
Prosperity without perspective can never produce gratefulness.
I do not think that I am unique in my desire to make my children happy. I want them to open their presents and discover that present they were dreaming about. I want them to have that moment of sheer bliss when their dreams are fulfilled but at what cost? Because more than wanting them to be happy, I want them to be grateful. I want them to find joy rather than pursue happiness. Godliness with contentment is great gain. This is what I want for my children. This is what I want for me. I want to be content. I want to be grateful. I need to remember that I am indebted. I am an indentured servant. I deserve nothing but have been given everything.
However,  it is uncommonly easy to forget these goals and trade them in for a momentary feeling. Case and point: I sat at a friends house watching my 4 year old son launching hot wheels into the air on a loop-da-loop contraption yelling “AWESOME!” and thought….”I need that. He needs that. Look how happy that would make him. I know I said that we had enough toys, but that should be an exception. Clearly.”
 But then I remembered. We have no room. We don’t need it. He doesn’t need it. This moment is a moment, and he can experience it whenever he is at someone’s house that has this toy, and it will be special.
I want him to be grateful. I want him to be content. This goal is more important than that momentary, and I do mean momentary, happiness that will come from opening the “perfect” gift.
This point was reiterated to me on Facebook with a map showing the unique things for which people were thankful. People that had experienced drought were thankful for rain. People that had experienced power outages were thankful for electricity.
Here is the point.
Take a deep breath. Step away from the internet. Put down the credit card. And pray. Ask the Lord to show you how to cultivate gratefulness in your own heart and your children’s hearts. If you can’t afford those sought after toys of the season put down that mom-guilt right now. God has a plan and a purpose for this season of your life, and it is not for you to acquire debt or ignore other financial responsibilities (like saving for a rainy day) simply to chase the ghost of false joy. You can take confidence in the truth that if your children have less, you are likely closer to the ultimate goal of gratefulness. On the other hand however, if you can afford whatever your heart desires, pray even harder to keep from indulgence which is the enemy of a grateful heart.
This is not another post about Thanksgiving. It’s not even necessarily about Christmas. It’s bigger than that. Grasping gratefulness and cultivating contentment is a year round adventure. Living in the world we do, this is no humble task. Every commercial, every friend, every Facebook status tells you ….you need this!!! Fight it. Do not accept it. The only thing you need more of is Jesus. And he will supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory.
If you are a Christian, you have prayed for God’s will to be fulfilled in your life. If you are a parent you have prayed for God’s will to be fulfilled in your child’s life. That is why this lesson is so important!
I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us in no uncertain terms what His will is!!
Gratefulness!
Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
But how?
Read this powerful point in Job 20:20:
Because he knows no quietness in his heart,
He will not save anything he desires.
If you are not satisfied in Christ, you will grasp at everything!
The apostle Paul was able to be content in everything. Why? Because of his great prosperity? His easy life? No. Because he was satisfied in his appetite, in the quietness of his heart with Christ. That is how we produce gratefulness. When our hearts are filled day by day, moment by moment, with God’s word, when our mouths and hearts are filled with praise, there we will find gratefulness. The best gift you can give your children and/or yourself is a thirst for Christ and His Word, at every age and stage. Amen!

Sweet November-From Bratitude to Gratitude! *


November 2000 I met a boy. Cute laugh. Piercing green eyes. Just so handsome. He made me laugh. He made me feel special. He made me hope. And he loved Jesus. Four months after meeting and already falling for him, he dropped a bomb. He had forgotten to mention that days before we met, he made a vow to the Lord that he would not date anyone for a year. Having just gotten out of a long and “unhealthy” relationship, (because this is what wives say about all prior relationships)  he was encouraged by a mentor to get His relationship with the Lord right, and take a year to do that. And he was just telling me now, four months into this friendship. So in March the countdown began- to November. I remember flipping through my CD collection (so archaic) when I found the soundtrack to a movie called Sweet November. On that CD was this song by Enya, and I thought of it today.
“Only Time”
Who can say where the road goes
Where the day flows, only time
And who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose, only time

It was so true. God knew, but only time would tell. It was the perfect song. I couldn’t believe it. On a Sweet November CD of all things! Only time would tell. Well, long story short, and 5 kids later, November is still a very sweet month to me. If I close my eyes, I can still remember the day he told me it was me that he wanted. I can remember the feeling in my heart as I held his hand for the first time. I can remember so many sweet moments- moments that I dreamed of, all coming true.
But when I open my eyes, there is a full trash can, a crashing computer, an unfinished bathroom, and a toilet roll hung the wrong way. Their are obstacles, difficulties and failures. My heart forgets that I am living a dream. My heart forgets how I begged God for this man. We are imperfect people needing grace. Over and over again. Seventy times seven times.
I know I am not alone because I have heard your stories, the amazing God stories that need to be written down and published. My mother who saw a spray painted letter from God on the subway wall “Choose Bill.” My friend that pointed to a football players face on an FSU flyer and told her mom she was going to marry him and years later did just that. These beautiful stories that make the creations of Nicholas Sparks look woefully small, can so easily be forgotten amidst the monotony and difficulties of everyday life. And discontentment grows.
The eye never has enough. The ear can never hear enough. There is nothing new under the sun.
No matter how many dreams God fulfills, we always want more.
It is so popular to “vent” to let out your frustrations. But maybe instead of a venting partner you need a gratefulness partner. Never are we told to confess other peoples sins, only our own. Of course we need to share each others burdens, but when the majority of our conversation is a burden, we have a problem.
Be grateful. You cannot be grateful and discontent at the same time. You have to choose.

Colossians 3:15-17
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Do you want peace? Be thankful. Do you want to be thankful? Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs! And whatever you do- do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus!! AMEN!!
November is a month that we all focus on gratitude. I pray that you would do more than make a list, but that you would close your eyes and remember. Remember the prayer that you prayed ,remember the dream in your heart that the Lord fulfilled and walk in gratitude. Remember the love that you felt and don’t let the enemy steal that from you. Remember the person you dreamed of and how they are standing in your kitchen, perfectly imperfect. And be grateful. Remember the child you prayed for, acting like a sinful human, and be grateful. Remember the job you fought for and be grateful. Remember the parents that raised you, the siblings that played with you, the friends that loved you, and when they inevitably do something to annoy you, be grateful. In everything, give thanks!

* Title credits go to the one and only Jewel Keefe 

Luke 22- Of course.

Last week I posted about my affinity for the number 2. So as per my life, this Sunday Pastor Doug taught from Luke 22. And I can’t stop thinking about it.  Here’s why. These Words:

“The greatest crime, the greatest murder in the history of humanity, happened during the holiest week, the Jewish passover…… 

Part of passover was getting rid of all of the yeast of their home

The Pharisees, they were meticulously getting rid of every bit of yeast from every jar, every corner of  their home and at the same time they were plotting to kill an innocent man…..

That’ll preach. And it did.

Then there is Judas. Judas knew exactly what to do. He followed the rules. He fit right in. In fact, none of the disciples guessed Judas when they questioned Jesus about his betrayer.

 Judas.

I thought yesterday about the option to invest in someone who has the potential to betray. The potential to cause an immense amount of heartache is real. And my first reaction and response was that it was not worth the risk. My heart is tired. I don’t feel up for betrayal these days, if ever. Then I remembered this weekends teaching. Jesus invested in Judas. He was not held at arms length. Jesus knew. And yet He loved. He loved in such a way that those closest to him had no inkling, no question of Jesus love for Judas. Not to mention Peter, when He did betray, after Jesus told him he would, was welcomed back with open arms. Forgiven. Loved.

Lord Jesus, what yeast are we meticulously eliminating from our lives, all the while missing the greater picture, the greater offense. You see I have these moments in worship, or prayer, or Bible study where everything seems so clear. The choice to love seems obvious. The option to overcome is eminent. But only moments after that revelation, seconds after that clear call I hear that all too familiar whispering….did God really say?

And it is that moment where we can get stuck in the middle. It is that moment that we need the power of the Holy Spirit. Call out to Him. Out loud. Father. I believe, help my unbelief. Not my will but Yours. Not by might, nor by power, but by Your Spirit.   I pray that the words we hear on Sunday, the scripture that is presented, would bring lasting change and continuous comfort throughout the week.
Amen.

Watch the sermon here.

What did you learn this weekend that is drawing your closer to Christ this week?