Cigarettes to gratitude
PLYMOUTH – Many of us have similar Thanksgiving traditions that can be worshipful. After scanning the four family-centered rituals, would you continue to read and discover three rhythms of life that can build a scaffolding of gratitude in your life?
A scaffold, because wise believers are always under construction removing the pollution of cynicism to reveal the divine gifts, from the Father, of gratitude and joy which are implanted into our believing lives at that second of salvation.
Before serving the meal, ask each person at the table to share one thing for which they are thankful for this year.
Invite each person to express gratitude for another person at the table until each person has been appreciated aloud in front of others.
Give opportunity for each person at the table to say 2-3 sentences of thanksgiving in a continual circle of prayer before eating the meal.
Have a large stick-it poster on the wall near the dining table where before sitting down for the meal, everyone is invited to write down 1-2 words that will prompt them to testify about their subject of thanksgiving before they eat from their plate.
The following three statements and three scriptures will bring renewal to your soul teaching you once again how gratitude and joy are expressions of worship to our Lord.
A Grateful Attitude Leads to Happiness
Ephesians 5:20 says, “Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
During the late 1960s when life was simple and we were naïve about a lot of dangerous things, my dad would go to work about three o’clock in the afternoon at the car factory, and my mother would slip a few dollars into my hands with the following instructions, “Tony, for supper, would you walk over to the little store and pick up a gallon of milk, some brown and serve rolls, some eggs, and a carton of cigarettes?” My ten-year-old reply to my precious mother was, “Sure Mom, I will.”
I marched to the store with money in my hand and in less than ten minutes returned home with the goods to hear my mother’s kind words of appreciation, “Thank you, Tony, for doing that for me.” Add my mother’s “thank you,” to the store owner thanking me for shopping at her store, and me saying thank you to the store owner for bagging my groceries and you discover there was a lot of appreciation in just ten minutes. Today, all of us are wiser and not as naïve. We stopped buying those “cancer sticks” a long time ago. Mom is still with us.
In our daily lives, there should be a chasm of difference between saying a courteous “thank you” to a restaurant server and expressions of gratitude to our Heavenly Father, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the sacrificial Jesus Christ. On the scaffold of your life can you see the distinction?
My wife and I share life every day. We speak graciously to one another using words like, please, thank you, you’re welcome, and more words of courtesy and appreciation than I have space to list. But the favorite moments of our days, is when we listen to one another speak prayers of thanksgiving to the Heavenly Father expressing our gratitude for his care, his company, and his continual guidance. As a result, even when times are disappointing, when others let us down, when outcomes are not as pleasant as we desire, we can honestly say that we are happy.
We live by the words in Ephesians 5 when it says, “Give thanks for everything to God the Father.” From our personal Bible studies and diet of sound preaching and teaching at our local church, and our frequent sessions of prayer throughout the day we continue to learn what is good for us and what is bad for us. We are careful to give thanks to a generous and righteous Lord who knows what is best for us when we don’t know ourselves. Our attitude of gratitude leads us into a joy that accompanies us daily.
Successes in Our Lives Are Shared with Others
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
My childhood in Flint, Michigan was filled with failures and successes. I knew the difference between failures and successes because I saw others succeed where I failed, and I saw others fail where I succeeded. During fifth grade our school’s teachers became obsessed with spelling bee contests between the different classes. I discovered I was good at memorization and spelling.
One day as competing classes stood across the room from one another, students were dropping out one after another on this particular day of the spelling bee championship because the teachers selected some tricky words. The word that defeated most of us was the word, “depot.” Everyone tried with d-e-p-o-e, or d-e-p-o-w, or d-e-p-o. As my turn came, I recalled that one of the drives to our favorite fishing spot in the next county was through Durand, Michigan where there was an old train depot that was never used. I saw the sign each time we went fishing which was often, so I planned on spelling the word, d-e-p-o-t when it came my turn.
However, at the last second, I was afraid to spell it with a “t,” because it didn’t make sense to me. So, I let my fear of embarrassment lead me to misspelling the word just like someone else had done two turns before me. I can still recall the look of disappointment on my teacher’s face when I misspelled the word. Moments later, she whispered to me, “Tony, I thought you would know the word and win the year’s championship for us.” My fear of embarrassment overcame my rational observation of a word on a train station sign in Durand.
To the world we will look strange giving thanks to the Lord in difficult times; but it is what the Bible teaches us to do. 1 Thessalonians 5 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances.” In a world where others will cast the spotlight of success on themselves it is tempting to ignore the influence of those who helped us get to where we are: the Lord and those he places into our lives.
As Americans surrounded by capitalism, we need to be careful that we do not look for profiting from transactions with the Lord. You know what I am saying. Our prayers sometimes contain outlines like this, “Lord, if I do 1, 2, and 3, I know you will bless me with blank.” Instead, we should be praying, “Lord, if nothing changes, and you don’t move the mountain before me, and if you don’t split the water of trial drowning me, I will still trust in you.”
Our thanksgiving will grow immeasurably when we trust the Lord in every circumstance rather than seek a transaction. I recently told someone waiting on the improved health of his precious daughter, “We are grateful for doctors who help our children, but the people who become our lifelong friends are the ones who calmly sit in the hospital waiting room sharing our fears, crying with us, waiting for the outcome, then pressing forward into the outcome. That is what we do when we express our gratitude in all circumstances to the Father and those around us.
Gratitude Makes Us Feel Rich, Complaining Makes Us Feel Poor
Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body, you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”
I discovered that I have a life-long allergy to complainers, moaners, faultfinders, and problem-makers. They do not cause me to sneeze or give me a rash, but I find an uncontrollable urge to get away from them, to stop visiting with them, to avoid them.
I grew up lavished with encouragement and support. Yes, my mother would say, like yours, “If you don’t have anything good to say, be quiet.” I enjoy feeling rich in the Lord’s love and care. I savor meaningful relationships with people who are gracious and thankful. I feel like I am covered in a warm blanket of love when I voice the blessings in my life.
When I express gratitude, I am not bragging on me. I am boasting in the Lord’s merciful love for a sinner like me. I love telling stories about my life and the lives of others where the Lord is the obvious hero. Sometimes you have to watch that you don’t drift out of the freshwater of gratitude into the swirling current of complaining.
During the 1980s, while studying for my master’s degree in Kentucky, I commuted to work with another seminary student to save money for baby formula and diapers for two daughters. Let’s pretend the other student's name was John because his name was really John. In a matter of weeks while pursuing my degree to help me become a pastor, I discovered that John’s constant mood was critical of others, and he could complain about everything.
Before I knew it, our commute transformed me from a student excited about learning to a student grumbling about every professor and every expectation. One day during a quiet time of Bible study and prayer, I was led to try and redeem our conversations in the car to words that were uplifting. Sadly, the mood never changed for the two weeks I tried, until I finally said to John at the end of the week, “I will not be commuting with you to seminary anymore, I cannot take the complaining and fault-finding you talk about all the time. It brings out in me something I don’t want to become.”
Yes, our friendship ended on that day, but it was worth it. From the scaffold of my life, I removed a man who would have helped me perfect a cynical outlook and instead chose to focus on the Father who took a nobody from Flint to learn about his love from many teachers.
I was taking Colossians 3 as fact when it said, “Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body, you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” I did not want to become poor like John, I wanted to be rich in gratitude and joy.
Those who are focused on craving the wrong things and not receiving them are miserable, while those of us who reach to be embraced by the loving arms of our Heavenly Father while feeling the breath of his spiritual voice on our necks are the happiest of all.
My prayer for you and your family this Thanksgiving is that you will find your next steps to increase your gratitude so that the Lord’s joy will fill your minds, your hearts, and your hopes for a bright future.
Gratitude leads to happiness. Ephesians 5:20, “Give thanks for everything to God.”
Successes in our lives are shared with others. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Be thankful in all circumstances.”
Gratitude makes us feel rich, complaining makes us feel poor. Colossians 3:15, “You are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”
Happy Thanksgiving from Tony and Jamie Lynn.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Tony L. Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.