Each year in November, Americans celebrate a holiday aptly named Thanksgiving where we pause for a moment, take a deep breath, count our blessing, and express our gratitude. We spend time with family, eat delicious food, kick off the Christmas holiday season, watch football, and engage in any number of personal family traditions.
Perhaps this year, more than in others in recent memory, I am more cognizant of the need to give thanks. However, I think something we need to consider as we are leading the next generation of citizens, is that gratitude is not limited to a spoken “thank you” or a special day.
Gratitude is a way of life; a continual living into an awareness of the blessings we have and the grace we are given each and every moment of the day.
Simply put, gratitude is a life of awe. It’s a place where we are very aware of the incredible life we are given, from the air that we breathe to the food that we eat. It’s more than an attitude or a platitude – it’s a state of being.
Often our children miss out on awe. Their lives are fast-paced and hurried. They shuffle from one activity to the next, one distraction to the next, one practice to the next and that sense of awe and wonder gets lost in the noise. And let’s be frank, a constant lack of awe leads to a lack of gratitude and a growth of entitlement. When we aren’t aware of the greatness of our blessings, we assume that our blessings are our rights and we behave in ways that are more greedy than gracious, more demanding than grateful.
How can we help our kids live a life of awe?
We can STOP
For a moment, for a breath, we can stop. Stop the car. Stop the conversation. Stop the running. Stop for just a moment and look up, look out, and look around. My kids love to make fun of me because I will pull the car off on the side of the road to get a picture of the sky. They make fun of me, but they also look up a lot – at stars, at clouds, at sunrises and sunsets – and they are in awe of our Creator. And that leads to thanksgiving. So, let’s stop for a just a moment, when our kids are watching, and live into awe.
We can GO
One thing that hinders gratitude is an introspective life that is focused inward on self. A. W. Tozer once shared, “Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” Showing and offering gratitude leads us to look not to self, but to others.
When we are aware of our blessings, we want to extend those blessings to those around us. There is something amazingly precious about our children watching us serve others and joining us in that work. It leads to a distinct awareness of just how blessed we really are.
We can SPEAK
My favorite hashtag on social media is #speaklife. I love it because if you click on it, you will find all manner of uplifting and powerful messages of life-giving hope. We can speak life. Gratitude isn’t just about saying thank you, it’s about speaking life into situations where hopelessness and darkness encroach and try to steal, kill and destroy hearts and lives. It’s the antithesis of grumbling and complaining.
Gratitude says there is hope and if our children need to hear anything today, it’s that there is hope – unending, never failing hope.
Maybe your church or family is doing a gratitude challenge this month? Well, here’s my challenge for all of us. As we look around at the world around us and we see the things that hurt our hearts and weigh heavy on our spirit, let’s cultivate a new approach within ourselves – an approach that stops, goes, and speaks with heartfelt gratefulness and genuine thanksgiving – an approach that leads to a sense of awe and wonder.
- Take pictures of the sky
- Sing songs loudly in the car
- Spin around until we fall down
- Make a card for a friend
- Pick a flower for a neighbor
- Give a meal to someone who is hungry
- Fill a envelope with notes of love and drop it in the mail
- Hold hands and go for a walk
- Stop the car and watch the sunset
- Whisper a prayer as we walk along the way
- Talk about our day as we sit at home
- Bless our family as we rise and
- Pray for them as we lie down
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
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About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.