Becoming A Thankful Family

Thanksgiving is upon us. I love this time of year. I love taking the time to really focus on my blessings. I put together a devotional to help guide our family toward more grateful hearts.

Advent and Christmas are coming. The pressures of materialism are going to be high. The “More! More! More!” season is coming. Let’s stop the monster before it begins. Let’s focus on what we have for this month.

I have put together one devotion per week. It is super easy and super simple. This is a great intro to doing family devotionals, if you don’t already. Family devotions will be a blessing to your family, and this simple one for the four weeks of November leading up to Advent will be easy to commit to and succeed. One day a week. That’s all.

Some tips when it comes to family devotions: Expect to get as much out of it as your children. This is for the benefit of everyone in the family, not just the kids. Let yourself be open and vulnerable during this time. Schedule the time to do the devotional, and don’t let it be optional. Don’t let yourself put it off. Put it on the family calendar for a time that works for your family, and do it. Follow up on the other days of the week. Remind your kids what you are working on. Do the optional activities on the “off” days. Make sure to pray. You can take prayer requests or not, but make sure to include prayer in your devotion time.

My prayer for you is that you center yourself on Jesus and recognize how blessed you are. I pray you will be challenged to be a blessing to others. I pray your family will see the world through the lens of gratitude. May the Lord be with you and yours.

Week One

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Week Two

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Week Three

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Week Four

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Grateful for Enough

flowerEnough is not a concept we’re very aware of in Western culture. We want excess. We want more. Enough to us is just not enough, and that desire for more transforms our prayers and our perception of God’s answers to our prayers.   We have no concept of daily bread. Our perception of need is very off.

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So we end up adopting one of two theologies. One theology we use to bridge this gap is to say that, if we’re not getting what we pray for, the fault is ours. We’re just not doing it right. In our heads, we say that God gives all things requested to the super-spiritual elite. If we’re not getting all we’re asking for, it is because we just haven’t made it to VIP status with God yet. Clearly, the problem with this theology lies in everyone that isn’t Western. Very real poverty exists in much of the world. Are we really willing to say that is their fault? The Christians in Third World countries are just not as loved by God as we are. Saints who spent their entire lives living in poverty for the sake of others are just somehow not among the spiritual elite, as evidenced by their poor surroundings and lack of wordily goods. The Christians in Egypt are just missing out on some secret that puts you in God’s “favorites” column. So we swing the other direction and embrace an opposite theological assumption: God doesn’t care about your happiness. He wants holiness only. Your enjoyment of life or lack thereof is none of His concern. Your emotional needs don’t matter. You just need to put your head down and run the race He sets before you without complaint. Carry your own cross and don’t complain about it. With this, we’re willing to say our Heavenly Father cares nothing for us except that we do as we are told. He’s apparently a “children should be seen and not heard” type of Dad. Your obedience is all that matters. Not sure where we file the God-is-love bit under this theology.

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There is a middle ground we overlook– something between the extremes we forget. God does love us, and God does want us to be happy. We just have to readjust our goals, our vision. We’ve got to learn what provision really means. We’ve got to learn to be grateful for enough– to turn off the cultural impulse to have the most, to live with excess. We have to learn what it means to have daily bread. Our prayers for half a million dollar homes need to be replaced with gratitude for a safe place to sleep. Instead of prayers for extra money for our saving accounts, dream vacations, and big screen TVs, being thankful for paid bills, comfortable surroundings, and jobs to support our needs… I’m not saying there is anything wrong with nice houses, vacations, and comforts. But those are not proof that God loves you. It is simply proof you live a very privileged life.

God clearly wants you to be happy. Look at the flowers, clouds, stars, birds. This world has plenty of enjoyments– holy enjoyments. God wants you to be happy with His provision. You just have to change the terms of your own happiness. Learn to be grateful with enough. Learn to be grateful for the privileges we have as Westerners.

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I may not own a big, fancy house, but I have  a safe, comfortable home. I may not have a huge amount of money in the bank, but my needs are all met. We may not go on elaborate vacations, but I have a lovely family and time to spend enjoying everyday life with them. I have enough. I even have more than enough. I am grateful.