faith and family
Nov/Dec 2017 Connections
by Marcus J. Carlson
If you are reading this article, you are already someone who has much to be thankful for. You can read, you get mail, you have enough income to get a magazine and of course the many other things that make you blessed. The truth is, that as a culture and in the church, we have lost sight of thankfulness.
I know this is also true when it comes to parenting and to our families. We live in a world that constantly sells fear and focuses our attention on what is not going right, what we do not have, what we need, where we fail and where we do not measure up. Sadly, the church of Jesus Christ has bought into this as has the family.
As a parent, I want the best for my children. I want to give them the best chance at having a Christ-centered, ful lling, happy life with many opportunities and resources. As a parent I am also someone who worries about how my kids behave, how others see them, our family and the two of us as parents. When our kids get in trouble, do something wrong, misbehave, upset church members or hurt someone else, I struggle in many ways. I struggle with how we might look to others. I struggle with wondering if I caused it. I struggle as I wonder if there is something going on with my kid that I do not know about. I can say this, because I know that I am not alone in that.
We are also consumed by the ways that we do not measure up: to God, the ideal image of family, the ideal body image, our possessions and accomplishments and so much more. In the church we are no better. We often talk about what we do not like, what person is doing this thing or that thing wrong, who is upset about what, who is not showing up right now and why, the decline of our membership and attendance, and the decrease in people under 40 in our churches. We are a people who get stuck on what is going wrong and what we do not have instead of being thankful.
The truth is that this is not only unhealthy, it is not the way of Christ, and the devil has a eld day with this. While it may be human tendency to focus on the negative, the way of the disciple is to start with a posture of thankfulness.
Thankfulness starts with the simple and obvious. It also helps us to see God in every moment and every little detail of our life. The God who created the universe cares about every little detail in our lives. Thanking God — for a new day, for food, for family, for a job, for life, for friends, for a home, for a vehicle, for good weather and a laundry list of items — is something we take for granted or forget about every singe day of our lives.
We assume that somehow they do not matter because everyone around us has these things. We assume that somehow we are entitled to these things. We get so focused on how much better the neighbor’s family, job, car or house is than ours that we completely neglect to be thankful for what we have. When it comes to being thankful for the things we are used to having, complacency is a tool of the evil one.
Anyone who has traveled to a second or third world country has learned to appreciate what we often take for granted, such as indoor plumbing, electricity, doors, clothing, health care, etc. While our thankfulness starts with the simple things, we are called to be thankful in the bigger things. Times where God answers prayer for some relational,financial or health challenge. Thankfulness for something that has happened in our faith, our family, our work or some other area of our life. Thankfulness for when God answers prayers in a way that is different from we hoped or expected, such as relieving the suffering of someone we love by calling them home or providing a challenging, but manageable resolution to an issue we are facing.
Thankfulness is not just an idea, a prayer or a habit, it is a posture of our heart. We are to give God thanks in all things, knowing there are always worse alternatives. We give God thanks knowing we are loved and that there is nothing we do or face alone. We give God thanks that we are called and chosen as His children, adopted into His family, saved by His grace.
Thankfulness is a matter of perspective and trust. The cynic sees the glass as half empty, the optimist sees the glass as half full, the disciple of Jesus sees the glass as re llable. There is always hope, there is always something to be thankful for. Anything we face, we do not face alone. No matter how di cult and ugly life becomes in our family, work, church and world, we already know the ending to the story. Jesus wins. Jesus has already won.
Until that day we come face to face with Jesus in our death or His return, we live on this earth as a people of hope, trust and thankfulness until that day where we will live in glory with Jesus where being thankful will be the only possible choice.
We must create space for thankfulness in our worship and our churches. This year, in our own church we have as one of our priorities to focus more on thankfulness and gratitude, to infuse our church culture with a posture of thankfulness. We are challenging each other as pastors, sta and lay leaders to share more often the things we are thankful for. We are taking time to focus on what we have to be thankful for over the challenges we face.
When we talk about the challenges we face, we then take time to give thanks in the midst of those challenges. We are sharing stories of how God has moved in our midst so that everyone can join in thankfulness. We have added time during our prayer time to share prayers of thanks, both corporately and individually.
Thankfulness is not the natural response or posture in our hearts and lives, that is a part of our sinful nature. We must be intentional in our thankfulness and culture, a spirit of thankfulness in our hearts, our families and our churches.
Thankfulness is something we must do better as Christians, as the church of Jesus Christ and as families. We must model thankfulness to our children. We must have thankfulness be a part of our everyday lives.
Our children need to have the message of the Gospel imprinted on their minds, hearts and lives. Thankfulness is part of the message of the Gospel of Jesus. Our children will continue to grow up in a world focused on negativity and fear, a world where our attention is drawn to what we don’t have rather than being focused on giving thanks for what we do have.
One of the best ways to give our children a better world and a better life is to teach and model a posture of thanksgiving. May God give us the courage, wisdom and strength to be thankful in all things.
For more on this topic, contact Marcus at:
or visit his website at:www.revdrorange.com
Marcus J. Carlson
is an ordained pastor (LCMC & NALC), with a Doctor of Ministry focused in fam- ily ministry. He currently serves as Senior Pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Auburn, IN. He and his wife, Jessica, have two children.