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Summary: Our children, and indeed everyone around us, should discover in us a soul conditioned and overflowing with gratitude.

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What Parents Owe Their Children:

An Attitude of Gratitude

Sunday, November 25, 2001

For many this week, Thanksgiving was a very different holiday.

Usually, on Thanksgiving, we stress about the Turkey coming out too dry. We vacillate over which pies to make… and how many pieces to eat. We struggle with arranging our schedule to make room for travel and for visiting guests. We anguish over the Cowboys kicking a one-point conversion instead of going for two…

But this year there was a different flavor, a different taste to the Thanksgiving holiday. And for evidence, I point you to that great revealer of American sentiment, that source of wisdom and wit… The funny pages.

Notice the theme of the Thanksgiving comic strips this year:

[Comic strips]

- Snuffy Smith – “What cause your fainty spell, parson” “I took up a collection at church to benefit victims of teorrism an’ everybody contributed – even Snuffy Smith.”

- Born Loser - Policeman helping up the born loser – “Guess I have a lot to be thankful for after all.”

- Hi and Lois - Heroes wear many hats

- Baby Blues - Mom says, “This place is incredible! Everywhere I look there are toys, clothes, food, books and kids.” Dad hears here and asks, “Are you feeling frustrated?” “No, thankful.”

- Family Circus – After PJ’s block tower has crumbled, his sister encourages him, “Don’t worry P.J. we’ll rebuild! It’s the ‘Merican way!”

- Dennis the Menace prays, “We give thanks for family, friends, heroes and freedom.”

- From B.C. – “Greater Love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” “I will never leave you for forsake you.” – Jesus

[Each of these strips was part of a collaborative effort to raise money for relief – check out www.networkforgood.org]

In these times, what parents owe their children is an attitude of gratitude. To raise our children, to model the Christian life for the kids around us, without thankfulness as a central practice is to impoverish the Christian faith and to sour the Christian soul. Children need to seen in us an attitude of gratitude.

Why is gratitude so important? Gratitude is a curative element of the Christian life. To live with gratitude inoculates our hearts against some of the most gangrenous diseases present in our culture. Through the practice of gratitude, God gives us an antidote to some very toxic contagions spreading throughout humanity. Allow me to demonstrate.

Gratitude is an Antidote for Grumbling

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7 (NIV)

Written on the entrance to a Sunday School classroom: Do not grumble because you do not get what you want; be thankful you do not get what you deserve!

In Budapest, a man goes to the rabbi and complains, "Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?"

The rabbi answers, "Take your goat into the room with you." The man in incredulous, but the rabbi insists. "Do as I say and come back in a week."

A week later the man comes back looking more distraught than before. "We cannot stand it," he tells the rabbi. "The goat is filthy."

The rabbi then tells him, "Go home and let the goat out. And come back in a week."

A radiant man returns to the rabbi a week later, exclaiming, "Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there’s no goat -- only the nine of us."

There is much in life to be thankful for, isn’t there?

Consider all the ways in which the Bible speaks out against complaining and grumbling. Gratitude vaccinates us against such unhealthy human tendencies.

Gratitude is an Antidote for Greed

In North America we live in this overpower consumeristic culture. No doubt, the approaching Christmas holiday can bring out the worst of this in all our lives. We live frantically thinking we’d be happier if we just had a little more money, a little more of this, a little more of that…

The Bible warns us against loving money, quite clearly and quite frequently. We know chasing after money and possessions is just chasing after the wind. If we are going to help our children recognize and value the peace and joy and hope of relationship with Jesus, we have to teach them to store up a different kind of treasure.

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6: 20-21 (NIV)

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