Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Grateful/Thankful/Blessing Jar

This is the Sunday School lesson from Sunday.  If you are in our class and were out on Sunday, drop by the classroom and pick up your surprise (on the bench in our room).

Bing Crosby used to sing and you can still hear him through the magic of tv and itunes:
When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
I fall asleep counting my blessings

Or maybe you have sung this old hymn in a worship service: (thought only Baptists sang this - found out the Methodists sang it, too!!)

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

Or how about this -- In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he wrote:  So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Thankfulness – thankful – to be grateful; to be filled with gratitude; appreciative
Gratitude – readiness to show appreciation for and to return a kindness

Blessing – a special gift from God; a special favor, mercy or benefit (encouraged class to also listen to Nathan Carden's sermon about blessing from last year -- not saying that we are blessed while others aren't)

Or how about Philippians 4:11 – I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

That verse speaks to me of having a “joy filled  heart” – everything around me may be in complete chaos but my heart can still be filled with joy.

You may or may not realize this, but while the general public is running around in the 25 or so days between Thanksgiving and Christmas eve, people who work in a church are scurrying around also.  Just not in the same way.  While Joe Q. Public is picking out wrapping paper and tissue paper, church staff members are selecting the paper on which countless bulletins will be printed for all the special services.  While others are eating Christmas Eve breakfast, church staff members are scurrying to make sure that supper is ready – you know – the Lord’s supper --  making sure that all the communion elements are prepared for over 2000 people and some one has to make sure that baby Jesus is fast asleep in the manger.

Christmas doesn't come for church staff members until midnight on Christmas Eve . . . and Christmas Eve is a wonderful night . . .and then there are the twelve days of Christmas.  

I’m so thankful for Christmas Day through January 6 – ephiphany – the 12 days of Christmas.  I’m not complaining about my job  – I love it.  But Christmas just takes on a slightly different slant. Those things are just the reality of December and lots of folks don’t understand it – sometimes even my own family.  The beauty is that the week after Christmas can be lived at a slower pace than those previous 25 days. (that is probably true for most of us)  The week between Christmas and new year’s gives me – and perhaps many of you - time to think – time to appreciate life – time to realize just how many things we have in our lives for which we can be thankful.

One of my main thoughts during these last few days has been about being thankful.  I've been thinking about being grateful.  When I start really thinking about those things for which I’m grateful/thankful, I’m actually a little overwhelmed -- a lot overwhelmed.  Think with me for a minute – many of these things might be applicable in your own life.

I woke up this morning.  Yes – I’m grateful that my eyes opened and I could see.  I said a prayer for those who are sight impaired.  I was also able to throw back warm covers from a mattress.  I’m thankful for a bed in which to sleep – warm in winter, cool in summer.  I said a prayer for those who live on the streets of Birmingham, those sleeping on cots at the firehouse shelter and those who are displaced by war.  I then hopped into my luxurious shower and used all the hot water that I wanted.  I am so grateful to have not only clean water to drink but the luxury of bathing in heated water.  I gave thanks to God for sight and beds and water and I asked God to be with those who have no clean drinking water and to send those who know how to dig wells to help them.

I was then able to go into my kitchen and turn on my gas stove and oven and make pigs in a blanket because there was excess food in our refrigerator from the holidays that needed to be cooked and eaten.  I gave thanks to god and I prayed for those who have to cook on an open fire inside a tent and I prayed for folks like Dave Barnhart who know how to make a rocket stove that reduces the smoke output and I prayed for those momma’s who have to make a box of rice and a can of beans stretch for several meals and I thought about our next mission project in our class here or on Tuesday nights and what we could do to help.

I then opened my Bible and looked up several scriptures using the concordance in the back of the Bible.  I gave thanks for the holy scriptures – some of which are words of Jesus that he spoke all those years ago.  I gave thanks for a mama who raised me in the church.  I gave thanks for parents who pushed me to do well in school so that I am able to read and comprehend.  I gave thanks for education.

I also got in my car and drove to the store.  I gave thanks that my car runs well and that I had a full tank of gas.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  How many things do we take for granted every single day . . .when instead we should be very grateful?  As one of our young adults recently stated, “young adults are of the entitled generation.”  Our whole society has become a little bit that way. . . or maybe a lot that way.   Yes, I know that most of you have worked hard to get where you are and I know that some have more than others but everyone of us in this room has many things for which we are thankful.  But do we take time every day to give thanks to God?  Do we take time every day to even realize how many things we have for which we should be grateful?

Every day we see things of beauty – we are surrounded by nature – we live in a world where the sun comes up every morning and the moon comes out at night and the oceans crash against sandy beaches and rocky crags.  I am thankful – are you?

Most of us have some family that we love and hopefully, some friends.  For that I am thankful, are you?

For what else are you thankful?  Think with broad strokes . . .(health, our church, freedom)
So, here we are on January 4, 2015 – we are at the beginning of a new year.  We have a choice.  We can get up every day and be grateful and give thanks . . .or not.  You know what is interesting?  If we do get up every day and we do give thanks and we realize that we have much for which to be grateful, our whole attitude will change.  Sometimes I need an attitude adjustment. We won’t be nearly as grumpy.  We won’t wallow in self-pity nearly as much.  We will keep our eyes on Jesus Christ a whole lot more.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 says, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.

 I've made each of you a little something.  I have a jar per “family unit” – whether that means there is just one of you or a couple – There is a snack to enjoy now.  When you've eaten your snack, wash and dry your jar.  Every day, take a little slip of paper and write down something for which you are grateful – something for which you give thanks.  It could be any of those things that I mentioned in the lesson.  It could be that you are thankful for the kindness of someone else.  It could be that you are thankful your money lasted the whole month.  It could be that you are thankful for the smile of someone you passed on the street or in the parking lot.  After you jot down your note, Fold that piece of paper up and drop it in your jar.  Do this every day until your jar is full . . .and then get a bigger jar if necessary to complete the year.  On December 31, 2015 . . .the words from the two songs I quoted at the first of the lesson won’t just be words from a song – you can actually COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS . . .name them one by one . . .at the end of the year, you will be able to realize that you can give thanks every day – even in the midst of chaos.  You will be able to see how friends have surrounded you.  You will see that you have MUCH for which to be grateful.

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