This is the week most of us try to reserve some extra attention to the things we are grateful for. Sermons, the blog world, devotionals, and even Facebook will point us toward trying to reflect on the things we are thankful for. Gratitude dances through our minds as we wait out the first few days of the week, and then, some of us, spend a day slowing down and truly enjoying good food and relationships.
But even those of us who use this week as a place to be grateful and present eventually have the tide shift towards the end of Thanksgiving day.
Lines begin to form.
Deals begin to start.
Crowds begin to gather, credit begins to stretch, stress begins to build.
We begin to ask the dreaded December question: What am I going to give _____?
Allow me to incite your panic early:
Not only do we have to pick out thoughtful gifts for special relationships, we have to pick gifts that seem like we care for less important relationships. Then every charity in the world will want a piece of our holiday budget.
We go from slow, reflective gratitude to a stressful state of being stretch thin and trying to meet too many people’s expectations.
Shouldn’t giving be a little less stressful? Why do the writers of Scripture equate giving and joy when it more often feels like giving is stressful?
Maybe there is a connection between Thanksgiving and Christmas that has been hijacked and commercialized. Perhaps it is even possible the thankfulness and pace of Thanksgiving could actually be the key to the gifts that we give.
One of the most challenging sermons I have heard in 2011 was a sermon by Kent Dobson. I have thought about it so much, I am no longer sure what was in his talk and what I have added to it. But here is what I took away:
We should give out of the places we experiences as true gift.
Here is what I mean:
There are places in our lives where the only explanation for the experience is “gift.”
The birth of a child.
God showing up in places we didn’t expect.
Jobs or activities we love.
People we love.
…things that we often describe as “too good to be true.”
When we experience these things, we usually take one of two courses.
1) We experience them and become entitled. We assume we deserve them.
2) We see them as the gifts they are and become grateful.
The first path leads us down a road of trying to get more and more and more. It cannot handle failure or others having more than us. It centers our tiny little world on us and our pleasure and crumbles when we don’t get our way.
The second road keeps us grateful. More and more of life begins to be seen as a gift. We begin to see even the ordinary moments as a gift, not just the extraordinary and special ones.
The more we experience this, the more grateful we become. And the more grateful we become, the more we realize our gifts are meant to be shared.
We become thanks givers.
When we experience things in life that can only be defined as gift, we know what part of ourselves we need to share with others.
Gratitude leads to giving.
But not the obligatory and compulsive giving we often experience on Black Friday. But the joyous kind which cannot comprehend a different way of handling the undeserved and unexpected gifts of life.
When we are truly grateful for something, we begin to see the best gifts in life are meant to be shared.
A regular rhythm of gratitude makes us better givers. But this is not a good tip to survive December. This is a way of life.
We need to create more Thanksgiving time to reflect and be grateful. Our lives should be a constant pattern of gratitude and giving out of that gratitude, rather than a once a year scramble to look like we are giving and thankful.
So this week as you have space to focus on gratitude, here are a few things to think about:
What are the things in your life that can only be explained as “gift”?
How could you give what you experience in those gifts to another person?
How can you create space in your regular routine to become more aware of the gifts you are being given?
We would love to hear what you are grateful for and how you can use it to be a Thanks Giver.