When It’s Hard to be Thankful

During November the COMPASS Blog is sharing reflections about Thanksgiving and digging more deeply into why we give thanks. Today we welcome back regular contributor and Ecumenical Stewardship Center Executive Director and CEO, Marcia Shetler, who reflects about when it’s hard to be thankful. 

thanksgiving3Canada and the US both have national Thanksgiving holidays: the US Thanksgiving Day is November 26. However, on that day not everyone will celebrate or be thankful. Situations that we, our family and friends, and others in the world have experienced or are experiencing range from disturbing to heartbreaking. When it’s hard to be thankful, what can we do?

We can find many accounts in the Bible of persons who had an attitude of gratitude in the midst of difficult circumstances: Paul; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; and David, to name a few. Psalm 33 is a psalm of gratitude, giving praise for many things that God has done. It ends this way:

20 We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone. (NLT)

The Psalmist suggests that trust in God accompanies thankfulness. While we may doubt God’s care for us when we face difficult circumstances, Adam Hamilton, senior pastor at the Church of the Resurrection in Overland Park, Kansas, writes that “Rejecting God doesn’t change the situation … it only removes the greatest source of hope, help, comfort, and strength we have.”

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield offers eight ways to stay thankful in hard times, including:

  • Find things to be grateful for;
  • Share stories about things you are grateful for;
  • Help others with their needs;
  • Give, even if it seems like your gift is insignificant.

A measure of our faith, and certainly our generosity, is our trust in God. An attitude of scarcity—that we don’t have enough—comes from a lack of trust. Persons who view life with an attitude of abundance can be generous with their time, talents, and resources because they trust God to provide.

Perhaps this song from the Taize Community can be our Thanksgiving hymn:

In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful

In the Lord I will rejoice

Look to God, do not be afraid

Lift up your voices, the Lord is near.

Lift up your voices, the Lord is near.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image Credit: Thanksgiving

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A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

During November the COMPASS Blog is sharing reflections about Thanksgiving and digging more deeply into why we give thanks. Today we welcome back regular contributor Nicole Brennan who ponders the question for herself in sharing some pictures of what and who she is thankful for and in writing that “A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart.”

Family Party. “I am thankful for the wonderful people in my family and for our crazy traditions. This is “Misfit Christmas” where anyone who doesn’t have a place to go on Christmas is always welcome.”

Family Party.
“I am thankful for the wonderful people in my family and for our crazy traditions. This is “Misfit Christmas” where anyone who doesn’t have a place to go on Christmas is always welcome.”

I had no idea that when Timothy posed the question, “Why do you give thanks?” it would be such a difficult question to answer. It feels like the answer is “Because… I do.” It feels natural and right to say “thank you.” I don’t think it’s just my Midwest upbringing or my Christian faith. I hope it’s instinctive in humanity to be grateful. As I reflect on it more, I guess it isn’t a “natural” trait to be grateful since it seems we have to learn it.

As a young child, I remember learning about being grateful. Like any good Christian kid of the 90s/2000s, I have watched nearly every VeggieTales episode repeatedly. One of my favorites is “Madame Blueberry.” I can sing you all the songs, including the “Love Songs with Mr. Lunt.” (For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, watch it now!) It perfectly encapsulates the reason we are not grateful (materialism), the reasons we should be (God’s goodness), and how to achieve it (being grateful)- by singing the “Thankfulness Song”:

I thank God for this day,
For the sun in the sky,
For my mom and my dad,
For my piece of apple pie!
For our home on the ground,
For His love that’s all around,
That’s why I say thanks every day!
Because a thankful heart is a happy heart
I’m glad for what I have,
That’s an easy way to start!
For the love that He shares,
‘Cause He listens to my prayers,
That’s why I say thanks every day!

As an adult, I’m still learning about gratitude. Last year at this time, I wrote about the importance of gratitude and four simple ways to practice it. I’m very blessed to have a job in a place that emphasizes stewardship and generosity. In the course of my work there, I have read several books about gratitude, generosity, materialism, and contentment.

Roommates at trivia. “I have been blessed with a great home, surrounded by caring roommates… who also love trivia as much as me! We just placed first!”

Roommates at trivia.
“I have been blessed with a great home, surrounded by caring roommates… who also love trivia as much as me! We just placed first!”

I recently read a book, “Enough,” that I want to draw your attention to. One particular chapter stuck with me- about how rich I am. I haven’t always considered myself “rich,” especially when I was living on donations during my year of service, but I always had enough. And by having “enough,” I was rich. The beauty of simplicity first got ahold of me then, and it’s a value I constantly strive for, but haven’t quite mastered. From all  I’ve read and witnessed—especially this time of year—many people realize they are rich, too. But we all just forget in the haze of more stuff. There is an overwhelming craving in our society (perhaps humanity) to “need more.” We need more clothes, toys, affection, attention, and approval. But we already have more than enough. We are inundated with stuff and rich with blessings.

Catherine and I eating sandwiches in Florence. “My beautiful (inside and out!) friends are a blessing for which I’m eternally grateful. Here is my friend, Catherine, who I have magnificent adventures with! We are eating the biggest, and most delicious paninis in Florence, Italy.”

Catherine and I eating sandwiches in Florence.
“My beautiful (inside and out!) friends are a blessing for which I’m eternally grateful. Here is my friend, Catherine, who I have magnificent adventures with! We are eating the biggest, and most delicious paninis in Florence, Italy.”

This brings me back to the reason why I give thanks- because I appreciate the numerous blessings of God. We are blessed beyond riches to be alive, to be able to think, and to have a functioning body. There are numerous immaterial reasons to be thankful: my family, my friends, the people I encounter, and the places I get to see. Regardless of my material wealth, I am always grateful that I have enough.

About the Author, Nicole Brennan: Hello there! I’m passionate about living a stewardly lifestyle, while being adventurous and frugal. I currently live in community with six other 20-somethings in downtown Chicago and work as a Marketing Assistant at Barnabas Foundation, a partner of ESC and COMPASS. In my off hours, you can find me volunteering at a nearby homeless shelter, enjoying live music with friends, or watching reruns of Parks and Rec. Email me at nicoletbrennan@gmail.com or tweet me at @BarnabasFdn.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Why Do I Give Thanks?

20151110_141047This month the COMPASS blog is sharing Thanksgiving-themed reflections, especially those that dig deeper into thinking about why we give thanks.

It’s only fair that I should answer this question since I am inviting so many others to share their thoughts here with you. For me, my honest answer is simply, what else can I do?

I’m reminded of the themes of Thanksgiving found throughout scripture, such as this paraphrased passage from 2 Chronicles which has been used to shape a number of song and hymn lyrics on the subject:

Give thanks to the Lord, “For God is good, for God’s steadfast love endures forever.” (based on 2 Chronicles 5:13)

For me thanksgiving and gratitude are a response. I believe that the gifts of God which I have come to believe and understand through Jesus Christ – such as life, love, hope, promise, and reconciliation—are  just that: gifts. There is nothing I can do to earn them. There is nothing I can do to warrant them. Rather, they are gifts freely given by a God who creates, loves, sustains, calls, and invites us to be part of God’s acts of love, mercy, and creation.

I can thankfully respond to these gifts in at least three ways:

  1. Give thanks and praise to God,
  2. Live an abundant life, sharing this good news of the love and gifts of God for all people and creation,
  3. Participate in God’s work of love, hope, and reconciliation, as I believe God calls us all to do in our lives and vocations.

Giving thanks is all about living joyfully and gratefully for gifts beyond measure which I cannot do anything about but be thankful for. I give thanks for this love, and for all who have helped me to grow in my understanding of it. I give thanks for everyone who has shown and continues to show me such love, and hope that I can share this love with others.

My wife Allison

I give thanks for my wife Allison

I give thanks for meaningful work, and life-giving relationships. I give thanks for a loving and supportive spouse, and for my family full of people who also live out their vocations in thankful response to gifts far too numerous to count. I give thanks for friends, colleagues, peers, and mentors who live out their lives to the fullest and, whether they know it or not, provide inspiration for me and others to live fully like them.

My family

I give thanks for my family

 

Today, I particularly give thanks for a loving God, for the most supportive parents and grandparents I could have ever hoped for, for the most amazing life partner in my wife Allison, and for the supportive and exciting work of my siblings.

Who are you thankful for? What are you thankful for? And why do you give thanks?

Please join the conversation with COMPASS as we continue to reflect on why each of us gives thanks.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Cultivating a grateful and generous spirit

Beautiful table with thanksgiving food

A Thanksgiving Feast

The calendar has turned to November. Some places have already received their first snowfalls of the year. Others have seen the leaves change colors and drop. In most of the United States and Canada, Daylight Savings Time has ended and it’s dark by dinner time. Even though the days are shorter, there still is much to give thanks for.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this month COMPASS will be sharing a multitude of reflections of thanks and why people give thanks. To start this month’s series, we are excited to welcome back to the blog COMPASS steering committee member and regular contributor Beryl Jantzi. Beryl shares some ideas for how to cultivate a grateful and generous spirit, a fitting place to begin a month’s worth of reflection on giving thanks.

A 2011 article by John Tierney which appeared in the New York Times stated how Thanksgiving has become the favorite holiday of psychologists who have studied the consequences of giving thanks. Cultivating gratitude has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners. A new study shows that feeling grateful makes people less likely to turn aggressive when provoked.  This November consider expanding the spirit of generosity with activities that lead up to and continue after November 26.

Here are 7 ideas for ways before and after Thanksgiving Day, November 26th, from Lindsay Holmes to help cultivate gratitude and generosity:

  • Journal – recount your blessings
  • Don’t ignore the negative but balance it out with the positive that is around you as well
  • Spend time with those you love
  • Mindfully use social media – use it to build others up and affirm the good
  • Value the little things in life
  • Volunteer and serve others
  • Get moving – exercise and re-creation is good for the mind, body and soul

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that in order to achieve contentment, one should “cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.”

What and who do you give thanks for this month?

Beryl Jantzi and familyAbout the Author: Beryl Jantzi currently serves as Stewardship Education Director for Everence, a Christian-based, member-owned financial services organization which is a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and other churches. 

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image Credit: Thanksgiving