Thursday, November 24, 2016

It Happens Every December

This is a concept worth repeating. One I first wrote about three years ago when the juxtaposition of Thanksgiving and Christmas struck me as absurd the way our culture celebrates. I'd love to hear what you think.

Just as sure as the leaves change color and fall off the trees.

And then it is all undone in December.

Facebook friends begin using #30daysofthanksgiving hashtags and talk about a Thanksgiving Challenge. At churches and in homes paper turkeys and trees boast of all the things for which we are thankful.

But in December we begin to make lists--mental, written, or on Amazon--of the things we want. 

Does that strike you as incongruous? 

I did it with my kids every year, but a couple of years ago I was asked to speak to some college girls on "contentment" and it gave me a whole new perspective on thankfulness.

The world thinks we'll be content if we have a little bit more. 
Or if we learn to want a little bit less.

Is that what the Bible teaches?

Or how about:

In other words: God is enough.

How can we teach our children this? I am not sure I succeeded with being the one who taught this to my children. I'm not sure I have come to truly believe this in my own life. But I'm working on it.

I'll give you a few of my ideas of how we can teach this to our children, but I would love to hear from you and know how you are working on this. Please let me know.

  1. Be an example. Are you someone who is always talking about wanting the newest, the better, the improved? Or do you exhibit contentment? What do you talk about?
  2. Talk about contentment. If you look online you will find all kinds of quotes about contentment. Read one to your kids each night at dinner and ask if they think it's true. Is this is a clever statement or the path to contentment?
  3. Read what the Bible says. Look at the verses I have mentioned here and others. What does the Bible say is the basis for a Christian to be content? Ask who they can think of in the Bible that lived contentedly...or didn't.
  4. Look for real life examples. Talk about people who are living life content with having God in their lives. Ask your children, "What would true contentment look like in your life?"
  5. Be thankful. That year I challenged the college girls and myself to not just list things they are thankful for, but start their thanksgivings with "I'm thankful for God's presence in my life because..."
Leave me a comment and let me know your ideas for living and teaching true contentment.

P.S. I took these photos a several years ago while on a "leaf crunching" walk with my youngest daughter when she was a college sophomore. Today she is a college graduate working at her first full time job and serving in many ways at our local church. Her desire is to go overseas to serve God.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ten Thanksgiving Conversation Starters

What do you do at Thanksgiving to remind yourselves what you are thankful for? We have done a variety of things to help our kids learn thankfulness at this time of year and to remind our family and guests about the true meaning of Thanksgiving. But going around the table to say one or even two things you are thankful for might make you miss out on some of the things that happened in the past year that you do want to be thankful for. 

That's where specific questions come in. If you have specific questions to ask people, that will open up memories that they might not have thought of otherwise. And as one person begins to share their answer, others around the table will have their memories jarred as well.

It also helps keep the conversation upbeat. After the food has made its way around the table or everyone has gone through the buffet line, ask someone (preferably someone who has been a bit forewarned) to read their question and answer it. Tell everyone that the "rules" are 1) no one can make fun of anyone's answer and 2) everyone who wants to can answer the question. Let the conversation flow. But if it starts to flag or degenerate, pipe up and ask the next person to read and answer their question. 

I've made the questions below available in printable format. If you buy printable business cards such as Avery® Business Cards 28878  (Avery®  Template 8371they will print just right or print them onto cardstock and the guidelines will show where to cut to get cards of uniform size. 

You might want to turn them over and print your guests names on the back to use as name cards.

Here is the link to the printable format.

Here are the thanksgiving questions:
What teacher are you thankful for this year?

What unexpected event came into your life this year that you are thankful for?

Tell about a Bible verse you are thankful for this year.

What are you most thankful for about your family?

What memory did you make this year that you are most thankful for?

What food on this table are you most thankful for?

I'm thankful for my job because __________________.

One thing I am thankful about my parents is __________________.

What place have you been able to visit this year that you are thankful you got to go to?

What event that made the news are you thankful for?

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Meals With Gladness

We followed the careful directions around corners and down hills until we came to a house at the end of a cul-de-sac where we recognized several cars. "I had no idea this neighborhood was here!" I said to my husband as we got out of the car and I carefully carried my salad up to the door. Only the screen was between me and the house and as we walked up we heard someone call, "Come on in!" Several others had already arrived. Two were setting the table, while a couple of the guys were putting up another table in the family room off the kitchen. The husband was carving meat and the wife slicing bread. Another guest was stirring gravy. While I settled my salad on the counter which would serve as the buffet, more guests arrived. 

photo by Isaac Injeti

After we all arrived and the food was ready, we formed a line and served ourselves. We had no trouble keeping the conversation going as we settled into places at one of the two tables, even though some of us knew each other by sight only before tonight. When everyone was seated, our host got our attention and said, "We wanted to ask everyone to tell us if they had a mentor for their spiritual life and a little about that person and how they helped you grow." One by one we went around the table telling who was the most influential person in our spiritual growth, whether it was a formal discipleship relationship, or an informal friendship. It was fascinating to see all the ways God used to help each one of us grow in our walk with Him.

At our church we call these times "Meals with Gladness" taken from Acts 2:46:

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple,
and breaking bread from house to house,
they were taking their meals together with gladness
and sincerity...

Photo by Hannah Injeti

It is sort of assigned hospitality. Here's how we do it:
  • We have sign up sheets at church for three Sundays for all who want to be involved--one sheet for those who want to host a meal and one for those who want to be guests
  • When the deadline for signing up has arrived we assign guests to host homes with people we think they will fit in with, but don't know each other well (yet).
  • We call the hosts to let them know who is coming to their house and ask them to contact their guests with the meal time, directions, and to ask them to bring part of the meal. (A creative host can even set a theme for the evening or suggest needed attire, if they will be outside, etc.)
  • Everyone goes to their assigned house and has wonderful time of fellowship. At some homes they answer conversation questions, play games after dinner, have a sing, or they can just visit.
Everyone always enjoys these and says we should do more than two a year. Of course, people can do hospitality more than when it is assigned and create their own meals with gladness!

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