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Letters from Home: Teaching thankfulness

By Ann Mann
annmann@comcast.net

There is no better teacher than life. I was watching the Eagles and Chiefs play football on Monday Night Football and was reminded of something Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts says. It goes something like this, “You either win or you learn.” For him, there is no losing, and I could not agree more.

Things don’t always go our way. We can either feel sorry for ourselves and have a little pity party, or we can learn from the experience. First Thessalonians 5:18 encourages us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.”

Scripture does not say we are thankful for the circumstance. I am certainly not happy my husband passed away suddenly. And I don’t think that was God’s will for my husband. We live in a broken world. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

What scripture does say is to be thankful “IN” all circumstances. That means to be thankful no matter our circumstance. Our joy is in Christ, not in our circumstances. Trusting God in all things is how we give thanks in all circumstances.

We know this. So, how do we live it? How do we teach it?

I think about how to teach my grandson to give thanks in all circumstances. My daughter and her husband have made a good start. As I watch their interplay preparing the family feast, they constantly say please and thank you.

Saying please and thank you. It seems so simple, yet we don’t hear it as often as perhaps we should. This habit of giving thanks needs to be taught at a young age and reinforced for a lifetime. It is a lesson we teach best by the way we live our lives.

My Mom and Dad sent me to charm school. I learned how to walk with a book on my head. I learned how to set the table. I learned to cross my feet at my ankles when I was seated and to put my napkin in my lap when eating a meal. But the lesson that was drilled into my head week in and week out was to say please and thank you.

Saying please and thank you is a habit we must work on every day. The best way to grow in this habit is to recognize God’s many blessings throughout the day. Even in my season of grief, I see God’s blessings everywhere.

One of the ways we can cultivate an attitude of gratitude is to make it part of our daily conversation. I am talking about our conversations with God (prayer) and our conversations with each other. How about asking each other how we have seen God’s blessings. Ask the question every single day. Consider recording God’s many blessings in a journal.

Another way to cultivate an attitude of gratitude is to meditate on scriptures about giving thanks. There are countless verses that encourage thankfulness. One of my favorites is Psalm 100. Meditate on each line of that beloved Psalm, and watch your heart be changed by God’s lovingkindness.

Giving thanks in all circumstances is not always easy. But it is vital to our growth in our relationship with God. Trusting Jesus when perhaps we do not understand why something has happened is how we find joy no matter our circumstance. And of course, the best way to teach thankfulness is to live it. Saying please and thank you are a good start. It is a great life lesson.

Ann Mann is an Emmy Award winning journalist, now serving as pastor to Barnesville First United Methodist Church. Her email is annmann@comcast.net.

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