Gratefully Generous [v106]

DECEMBER 2007

GRATEFULLY GENEROUS—
A few days ago I’ve got to believe that most of us sat down to a juicy turkey, a bunch of sumptuous side dishes, and two or three pieces of different deserts. I’m hoping that we all were grateful for all of this ‘bounty’, as well as the many more things we have in our lives—especially living here in America.

Historically, the first thanksgiving celebration was held by the Pilgrim settlers in Massachusetts during their second winter in America in 1621. The first winter had killed 44 of the original 102 colonists, and at one point, their DAILY food ration was down to FIVE KERNELS of corn apiece. But, finally spring came, a good harvest brought hope, and Governor William Bradford decreed that December 13, 1621 be set aside as a day of feasting and prayer to show the gratitude of the colonists. From then on, each Thanksgiving the Pilgrims put five kernels of corn on each plate to remind themselves of their blessings (I’ll tell you what each one meant a bit later).

Well, as the Pilgrims could probably attest to, it’s been said that giving thanks is a powerful ‘force’ in our emotional, mental and spiritual health. If we approach life with a sense of entitlement, that is, with a “life owes me more” approach, we are always left feeling cheated and short changed. But if we see all good things in life as ‘grace’ and something generously poured out upon us—unearned and beyond what we are due—our attitude shifts to sense of gratitude for our magnificent abundance (especially here in America).

I’m convinced that giving thanks releases something powerful inside the human brain. In the middle of a tough and stressful challenge, pausing to express thanks changes and reorders my perception about what lies before me.

Great leaders have also used this same principle. Choosing to nurture the habit of expressing thanks has been shown to set a tone in the work environment that increases that organization’s energy to serve generously and well.

I like how David Steindl-Rast puts it: “Greatfulness, or ‘great fullness’, is the full response of the human heart to the gratuitousness of all that is.”

Author Albert Nolan, says this about gratitude: “The person with a grateful heart appreciates the gratuitousness of everything in life. Nothing is taken for granted. My very existence is a gift. I did not create myself. There is no way I could have earned or deserved or merited my human existence. Everything I have is gift.”

Gratefulness is an alternative attitude to all of life. It enables us to see the world ‘right side up’. The grateful heart is a manifestation of one’s true self. Nothing ‘sidelines’ the ego more effectively than a grateful heart.

Another author, Daphine Rose Kingma, said, “In relation to others, gratitude is good manners; in relation to ourselves, it is a habit of the heart and a spiritual discipline.”

I have found that unhappy people are not generous, and generous people are not unhappy. The joy that floods a GRATEFUL HEART overflows into unrestrained GENEROSITY.

But, if your giving does not flow from a heart of gratitude according to how much you have received, it will be limited by the amount you feel you can afford to give away and not be the poorer for it. So, giving begins with yourself before it involves your resources.

Nineteenth century poet Celia Thaxter said it well when she wrote, “There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.”

Those who are grateful brighten a world in need of hope. The grateful create a climate of grace and generosity that warms the chill of bitter souls. But narcissism, arrogance, and envy can lure us into a culture of entitlement, an atmosphere where unmet expectations spawn confusion and hostility. How does one avoid this trap? Well, ‘healthy’ people understand gratefulness and discipline themselves to practice the habits of thanksgiving—and I just might have an idea to stimulate some ‘practice’ for all of us!

This year, the church I attend, Kensington Church of Troy, MI is ‘prodding’ its members to think about Christmas a little differently than they have in the past—well, maybe A LOT differently—they are referring to it as the “upside-down holiday.” They are encouraging everyone to ‘do’ Christmas in a “new way.”

This special campaign is called “Christmas Has A Face”—no, not ol’ Saint Nick, but the face of someone we don’t know, and may never meet—the ‘face’ of a man in Africa who needs water; the woman in India who needs medicine; or the child in Detroit who needs warm clothes.

I’m sure you’ve seen these ‘faces’ in magazines and on the TV—and probably felt ‘bad’ for them and their condition—people all around the world who need help. Well, this just might be ‘prodding’ you need to do something that will last much longer than the shiny new ‘something’ you got for someone this Christmas.

Now, stick with me on this—I might just touch a sensitive ‘nerve’ here (just promise you’ll read this all the way through).

The National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend more than $457 billion (yes, with a “B”) on Christmas shopping this year. Wow!

Money can be a very ‘touchy’ subject—especially here in Detroit where we are experiencing a very ‘slow’ economy—many are having a ‘tough go’ of it right now. But, I’ve heard it said, that “Money will buy a bed but not sleep; books but not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusements but not happiness; religion but not salvation; a passport to everywhere but heaven.” I guess it’s all ‘relative’ to what you ‘compare’ your situation to.

So, WHAT IF… we took a ‘portion’ of the money we would spend and instead use it to HELP THE POOR?

WHAT IF… we gave ‘gifts’ that SAVED LIVES instead of presents that get returned, misplaced, or broken in just the few weeks after Christmas?

I’m not trying to be the GRINCH mind you—Christmas should be ‘fun’ for you and yours—especially for the kids. But, how about considering a SHIFT IN SPENDING that will literally keep someone alive—a ‘joy’ of giving to those who can’t give back to you that will LAST MUCH LONGER than the usual present.

So, here’s the very simple, 3-step process:

1. Calculate what you would normally spend on Christmas gifts.

2. Pray a ‘dangerous’ prayer: “God, what would you have me do with this money?”

3. Be ‘crazy’ enough to do what He says.

This “open-handed” concept might be a bit radical and “upside-down” for you right now, but it might just be the thing that will allow you to experience that “great fullness” that was mentioned previously—a ‘radical gratitude’ that is at the ‘core’ of a generous ‘spirit’.

Kensington’s campaign is focused in supplying immediate needs like food, shelter, medical care, clothes, and education locally and globally ( Click on this link for videos and details on where 100% of your funds will go, if you are interested in supporting what Kensington is doing:
http://www.kensingtonchurch.org/christmas )

Now, of course, there are many other worthwhile programs you could donate to if you don’t want to use the ones Kensington is supporting (Compassion International and World Vision are two good examples that come to mind that help children)—and that’s just fine.

The POINT IS trying to get you and your family (yes, you just might be surprised what your kids are willing to give up!) to MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE this year with what you’ve been ‘blessed’ with.

Remember at the beginning of this ‘letter’ I mentioned the “Five Kernels” and how the Pilgrims reminded themselves of their blessings? Well, here’s what each kernel meant to them:

– The first kernel reminds us of the autumn beauty around us

– The second kernel reminds us of our love for each other

– The third kernel reminds us of God’s love and care for us

– The fourth kernel reminds us of our friends, especially our Native American brothers

– The fifth kernel reminds us that we are a free people

[ Click on this link if you want to see a video ‘interpretation’ of this poem:
http://www.spiritedesign.com/FiveKernelsPoem.mov ]

It just amazes me that after all the Pilgrims went through, they were still ‘thankful’ for the “blessings” they had!—something I think all of us could learn a lesson or two from their example of SINCERE GRATITUDE.

We, like the Pilgrims, all have A CHOICE—in life there will always be those things that we can complain about—but there will also be much to be grateful for.

So, I am hopeful this communication ‘strikes a chord’ with you—and encourages you to be GRATEFUL for what you have, and find ‘joy’ in being GENEROUS by sharing some of what you have with those in need.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Mark

[Excerpts: Justin Saxton; Patrick Ryan; Kensington Church’s “Christmas Has A Face” brochure; Foundation for Economic Education ]

(If you would like to read more about an “attitude of gratitude”, visit the following link:
http://www.4vis.co/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q11_d1_1of10.html ).

[Excerpts from:]

Blessings….
Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v106) for DECEMBER 2007

If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

*****************************

*****************************
PURITAN PRAYER
O Source of all good,
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart he united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with not will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful of shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.
In him thou has given me so much
that heaven can give no more.
[From the published collection of Puritan prayers and devotions called “The Valley of Vision”]

*****************************
“A grateful heart is the beginning of generosity.”  [Celtic prayer]

*****************************
ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING
John is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, “If I were any better, I would be twins!”

He was a natural motivator.

If an employee was having a bad day, John was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up and asked him, “I don’t get it!

You can’t be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?”

He replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or .. you can choose to be in a bad mood.

I choose to be in a good mood.”

Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or…I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it.

Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or… I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.

“Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,” I protested.

“Yes, it is,” he said. “Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people affect your mood.

You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It’s your choice how you live your life.”

I reflected on what he said. Soon hereafter, I left the Tower Industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.

Several years later, I heard that he was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower.

After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, he was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back.

I saw him about six months after the accident.

When I asked him how he was, he replied, “If I were any better, I’d be twins…Wanna see my scars?”

I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place.

“The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon-to-be born daughter,” he replied. “Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or…I could choose to die. I chose to live.”

“Weren’t you scared? Did you lose consciousness?” I asked.

He continued…”The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read ‘he’s a dead man’. I knew I needed to take action.”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me,” said John. “She asked if I was allergic to anything. ‘Yes, I replied.’ The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Gravity’.”

Over their laughter, I told them, “I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.”

He lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude… I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.

Attitude, after all, is everything.

After all today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
[Author unknown]

*****************************
DEEP THOUGHT:
No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.
[St. Ambrose]

*****************************
*****************************

Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!

Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18].

Mark

*****************************
*****************************
Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

<‘)))><     <‘)))><     <‘)))><     <‘)))><     <‘)))><     <‘)))><     <‘)))><

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: