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November, 2014 - Issue #121
Courtesy of Shutterstock
Courtesy of Shutterstock
Giving Thanks Reflection
by Jeff Cole, Life Groups Pastor

"God, we paid for all this ourselves, so thanks for nothing." This was the dinnertime prayer of that great cartoon philosopher, Bart Simpson. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, but do you have a thankful spirit? The truth is that being thankful just doesn't come naturally to a lot of us.

If, like me, you have to work at being thankful, maybe it's for one of the following reasons...

1. You mostly spend your energy thinking about what you don't have. The shiniest gadget. The fastest car. The washboard-iest abs.

2. A tragedy, a loss or difficult circumstances may have embittered you. How dare anyone suggest that you be grateful! You're irritated by people who remind you that you should be thankful for things like clean water and shoes and your immune system.

3. You have an entitlement complex. Like Bart Simpson, you earned what you have and you don't owe anyone a "thank you."

4. You have a provider complex. For you there should be a Thanks-getting day. Once a month. You are the glue that holds your family, your company and your social group together.

False expectations, grief and pride can all push gratitude out of the picture. That's why I think it's so significant that it was during the heat of the Civil War that Abraham Lincoln instituted Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It was a time when many had little to feel thankful for. Yet Lincoln sensed the need for the nation to express gratitude in spite of the conflict.

The legacy of Thanksgiving is that actions of thankfulness lead to feelings of thankfulness; not the other way around. If you're not yet feeling the Thanksgiving spirit, start by thinking of the one thank you note you need to write. The one thankful prayer you need to say. The one thankful gesture you need to make. This year let's become grateful by expressing gratitude.

Please join us for Halloween On Route 66 at Real Life Church on Saturday, October 25 from 3pm to 8pm. This will be a fun-filled extravaganza for the whole family to enjoy including trunk-or-treat, attractions, food and much, much more! For more information please go to www.reallifechurch.org/halloween. For service time and locations, visit us online.

Jeff Cole is the Life Groups pastor at Real Life Church.
www.reallifechurch.org


Gratitude, Grace & Mercy
by Marlon Saunders
Grateful, appreciative, and pleased are words we might expect to find when searching for an accurate definition of the word "thankful." But perhaps the most interesting definition that I discovered years ago was the word "relieved." Although this word nailed exactly how I felt most times I was thankful, I had never really considered it as a definition. However, when I considered why I was thankful, it made perfect sense as to why I was relieved.

See, being truly thankful begins with an overall understanding of two words: grace and mercy. Grace is getting something that you do not deserve, while mercy is not getting something that you do deserve.

As I looked back over my most thankful moments, I was able to often categorize them into either "grace" or "mercy." I would venture to say that as all of us look back over our most thankful moments, even just this year, we can identify opportunities or blessings that we did not deserve - that was grace. We can also identify not getting things that we did deserve, such as consequences or certain negative results or repercussions - that was mercy.

As we celebrate this season of thanks, allow one of many motivations to simply be a remembrance of the relief that we experienced as a result of either grace or mercy - or if the truth be told, both!

Marlon Saunders is the pastor of Valencia Christian Center.
296- 4VCC (4822)



Gratitude Challenge
by Debbie Sperry
"Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live," 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Have you noticed the gratitude challenge happening on social media? A lot of folks want to be grateful for more than just Thanksgiving Day, so they are sharing a gratitude each day this month. It's a good thing to give thanks; it's an act of worship, really. As we celebrate the food we eat, what we have and our relationships, we are celebrating God's work in our lives. We think worship is what we do on Sundays, and it is, but really worship is an everyday habit we are invited to foster. Giving thanks, praising God and living a life that reflects Christ are all ways we worship.

It seems simple enough, pray and thank God daily, but what about the rest of the instruction to the Thessalonians? Be cheerful no matter what and thank God no matter what. It makes sense when we feel blessed or when good things happen. What about in times of grief, trial or bitterness? Are our hearts so tied to God that we can give thanks even then?

I don't think it's that we give thanks for hardship, but more look for the good things that still exist no matter what. You may or may not feel very thankful this November, but no matter how you feel, may you be able to find God no matter what.

As we incline our hearts in gratitude, may it be more than a one-day thing, even more than a month of thanksgiving, but instead the creation of a habit of worship in our daily lives where our primary focus is on God and God's gifts in our lives.

Debbie Sperry is the lead pastor at Valencia United Methodist Church. www.umcv.org
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