Life Lesson from Orphans #2: Gratitude, Entitlement—and Joy

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I have to confess to never having heard the word before yesterday’s children’s sermon. And that first hearing was accompanied by a brief but vigorously engaged dispute between two six-year-olds about whether the holiday actually was Thanksgiving or thanksliving. Plenty of laughs in church yesterday.

Thanksliving.  I kind of like that.

It is a lifestyle I have seen over and over again with our kids in Brazil. They get it. Theirs is a deep, profound gratitude. A gratitude that humbles and graces when encountered. A gratitude that absolutely bankrupts any attitude of entitlement.

A thankfulness for life itself.

Those who have followed these posts the last few years know that we came very close to closing one of our residential campuses three years ago. The downturn in the U.S. economy and escalating costs in Brazil made the closing seem inevitable. When we went to the campus to be with the kids and staff as the minutes to the almost certain decision ticked down, I experienced God in our failure and brokenness in a way that I certainly did not expect.

We went there to comfort the boys, to try to help them find a path for when we would no longer be there for them. Expecting confusion, perhaps anger, certainly fear, we instead found a group of kids profoundly grateful for the years they had been given at Hope Mountain.

Profoundly grateful.

To the last child. No anger, no blaming, just heartfelt thanks for the opportunity they had been afforded. Perhaps it was that gratefulness that resulted in the divine intervention that saved their home.

It would be easy to pass off their “thanksliving”—and that of all the kids of Hope—as a product of the change brought in their lives; literally from the streets to safe, caring homes. They have a lot for which to be grateful.

And we have so much more.

But, but . . . don’t expect me to give up my bedrock conviction that we are not the same. That I have no reason to experience the profound sense of thankfulness these kids feel. I am an educated American. I deserve my station in life.

I’ll accept the obligation my position gives me, but don’t expect me to be grateful for it. I’ll give lip service to gratitude, there but for the grace of God go I, but, deep down, I know I deserve everything I have. My hard work got me where I am in life.

And in my sense of entitlement, our sense of entitlement, we lose the joy of—hear this carefully—the joy of receiving.

God has so extraordinarily blessed us, and receiving that blessing, reveling in it, should be the source of our great joy. But, far too often, our privilege brings no more than a shrug, and instead of celebrating what God has given us, we start looking for the next giving.

And we miss the joy of receiving.

As Paul says it, “continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

I am thankful for each person who visits here. I count it an honor when you leave a comment and join the conversation— or sign up to receive blog posts and newsletters. In so doing, I know that God continues to raise up Followers desiring to make a difference in the lives of “the least of these.”

My prayer is that each day I will experience the joy of thanksliving… and encourage those around me to do the same.

How will thanksliving be evident in your life this week—and every week?

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