It’s odd how we can be complacent about gratitude and thanksgiving as a way of life but when a chill is in the air and Thanksgiving is around the corner it suddenly is a popular word to decorate with, even if we don’t actually practice gratitude. Join us as we talk about the need to actually practice giving thanks year round.
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Forget Not His Benefits
Guest: Barbara Rainey
From the series: The Season of Gratitude (Day 2 of 3)
Air date: November 5, 2015
Bob: As a parent, should you train your children to be polite and say, “Thank you,” even if they are not feeling thankful in their heart? Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: There were plenty of times when our kids said, “Uh, thanks”; or they said it, and you could tell it wasn’t really heartfelt. But they need to be trained to say, “Thank you,” because as we’ve already said, “It’s not natural.” So, that was a really big thing for me—was to teach our kids to say, “Thank you,” whenever they were given something, or helped, or served.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, November 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to continue to talk today about what moms and dads can do to help their children become more grateful. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, we had the opportunity—
—this was not long ago, when our family was together—and we were talking about: “What were the things that they remember from growing up? What are some of their favorite memories?” It is interesting to me how many memories your kids have from when they’re growing up are connected to holidays and vacations.
Dennis: And could I add one thing—
Dennis: —additional?—a tradition that is attached to a holiday or a vacation.
Bob: Well, that’s—when we are in the midst of it, I mean, we know that vacations are fun and that holidays are fun; but I don’t know that we realize how significant these things are—how much a part of the memory bank of a child. What you’re going to do for Thanksgiving this year, what you’re going to do for Christmas this year, or what you do next summer on vacation—you are building a memory bank for your kids that will define—in large measure, it’s a part of what they take with them into adulthood.
Dennis: It is.
I was looking through some documents that I had to kind of catalogue some of our early Christmases together, as our kids began to get married and bring their spouses to Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and Easter. It was interesting—some of the things that were written were thoughts by a new son-in-law or daughter-in-law, saying, “I loved the fact that we got a chance to see a different tradition or a new tradition that, perhaps, we can make a part of our family as we establish our own.”
I think it’s that longing you are talking about, Bob. When your children grow up, they are going to anchor their own family around these holidays; and they, for the most part, are holidays that represent biblical truths and biblical holidays that families have been entrusted to help their children celebrate.
I’m fortunate that I out-punted my coverage in that I married Barbara because she brought this strong emphasis—
—not that I didn’t have one from my own childhood—I did—but she brought an even stronger emphasis around the holidays, but around celebrating them and the biblical message that each holiday brought.
Bob: Barbara, welcome back to the program.
Barbara: Thank you.
Bob: Did you recognize, as a young mom, that holidays, and celebrations, and vacations—that these are important for how your kids grow up and develop?
Barbara: I don’t think I understood the value of vacations as much because we didn’t do a lot of vacations in my childhood, growing up; but holidays were always really important to me, as a kid. I intuitively knew—and I think this is true for all kids—I intuitively knew there was something meaningful / something really important, and I couldn’t express it. I didn’t know what it was; but there was something about Christmas, and Thanksgiving, and Easter that was more meaningful and more important than anything else we did the rest of the year.
And so, as we got married, one of my objectives and goals was to try and find ways to make those holidays meaningful—and especially to make them meaningful, biblically, because God made it really clear in the Old Testament, when He established the feasts, that the nation of Israel was to keep—that setting aside your normal ordinary activities and focusing on Him—and having a holiday, or a feast, or a time away from work—He knew that was important for us, as people. Today, we don’t celebrate those feasts; but we celebrate Christmas—and Thanksgiving, here in America—and we celebrate Easter. And those are very important spiritual religious holidays.
Bob: We are—as we invest in these moments, we’re building a memory box / a memory bank. I don’t know if we’ve ever stopped to think about how important remembering is / how important reflecting on the past is.
You’ve been digging around in the Scriptures to see what God’s Word has to say about remembering and why remembering is so important; right?
Barbara: You know, out of all of these verses that there are in the Scriptures about giving thanks, and thanksgiving, and being grateful—one of my favorites is one that says it in the opposite way—and that’s Psalm 103 [verse 2], where we are commanded to “…forget not His benefits...” It’s the opposite of remembering. They are two sides of the same coin; but it’s a different way to look at it when you think about “Don’t forget what God has done,” because we’re all so prone to forget; right? All of us forget a whole host of things. God is saying: “No, no, no—don’t forget what I’ve done. You can forget your car keys and all that kind of stuff, but don’t forget what I’ve done because what I have done is the most important thing that you can remember.”
Bob: If you start forgetting the goodness of God in the past—in fact, how we live by faith today is really vitally connected to our recollection of God’s faithfulness in the past.
Dennis: And what we’re talking about here is spiritual amnesia. It’s forgetting what God’s done for you. The Bible spells it out—He tells us what the benefits are in
Psalm 103—He’s the One who saved us. He is the One who is near the brokenhearted. He is the One who gives good gifts to His children.
I think, when we forget what God has done, there is a progression that takes place. I think we soon forget who He is, then, we forget how to trust Him. We forget that, in the crisis and in a tough moment, that the same God who gave you those benefits is also in those tough moments and wants you to reach out to Him and depend upon Him in faith.
Bob: So, all of the work that goes into making a holiday, like Thanksgiving or like Christmas, memorable / something that the family will appreciate and enjoy—
—I think, at the end of those meals or the end of those celebrations, moms can often feel like: “Boy, that was a lot of work. I don’t know that that was worth all the work.” But now, from the perspective of decades, you look back and go, “It was worth it because these are the deposits that we placed in the lives of our kids.”
Barbara: Yes, and I think what happens—for moms, especially—that we gauge the success of the event, so to speak, or the dinner or whatever on the responses that we get from our kids—at least, I did—when it’s really just an investment. We’re investing in their lives / we’re making deposits in their lives—we’re feeding them truth, and we’re reminding them of what’s most important. That adds up over time.
Dennis: It does add up over time. In fact, what you’re doing is—you’re making deposits that are relational as well. You are expressing love / you’re giving children a place to belong to—a place to come home to.
I love it—that a clipping I have from a number of years ago that an insurance company, back in Massachusetts, commissioned a survey to find out if family members would take a thousand dollars and not go home for Thanksgiving.
The majority of family members said: “You can keep the thousand bucks. I want to go home.”
Barbara: Well, it’s that sense of belonging that God created in us—we want to belong. Family is the best place for that to happen. So, when you go to the trouble to make Thanksgiving extra special and more important than another meal that you might have the rest of the year, it does stand out in the minds of the kids. It is worth it.
Bob: You found something, as you were looking at the Bible, that kind of surprised you; and that is that the omniscient God, who forgets nothing, writes stuff down.
Barbara: Yes. [Laughter] Yes, it really is interesting. I started noticing that there were these books—that God refers to books in the Bible. I’m thinking, “There must be a library—a really big library in heaven.”
So, I started looking at some of these—
Dennis: You’re not talking about the books of the Bible, now?
Barbara: No, I’m talking about other books.
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Barbara: Lots of other books.
Dennis: Like, for instance?
Barbara: There are three books that I found—there may be more—but there are three that I found that God has in His library in heaven. One of them is the Book of the Lamb, and that’s where the names of everyone who believes in Jesus Christ are written in this book. I’m thinking it must be a really big, thick book.
Then, there is another book that is referred to in Psalm 56:8. David said: “You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not all in Your book?” So, God has some kind of a book in heaven, where He writes down all of our concerns / all of the things that plague us and worry us—that we toss and turn in the middle of the night over and that we cry over—our losses. God keeps track of all of those. He keeps our tears in His bottle—that’s an amazing thought.
Then, the third book that I found—and this is more than one book—in Revelation [20:12], it says, “And the books”—plural—
—“were opened, and they were judged from the things which were written in the books according to their deeds.” So, there is a collection of books in which are written all of the deeds of every single one of us.
I started thinking about biographies. Biographies can be pretty thick books, but that’s just a piece of somebody’s life. That’s not all of their deeds. So, these must be really big books, and there must be lots of them if God is writing down and recording everything that we’ve done.
Bob: And again, it’s not because He can’t remember it. So, the writing down is a way of making permanent—keeping a record of—
Barbara: I think it’s for us.
Bob: —what’s important. Yes.
Barbara: Yes, I think it’s for us—not Him.
Dennis: And what I’d want your children to know, as you approach Thanksgiving, is that first book Barbara mentioned—the Book of the Lamb—you want your kids’ names / you want your name written in that book because that’s a book that records the people who have placed their faith—
Barbara: That’s right.
Dennis: —in the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sin of the world—
Barbara: That’s right.
Dennis: —who died for your sins. And if you’ll place your faith in Him, not only will He ink you in the book, He will welcome you into heaven. And Thanksgiving ought to be a time when each of us, as followers of Christ, celebrate the fact that: “Yes, we have come to that point in our lives of placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And one of the benefits that He has given us is eternal life / forgiveness of sins.”
We ought to be passing that onto our children and using this holiday, coming up, to proclaim the gospel. Tell your kids—tell them you want them to be where God’s going to be: “You want to be heaven for eternity.”
Bob: You mentioned the verse in Psalm 103 [verse 2] that says, “…forget not all His benefits…” The Bible really spells out for us the reasons why we are not to forget. There are dangers that come when we forget the goodness of God.
Barbara: Well, there is another psalm, not far after 103—it’s Psalm 106. It’s a really long psalm. It’s one of Dennis’s favorites; right?
Dennis: It is. The first 25 verses—folks, if you’ve not read it, I just want to challenge you to read Psalm 106, verses 1-25. Follow the progression—
Dennis: —of what happens when we forget what God has done.
Barbara: And so, briefly, here is what happened when God’s children forgot what He had done.
First of all, they didn’t consider. So, that means they didn’t think about God’s wondrous works. They didn’t even think about what God had done.
Then, the second thing that happened is they didn’t remember. So, if you are not thinking about it, you’re not going to remember, which means you forgot. They forgot the abundance of God’s love.
Then, the third thing that happened is they soon forgot His works, and they didn’t wait for His counsel. They just ran right ahead and made their own decisions. They didn’t stop and pray. They didn’t think about what God wanted them to do.
They just went and did their own thing.
Then, the fourth step in this downward spiral is they forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt—wondrous works and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
Dennis: Before you go on, that just strikes my memory of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s great message at Harvard. It was entitled “Men Have Forgotten God.” This is the progression we follow—not they—
Dennis: —we follow when we forget what God has done. We forget His love, we forget who He is, and then, we forget Him. We fail to trust Him at key points in our lives.
Bob: Well, that’s, really, the next thing it says in the psalm—is that not only did they forget the miraculous things God had done, but it led them to a place of just disregard for God all together.
Barbara: Yes, they didn’t have faith anymore. So, what it illustrates, by contrast, is—when you remember what God has done and you focus on what He has given, then, your faith grows.
So, the consequences for them [who forget to remember God] is that their faith just withered up, and dried up, and blew away; but when we focus on what He’s done, our faith is strengthened.
Dennis: And verse 25 says, “And they grumbled in their tents.” And what have we been talking about here?
Dennis: We’ve been talking about the opposite of giving thanks is grumbling, is griping, is complaining, is having discontent. I think this holiday coming up is a great time to be spiritually re-centered on who God is and just revisit all His benefits and what He has done for you, as individuals, but also, as a family.
Bob: So, if a mom is saying to herself today, “Okay, I really do want Thanksgiving to be memorable,”—and if you’re going to coach her on how to do that without putting her under the pile—because that’s the competing dilemma—
Barbara: That’s the tension.
Bob: —here; right?
Bob: So, how does she do it?
Barbara: Well, one suggestion is to expose your children to those who have less.
I know a lot of families who, over the Thanksgiving or the Christmas holiday, will take their entire family and go to a homeless shelter or to a soup kitchen and serve those people who come there. It’s a way to put your children in touch with those who have less because it puts their life in perspective.
Bob: I’ve talked to a lot of kids who have come back from summer mission trips to third- world countries. A week of seeing how other people live—they’ve got a little different focus on what they have to have as they head back to school.
Barbara: Absolutely. It’s one of my favorite things to tell parents is: “When your kids get old enough,”—when they are really teens or when you feel there is the right age for them—“send them on a mission trip. Don’t send them to an easy place. They need to go to Haiti, or Guatemala, or somewhere—where they see kids in orphanages / or they are out on the street, and they see the people who live in the slums or the street children—because then, when they come back to America, it is like, ‘I really do have it really, really good.’”
Bob: So, is there a way—if you’re not going to do the soup kitchen, is there a way, as you lead up to Thanksgiving, that you can help your kids understand that most people don’t have as much as they have or that we have in this country?
Barbara: I think one of the easiest ways to help children get in touch with the benefits that they currently enjoy is to read stories to them about people who have far less. Take them to someone else’s life, where they can hear a story about someone else who suffered or who had some difficult circumstances.
We’ve put together a resource called Written and Remembered. In that resource, there’s a small book; and it has four stories. You can read one of those stories each of the four weeks of the month of November—you can read them every day for four days. What makes these stories unique is that there is a practical application at the end of the story that helps the children experience or act on what they felt coming out of the story.
So, for instance, the first story is about Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni Eareckson Tada is a woman who is paralyzed and has been in a wheelchair since she was 17 years old. She’s now in her early 60s. So, the activity for that—after you read this very compelling story about Joni—and how she is one of the most joyous people you will ever meet and she gives thanks in all things—the activity is for everyone to sit in a chair and not move / and think about what it must feel like to be a quadriplegic—to sit in a wheelchair. You can’t scratch your nose. You can’t get up and go to the bathroom. You can’t feed yourself. You can’t do anything. Just the exercise of helping your children sit still for a few minutes—the longer the better—but to help them experience what that must be like is a way to help them enter into someone else’s world; and then, by contrast, look at their own and say, “Oh, I really have it good.”
Another one of the stories is about a man who contracted meningitis. He went from being active and healthy and fully able to do everything to losing his memory—eventually going blind—but needing a lot of care. As you read that story together, the activity at the end is to make a list of everyone who serves you. And this man, John Bishop, had to be served. He had to be taught to eat. He had to be taught to walk. He had all these people that, because they loved him and cared for him, taught him to regain the use of his arms and his legs and learned how to speak again.
As a family, if you can sit down together after reading this story and think, “How many people serve us on a regular basis that we just walk by?” Well, there’s the postman, there are teachers, and there are the checkout people at the grocery store, and maybe, the person who bags your groceries at the grocery store. If you will stop and think about:
“Who are all the people who serve us on a regular basis?”—then, the resource comes with some cards—and, as a family, you can write thank-you notes. Take a thank-you note to the checkout lady at the grocery store, or the bagger, or the postman, or whoever it might be. Again, it’s a practical way to help your children think about being thankful / being grateful for all of the [people] that are in their lives that serve them / that make life comfortable.
Bob: And a lot of kids are going to—when they are 25 and 30 years old—remember taking thank-you notes to the lady at the checkout counter at the grocery store.
Barbara: Because who does that?
Bob: That’s right. They’ll never forget how “Mom had us do that”; and it was meaningful to them.
Dennis: And whether or not the kids remember it or not—I promise you—the lady at the checkout counter won’t ever forget it. I was checking out at the counter the other day, and I forget what caused me to turn to the woman and just say something personal to her—and I don’t remember exactly what it was—
—but that I paused and engaged her, as a human being, was fascinating. She was like a rose that moved from being a bud to a beautiful human being, reflecting the image of God. She began to share how she had a teenaged daughter that was struggling, and I was able to take a few moments and just minister to her.
I think we’re walking by people, left and right, in this culture who, if we give them a good word of thanksgiving / of appreciation—as Barbara is talking about—just saying, “Thank you—
Dennis: —“Thank you for how you’ve served me and my family,”—it’s going to make a huge difference in their lives.
Bob: We treat a lot of them like automatons and like robots, and just like, “You are just there to—
Dennis: Why didn’t you just say, “robot”? [Laughter]
Bob: Because I’m trying to sound impressive with automaton. [Laughter]
Dennis: I’ve never heard the word!
Bob: You haven’t heard automaton?
Barbara: I’ve heard it, but I’ve never tried to say it.
Dennis: I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the word still. [Laughter]
Bob: But your point is a good point, which is—
—when we are in those situations, what happens in that moment is a reflection of what was in our heart in the first place. If we’re not people who have hearts of thanksgiving and gratitude / if we’re just so focused on our own agenda, that’s what is going to spill out in the TSA line or wherever else we are, where we’re not showing worth, or value, or dignity to other people. This is one of the reasons why we encourage people to take advantage of a holiday called Thanksgiving and use it to cultivate that spiritual discipline in your own life and in the lives of your family members.
Again, we’ve got resources to help make that happen in your home, whether it’s the Written and Remembered resource we’ve already talked about today, that you can use at the Thanksgiving meal, or the book that you’ve written, Barbara, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember—which is available in both a hardback book and on audio CD—or other resources that are designed with the idea of promoting gratitude in mind.
Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” and look for information there about the Written and Remembered resource that Barbara has created for the Thanksgiving meal, the Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember book, and the other resources that we have available to help you cultivate a heart of thanksgiving for your family. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.” The resources are all available right there; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” And you can order any of these resources from us over the phone as well.
We ought to take just a minute here and just let our listeners know how thankful we are that they join us each day for this program—those of you who tune in regularly—
—always happy to have this time together with you. And it’s encouraging to us when we hear from listeners as well. Some of you will get in touch with us, from time to time, and let us know how God is using this ministry in your life.
And we appreciate those of you who make this program possible through your financial support of FamilyLife Today. The cost of producing and syndicating this program is covered by listeners, like you, who will pitch in occasionally, or we have a team of what we call Legacy Partners—those who are contributing monthly to help defray the costs associated with this program. Thank you to those of you who are Legacy Partners or [those] who occasionally will make a donation in support of the ministry.
If you can help with a donation today, we’d like to send you a devotional book that Barbara Rainey has written on the subject of gratitude. It’s called Growing Together in Gratitude—seven stories about being grateful. It’s our gift to you when you make a donation today. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I care,”—make an online donation.
Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone; or mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue to explore this issue of gratitude and things we can do to promote thanksgiving in our own heart and in our families. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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