Thankful and Grateful

I find we often use the words “thankful” and “grateful” interchangeably, but are they really the same? Do they express the same understanding? You may say I am simply playing with the semantics. And that may be, but I encourage you to give these two words some thought and consideration.

Webster defines “being grateful” as being “appreciative of benefits received.” Whereas “being thankful” is defined as being “conscious of benefits received.” While it may seem to be a small distinction, we should take a moment to reflect on that difference.

Gratefulness can be the result of many small, positive actions that come together to shape a mindset of appreciation. Some examples may be:

  • After hearing about a sick friend, you may reflect on your life and feel grateful for your health.
  • If you go to a third world country, surely you will feel gratitude for your access to clean water and fresh foods.
  • If you have a tough day at work, you might stop to be grateful that you have a job, unlike the many who are unemployed.

Thankfulness, on the other hand, is a conscious act you engage in after you receive some sort of benefit. For example:

  • You are thankful when someone brings you a meal when you are ill or grieving
  • You are thankful when someone gives you a Christmas or birthday present
  • You are thankful when someone compliments you or honors you in some way

As Christians, we show our gratitude in our living and in our giving of our ourselves, our resources, our very lives. By expressing gratitude, we are affirming the good we have and recognizing the source of that goodness.

When we search for definitions of grateful and thankful from the spiritual side of things, we discover that–spiritually speaking–we start living a life of gratitude the minute we become fully aware of goodness and are able to appreciate that goodness as something beyond ourselves.

Meanwhile, thankfulness is the moment we think of who the giver iswhat the gift is, and who receives the gift. We then recognize ourselves as the recipient and offer our thanks to the giver.

By these definitions, one might say that the expression of gratitude is the continuous flow of being thankful.

Action Step: Take a deep breath in and feel gratitude for the clean air that surrounds you. Feel the life in your body and acknowledge the miracle you are experiencing by simply being alive. Turn your mind to an appreciation of the things you are seeing, smelling, and feeling right now and I think you will find yourself slipping into a grateful mindset without even trying.

Henri Nouwen, renowned spiritual thinker and Catholic priest, once said, “To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives – the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections – that requires hard spiritual work.

Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God for which we are grateful.”

This week, I invite you to give thanks for all that you have received. I also invite you to find gratitude deep within for every moment and every part of the life God has given you.

Blessings,

Deborah Rexrode, PhD
POJ Associate for Stewardship

Grateful: Finding Hope in Every Day

Grateful: Finding Hope in Every Day

 “For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,
plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
(Jeremiah 29:11)

Diana Butler Bass’s most recent book is entitled, “Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks.” We know that gratitude is good, but many of us find it hard to sustain a meaningful life of gratefulness. Most of us report feeling gratitude on a regular basis, but those private feelings seem disconnected from larger concerns of our public lives.

Gracious Stewardship

In the spring of 2016, Sean Mitchell, Development Director at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, was the keynote speaker of our Annual Leadership and Stewardship Event. This past week he and the Rev. Dr. Millie Snyder published a book “Gracious Stewardship: Developing the Church in the Way of Jesus.” Today I share with you a small glimpse into the ideas that Sean and Millie explore in their book. 

Sean reminds us, “We are called to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, that of gracious forgiveness offered by God to all members of God’s family. Our stewardship ministry is part of our overall proclamation of the gospel, and not a separate fundraising effort to provide the finances for our proclamation. Stewardship must be integrated, both in content and in methodology.” 

Let’s reflect with Sean and Millie on Jesus’ parable about a father and his two sons. The younger son took his inheritance and squandered it in a distant country. When he had spent everything and found himself working in the fields feeding pigs, he decided to return home in hopes that he might become a hired hand for his father. Instead his father welcomes him home and throws a party for him. The older son who had remained home all along found it hard to understand why his father had never shown that kind of attention to him. 

In this story we see a father who enacts grace with both of his sons. This grace was the foundation for his own stewardship. 

  1. The father is a gracious steward of the wealth God has entrusted to him. When the younger son asked for his share of the inheritance, his father was generous and gave it to him.
  2. The father is a gracious steward of his relationships. When the younger son was seen far off, his father saw him and ran to embrace him. This father was willing to accept his son without condition. He also went into the fields to reassure his older son that he had always been a part of the family and had always had a share of the father’s blessings.
  3. The father is a grateful steward. He offered grace freely to both sons. He did not put conditions on their role in the family, and he didn’t withhold blessings from either son. He celebrates and forgives because he is a thankful soul and takes nothing for granted. His gratitude keeps him centered in gracious generosity.

Sean and Millie begin with this biblical story to lay out what they see as the three core values of a grace-based stewardship ministry. 

  1. Transforming Fellowship – relationships are vital to our formation as stewards. What would that mean in your congregation? It would mean:
    ➢ moving toward one another in community
    ➢ sharing our stewardship stories and listening to one another
    ➢ hearing the stories of people who are taking steps toward contented lifestyles
    ➢ hearing the stories of people whose lives and wallets are over-leveraged
    ➢ nurturing an environment of trust where it is safe to listen and challenge one another
    ➢ creating relational communities where we discuss and embrace the gifts of God and discern what gifts we might each share in response to God’s amazing grace
  2.  Gratitude – embracing God’s abundant grace fosters peace, trust, and celebration. Stewardship teams need gratitude as a core value. Without gratitude, stewardship ministry is merely a string of tasks with no acknowledgement of grace. Learning to regularly acknowledge and thank God for provision and resource is a spiritual discipline. Creating special occasions where you can lead the entire congregation in practices of gratitude are appropriate responses to God’s generous grace.
  3. Equipping the Saints – encouraging the church to share, practice hospitality, and live generously. Gracious stewardship teams are encouraging and equipping. They join with the mission of other ministry teams to build up the body of Christ. Their work presents faith-formation opportunities for members to learn how to practice stewardship in real life. They expand the understanding of stewardship to be more than giving and finances. Equipping the body of Christ to embrace stewardship of all of life and creation gives them joy and purpose.

If this grace-filled message from Sean and Millie resonates with you in your Stewardship ministry, I encourage to get a copy of the book to read, invite your Stewardship Ministry team to study the book with you, share a copy of the book with the session, and most importantly consider the values of grace-based stewardship in your own life and ministry! 

Deborah Rexrode
Associate for Stewardship 

An Expression of Faith

“Think of us this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.”

I was recently asked to prepare a Statement of Faith as part of my training to become an active elder on the session of my church. I’ve read many well-articulated Statements of Faith from candidates who are being examined for ordination as pastors, so I considered this to be both a privilege and a challenge.

Thanks and Giving

“You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity,
which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;
for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints
but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.”
(II Corinthians 9:11-12)

The practice of generosity stretches us to offer our best to God, to have an attitude of giving that is joyous and from the heart. It is a practice of thoughtful giving that is planned and extravagant. It is giving that is more than dutiful, required, or simply doing one’s part. It is giving above and beyond the limits of what we think we are capable of accomplishing.

Healthy Congregations are Generous Congregations

I recently attended a “Healthy Congregations” Seminar at Montreat Conference Center. This seminar is based on Peter Steinke’s book, Healthy Congregations: A Systems Approach. The book is about the stewardship of the congregation: how people care for, respond to, and manage their life together. It is about holding in trust the well-being of the congregation.