Happy Thanksgiving to all! I want to first start off by saying that I am THANKFUL for the reality of 2011 and for the hope of 2012, I’m thankful for my family, and of course all of you!
My question to you this week is ARE YOU REALLY THANKFUL?
Just to give you a little background: Throughout my adult life, I have been quite ambitious. I, for the most part have always been focused on some goal. To be honest, a lot of my goals were financially driven. Not to mean that I was materialistic, but I definitely had the “consumerism” bug; and while I never thought money equaled happiness, I definitely believed that money allowed you access to opportunities that I could build my life around. I also enjoy giving, and for those of you that enjoy the gift of watching the amazement on a friend or family members face when you surprise them with a gift or act of generosity, this is something you can understand. Additionally, I’ve always been well aware that broke people can’t help other broke people; so that was more of a motivation to stay on the right track and accomplish my goals.
Well after a series of financial mistakes, I found myself truly B-R-O-K-E. See, up until 18 months ago I didn’t really consider myself broke because my husband and I earn a good income…I was always able to out earn my stupidity! But I kept thinking, “We should be living better than this”. When everything was really getting bad, I wasn’t even able to give (to my church or others), this hurt the most. I felt really bad; I couldn’t enjoy myself without feeling uneasy or guilty. Then one day I listened to a radio host by the name of Dave Ramsey of the “The Dave Ramsey Show” and I was changed, completely. It was like Paul (in the bible) literally hearing the voice of God and falling off the horse and never being the same. I did an about face and totally change the trajectory of my life and how I thought about money.
Now with open eyes, I am TRULY THANKFUL. I know this because I finally know what it means to be CONTENT. "Contentment" seems realistically defined as "enjoyment of whatever may be desired" (Wikipedia.com). Contentment use to be a dirty word for me, it meant that you had no goals, that you didn’t want better for yourself...it meant (to me) to settle. My whole life, Philippians 4: 13* has always been my favorite scripture. But ever sense my “Ramsey” conversion (I use that loosely), I truly see what Paul was talking about in Philippians 4:10-13*. He is saying that it’s not that he doesn’t care about his well being, but that he has a spirit of contentment, he says ”I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Therefore) I can do all this through him who gives me strength”. Of course I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strive for bigger better things, that is what this country (USA) is about and it’s almost your obligation as a citizen to do so. But BE CONTENT….truly THANKFUL for where you are and who you are. Stop obsessing over what you don’t have!
The paradox is clear! On this Thanksgiving Day when we should be focused on what we are thankful for, we are painfully reminded that today is also the EVE of BLACK FRIDAY, on one hand is the noble message that we should be THANKFUL and GRATEFUL for what we have, on the other hand we are constantly told that we don’t have ENOUGH and we are encouraged to obsess, focus and lust after things we CAN’T HAVE or most importantly CAN’T AFFORD. This spirit of discontentment is at the core of the financial crisis and our personal financial problems.
You may say, “I don’t do that, I’m happy with who and where I am”, well this week I challenge you to look at yourself and measure how much of your daily thoughts are concerned with the things you DON’T have vs. the things you DO have. I have to catch myself all the time from daydreaming about a “bigger”, “better” life, I have to pray to God to help me bring those thoughts into submission and focus on what I DO have and ask God on a daily basis, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE ME DO TODAY WITH WHAT YOU (GOD) HAVE GIVEN ME?
*Philippians 4:4-13 (NIV)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Thanks for Their Gifts
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.