Generation Cedar

After the post about raising grateful children, this question-comment prompted a new post:

“Can you share how you will practically do this with your children?

While I may not be able to implement all these ideas, I have already found some of them to be very helpful.

The foundational philosophy behind any concept is crucial.  So as a parent, we need to fully ask and understand what it is we want to teach, and why.  Consider these thoughts:

  • Gratitude is commanded from Scripture. (Thus, parents are commanded to cultivate it within their children.)
  • Gratitude enriches life–yours and everyone around you.
  • Gratitude is a by-product of the heart…contentment is the source.

So, I offer a random list of ideas to implement a spirit of contentment in our own lives and hopefully that spirit captivates those with whom we live as well:

1. Read.

I have found that reading about the lives of other people is an easy way to allow my children to “see” into circumstances outside of the American culture.  And as I mentioned in the last post, because we have so much, we have to work overtime to even begin to help our children (and ourselves) understand “being content with little”.  Missionary stories are especially good.

The topic of gratitude is on my heart precisely because of what we are reading right now.  Here are the three books:

  1. Martyr of the Catacombs
  2. Star of Light
  3. Genesis:  currently, the story of Joseph

2.  Mission trip

As I will explain in a bit, it is not necessary to experience extreme poverty to foster an attitude of contentment.  It is, however, profoundly life-changing if you get the chance.  Though costly and not practical for everyone, it’s worth every effort if you can arrange it.  There are also mission opportunities closer by.  It’s a bit more difficult to find really depraved living conditions that are open to allowing outsiders to come in and minister, but I’m sure they can be found.

3. Serving Close Up

While it’s a starker contrast to minister in the midst of deprivation (and perhaps necessary to address extreme heart issues of ingratitude), serving in any context is our calling and will root out selfishness, the thief of contentment.  Self has a ravenous appetite.  When all our time, energy and focus are consumed on ourselves, our SELVES demand more.  (This is something that bothered us when our first child was in school.  We were consumed with the activities we felt pressured to participate in, leaving not only our family time strained, but we felt all we did was cater to “the little girl”.)

As we look around for the smallest ways to share with others, bless others through our gifts and resources, we feed the spirit of generosity and it grows larger than our needs. Jesus left His example for us to follow:

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”

Prepare meals for someone around you, invite a family over who may not have many social opportunities, if your children play instruments let them play at a nursing home (or you could all go sing–they don’t care, they just love your being there), send cards, do some yard work for a single woman–discuss as a family how you could meet the needs of others around you.  As you turn outward, the spirit of contentment will grow.

I could really take off on a tangent here (OK, I will), but I hope you will consider how our entertainment-driven culture seeks to steal our minds, our time, our energies–and ultimately, our contentment.

Have you been in a crowd of children/teenagers lately?  If you’re not regularly surrounded by the mainstream teen, it can be shocking to watch what has happened to their brains and social skills.  I don’t even know the names of all the  hand-held contraptions, so I’m not going to embarrass myself.  But I  haven’t seen a family lately, eating at a restaurant or other social setting with a teen who wasn’t totally absorbed in his texting “conversation”.  And if I understand it correctly, if you are a teen that goes to public school, it is unthinkable not to have the comparable gadgets of your friends.  Not that gadgets in and of themselves are wrong, (my laptop is a gadget, I suppose), but I said all that to get you to think about how self-focused and recreationally-minded we are raising our children to be.  Even if they were prone to think of others, their minds hardly have a free moment to entertain any ideas of the sort.  Just sayin’.

OK, I’m back.

4.  Use the language.

Simply verbalizing, at every opportunity, the need to be grateful will help train our minds.  Remind your children to thank each other for small things and favors done throughout the day.  Remind them, especially, to thank their father for all that he provides.  I strongly encourage you, too, to be so, so grateful to your husbands if he works and allows you to be at home.  I know that motherhood can be trying and days can be hard, but I’ll take the privilege of being able to plop on the floor and snuggle with my children any day over what my husband does daily.

5.  Gratitude journal and exercises.

One of my children who needed a more rigid exercise in this area is keeping an exercise journal.  This child must also read an excerpt out of a selected book (Moral Lessons From Yesteryear) and pray, on the knees, for some people in our lives who have had misfortune.

6.  Sing. (Woke this morning with another idea we use that I couldn’t resist adding.)

Singing, and in particular singing the old hymns, can have a profound effect on our perspective.  There is so much richness of doctrine and theology, written by men and women who often had only their faith to sustain them.  “It is Well With My Soul” remains my favorite as I always ponder the miraculous grace that allowed Spafford to write such words after losing his 4 children to tragedy.

7.  Scripture Memory

I can’t say it enough…Scripture memorization equips us with the necessary “ammunition” to wage war with the enemy of our souls.  If we want to emulate our Savior, then we must, at the moment of temptation, be able to say, “It is written…” My children and I are currently memorizing a Psalm by reading it together every morning and before lunch, and several other long passages put to music.

And though I hope you all share your ideas, on that note I’ll end with this sweet little whisper from the Lord through the Psalm I opened to the day after I wrote the Gratitude post.  These words became my prayer for the day:

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.”

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9 Responses

  1. Kelly,

    All great ideas. I’d add to the “serving close up” service to each other within the family – especially grandparents, if possible. Even such things as doing each others’ chores to help when someone is particularly busy (or has a lot of demands on their time for a season), can bring that servant’s heart along.

  2. These are such great ideas, Kelly, and I thank you so, so much for sharing them. I work with teens (typical, public schooled ones, mostly, like the ones you describe). Whenever I have a parent who asks me, “What do I do? My teen just isn’t MOTIVATED–and he/she seems so UNHAPPY!” I always tell them, “Get your child serving.” Cultivating and attitude of gratitude is, in my opinion and experience, one of THE most practical and surefire ways to wake a teen up, get them shed their apathy, and help them to find joy.

    God bless,

  3. Thanks for the food for thought, Kelly. Your post prompted me to do a quick search of all the “thank/thanks/thanksgiving/thankfulness” words I could think of in just a few moments. I noticed a recurring theme: thankfulness is a response to the realization of the Lord’s mercy. Here’s a perfect example from Psalm 136: “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” The psalm goes on to give numerous examples of the Lord’s mercy and then ends with these words: “O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.” I’m reminded that we might be able to make our children say “thank you,” but if we want them to be truly thankful, we must take them to the Lord Himself and help them to see and experience His mercy.

    Thanking the Lord for you and your blog!

      1. It is good, isn’t it? HE IS GOOD! After I commented last night, I started thinking about those verses in Psalm 136. It’s not only His mercy but obviously His goodness that will cause us to be thankful. That reminded me that “surely GOODNESS and MERCY shall follow me all the days of my life,” (Psalm 23) and I truly did feel thankful. This is what I want my children to learn for themselves–that their Father is good and He is merciful; then they will naturally give thanks. May they grow to know Him more and more! My prayer for myself as well! 🙂

  4. All great ideas, thank you!

    I have been convicted to memorize Scripture for the longest time and finally got around to doing something about it this year after reading the book “His Word in my Heart” by Janet Pope. I started a blog to help keep me accountable and so far this year I’ve memorized Psalms 1, 23, 46, 121, 1 Corinthians 13 and the Book of Titus. All simply by redeeming the time – finding those moments during the day where our hands are busy but our minds are idle. Amazing how much you can memorize in that short time!

  5. So many excellent points, Kelly! I think you’re right that contentment is the source of gratitude, so I would add reading the books of Philippians and First Timothy to our children to get the larger context of these statements by Paul on contentment:

    “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11.

    “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” I Timothy 6:6-8.

    Actually, studying all of Paul’s epistles is a good way to see how gratitude is a thread that runs all through his (post-conversion) life. Look at how many of his letters have the “I thank God for you and remember you in my prayers” thought expressed early on in the letter! Obviously, he wasn’t addressing perfect people (and he certainly endured difficult circumstances, as we see from the book of Acts), but he still thanked and praised God for the people He put in his life, imperfect though they were, and reminds us in Romans 8:18 that “…the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Wow…to live with that sense of thankfulness and peace! It’s a good lesson for more than just the kids; it’s for me, too!

    Well, Kelly, there are probably a million things I could say about your post…all of them good 😉 …but I do think your point about serving others is very important, and one of the best ways to foster gratitude in our children. It seems very young children do have a natural desire to serve. They want to help with dishes, fold laundry, get things for the baby, etc. My youngest child recently served her 8-year-old brother when he was sick with a fever by reading a funny story out loud to him that she knew he enjoyed. Nobody asked her to minister to him, but she “took him under her wing” anyway, and was rewarded with gales of laughter from that brother lying sick on the couch listening to the humorous story!

    I always stop to think how it is that young children’s desire to serve sometimes (well, oftentimes) diminishes when they get a bit older. Is it just the newness of an activity wearing off and becoming more routine? Is it that the kids get more involved with their individual pursuits (too early and/or too excessive focus on schooling to the detriment of living real life as it naturally unfolds), too much technology? I don’t think you were off on a tangent, Kelly, when you mentioned how the overuse of technology leads to self-focused and recreationally-minded youth (dare I say adults, too?). How many enjoy having their “me-time” interrupted for duty or acts of service? I think all of us are more likely to be grateful for what we have when we take care to look after our blessings well, and like my husband always says (and lives out), do our work before seeking out pleasure and relaxation, which is always much more satisfying after the work is done.

    Which reminds me of your exhortation to have the children thank their father for all that he provides, and for us women at home to be grateful to our husbands for working and providing us a way to be home. I just don’t do either of those things enough. Thank you…I needed that reminder!

    Well, I’ll quit there! Thank you for a most thought-provoking and energizing post, Kelly!

    P.S. Thanks for reminding me that I have Star of Light on my shelf and should get it out and read it again! My oldest two heard it many years ago, but my youngest four have not yet. Good recommendation!

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