Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thoughts on Gratitude

I had no idea that Thanksgiving was so controversial until I caught about one minute of a radio talk show argument about celebrating Thanksgiving. I am sorry but give me a break. How can pausing to reflect on the things we are grateful for be anything but a good thing?

Thanksgiving as a holiday is fine, if you get one. Some folks don't and so it is not so great for them. In a world driven by shopping, Thanksgiving is certainly not loads of fun for people in the retail business, just lots of long hours with too many rude customers. My heart goes out to those who have to work through the holidays. I have worked on holidays too often myself - it is not a fun part of my job.

What I am in favor of is a time to reflect and be grateful. I need this is my life and not just for a day or two but to live with gratitude daily.

Grateful people are wonderful to be around. My dear Mom was one of the most grateful people I have ever known. She was grateful day in and day out, even when I could not find any reason to be thankful. She had a grateful heart and we were all blessed by that. I want to be that kind of person.

Ungrateful people are a burden to be around. We have to spend all our time trying to cheer them up or change their attitude and usually it doesn't work. Being around people who complain, whine, moan, criticise, and see only the dark side of things is exhausting.

Paul has this line that has always been a challenge for me: "... give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (I Thess. 5:17) That is the heart of the matter. Gratitude is easy when we are flying high and everything is going your way. Being a grateful person when life is kicking you in the shins is something else all together. What Paul knew was that we cannot control our circumstances but with God's help we can control our response to them. He would say, "... I have learned to be content whatever the circumstance". (Philippians 4:11)

I have noticed that grateful people have a quiet strength about them that is truly inspirational.

One person told me all the things they were thankful for, even though they were confined to a hospital bed with an illness that was not going away.

One parent explained to me their gratitude for lessons they learned by being the parent and caregiver of a child with special needs.

One minister told me about how grateful he was for his church when his wife died - his eyes overflowed with tears as he expressed his thankfulness for the way they rescued him again and again and helped him raise his three young children.

The Psalms are really an old songbook and some of the songs are really sad songs. But the Psalms ring with thanksgiving and praise -
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise, give thanks to him and praise his name." Psalm 100:4

It's Thanksgiving week and I am grateful -so grateful... and I want my gratitude to last.

Just thinking, Steve

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You Can Call Me....

One of the things that happens fairly often for me is people asking me what I would like to be called. Recently I was being introduced as a speaker and the woman who was introducing me asked me, "How do you prefer being introduced?" This is always tricky for people who do not know you - they are trying not to offend and I fully understand it.

I have been introduced or called Dr. Yates, Reverend Yates, Pastor Yates, Father Yates, Brother Yates, and Mr. Yates. I have also been called "Yates", on occasion. If I had my preference, I would simply like to be called "Steve". If your parents taught you to be a bit more formal and you are much younger than me then I will understand if you call me "Mr. Steve or Mr. Yates".

Honestly I am not offended when someone attaches a title to my name but I find it very confining. I am by nature a rather informal person and find titles to be much like putting a label on someone - just call me Steve and I will answer every time.

If push comes to shove and I have to put a title with my name I think I would go with "Servant". I tried to do that some years ago and no one would cooperate - the closest I have come is "Minister", which basically means the same thing. People will say, "This is my minister..." Then someone wants to call you "Senior Minister" or "Pulpit Minister" or "Associate Minister", etc. What is it that makes us want to put titles on people?

I am always trying to remind myself that the inspiration of the Protestant Reformation was the idea of "the priesthood of all believers". I have a real aversion to any distinctions between believers by titles - the clergy and laity stuff just doesn't work for me and I think has a crippling effect on the creative energy for good of the Christian church in our world.

Whatever our gift or talent may be, we are all just servants and what an honor to be called a servant of our loving God.

Being an effective leader is not about titles - it is about authority, power, and influence that is rooted in your character and integrity as a person. We can wear any title we want but if we act like a fool, we will not be an effective leader.

So, you can call me....Steve, just a servant, of a gracious and loving God.

Unless you are my grandchild - I go by Papa. I hope in some small way I am able to show them that Papa is really just a servant and that it is truly a wonderful life.

Just thinking, Steve