Thanks-Giving!

It’s hard to pray for my favorite team in the upcoming Carolina-Clemson game. Prayer and sporting events haven’t worked out that well for me in the past. Yes, the last few years as a Gamecock fan have been beyond my highest expectations – Steve Spurrier has tied Rex Enright for the most wins; this senior class has won more games (36) than any other in USC history; the Gamecocks have won 11 straight home games, a new record; the baseball team won back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011, and was runner-up this year. It’s been great but can we beat Clemson in football 4 years in a row? That is what’s on the line this coming Saturday. I feel like I’m being greedy because I would have settled for one in a row not too long ago.

Need I say more about praying for sports teams? If I pray for the best team to win, that team might not necessarily be mine, especially with Connor Shaw limping and Jadeveon Clowney gimpy, too. So, this year I know exactly what kind of prayer I should pray. It should be a prayer of thanksgiving. Gosh, We’re 9-2! The same could be true for Clemson folks at 10-1, too, and perhaps for fans of about every team except Kentucky and Tennessee. I have a lot to be thankful for as a Carolina fan, but more so as a human being.

There are so many blessings that are better than the vicissitudes of sports. There are many good and great things that overshadow an entire world’s bad news. In the midst of the somber we can either give in to depression or count our blessings. We all know which is better for us, even when it’s tough to do. My biggest thanks is that Narcie is two and half years away from Brain Tumor surgery on a oligodendroglioma and she is doing great! Please keep praying for her!

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? In a village in Denmark, there is a beautifully landscaped cemetery next to the community church. A visitor noted that at least a third of the gravestones there have the inscription, “Tak,” written upon them. That’s Danish for “Thanks.” What a wonderful sentiment whether it’s meant as gratitude towards God for blessing us with life, or as thanks to the people who visit and helped us get through life. Annie Dillard captures this same attitude in her words, “I think that the dying pray at the last not ‘please,’ but ‘thank you,’ as a guest thanks his or her host at the door.” “Thanks!” aims positive energy towards God and others.

Without thanksgiving our prayers are too much about us. We end up treating God like some sort of Cosmic Genie. I know it’s something that I sometimes do. Often in my prayers I spend a lot of time on the things that I need or what I think others need. This part of prayer is called “supplication.” We often spend the majority of our prayer time focusing on what we want God to supply, rather than saying, “Thanks.”

A Biblical model for prayer starts with Adoration, praising God for who God is. Next is Confession as we repent and ask for forgiveness. Thanksgiving comes after confession as we express our gratitude to God for what God has done. Lastly, Supplication is when we ask God to supply the needs of others or ourselves. This A.C.T.S. model for prayer works if we end with supplication and begin with praise and thanksgiving.

This Sunday is a time for us to express these altruistic sentiments. It’s not only Thanksgiving Sunday, but it’s also Christ the King Sunday – the last Sunday in the Christian Year. There’s no better day to get ready for Advent and Christmas when we especially need to remember the Guest-of-Honor at His own birthday! As I think about churches trying to catch up on their budgets and connectional giving responsibilities, I’m reminded of the story about the couple in the aftermath of World War II. They were getting ready to go to the memorial service for the son of friends of theirs. The young man had been killed in the service. His family was dedicating a window in their church to this young man who had lost his life. The window cost $10,000.

“What a beautiful thing to do in memory of their son,” the wife said to her husband. Suddenly, she turned around with an ashen look on her face and said, “What are we going to give?” Her husband replied, “What are you talking about? We don’t need to give anything. Our son came back alive and well.” “That’s exactly what I mean,” his wife responded. “Our friends lost their son, and they’re giving $10,000. We got our son back, and we’re not giving anything???”

Count and account for your blessings!

Thanksgiving!

It’s hard to pray for my favorite team in next week’s Carolina-Clemson game. Prayer and sporting events haven’t worked out that well for me in the past. In 117 years of football, South Carolina has only won 8 or more games three times. Need I say more? If I pray for the best team to win, that team might not necessarily be mine. So, this year I know exactly what kind of prayer I should pray. It should be a prayer of thanksgiving. The same could be true for Clemson folks, too. USC is 8-2 and Clemson is 9-1! Wow! So, I have a lot to be thankful for as a Carolina fan, and more so as a human being. Narcie just got her latest MRI results on the brain tumor and PRAISE GOD it isn’t growing!

            There are SO many blessings that are better than the vicissitudes of sports. There are many good and great things that overshadow an entire world’s bad news. In the midst of the somber we can either give in to depression or count our blessings. We all know which is better for us, even when it’s tough to do.

            What are you thankful for this coming Thanksgiving? In a village inDenmark, there is a beautifully landscaped cemetery next to the community church. A visitor noted that at least a third of the gravestones there have the inscription, “Tak,” written upon them. That’s Danish for “Thanks.” What a wonderful sentiment whether it’s meant as gratitude towards God for blessing us with life, or as thanks to the people who visit and helped us get through life. Annie Dillard captures this same attitude in her words, “I think that the dying pray at the last not ‘please,’ but ‘thank you,’ as a guest thanks his or her host at the door.” “Thanks!” aims positive energy towards God and others.

            Without thanksgiving our prayers are too much about us. We end up treating God like some sort of Cosmic Genie. I know it’s something that I sometimes do. Often in my prayers I spend a lot of time on the things that I need or what I think others need. This part of prayer is called “supplication.” We often spend the majority of our prayer time focusing on what we want God to supply, rather than saying, “Thanks.”

            A Biblical model for prayer starts with Adoration, praising God for who God is. Next is Confession as we repent and ask for forgiveness. Thanksgiving comes after confession as we express our gratitude to God for what God has done. Lastly, Supplication is when we ask God to supply the needs of others or ourselves. This A.C.T.S. model for prayer works if we end with supplication and begin with praise and thanksgiving.

            This Sunday is a time for us to express these altruistic sentiments. It’s not only Thanksgiving Sunday, but it’s also Christ the King Sunday – the last Sunday in the Christian Year. For a lot of churches this is the wrap-up for your stewardship campaign. In that vein I’m reminded of the story about the couple in the aftermath of World War II. They were getting ready to go to the memorial service for the son of friends of theirs. The young man had been killed in the service. His family was dedicating a window in their church to this young man who had lost his life. The window cost $50,000.

            “What a beautiful thing to do in memory of their son,” the wife said to her husband. Suddenly, she turned around with an ashen look on her face and said, “What are we going to give?” Her husband replied, “What are you talking about? We don’t need to give anything. Our son came back alive and well.” “That’s exactly what I mean,” his wife responded. “Our friends lost their son, and they’re giving $50,000. We got our son back, and we’re not giving anything???”

            Count and account for your blessings! Give Thanks!

Thanksgiving Thoughts

It’s hard to pray for my favorite team in the upcoming Carolina-Clemson game. Prayer and sporting events haven’t worked out that well for me in the past. In 113 years of football, South Carolina has only won 8 or more games three times. Need I say more? If I pray for the best team to win, that team might not necessarily be mine. So, this year I know exactly what kind of prayer I should pray. It should be a prayer of thanksgiving. The same could be true for Clemson folks, too, and perhaps for fans of about every team. I have a lot to be thankful for as a Carolina fan, and more so as a human being.
 
There are so many blessings that are better than the vicissitudes of sports. There are many good and great things that overshadow an entire world’s bad news. In the midst of the somber we can either give in to depression or count our blessings. We all know which is better for us, even when it’s tough to do.
 
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? In a village in Denmark, there is a beautifully landscaped cemetery next to the community church. A visitor noted that at least a third of the gravestones there have the inscription, “Tak,” written upon them. That’s Danish for “Thanks.” What a wonderful sentiment whether it’s meant as gratitude towards God for blessing us with life, or as thanks to the people who visit and helped us get through life. Annie Dillard captures this same attitude in her words, “I think that the dying pray at the last not ‘please,’ but ‘thank you,’ as a guest thanks his or her host at the door.” “Thanks!” aims positive energy towards God and others.
 
Without thanksgiving our prayers are too much about us. We end up treating God like some sort of Cosmic Genie. I know it’s something that I sometimes do. Often in my prayers I spend a lot of time on the things that I need or what I think others need. This part of prayer is called “supplication.” We often spend the majority of our prayer time focusing on what we want God to supply, rather than saying, “Thanks.” I’m reminded of the story about the couple in the aftermath of World War II. They were getting ready to go to the memorial service for the son of friends of theirs. The young man had been killed in the service. His family was dedicating a window in their church to this young man who had lost his life. The window cost $50,000.
 
“What a beautiful thing to do in memory of their son,” the wife said to her husband. Suddenly, she turned around with an ashen look on her face and said, “What are we going to give?” Her husband replied, “What are you talking about? We don’t need to give anything. Our son came back alive and well.” “That’s exactly what I mean,” his wife responded. “Our friends lost their son, and they’re giving $50,000. We got our son back, and we’re not giving anything???” Even with the sour economy, there’s so much to be thankful for this year. I’m going to count and account for my blessings!

No More Schadenfreude

>Competition is a curse. It shows up in everything from personal one-upmanship, college football mania, to the November elections. I want the candidates and the obviously biased TV channels to really have a “No-Spin Zone.” It’s sad to me to hear the bias from CNN and Fox News. Back and forth they go: Barack has little experience and John McCain looks like death warmed over. Joe Biden loves to hear himself talk, and Sarah Palin has a grudge against her ex-brother-in-law and a pregnant unwed daughter. Is this the truth? I don’t know, but I have an opinion. If we concentrated on all the negatives, would we elect anybody? Competition over compassion is destroying the common sense/common good fabric our country.

Sometimes I’m guilty as charged. Tommy Bowden, Clemson’s football coach, called a bunch of friends, coaches, and family members about what went wrong after their crushing loss to Alabama last Saturday. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t on his list. As a University of South Carolina Alum and die-hard fan, it was difficult to be terribly upset. I tend to be one of those long-suffering Gamecock fans who pull for whoever is playing Clemson, unless it’s Georgia. I suffer from “schadenfreude.” “Schadenfreude” is a German word that means to feel joy at the misfortune of others. Truth be told, I have experienced “schadenfreude” too often, and not just with Clemson’s loss on Saturday. I don’t want us to do that with our country, our politics, our church life, or in our families. Glee over somebody else’s crap is just that, except it really hurts us all.
 
Preachers are famous for loving it when another one of us “falls.” Clergy competition is rampant. We measure each other against one another with statistics and salaries rather than focusing on non-competitive servanthood. This flies in the face of the real deal we call Christianity: loving the poor, opening our arms to the down-and-out and the hurricane refugee, caring for the planet, forgiving estranged family members, and simply living like Jesus. The words I saw on a bumper, “Separate Church and Hate!” aren’t true enough in the midst of our competitive paranoia that God’s extravagant grace is somehow being wasted if it someone else gets more of it than we do.
Grace is never a waste. Eugene O’Neill once said, “Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is the glue.” This world, country, and our denomination need to be glued back together. In the midst of this football and political season of sniping at one another, I hope that I can live grace a lot better than I’ve been doing. I look forward to having a district clergy gathering where no one points out to me who was absent and what size their steeple was. As United Methodists we have the best framework of grace imaginable: Prevenient, Justifying, and Sanctifying Grace. In the midst of our bickering we have lost our relevance in a hurting world by not having contagious grace, a grace that we contagiously exude in our worship and fellowship; a grace that offers radical hospitality more than “schadenfreude.”