Thankful hearts raised to God

Kids today are rarely taught gratitude. In fact, Tim Elmore notes five ways in which the opposite is taught; Tim says an internal focus is fostered for our kids: Culture pushes us to focus more on our appearance than our reality. Culture cultivates a paradigm that's about "me" more than "we." Culture celebrates IQ more than EQ (emotional intelligence). Culture fosters addiction rather than moderation. Culture ambushes kids, moving them from "awesome" to "awful." (Read more about Tim's thoughts.)Do you agree? Is gratitude a matter of "teaching"?Consider this quote from CS Lewis: "I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed." (CS Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms)"We praise what we enjoy ... " Isn't self-praise what we're teaching if Elmore's list is correct? Yet most people would say that the positive reinforcement of "awesome" kids, highly intelligent kids, and goal-driven kids are needed for kids to have success.Dr. Robert Emmons, from the University of California Davis, thinks that a fulfilled life is more about gratitude. Emmons' team discovered that those who have an "attitude of gratitude" experience multiple advantages. Gratitude improves emotional and physical health, and can strengthen relationships and communities. "Without gratitude, life can be lonely, depressing, and impoverished," said Emmons. (Read more at gratitudepower.net.)This past week's Gospel lesson (Matthew 25:31-46) struck me in a new way. When God addresses those who were being cast to the eternal fires of hell, God doesn't mention their sins of theft, adultery, or slander. Rather, they are damned for what they didn't do. Their lives certainly didn't exhibit a life of gratitude.An ungrateful heart is a sin-filled heart--and we're all guilty of that. We all tend to be more concerned about ourselves rather than others. We mask it with concern for our family, our job, security for our family. But each of these, by themselves, are internally focused.The Gospel lesson for Thanksgiving Day is the healing of the 10 lepers (Luke 17:11-19). I can't imagine that all 10 lepers were not rather giddy about their new-found lease on life. Yet only one of them expressed gratitude for healing. One of them recognized his unworthiness--and with it found complete healing--physically, but also the healing of forgiveness.As Thanksgiving approaches, praise God for the many gifts he showers on you. Be it "food and drink, clothing and shoes" and all the rest mentioned by Martin Luther in the Small Catechism, take time to thank God for his grace to you.Then when it is time to dig into the turkey, be sure to give everyone an opportunity to share a prayer of thanks for the blessings they see in their lives. Maybe this Thanksgiving can be a time when each of us can foster a thankful heart, "an attitude of gratitude," a joyous response in life of God's love for us.Happy Thanksgiving!