Giving Thanks for Discomfort
About the Guest
Are you modeling gratitude for your kids? Barbara Rainey reminds us that our kids aren’t born naturally grateful, so it’s a parent’s responsibility to teach them. One way to do that, she says, is to share stories that illustrate “giving thanks” in everything. Hear a true story today about Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, Betsy--women of faith who choose to thank God for all things, even for fleas.
Are you modeling gratitude for your kids?
Giving Thanks for Discomfort
Bob: It’s pretty easy to be thankful when life is good right? Real gratitude: Having a heart that is full of thanksgiving – that is best forged in the crucible of adversity. Here are Dennis and Barbara Rainey.
Dennis: As a parent we want to rescue our kids from discomfort.
Barbara: You know I think in our culture of so many choices, we want to pick and choose what we like about the Bible. We don’t really like the verse that says to give thanks in all things, and so we don’t.
Dennis: It may be in the discomfort that your child is experiencing in that school, or in your neighborhood, or in life—that may be a part of what God wants to teach that child – to learn how to live in circumstances where it doesn’t go all right.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 4. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about how we can first model for our children what gratitude in the midst of adversity looks like, and then how we can cultivate the heart of gratitude in our children’s lives.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us. Do you have a favorite Bible verse on gratefulness, gratitude, thanksgiving – the one that comes to mind immediately for you?
Bob: What is it?
Dennis: I Thessalonians chapter 5 – what is it – verse 18?
Dennis: Give thanks in everything! In the Greek that means everything.
I mean when you ask the question to me that’s kind of the North Pole of gratitude. The scripture commands us to maintain a heart of thanksgiving in the midst of all circumstances.
Bob: Your wife who prompted you on verse 18 – Barbara welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Barbara: I did - Thanks Bob.
Dennis: She prompts me on a lot Bob!
Bob: Is that the verse that comes to mind for you?
Barbara: That would absolutely be the one that comes to mind.
Bob: Okay, what’s number two? Since he took that do you have a second one?
Dennis: Well, there’s a negative one!
Barbara: Well, yes there are some negative ones.
Dennis: Philippians 2:14
Barbara: Do all things without grumbling or disputing or complaining. Yes, that’s definitely the flip side.
Bob: You know, and I think about a verse like Philippians 4, which doesn’t really talk about gratitude, but when Paul says, “I’ve learned the secret of being content in all things” part of the secret of being content is to be grateful, to be thankful.
We’re talking this week about this subject of gratitude in part because Thanksgiving is just around the corner, in part because this is something that has been on your heart for years, and in part because of a new book that you put together for families called: Growing Together in Gratitude. You’ve already shared this week that this came out of many years of grumbling around the Rainey house. Right?
Barbara: It did! You know our children are products of their parents. Dennis and I did our fair share of complaining as well, but we realized we needed to model gratitude for our kids as well as instruct them in how to be grateful. So, we worked on ourselves, and we worked on them.
Dennis: It occurs to me Bob in all the years we’ve been talking about gratitude, and we’ve talked about it a lot because Barbara has written another book: Thanksgiving—A Time to Remember. It’s all about the history of Thanksgiving. By the way if you as a listener don’t have a copy of this book, you need to get it, and read it on Thanksgiving Day to your kids. It’s just a great story of how the pilgrims founded our country.
But, I was thinking Bob, as we’ve talked about gratitude and thanksgiving, that in all the years you’ve never once confessed here on FamilyLife Today that your family has a problem with being grateful, and saying thank you. I don’t want to blame.
Bob: You want the dirt: Is that what you’re looking for here?
Dennis: Well, not necessarily!
Barbara: You’re just looking for him to identify with us – is that it?
Dennis: Well – no: I just want the truth!
Bob: You can’t handle the truth!
Dennis: I can’t handle it – I know! But does your family struggle with this – come on!
Bob: Well of course we have the same genetic make up that you have in terms of being descendants of Adam. So, we struggle like everybody else with not having a natural tendency toward ingratitude.
Dennis: That’s a great theological answer Bob! Answer the question – ATQ!
Bob: The answer is that Mary Ann diligently, and I don’t know why, but she diligently worked with the kids from early on to instill in them a grateful spirit. I remember growing up; after church on Sunday we went to the cafeteria. Pretty much every Sunday—out to the cafeteria—I got pretty much the same thing: Chocolate cream pie was always for desert at the cafeteria.
Barbara: I thought you meant it was for your main meal! You would have liked!
Bob: I would have!
Bob: You know we walked out of the cafeteria on Sunday, and went home. I don’t think I ever in all of the years that we did that – I don’t think I ever even thought to say to my Dad. Thanks for taking us out to lunch. I mean it didn’t occur to me that he’s the Dad after church you take us out to lunch.
Barbara: That’s what Dad’s do!
Dennis: He’s the bank. He’s what banks do!
Bob: That’s your job. He’s just doing his job!
Our kids – it’s almost comical now how as soon as we’re done eating out somewhere – there’s almost this little competition to see who’s going to thank Dad first.
Dennis: Thank you father!
Bob: So David will say, “Thanks for taking us out Dad,” and then he’ll turn to John, and say, “Beat you.” Then John will follow it up with a “Dad you know I just I really mean it. I mean I really want to say thank you – that was a fabulous meal.” So he’ll lay it on really thick to outdo his brother because he wasn’t first. He wants to be best, and it’s gotten to be kind of a competition, but again if that’s what they’re battling over is who can out gratitude the other one? It’s nothing I did. It really is a part of how Mary Ann cultivated in them – you guys need to be thankful for this: You need to be grateful for the blessings that we enjoy as a family.
Barbara: Well, and I think your story of what Mary Ann has done with your kids illustrates perfectly what I’m hoping that this devotional will do for families. That is to help you as a Mom and a Dad train your children to think about being thankful and grateful for things in their lives because none of us are naturally grateful.
It is something that has to be trained in us: It’s a learned response. Not an automatic response. It’s our responsibility as parents to teach our children to be grateful – to show them how to be grateful, and to model gratitude before them so that they will then know what it looks like and know how to do it.
Dennis: You know as we’re talking about that I was thinking of day one in your devotional that’s entitled: “Can fleas be from God?” Fleas – we’re talking about the type of little creature that lives on dogs, and cats. It’s subtitled: Giving Thanks for Discomfort. It has the verse we’ve been talking about here: In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. It tells the story of Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy who were in Ravensbruck, which was a concentration camp during World War II.
Bob: Yes, in fact if it’s okay let me just read what you’ve written here. You describe Ravensbruck: A place that nobody would want to be, located 50 miles north of Berlin, it had been established as a prison camp for women back in 1938 by Hitler’s army, and Corrie and Betsy were in Ravensbruck along with their 84 year old father, and two other family members. They’d been arrested for hiding Jews from the Nazi’s.
At this point in the story the sisters have been moved to barracks 28. The living conditions were as bad as any at the camp: Plumbing was backed up that kept a sickening stench in the air, and the beds were actually long rows of crude, wooden platforms stacked three high with a little straw that covered the beds. It was dirty, and scratchy, and of course there weren’t any sheets or blankets, or pillows.
Barbara you write: After being directed to their places Corrie and Betsy crawled over the smelly straw, and laid down to rest, and then “Fleas.” Corrie cried. “Betsy the place is swarming with them.” Scrambling off the platform Corrie wailed: “Betsy how can we live in such a place?” Betsy was already praying. Show us, show us how Lord! Suddenly Betsy exclaimed, “Corrie, He’s given us the answer. Before we asked as He always does. In the Bible this morning: Read that part again!”
Carefully Corrie drew the Bible from its pouch so that no guard would see it. It was 1 Thessalonians. See that none of you repays evil for evil but always seek to do good to one another. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.
“That’s it Corrie,” said Betsy. “That’s His answer. Give thanks in all circumstances for every single thing in this barracks.” “Such as?” Corrie said. “Such as being assigned here together – such as what you’re holding in your hands,” said Betsy. Corrie looked down at the Bible. “Yes, thank you Lord.”
Betsy continued, “Thank you Lord that we’re packed so close with so many that many more will hear about you.” That was too much. “Betsy there is no way even God can make me grateful for a flea!”
“It doesn’t say in pleasant circumstances,” Betsy replied. “Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.” So we stood between piers of bunks, and gave thanks for fleas, but this time I was sure Betsy was wrong.
You go on to say that weeks later God gave Corrie the answer to the question about fleas. She was standing in the food line at the end of the day, and Betsy said to her with delight, “You know we never understood why we’ve had so much freedom in the big room? I think I’ve found out. This afternoon some women asked for a supervisor to come settle a dispute, and she refused. Even the guards wouldn’t come in. You know why? Because of the fleas they said. That place is crawling with fleas.”
God allowed a difficult circumstance for Corrie and Betsy so that His word could be read to any woman who wanted to listen. In any other barracks it would have been difficult to read a forbidden Bible without being discovered by the guards but God provided protection by way of the fleas.
Dennis: Yes, and you know as we listen to that story, Bob, I think we live in a nation that has so many creature comforts we can’t even begin to identify with: How could you exist in that? How could you keep on going into that, and cultivate an attitude of gratitude? But, that’s the point you want to make isn’t it honey?
Barbara: Yes, the point of this story is that Betsy, and Corrie chose to believe God’s word – every single word of it. You know we I think in our culture of so many choices we want to pick and choose what we like about the Bible. We don’t really like the verse that says to give thanks in all things, and so we don’t.
But, Corrie, and Betsy believed that every word in the Bible was true, and they chose to believe it, and act on it. Because they did God strengthened their faith, and they saw what God was up to. God used the fleas to protect them from being discovered by the guards because they were leading Bible studies, and they were reading the word to the other women in the barracks.
Bob: You know hearing the story I thought of the fact that our kids have had the opportunity to go to third world countries as a part of short-term missions trips. One of the enduring results of those trips is that your kids come home with a better perspective on where joy comes from, and what really matters, and the fact that stuff isn’t going to satisfy. I think they came home with a sense of gratitude for the blessings we have, and they had a chance to see people who were grateful for much less. That has an impact!
Barbara: Yes! We’ve done the same with our kids. Most of ours have gone at least once on an international project to a third world country, and some of our kids have gone three and four times. It’s an invaluable experience for children especially jr. high, and high school age to be exposed to those in this world – and there are millions of them who have so much less than we have. It does inspire gratitude.
Dennis: I’ll never forget Laura going to a large Asian country, and working in an orphanage. We would hear from her occasionally, and she started talking about the living conditions that she and another young lady were living in. There were no screens on the windows, there were mosquitoes biting her, there were fleas.
Barbara: No air conditioning, and it was a hundred degrees.
Dennis: Yes, it was a hot place. As a parent you know this is really where I want to reach through the radio and say to Mom’s and Dad’s. As a parent we want to rescue our kids from that discomfort, but it may be in the discomfort that your child is experiencing in that school, or in that peer group, or in your neighborhood, or in life. That may be a part of what God wants to teach that child to learn how to live in circumstances where it doesn’t go all right.
For Laura, it was enduring that plus water that looked like coffee, and drinking it, and caring for street children who had no families. I mean these are enormous lessons we can teach our children by going on a missions trip, or also by reading a story like this, and talking about it.
Bob: This story, and the others that are in your devotional book Growing Together in Gratitude are these stories you read to your kids when you were raising them? Are these stories you read when you were growing up? Where did you come across these stories?
Barbara: Well, some of them are ones that we did read to our kids, because I read in particular this story about Corrie ten Boom. I read the book The Hiding Place to my girls when they were teenagers. It was one of those books we’d read a chapter every night. So, they heard all of these stories about Corrie, and Betsy.
Some of the other stories in this book: There’s one about Harriet Tubman, and we read lots of stories about the underground railroad, and Harriet Tubman, and her work in freeing the slaves during the Civil War era. So, many of these were stories that we did read to our kids, but we found some in looking for the best of the best, because I wanted to only put “wow” stories in this devotional.
I didn’t want anything that would bore any child. So, these seven stories are all eye-popping stories. I want to capture their attention. I want them to be riveted to the story, and get the point that here’s someone I can model my life after. So, we did do some research to find some of these. They were not all stories that I had previously read, but they’re all fabulous stories of faith expressed through gratitude in circumstances that are less than ideal.
Bob: Would you read these out loud to five year olds, four year olds, three year olds? Where do you start?
Barbara: Probably not three and four, but I’m hoping that this will span a wide range of children. I’m hoping that families with kids as young as five or six will be able to engage enough because they’re short, we have a lot of visual images, and graphics that will keep their visual attention even if they don’t understand everything in the story. But, they will also be stories that teenagers would be engaged with too, and would not find family devotions boring.
Dennis: Yes, when we had teenagers I remember before we’d go to school in the morning we read a little devotional that’s frankly about this length, and the thing that sets up an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion is a compelling story that can be told in less than three or four minutes. I was looking at the clock Bob as you were reading, and that’s about what this is. It’s a compelling story that takes us into the experience of another person who is enduring much, and helps our children go there, and then we can unpack it with them and talk about that and how it applies to our lives.
The great need today for parents is to bridge the gap between story and application, and take the scriptures, and help the child know how to begin to apply what they’ve just heard in their own lives, and maybe help them illustrate from something they’re experiencing.
Bob: So, if you write a story like this about Betsy and Corrie, and the fleas, and you wanted to help a child apply it, I mean I think it’s fairly straightforward for a child to know – okay if they can endure that, I should endure other things. How would you work with a child on application?
Dennis: I might just toss it open and say what discomfort is there in your life that you’re experiencing at school, at home with relationships, or maybe with friends that you need to give thanks for right now? And then not be afraid of silence. Kids need a chance to reflect.
We’re so encumbered today with cell phones, and instant messaging, and texting, and everything that’s taking place. We’re distracted Bob, we don’t have a chance to reflect, and I think what Barbara’s done here is going to force a lot of teenagers, and elementary age children to reflect on their lives, and think: You know what - I’m uncomfortable at school in certain relationships – that’s painful for me, and then help them begin to apply what the lesson’s talking about here – how you can see God at work in those circumstances.
Bob: Barbara how would you use this devotional guide Growing Together in Gratitude in conjunction with the other book you’ve written: Thanksgiving A Time to Remember. If you wanted to make November a month that’s all about gratitude, and cultivating that character quality, what would you do?
Barbara: Well, I think I would start with this devotional for families, and read one a day in the early part of the month to get your kids thinking about gratitude. Then, I would take the Thanksgiving book that tells the story of the pilgrims coming on the Mayflower to Plymouth.
It’s in six chapters, so if you wanted to spread it out, you could read a chapter a day leading up to Thanksgiving, or if you wanted to read it altogether with your family on Thanksgiving day you could do it that way, too. But, the real key is helping your kids apply these stories to their lives – helping them think through what in my life do I need to be grateful for that I’m griping about, or that I’m complaining about?
As parents it’s as important for you to interact on this, too, and to share with your kids: What are you uncomfortable with that you also need to give thanks for? This isn’t just for our kids. To teach gratitude we have to model gratitude. So, as parents it’s equally important that you become engaged in the story and that you share with your kids what you need to be grateful for that’s uncomfortable in your life.
Dennis: You might read this story in the morning before school, and then ask the question that I asked about – what are you struggling with? What’s making you uncomfortable? What are the fleas in your life? Then say, I’m not going to have you answer it until dinner tonight. So, you turn the dinner table into meaningful discussion going around the circle including Mom and Dad answering the question – well, here’s mine, and maybe you start with the parents.
Bob: Now, you’re assuming families are having breakfast and dinner together all in the same day?
Barbara: That probably is a rare occasion!
Bob: How about this: You text us your answer sometime later today!
Dennis: There you go! You know what I don’t really care how they get it, although I do think it would be better where if you could talk about it, and have some discussion, but maybe you’re not going to hit seven out of seven days with a breakfast, and a dinner together.
Barbara: Well, I think there are creative ways you can do it, too, because one of the ways that we did some of these things is: We did things in the car because we drove our kids to school most mornings. You could very easily have this in the car, and one of your kids reads it out loud while you are driving down the highway which helps them be even more engaged than if they’re passively listening. I would pass it around to my reading children, and allow them to read too because it helps them engage more. So, I think there are creative ways you can do this.
Bob: Well, and because you just finished writing this we haven’t had time to get it to Amazon, or to Christian bookstores. We have it here in our FamilyLife Todayresource center, and in fact what we’re doing this month is we’re making this available to any listener who calls, and requests it. All we’re asking is that you make a donation of any amount to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
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Let me also encourage you if you’re on our web site FamilyLifeToday.com and you don’t already have a copy of Barbara’s Thanksgiving book called: Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember the information is available there about how you can order a copy of that book. We have other resources that we have designed to help make Thanksgiving more meaningful for your family this year.
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Now tomorrow, we’re going to hear another story from the devotional, and we’re going to talk more about how we help our children be more thankful: How we cultivate a heart of thanksgiving in our children. Hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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