Practicing Gratitude

When someone gives you a gift, what is the standard, considered-good-manners, expected response?

(Everyone say it all together…)

Thank You!

Unfortunately, kids aren’t born knowing how to be thankful.

Now, I know. You are well-aware of your parental requirement to teach your children manners. (Please, thank you, you’re welcome, and the rest).

How about training them to have a grateful heart?

A thankful heart shown in chalk

Need an ingress to this topic? Our June Rotation offers an appropriate Bible story. We’ve been studying the “Widow’s Offering” from Mark 12:41-44.

We’ve already learned that gifts given to God are called offerings. Our offerings can be time, talents, or money.

We’ve also learned that the woman in our story could have given everything she owned (two, small coins!) out of trust that God would provide for her needs.

What about the possibility that the poor widow gave because she was grateful?


For the widow in our story, it probably wasn’t her first time giving an offering. She was likely in the habit.

Perhaps we need to practice being thankful.

Here are some ways…

  • Set up a place for praises. In a noticeable location, place a stack of papers and a pen near a basket or a bowl. (Or post a list on the refridge; or give everyone their own journal.) Encourage everyone to draw or write about things that make them grateful. Once a week ponder your collection.
  • Write notes to your family (the lunch box, posted on the car dash, on the mirror, saying, “Right now, what are you thankful to God for?” Expect a report at the dinner table.
  • While driving around town allow a certain happenstance (every dog seen or every blue car) to spark the announcement of a grateful.
  • Use this mealtime grace: Thank you for the world so sweet. Thank you for the food we eat. Thank you for the birds that sing. Thank you, God, for everything. Follow it up with everyone naming a gratitude.
  • Write short thank-you notes to people who might appreciate a little thanks. Folks at church – such as the person who sang a solo, the person who rocked babies in the nursery, or the pastor; in your neighborhood – the person who lets you pick flowers, or always bags your groceries. The possibilities are endless!
What are your ideas for practicing gratitude?

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Photo credit:
Chalk thank you by Judy Merrill-Smith, licensed under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Giving abundantly because we trust in abundance

Kids participating with the Cool Disciples have been learning this month, about giving. They’ve learned how our offerings can be more than a monetary gift; they’ve had two chances to work at it during Sunday’s Cool! One week they helped make decorations that will be used for Vacation Bible Camp in July. Last week they made cookies to share with Alpha House. Each week they’ve listened to the story of a poor widow giving all that she had (in Mark 12:41-44). What was Jesus trying to say about this widow’s extravagant gift?

This woman was giving all that she had out of trust that God would supply all of her needs.

God is good; all the time. This is something we know inherently. But do we live as though we believe it?

Two coins

How about talking about it with your family! Gather a Bible and a fist full of coins (the more the merrier). First read the story together in Mark 12:41-44. Then gather everyone around the computer and scroll down only far enough to expose a speech bubble and its question.

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubbleWhy do you suppose Jesus was watching people give their offerings?

No right or wrong answer to this one. Did you know the subject Jesus taught the most about was money? It’s almost as if Jesus were sitting there, waiting for a teachable moment!
Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubbleThe teachable moment arrives when a widow gives her offering. What is a widow?

A widow is a woman whose husband has died. Most women in Jesus’ day didn’t work. Widows had to be taken care of by their family. It is likely that this woman didn’t have anyone to support her as, Jesus seemed to know that she was poor.

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubble Jesus had watched rich people drop lots of coins into the offering box. (Since all money was coins it would have made a lot of noise going in!) Yet Jesus said that the poor widow had put in more than all the others! How can her gift be larger than what the richer people gave?

Here’s where your coins come into play. It’s probably not a significant pile of cash, but let’s just say: you are rich! Look at all the money you have! You’ve got plenty!

Pick up two coins. Since you are rich do you suppose you would notice if you had two coins less? (Probably not.)

Hold just the two coins and put the other coins away. Now you are poor! You have only two coins! What happens if you give away these two coins?

This is what Jesus meant; the rich people gave a lot because they could afford to do so; they had plenty left over. But the widow gave even though she was poor. She put in everything she had. She gave all she had to live on!

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubbleIf the widow gave everything, where did she expect her next meal to come from?

The women had the chance to give a gift. She gave all she had, trusting that God would take care of her!

Jesus is not saying we have to give everything we have. He is saying that the amount of the gift isn’t really important but the attitude in which a gift is given is important. Jesus wants us to trust God to provide for our needs! Let me tell you: It’s not easy trusting God like that! But you know what? It makes me giddy when I do and he provides! (Ask me about it.)

When we begin to share abundantly, then we make room in our lives for God to bless us abundantly.

What can help you to live as though you believe in God’s abundance?

— Carol


Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Other photo: from my archives.

Time, talent or treasures

It’s a familiar part of the worship service.

collection plate

The Giving of Our Tithes and Gifts to God

Also known as “the Offering” or “the Collection.” At FUMC there is beautiful music to accompany this portion of worship. In the summer time it’s usually a soloist (or two or three) contributing their symphonious instrumental sounds. And hey! They are giving a gift to God!

That’s the point of our Rotation this month about the Widow’s Offering – to define an “offering” as gifts given to God and to discover that offerings can be time, talents, or money.

Ready for some family discussion about our story?

Gather kids around the computer and scroll down only far enough to expose a speech bubble and its question…

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubbleWhat happens in this story?

Read together Mark 12:41-44.
Did you catch all of the details? It’s a short story isn’t it!

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubbleWhat was Jesus doing?

Jesus was sitting in the Temple, the place where Jewish people came to worship. He was watching people give their offerings.

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubbleWhat is an offering?

Offerings are gifts to God. Right off the bat we think of an offering as money; it’s what we put into the plate that gets passed around at church. Money is an important part of what we give in our offerings but our gifts can be more than just money!

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubbleWhat are other examples of giving gifts to God?

There are many ways that people give gifts to God! An offering can be our time and our talents as well as our money. In church when we receive the offering, there are musicians or singers who share their gifts with us. The ushers are giving their time and leadership to collect the money we raise for God’s use. Other people oversee the use of the money that is collected. People who are teaching Sunday Cool classes, people singing in the choir, those who take turns in the nursery – all of these people are making a gift of themselves to God!

Of course this is just the start of the list; then there are people who give of themselves outside of the worship service.

kids at work on Appalachia mission trip Youth on Kenya trip Fish Fri

Kids on a Mission trip to Appalachia. Youth on a Kenya Mission trip assisting with the school’s feeding program. Kids & adults in the kitchen during a Fish Fri event.

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubbleBrainstorm ways that kids can give gifts to God.

For a list of activities where kids can get involved in offering their time see this list for summer 2011. (Updated: sorry, this list is no longer available.)


Photo credits:
Collection plate by rubber bullets, who licensed his/her photos under: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.
Mission trip photos by various FUMC church members, used by permission.

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Cool Disciples schedule: June 2011

During the summer our “Cool Disciples” continue to explore Bible stories on Sunday mornings using Rotation Model Sunday’s school. What’s different about summer is that we combine grade groups. This summer we’ve also got more changes – a different choice for older students. Read more about that here.

In June, we are learning about the Widow’s Offering. Read our story in Mark 12:41-44. If you’d like to read a children’s Bible version of this story visit this site.

A Cool Disciples class from last summer.
Last summer’s Cool Disciples

Here is the schedule for the next three weeks…

Date Workshop & Activity Additional Notes
6/12 Missions Workshop: Make decorations for the church to use during Vacation Bible Camp. Wear clothes you’d don’t mind getting sloppy!
6/19 Cooking Workshop: Make sugar cookie “coins” to share with Alpha House. Click here for more info about this homeless shelter for families.
6/26 Art Workshop: Use an embossing technique – repoussé- to create an artistic coin. Repoussé is a method
of decorating metal in which the design is worked from the back of a thin piece of metal; in our case, copper.


If you are in the area please join us for the fun learning at First United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor, MI


Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Other photo from the archives here.