Purposeful Gratitude

In reading the story of Abraham and Sarah, have you noticed that Abraham has a habit?

He stacks stones.

A very balanced pile of rocks

No, Abraham wasn’t piling rocks in an artful manner such as the photo above. He built altars. He deliberately heaped soil and rock, forming a reminder. A physical stalwart to remind him of an encounter with God. He would use these altars in his worship to God and to remind himself of God’s promises of blessing.

In the season of Thanksgiving, how about we be as deliberate, and make our gratitude be purposeful. The key is to make this your new normal. Here are some ways to do this with your family:

  • Why not pile some rocks. Go out for a walk to collect stones. Once back at home, in a family gathering (perhaps at the dinner table), read about Abram’s altar building in Genesis 12:6-8 or Genesis 13:3-4 or Genesis 13:18. Make a pile of your rocks naming each one as a thanksgiving to God.
  • Take the next step and write thanksgivings on your rocks with a permanent marker, or use a glue and water mix (Modge Podge) to apply cut out pictures to your rocks.
  • Allow your rock pile to be re-built on a daily basis!
  • A "shrine" of things that invoke the memory of God's goodness

  • The Life Application Bible tells us that Abram built altars to “remember that God was at the center of his life.” Build a different sort of “altar.” Fill a space in your home with reminders of thankfuls. Allow touching and rearranging and additions and subtractions. (Photo on right is at the Nelson home around Easter time.)
  • With older children discuss ways people often build “monuments” to themselves or to their stuff. Why do you suppose we do this? How can we break into a new focus of being grateful?
  • A blessing box - a place to store your blessings!

  • Fill up your family blessing box!
    If your child didn’t get to make one in our Art Workshop for the story of Abraham & Sarah, you can view the lesson here and download the instructions here. Decorate any old box!

What are other ways your family makes gratitude purposeful?


Photo credits:
Balancing rocks by Viewminder, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License. “Shrine” photo from the Nelson family. Used by permission. Blessing box photo from my archives.

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Become the blessing

Gather the family together and tell this story. Be prepared to stop for questions.

Once upon a time there was a man named Abram who heard from God. “I want you and your wife to be a part of something really big. Pack up and move far from here, and raise up a great big family; generation after generation! I promise to bless you richly, to give you much goodness! And in turn, you will bless the world!” (Genesis 12:2.)

Do you suppose that Abram often thought about those numerous descendants — the ones God had promised to him? I can just imagine him chuckling to himself as he watched the sheep, “When those grandchildren come, I’ll tell them all about the altar I built at the great oak tree in Moreh” (Genesis 12:6-7). “I’ll tell them how I didn’t see how, with all of those Canaanites around, the land would ever be ours! Ha!”

Have the adults in your family ever thought about their grandchildren-yet-to-be-born?
What about the kids; have you ever thought about your grandchildren?

I am sure there were times when Abraham’s doubts about God’s plan spilled over in frustration. I can imagine him grumbling to his childless self as he tended to the goats, “The Lord God can bless me all to pieces, but it won’t do any good. Copious kin! I don’t even have a son! I’m too old.” (Genesis 15:1-5).

Then there probably were times Abraham (God had given him that new name as a sign to remember God’s promises) wondered about “blessing the world.” As he leaned back his head to adequately view the marveling display of glimmering stars overhead, he wondered to himself, “What did God mean by that? I will be blessed… so that I can be a blessing? How can I be a blessing?”

Have you ever wondered how you can be a blessing?

"The greatest gift of all is to become the blessing." A quote by Ann Voskamp.

We share God’s promises; they belong to us.

What are we doing to bless others?
Our family? Our friends? Our neighbors? The homeless man on the street? The store clerk? Our grandchildren (the one’s way off in the future)?

Abraham and Sarah teach us to respond faithfully to God’s call, even when it doesn’t make sense; even when our trust wavers. The payoff is great. (God promises it will be full!) God can’t wait to bless us! And in turn, God wants us to enrich the lives of others; it’s part of God’s plan to bless the whole world!

Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
The quote above is from Ann Voskamp’s book
One Thousand Gifts. The word art was created by Deb Chitwood.


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