Grace & Gratitude

I am thankful for family! We are not perfect but we do love and forgive each other.

I was talking with a friend recently who was hit by a drunk driver and she mentioned how hard it is to forgive especially since the guy who hit she and her husband had multiple DUI infractions against his driving record. She said, “I hope someday I can forgive, but I don’t know in this case if it’s necessary.” I know she went through months of physical therapy to get back to feeling somewhat normal again and I can only imagine how hard it would be to forgive in such an instance.

I wonder though, how many times do we find it hard to forgive in other instances? How many families have been torn apart because someone refused to forgive and sometimes that unforgiveness stems from an incident that is small, but has somehow grown larger through the years. Now I am not trying to pass judgment on anyone who is finding it difficult to forgive or has been hurt by a drunk driver, a family member, friend or colleague. I don’t know the pain that was inflicted upon you or perhaps is still being inflicted upon you today. What I do want to say though, is what I have found helps me to forgive and that is gratitude.

Yes, I’ve had my moments when I have been very angry and upset over situations, sometimes at those closest to me. For instance, don’t push my hot button when I am in public. It frustrates and hurts me to be confronted on an issue even if I am at fault, in public. I won’t lose it in the middle of a store. I will grit my teeth and restrain myself, but I may walk away leaving someone behind if that type of situation happens. Just ask my husband if you really want to know. “Sorry hubby!” Thankfully, those moments have been few and far between. I think my husband is learning that it’s best to talk to me or give me advice at home instead of in public. After a volatile moment when I’ve had time to reflect and am in a more calm state then I begin to realize how very fortunate I am. I start counting my blessings and oh, it’s so much easier to forgive. Here are some of my blessings –

I have a family who forgives me when I mess up and still loves me through it.
I have nine beautiful grandchildren whom I adore.
I have many opportunities to give back to the next generation.
I have a home, delicious food to eat, friends.
And most of all, I am forgiven again and again and again. God is always there, extending His grace and love towards me.
I can’t stay mad long when I start counting my blessings.

I wonder about the servant in the story below. Why did he find it so hard to forgive when he’d been forgiven so much? You would have thought he would have been so overwhelmed by the king’s grace as he forgave his enormous debt that he would have readily forgiven the one who owed him, but no, he demanded that the one who owed him pay up. I wonder if a little more gratitude would have changed the course of this story? I think it would have. Instead, he held onto his anger. He demanded payment and ended up imprisoned by his decision. He couldn’t forgive and that landed him back in jail.

Let’s choose to be grateful. Let’s start counting our blessings and let’s ask God to help us extend His grace, love and forgiveness towards those who owe us or have hurt us. You see it’s not our forgiveness that we are really extending, it’s God’s forgiveness. When we begin to revel in the forgiveness that God so freely gives, then we can freely give that same forgiveness and grace to others. As the old gospel song goes,
“Freely, freely you have received, freely, freely give. Go in my name and because you believe, others will know that I live.”

Lord, Help me to give freely from the grace you have so freely extended to me. – Go, share God’s grace this week.

PARENT OR GRANDPARENT PRAYER:
Father God,
Thank you for sending your son to this world so that I can freely receive your grace and forgiveness. My debt was so great that there was no way I could pay it, but you extended mercy and you are still extending mercy to me. I mess up in some way everyday I think. I think thoughts that are less than gracious or have thoughts flit through my brain which are certainly not wholesome thoughts. I think in the world in which we live, it’s hard not to have some horrible things flit through our brains sometimes, but you are always there, bringing me back and reminding me once again of your grace. Guide my thoughts. Help me to be gracious and forgiving towards my family and others. Unforgiveness is simply not worth hanging onto and I certainly don’t want to be imprisoned by it. Thank you again and again for a family who forgives and extends grace to me. I pray that my kids and grandkids always remember to love and forgive each other if for no other reason than because they know that you love and forgive them. Amen

WHAT ARE YOU COUNTING?
As teachers and parents we teach our kids to count by counting with them. We count animals in books, perhaps buttons on shirts or cars that we pass on the highway. My grandfather used to give me as many pennies as I could count, but I wonder, “What are YOU and I counting?”

* I think we tend to focus on those things that we count. Are you counting how much is in your bank account or the lack of what is in your bank account?
Are you counting on that new promotion you are hoping to get at work or perhaps the days until your vacation? If you are older, you may be counting the years, months or days until retirement?

* If you are pregnant, you are probably counting the weeks until your baby is born. Then when baby is born, you count all their little fingers and toes.

* There are so many things we can count, but what about counting our blessings? What about counting how many positive things we have in our lives? Would it change our perspective? I think it would.

* What does God count? In Genesis 16:10 God told Abraham he would make his descendants too numerous to count.

* Job 5:9 says God’s wonders and miracles cannot be fathomed or counted.

*Job 14:6 “Surely then will you count my steps but not keep track of my sin.” Job 31:4 “Does He not see my ways and count my every step?”

* What God doesn’t count is important too. Romans 4:8 says “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”

* So what does count? “Faith expressing itself through love.”Galatians 5:6

* God counts those who have placed their faith and trust in Him. He counts us as His beloved children and He knows everything about us.

* Let’s start keeping track and counting the important stuff like God does, because let’s face it, some things are not worth counting or keeping track of.

Kid’s Section

SHARE A STORY: The Servant Who Wouldn’t Forgive – Matthew 18:21-25
Jesus wants us to love and forgive others so He told a story. Once there was a king who had a lot of servants or helpers. One of his servants owed him lots and lots of money. (Show money.) The servant was sad (Make a sad face.) because he didn’t have enough money (Show money.) to pay the king. He begged the king, (Kneel down.) “Please, please give me time and I will pay you back.”

The king felt bad for his servant. He said, “I forgive you. You don’t have to pay me back.”

Was the servant thankful? No, he wasn’t. He found someone who owed him just a little bit of money (Show money.) and he grabbed the man. “Pay me all you owe me!” he said in a mad voice. (Show mad face. Say, “Grr…”)

The man begged (Kneel down.) him, “Please sir, be kind. I will pay you back.”
But the servant was still very mad. (Show mad face. Say, “Grr…”) He was so mad he put the man in jail.  (Say, “You go to jail!”)

The king’s other servants were sad when they saw what happened. (Make a sad face.) They told the king. The king was sad too. (Make a sad face.) He called his servant in and said, “I was kind and forgave you all that you owed me. You should have been kind to the man who owed you money, but you weren’t. Now I’m going to put you in jail until you pay me back.”

God is like the king. He loves and forgives us, but He wants us to love and forgive others too. He wants us to be kind to others just like He is kind to us. When we love and forgive others, we stop being mad and are kind. We remember how much God loves us and we give that same love to others because we are thankful. What can we do when we are mad and need help forgiving someone? We can ask God to help us love others just like He loves us.

MEMORIZE: Eph. 4:32 ERV – (Hold hands like holding a book.)
Be kind – (Gently pull one hand across the top of the other hand.)
And loving – (Hug self.)
To each other – (Point with whole hand outwards.)
Forgive each other – (Point outwards.)
As God forgave you – (Point upwards.)

PRAYER:
Dear God, Thank you for loving and forgiving me. Help me love others and be kind like you are to me. I love you so much, God and I want to love people too, because I know you love people. Amen

KNOW: God loves me, I can love others.
TALK ABOUT: Forgiving others instead of staying mad..
ASK: Who loves you? God loves me.
AND DO: With God’s help, I can forgive others.

FUN IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK
*  Practice counting this week. Count steps, count buttons, count Legos©, fishie crackers, anything. Say to your child, “God forgives and loves you in more ways than you can count. I love you too!”

* Talk about what to do when you are mad and using your words instead of hitting, pushing or grabbling. Pray for someone that you need to forgive.