Pushing Past Simple Gratitude

“Why can’t you be more grateful?!?!”

I hear this all the time from parents in our church, neighborhood, school… well, pretty much everywhere, including my own home.

Our children have so much. Virtually everyone we know has everything they need: clothes, shoes, food, and shelter. And they have all the non-necessities, too: XBOX, Wii, iPads, cell phones, bikes, and toys. I believe my entire street put a pool in their backyard this year – and I don’t mean the kiddie or above ground variety. You get the point.

As parents, our overflowing stuff plus limited gratitude drives us to demand gratefulness from our families.

So when my 14-year-old daughter and I recently returned from a mission trip to Ecuador with Compassion International, what I heard no less than 50 times was to be expected: “Aren’t you glad your daughter was able to see how the rest of the world lives? I bet she will be more grateful for what she has now!”

I hate to admit it, but to some extent, I thought the same thing as we boarded the plane out of Atlanta. She has everything she needs – and more. Much more. Her carryon bag proved the point. As a family, we have been blessed, and I used to desire more gratitude from my kids.

But while we were visiting the little home of a Compassion sponsored child in an extremely impoverished community in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, it hit me: I don’t want my daughter to feel grateful, I want her to feel responsible!

What I Learned Watching Ferguson.

What can Christians learn from the events in Ferguson?

Not necessarily politically or even racially, but with the Kingdom in mind, what can be learned?

Like many of you, I found myself last Monday night watching the grand jury verdict and the ensuing demonstrations (both peaceful and violent). I’m pretty sure the media was the only winner. There was little middle ground to be found. There was, however, much division. Where there is no middle ground, landmines always abound.

In the death of Michael Brown, I don’t pretend to know the details. The vast majority of us don’t, either. So as I searched for #Ferguson tweets while watching CNN’s coverage, I pondered what could be learned from this moment. Primarily as a Christian, what does this event teach us? Considering God’s concern for humanity — God’s desire to see all men know to Him — what should we learn?

When One Child Changes An Entire Community

Remember Whitney Houston’s song “Greatest Love of All?” The pre-Bobby Brown Whitney. That girl had some pipes!

The song starts with one of the greatest clichés of all time: “I believe the children are our future…” I guess it’s a true statement, even if it’s overused and abused (hence a cliché).

This past week, I traveled to Ecuador with Compassion International. As I left the Atlanta airport (after a 2+ hour delay, of course), I found myself singing Whitney’s song while searching for an open overhead bin for my slightly over packed carry-on luggage.

Compassion International is the real deal. This amazing organization provides hope for children, families, communities, and even countries primarily through their child sponsorship program. They do other things surrounding children, as well (rescuing babies and mothers, developing future leaders, etc.), but the sponsorship program is the flagship of Compassion. You should learn more about Compassion and sponsor a few children. Currently, there are nearly 1.5 million sponsored children around the world. Many more are receiving benefits through the local churches Compassion engages. And many more still need sponsors (hint, hint).

Before I left, I assumed I would experience impoverished communities in the remote areas of Ecuador where Compassion is working through local churches to help individual children. And I did see that. But what I didn’t expect to see was the impact supporting one child has on those surrounding each child.