Archive for the ‘Collective Soul Blog’ Category

Gratitude is All Around

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The opening scene in “Love Actually” is a great one. As people at an airport embrace each other, Hugh Grant’s voiceover monologue follows, “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. Seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but its always there…If you look for it, I have a sneaky feeling that you will find that love actually is all around.”

Watching the news (think the affluenza teen in Texas, the latest child celebrity meltdown or cyber bullying) or scrolling through picture perfect Facebook feeds (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/facebook-envy/), you may not catch it, but I have a sneaky feeling that what Hugh Grant said about love is the same for gratitude. Gratitude and the opportunity for gratitude actually is all around.

Thankfulness is a subject I have been thinking a lot about recently in working with two incredible authors, Giacomo Bono and Jeffrey J. Froh, who happen to also be the leading authorities on gratitude amongst young people.

Below, Bono and Froh describe gratefulness in their book, “Making Grateful Kids”;

“Gratitude is the appreciation people feel when somebody has done something kind or helpful for them or when they recognize the good things and people they have in their lives. Gratitude alerts people to the valuable relationships in their lives, it reinforces the kindness of their benefactors, and motivates them to reciprocate kindness to their benefactors or even extend kindness to others.”

The newest member to the A. Larry Ross team, Richard Ross, shot and produced this video to illustrate what kids actually think about gratitude:

By the end of the video, you can see that, surprisingly, kids understand gratitude quite well. Yet, as we grow up, life has a way of creating barriers to gratefulness through kindling feelings of envy, materialism and greed. It’s easy to get sidetracked, but a life oriented towards gratitude is one worth striving for.

According to the authors’ research, “Children who exhibit more gratitude tend to have better social interactions, higher grades and stronger connections to their schools and communities. Furthermore, they partake in less risky behavior, have more goals and plans for the future, and are more generous.”

I can’t think of a more positive endorsement for gratitude. Beyond giving value to others, gratitude helps us focus on what is important in life, making us and those around us feel worthy and loved. As a Christian, the ultimate experience of gratitude is exemplified in our response to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice the cross. Looking at the world around me, I am pretty sure that if I take the time to notice, the opportunities to experience gratitude each day… actually are all around.

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How can we separate Church and Hate?

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Last month, a group of pastors met in Dallas to find practical solutions to the racial divide in this country, continuing a tradition that dates to the days of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1950s.

Two members of King’s family, his daughter Bernice and niece Alveda, attended “The Reconciled Church: Healing the Racial Divide,” along with one of his closest advisors, Andrew Young.

Bernice King made a point at the summit that continues to resonate now, as we observe Black History Month.

“Most people, when they think about my father, often forget that he was a pastor,” she said. “We always have to remember that the movement was not a group of civil rights leaders. It was a group of pastors who came together and made a commitment to unite and to fight these social injustices in the South.”

Many of King’s key associates were ordained ministers, including Young, Ralph Abernathy and John Lewis. Instead of observing the so-called “separation of church and state,” they crusaded for social and political causes, sometimes at the risk of their lives.

Abernathy, perhaps King’s closest associate, led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after his death.

“Ralph was really the pastor to Dr. King,” Young said. “He was a source of strength to us all.”

Young went on to become mayor of Atlanta, a congressman from Georgia and U.N. ambassador under President Jimmy Carter.

Lewis, a congressman from Georgia since 1987, helped lead the march of more than 500 civil rights activists across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965 that was dramatized in the movie, “Selma.” The day became known as “Bloody Sunday” after state troopers and a county posse attacked the marchers — Lewis suffered a fractured skull and still bears scars from that day.

image from the Associated Press

Lewis attended seminary but never pastored a church. “I saw the Civil Rights movement as an extension of the Church in a sense,” he said.

In fact, the Church’s involvement in social causes dates back thousands of years. Christians have been helping people in need – the least and the lost – since Jesus’ time.

It’s a calling that we as members of Jesus’s church be continually striving to follow today.