The 45 Second Thanksgiving Rule

“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Forty five seconds – that is how long most award shows, including the Oscars, give recipients to say “Thanks!” Conveying thanks to the people in our lives who have blessed us and contributed to our success is of paramount importance. We dare not leave anyone out, especially mom, dad, our spouse and God.

I think the 45 second rule is a good one to incorporate in our everyday lives. Giving immediate and heartfelt thanks to those who bless us with some kindness, however great or small, has a multiplied benefit. It is not only an expression of common decency to our fellow human beings, but it is also an acknowledgement of the presence in each of us of the divine. As those who believe in God, we know that “every good and perfect gift is from above” originating from our Heavenly Father (James 1:17 NIV). When others are kind to us, it is a tangible indication of God Himself showering us with His goodness. What better use of the next forty-five seconds is there than to say “thanks,” to both our human and divine benefactors?

Holding that Crucial Conversation

“The health of an organization is measured by the number of crucial conversations not being held or not being held well.” That is a quote from Joseph Grenny, a speaker at this year’s Global Leadership Summit. Undoubtedly most of the people listening were impacted as I was by the underlying truth that this statement applies not only to companies and churches, but also to families and marriages.

In fact, the reality is that the health of virtually every relationship depends upon whether or not crucial conversations are being held and the degree to which they are being held well.

A crucial conversation is any conversation between two or more people where opinions vary, emotions are running strong and the stakes are high. It is a conversation that will either hinder a relationship or help it, put it in a pit or on a path, lead to talking it out or acting out. As distinguished from a casual conversation, a crucial conversation requires skill in navigating the first 30 seconds because that often will either make or break all that follows. Grenny calls this the “hazardous half-minute.”

The Grace of Yielding

We returned last week from a two week vacation out West where we visited Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and made the trek up to Banff National Park in Canada. We drove over four thousand miles in the process. The Rockies were as stunning to the senses as I remembered them from visits in years gone by. But in contrast, the driving habits of those we met on the road rather defied my sensibilities. It didn’t seem to matter where we were. Even when passing through the Dakotas and amongst our friendly neighbors to the North, I swear the common courtesy of using a turn signal and yielding for lane changes have all but gone the way of the buffalo. Why is Western common courtesy nearly extinct? I guess it stands to reason that you cannot expect people who don’t use their turn signals to bother honoring those who do. Maybe it has something to do with the sparsely populated wide open spaces and people being accustomed to driving their broncos with no one else around.

At any rate, it gave me new appreciation for how vital it is to possess and exercise the grace of yielding in our everyday lives. Yielding is a grace because it a gift of unmerited favor extended to another.

Exposing the Deception of Intolerance

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” . . . But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. John 8:7, 9 ESV

The modern idiom for this famous story of Jesus’ is “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” In other words a person should not criticize other people for faults they in turn may eventually be criticized for themselves. In this telling passage about a woman caught in the act of adultery, her accusers who drag her before Jesus are in the end faced with having to acknowledge their own sin and shortcomings. The Apostle Paul could not have summed it up more succinctly. “There is none righteous, no not one. . . For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:10, 23) That, my friend, is the common ground upon which we all stand.

Our sinful nature has a way of leveling the playing field when it comes to the whole issue of making judgments about intolerant behavior. In the story above, the woman’s accusers were intolerant of her sin while being unwittingly tolerant of their own. That is a common tendency in all of us, and not just the proprietary pitfall of the Pharisees.

Overcoming Stereotyping and Prejudice

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them.” Luke 10:33 NLT

You can certainly pick up the prejudicial tension in Jesus’ telling of this well known story we have come to refer to as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Prejudice, a preconceived, irrational and judgmental attitude or action toward an individual or group was obviously as serious problem in Jesus’ day as it is in ours.

Jews and Samaritans did not get along because they were ethnically, culturally and religiously different from one another. Their prejudices, just like ours, were rooted in stereotypes that had been inherited or learned and sadly gave them a distorted perception of reality. It is likely, if the Jewish guy who was beaten, robbed and left laying half dead alongside the road had been conscious, he would not have wanted to have anything to do with the Samaritan who stopped to help him.

So what could possibly have motivated the Samaritan to set aside his own prejudice in order to get involved in such a messy and potentially racially charged situation? Why did he choose to cross the road while two religious Jews refused and “passed by on the other side”?

Jesus told this parable in order to redefine the meaning of the words love and neighbor, as used in the context of the second great commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We learn that love is proactive and a neighbor is anyone with whom we come in contact – even those who are not like us, against whom we may hold prejudicial attitudes and may in fact be our enemies.

In the verse quoted above from this parable Jesus explains why the Samaritan was able to set aside his negative preconceptions and turn aside from his journey to cross the road.

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