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I knew going in it would be a tough task and most likely fail, but it was worth a shot and there were some good people in the congregation. It was a group that had split off from another church in the area when their pastor found his true love in the arms of someone other than his wife – actually he found his true love in the arms of several other someones other than his wife.
So, they invited me to lead their congregation and I accepted. They were a whiny lot, complained about anything and everything. A dozen different factions within the smallish group pulled in a dozen different directions.
After several months, the complaining wasn’t subsiding. Since we were approaching November and the Thanksgiving holidays, I challenged the church to do more than be thankful for one Thursday a year. I asked them to participate in thirty days of thanks. Spend each and every day being thankful for something…anything.
Just thirty days…then we would address other “issues”. I believe that whinyness, complaining, and ingratitude are lifestyle choices. Once one gives in to those baser attitudes, it becomes so ingrained that it is almost impossible to extricate oneself from it outside of a near death experience (perhaps not a bad therapy choice for that bunch).
Thirty days! Just be thankful and grateful for thirty days! I had no sooner preached the sermon and arrived back home when the phone began to ring. They complained, COMPLAINED! mind you, that thirty days of thanks was way way too much to ask, that it was their right as human beings to complain. Challenging them with the scriptures – “In everything give thanks…” and “Let him who would mean to love life refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile” only made them angrier.
They set about at that point to end my tenure are pastor, a goal they soon achieved. All because I asked them to engage in a positive exercise. I think they would have been happier had I asked them to pillage the city.
It has been more than twenty years now and as far as I can tell, most of them have not gotten beyond their habit of whining and complaining.
But let me challenge you today.
Whining, complaining, and ingratitude are choices you make. No one forces you to engage in them. Do difficult, even unfair things happen to you? Certainly! No one denies that. Should you speak up when injustice falls upon you? Go ahead, let your voice be heard.
But if you do not find a way out, that temporary exercise of your personal right to be heard will ensnare you in a black cloud of bitterness and anger from which it will become increasingly difficult to extricate yourself. Soon, your sour attitude will become evident on your face and, more critically, it will install a permanent filter in your head which will screen out any and all positive things, letting only the negative to get through. What does that mean? It means your attitude and speech will produce a self-fulfilling prophetic gift. Everything and everyone will “fail” you, life will be rotten, almost certainly because you, and only you have made it so.
May I challenge you to the same exercise that got me thrown out of that church? Don’t reserve Thanksgiving Day as the primary time to express gratitude. Live your life in a succession of thanksgiving days. Thirty days can become sixty, the six hundred, then a lifestyle. I guarantee you will be happier… and so will those who have to live with you.