October 8, 2016
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Listen carefully when Canadians talk about the weather and you will discover there is a protocol that we all follow. For instance, here where I live, we just had an early snowstorm. When we get together with neighbours, the first thing one does is to complain about the weather: “It’s not fit for man nor beast out there;” “Quel temps de chien!”
The proper response is to agree how bad it is and give an example, perhaps how they barely made it to town in the deep snow on the road. Everybody takes his or her turn, adding details of how awful the weather is.
Then, somebody will say “Do you remember the blizzard of ‘98? Now that was a storm!” Then we all start to talk about how we’ve experienced weather that was a lot worse than what we have today.
Do you see what’s happening? We love to complain about how hard we have it living in this harsh climate, but then we flip it around and boast about how tough we are and we can handle it. The same protocol is followed when talking about mosquitos or grasshoppers in summer, or any other event in our immediate environment.
If you are a newcomer to Canada, listen until you get a feel for the drift of conversation, chip in with a personal experience if you wish. Be careful, though! This is not the time to tell us about floods, earthquakes and hurricanes in your home country. It’s not that we don’t care, but the flow of conversation will just wash over such thoughts as if they hadn’t been uttered.
Let us enjoy our little pity party / boasting session. It’s part of who we are. If you can learn to just go with the flow, nod at the right moments and add a word or two when appropriate, we’ll begin to feel like you’re one of us. Eventually, someone will ask you what things were like where you came from. Then you will have our full attention.
In Ephesians 5:4, the apostle Paul names a number of things that should not come out of a Christian’s mouth, then adds: “but rather giving of thanks.” How easy it is to forget that. In my last blog post, I mentioned the things that were stolen from us one evening almost twenty years ago. But the thief missed something – in one of the top dresser drawers there was an envelope containing several hundred US dollars. Two days later we left on a planned trip to Pennsylvania and we got to spend that money, not the thief.
Did I thank God for that blessing? I think I did, but I’ll have to admit that thankfulness doesn’t enter my mind as readily as it should. We experience so many little blessings. They seem like coincidences, but are they really? If they were only coincidences the results would be as often negative as positive. When so many little things happen that are positive, there must be an unseen hand behind it all.
I would naturally like God to do big things for me, provide instant answers to my problems. But wouldn’t that lead to confusion about who is the master and who is the servant in our relationship? If I choose to be patiently obedient, the little things do add up to something very big. I want to remember to thank God for every little thing that He does for me.
Someone who is not satisfied unless things go just right spreads discontent everywhere he goes. We are continually being told that we should not be satisfied, we are victims, everything around is going wrong. And so it seems. But joining the mass movement of discontent will not make things better. Those who are determined to be unhappy will be unhappy still.
What would our world be like if there was a movement of people determined to be happy? People who saw little acts of kindness about them and spoke their appreciation? People who woke up each morning thankful to be alive and have another day to serve the God who has planned good things for them? Giving thanks for the good we see enables us to see how much good there really is, and our thankfulness can be just as contagious as someone else’s complaining.
And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small — Jeremiah 30:19.
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore — Psalm 16:11