Thankfulness Yields a Healthy Soul

There is a soul virus you know well. Just think about a time you went into work on Monday morning determined to have a great day. You wanted to start your week off right. You got up, got dressed, got into work with a smile on your face.

Everything was going well until Oscar entered the room. You don’t really remember his name but you call him Oscar. As in “the Grouch.” By his grumbling you’d think he lived in a trashcan. And even on Sesame St. it did not take long before there were more Grouches, a whole species. That’s because grouchiness grows and spreads like germs in a dumpster. A grouch’s main mission is “being as grouchy and miserable as they possibly can be and to make everyone else feel the same way.”

This Oscar succeeded in his mission. Before you knew it you were grumbling too. You carried it to lunch and before you left your lunch mate was griping about the service and the cost. He took it to his cubicle and it spread to the next. By the end of the day your Monday had become Glumday.

And your soul was in danger.

The virus of ingratitude had done its work. You can find some solace in knowing that it has had more experience infecting souls than yours has had rejecting it. First some history and then an antidote for those who wish to be healthy.

You see, ingratitude is the original sin. Adam and Eve had so much for which to be thankful. They had a lush lawn under their feet. Bouquets of Bluebonnets in their fields. (Why Bluebonnets? This was the Garden of Eden. It must have looked like Texas.) An energy efficient sun keeping their temperature at the optimal range of 72 degrees. An abundance of fruit to eat and a variety of animals to pet.

They had safety and security. They could live without clothes and feel no need to hide. Very different from your experience, right? Just get up tomorrow morning, take off your sleepwear, and waltz outside to greet the morning and see how you feel. They had it made. They had everything for which to be thankful.

Until…until a virus was planted in an apple. Ever notice that Satan didn’t ask them about all the things they had? Instead, he asked them about the one thing they could not have. Instead of being grateful for what they had they wanted more.

The virus of ingratitude has spread through humankind ever since. But there’s good news. If ingratitude can kill your soul then gratitude can heal your soul. Maybe that’s why over 100 times Scripture gives examples or commands for gratitude. For example Psalm 103 reads: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits …”

Paul taught the same. In Philippians he writes “Do all things without grumbling…” Instead, he teaches “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

God’s will for us is to give thanks. Not just once in a while. But always and in everything. So writes Paul to the Colossian church: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Gratitude is the antidote to the ingratitude virus. Gratitude can boost your soul’s immune system. More gratitude will not come by acquiring more things you don’t have but by remembering all the things you do have in God.

So start today. Make a list of the things for which you are grateful. Carry it into and beyond Thanksgiving Day. When you do you’ll find your soul coming alive. And you’ll find yourself full of more than a turkey dinner.

Christmas Cheer is Found in Us and Not on a Cup

I realize I’m slow to the Starbucks party this week. I wanted to collect my thoughts on what it is that has bugged me about this whole episode the most.

Somehow the fact that Starbucks has decided their cups for this holiday season will be red has created quite a firestorm. Somehow because the words “Merry Christmas” are not on the cup or their baristas lips, certain Christians have felt ostracized, maybe even “persecuted.”

There has been at least one call to retaliation: tell the barista at the counter your name is “Merry Christmas” and then they’ll either have to say the phrase “Merry Christmas” (some sly trickster, huh?) or have an unclaimed Extra Shot of Espresso Mocha Latte Grande on their hand the rest of the day (and that’s about a day’s wage going to waste right there…come to think of it, that might be worth getting upset about!).

I honestly don’t get it.  I have questions:

  • Since when does Starbucks need to cater to any one group? It appears to me they are running a business that is still going to celebrate the season. They even have their “Christmas Blend” coffee on hand in bags ready to go. I’m not sure their cups ever said “Merry Christmas” on them in the first place. And any store worker—whether it be at a coffee shop or a retail chain—has the freedom to wish me Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or nothing at all. It’s not going to ruin my day either way. Shouldn’t I be more concerned how to make their day a little brighter? Like by being “light”?
  • And since when do Christians need to retaliate? I was under the impression that we are following a man who taught us to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I think it is great to pray for the people of Starbucks but I doubt very seriously they were who Jesus had in mind when he talked about “enemies.” Even so, if that’s how one happens to view the corporate coffee giant called Starbucks, then prayer and love is what is to be extended to them. Not snarkiness.
  • And since when is anyone who has the financial means to spend their hard earned cash on barista quality coffee considered among the persecuted? There are plenty of Christians around the world who truly understand what it means to be persecuted who must look at us and scratch their heads in wonder (assuming they have even heard about this horrible event and hopefully, for their sake, their days have not been filled with this nonsense since they have enough real world issues to deal with—like staying alive). “Wonder” as in “to think or speculate curiously.” Not “wonder” as in “to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe.”
  • And since when do Christians operate from a position of power, prestige and privilege anyway? That’s not the life of the earliest Christians. And it wasn’t the life of their leader. In fact, he turned away from those things (remember Matthew 4:1-11?) and walked a road that led to a cross. Can you imagine the early church complaining about their rights to the Roman Empire? Can you imagine them getting upset because a local watering hole served them something to drink in a container that did not have on it one of their symbols? Like maybe an anchor. (I can hear it now: “They aren’t mentioning our anchor this year. Tell them your name is An Chor. Hehehe. Then they’ll have to say it to serve up their brew.)

No, shouting and complaining about a cup of all things makes little sense to me. Getting our “way” about anything will not change anything. But “getting” Jesus’ Way about everything might just transform the places we inhabit each day of our lives.

The place for transformation to begin is not at Starbucks. It is in us. And when we are transformed there is a great likelihood that things around us will be transformed too.

Red cups aren’t worth complaining about. Unless, of course, you prefer green as your holiday color of choice.