Opinion

CHURCH CORNER: On this holiday, be thankful, talk turkey and then talk the good talk

I was at a reception a few weeks ago and the host asked me to bless the food. Perfect! I love blessings. I love to give ’em, and I love to receive ’em. He laughed and told me I would have to pray a retroactive prayer, since many folks had already started eating.

“Not a problem,” I told him. “Retroactive prayers of blessing are just as good as any.”

As we got people’s attention for the prayer, there were self-conscious comments and some lighthearted fun among those who had started eating. But I told the folks, “It doesn’t matter if you were eating before the prayer, because the Bible seems to indicate it’s most important to eat with a thankful attitude, not that we bless the food before we start eating. So, if you’re not thankful, my blessing is meaningless.” Then I challenged them that they had to have a thankful attitude.

There were loud comments by the early eaters that they were really, really thankful. And, the late eaters seemed to want me to do the prayer so they could eat and be thankful – so, I prayed my blessing. It was very good.

It seems to me that we have some hard-wiring in our brains to complain and pass judgment on what should or shouldn’t be, or how it should have been. In conversation about health care reform the other day, I realized it doesn’t matter what Congress and the House votes for, they’re wrong. Wrong! They can’t win. Half of us are going to bless them and half of us are going to curse them. And, the half that blesses them will wind up cursing them for the part that doesn’t work, no matter which side we’re on. And, if they do nothing, the half of us that blesses them for not doing anything will curse them when something comes up to give us the excuse to curse. Who, in their right mind, would want to be in public office, just to put up with the rest of us as we complain?

Ah, Thanksgiving Day! It’s on my mind these days that I have to pay closer attention to my attitude at every level. I say I want to have an appreciative attitude, but I seem to fall into gripe mode really easily. Probably you don’t; I can be a bit owley from time to time. And, the best way to tell how our attitude is doing is to listen to what we’re saying. Our Holy Writings tell us that the mouth speaks from what the heart is full of. So if I’m griping, I must have a heart full of dissatisfaction and irritation. What’s in there? If I’m talking like this, what’s in my heart? Good question.

The word “eulogy” usually only comes up at a funeral. However, the meaning is much broader and we’d do well to get hold of it and practice it more regularly. The word literally means “good words” – “eu” is the Greek prefix meaning good and “logos” is the Greek word meaning words or communication. Thus, “eulogy” is a good word or good communication.

Occasionally I will talk about this word on a Sunday morning during prayer time. My purpose is to encourage folks to make speaking well of or good about others a lifestyle norm, rather than saving it up for saying good stuff at a funeral. Of course, the reality of that always strikes a humorous chord with folks, because we all know just how easy it is to simply lapse into saying stuff that’s not all that encouraging or uplifting - not all that good. As a matter of fact, it’s way too easy and comfortable to fall into bashing talk when we get together. We laugh about it on a Sunday morning, but it’s a nervous laugh because we know it’s too true.

And, here we are at Thanksgiving Day – our traditional day when we celebrate thankfulness. We celebrate and practice gratitude. And, we celebrate and practice generosity. What a wonderful day!

I love the sign I saw in a kitchen of friends: “Don’t criticize the cook with your mouth full!” It sounds like something my mom would have said. May this Thanksgiving Day find you with a mouthful of good food, a table full of good friends, a heart full of good thoughts and the will to speak them. Blessings to you and your family this precious holiday season – eulogies all around!

Dale Pratt can be reached at dale@cedarcommunitychurch.org.

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