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Dad could be such a zeurpiet (ZUR-peet). I don’t know how else to describe it. If he were still with us he wouldn’t mind me telling you.

Forgive the Dutchism, but it’s a label that stuck. A zeurpiet is a complainer or a whiner—someone who will remind you more than once-too-often what’s bugging him or her. It’s synonymous with the Yiddish term kvetcher—someone who’s always kvetching about a sore back, kvetching about the weather, kvetching about the burnt toast.

We all have a touch of that spiritual ailment, but Dad turned it into a fine art. “I shouldn’t complain about this sore throat, even though it’s killing me. So I won’t complain about it. But does it ever hurt when I . . .”

True, in this “vale of tears” in which we anticipate God’s better Day from afar, we have plenty to complain about. Why, as I sit here, I’m stressed out because . . . well, you don’t want to know, and I shouldn’t be such a zeurpiet.

But let me tell you something else about Dad. His constant kvetching didn’t keep him from exercising the spiritual discipline of giving thanks. I grew up with parents who observed Thanksgiving in October (Canada) and November (U.S.) and the time in-between on both sides of those days.

For Dad thankfulness wasn’t first of all a feeling. It was a discipline. He rarely missed an opportunity in everyday household conversations to express his thanks to God for blessings great and small—including us. He did it right while he was kvetching! When Mom ended up in the psychiatric wing of Ontario Hospital for a long stay, when we lost my brother at an early age, when Dad got the news that he was dying . . . he still gave thanks.

My parents taught me that thankfulness is first a discipline; it’s a daily commitment to God, our daily Provider. Only by extension is it a feeling that may accompany our thanks giving. That feeling may even, at times, be entirely absent, but it will come back and grow if we persevere in expressing gratitude. In that way thankfulness works the same as love—which also, biblically speaking, is first a way of treating the other person and only second (though not unimportant) an associated emotion.

That’s why Jesus can actually command us to love (John 15:12). You can’t command feelings, but you can command actions. Similarly, Paul commands us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). That’s good for God; it’s good for others; it’s good for our own souls.

Not easy. No. Never easy. It’s especially hard in our “consumer is king/queen” day and age. But when everything else is torn from us, we may still give thanks that our nameplate already hangs on heaven’s door (Luke 10:20).

To all who interact with us and especially to those who don’t know Jesus, let’s be known much more as year-round thanks givers than as zeurpieten.

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