Thursday

Positive and Negative thinking

I've been doing some thinking about Richard Simmon's first step in permanent weight loss since I wrote about it earlier this week.
  • Think positive
Not bad advice, especially when there is so much that is negative in our world.

However, I don't think Simmons - nor the apostle Paul for that matter - meant that we were supposed to be Pollyanna - someone who thinks that life is just peachy when death and destruction are everywhere. That's a little extreme, but it makes my point. I think we're supposed to be realistic as well as positive.

We want to always accentuate the positive. We want to encourage people when they're down. We want to bring positive solutions to negative situations. We want to have a positive mindset.

But, we don't want to ignore the negative things that are going on around us. Historically speaking, if people had glazed over the negative these things would not exist:
  • Civil rights for blacks here in America.
  • Women's sufferage
  • The nation of Israel
  • The United States of America
  • Free speech
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom of the press
  • Child labor laws
  • OSHA
The list could go on. The things I listed plus many, many other positive changes are a result of people paying attention to the inner voice and not being content to sit back and be comfortable in the status quo. They did not ignore what was negative, but instead confronted it and did the hard work that was needed to make change.

Change is hard work. To change anything we have to overcome ourselves and people who are comfortable with the status quo. Sometimes, it seems that getting them to change is almost as hard as swimming in the ocean off Point Loma when your feet are caught in the kelp. Is that negative thinking? Yes, but it's also realistic.

Despite difficulties, things can be changed. Change is possible. Our ancestors have proved it.

Another thing that makes change difficult is that people who do not want to change can be downright mean. It happens everywhere - in the church, in the community. Sadly, I have found through my experience in the church both as a layperson and as a pastor's wife that no one is more miserable than someone who does not want to listen to God. The longer someone goes without listening to God, the more that person's misery increases, and that often translates into meanness. This drives people away from the church, which is bad enough, but it can also drive them away from God.

The unfortunate thing is that these people would never call themselves mean. They feel justified in the way they treat others because they are "mature" Christians and are doing good things for the church. Their attitudes, however, are not good for the church.

In regards to prayer, Thomas Merton wrote that we are in a dangerous place if we ever think that we know what we're doing. To echo Merton, I say that we are in a dangerous place if we ever think that we know how to treat everyone. When we think that we have cornered the market on Christian love, we should immediately ask the Lord to make us more sensitive to those around us. The reason? Not everyone is the same. We are all complex creatures, each with different pasts and experiences that make us who we are.

Are these thoughts negative? I suppose, but I've seen this go on for so long that I'm quite weary of it and want to expose the problem so that God can heal us. I'm tired of people trying to gloss over the negative so that everyone will just live in peace. That's not peace. Peace is found after dealing with inner and outer junk in our lives and, with the help of God, overcoming it.

I read recently that one should always present a possible solution when criticizing. So what's my solution? Ask God to search your heart every day. Confess your sins and ask the Holy Spirit to change your heart in the areas that he points out. Ask God to fill your heart with love for people. Didn't Jesus say that this is how people would know that we are his disciples - by the way we love each other?

I was watching the news today with one of my sons and heard that the Supreme Court ruled that Westboro Baptist Church has a right to picket funerals of soldiers. I agree that they have the right, but they are very mean. I don't understand how they can justify their behavior and attitudes when the Bible clearly says that we are supposed to love people. In this vein, I don't understand why Christians don't forgive or why they gossip or maybe we should just say talk about other people. This is not love.

I've been in the church a long time and the lack of love really grieves me. It seems like that many of us have a little bit of that Westboro Baptist Church attitude within us. We just don't show it as prominently as they do - we'd rather do it behind the backs of others and in the secrecy of our inner circles of friends. Sometimes we may even disguise it as concern or a prayer request. Most of the time it's just talk. This talk spreads like a cancer and it leaves the talked about person wondering what he or she did wrong. They leave the church because no one will accept them.

This should not be folks. As a pastor's wife I watched this happen and was not able to say anything. Now I can. If I've made you angry think about why you feel that way. If you feel proud of yourself for not being this way, pray. We all have work to do in this area. God make us willing.