I find it amazing how easy it is to get distracted by the negatives in life. Truth be told, lately I have allowed some of the struggles of life hold more weight than the positives. Some of this is due to the fact that I have been struggling with a nagging sickness that seems to want to hold on to me more than I want it to. The reality of the mind, spirit and body connection is one that we often only pay attention to when it’s too late. Yet we know that when one part of our bio-psycho-spiritual being is off, the rest are surly effected.
I also know that we live in a world that celebrates the negative. We live life surrounded by bad news. In 1982 Don Henley released the song, “Dirty Laundry.” In the song cultures fascination with people’s dirty laundry is chronicled.
The song is about the callousness (and callowness) of TV news reporting as well as the tabloidization of all news. Henley sings from the standpoint of a news anchorman who “could have been an actor, but I wound up here”, and thus is not a real journalist. The song's theme is that TV news coverage focuses too much on negative and sensationalist news; in particular, deaths, disasters, and scandals, with little regard to the consequences or for what is important (“We all know that crap is king.)” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_Laundry_(Don_Henley_song)
As with the physical body, the spiritual self is effected by the negative things we take in. There is much to be concerned about in our day. Families in our congregation and neighborhoods are gravely concerned with their financial futures. Even our congregational life has it’s fair share of concerns. As a church leader, one cannot help but to be concerned with butts, bucks and bricks. Still, if the only messages we are receiving are filled with negativity, then we surely will be overcome by it.
t that long ago I tried to make two different attempts to help provide a positive corrective to this epidemic of negativity. First, I tried to create a page on my blog where I would feature a positive news story each week. The sad thing I found was that it took too much time to find a truly meaningful positive news story. After a month or so I had to abandon this effort because it was taking too much time. I also started a Facebook group that encouraged people to post a daily blessing. It was simply a forum for people to share where they saw good news in the world. That too, after a short time fizzled out. We aren’t accustomed to sharing positives.
Even now, as I encourage our congregation to enter into a time of Lenten devotion, I find myself in a quandary. Part of Lent is about being honest with ourselves and examine our life. That examination most often leads us to the realization that we aren’t as holy as we think. We find that our life is filled with sin. This on the surface is but another negative message. This reminds me of when I once had a member of a congregation tell me that we should stop saying a prayer of confession during worship because it “made people feel bad.” The difference between this and other negative messages is that this message points us to the ultimate positive message of forgiveness in Christ.
Unlike the news of the day which seek to only, as Henley says, “Kick 'em when they're up ,Kick 'em when they're down,” this time of reflection is intended to point us to relief from the negative reality of our lives. It is easy for us to examine ourselves and then turn it into a time of self-deprecation and beat ourselves up. That’s the pattern we have been given by our sin.
The true purpose of seeking to see ourselves in honesty is to also help us to see God and the love God shows us in Christ. Perhaps it’s not a mistake that a common statement used to describe what God does in Jesus is that He has, “washed us white as snow;” in many ways he takes away our dirty laundry.
During this Lent I want to encourage you to not only look inward, but to consider what you are receiving from the world. Are the messages that you surround yourself with life affirming? You can also feel free to connect with the Christ Presbyterian Church Facebook page and share some positive and life-affirming testimonies with the group.
Barring illness–as in pneumonia, winter allergies and acute bronchitis–that has dogged me for more than 4 months, I am affirmed during daily visits with the folks at Sunrise Hunter Mill. Taking Shadow on her leash especially to the 3rd floor where most of those who live with dementia reside, we are warmly welcomed even as she seeks out Casanova to chase and wonders why the cat stands his ground. The residents perk up most days with broad smiles and arms reaching. Any day I’m not able to visit I’m reminded how these folks who don’t have a care in the world help keep my life in balance. When we worship together on Thursday mornings and engage in personal prayer time I look for smiles of recognition and joy. Even those who are unable to move or speak seem to be at peace when the Lord draws them into into his holy presence. And how blessed I am when calmness returns through a quiet word or a loving touch. I know I am in the place of God’s choosing. There are many stories to share.
After having missed over 2 months with them earlier this year, I am loving each and every week with the Sunday School kids. I love seeing the progression – each week we do prayer strips and each kid writes their own prayer down. When we first started this they would say “I cant’ think of anything!”. It was like pulling teeth to get something out of them. Now they come in and its the first thing we do each week. This past week two of the kids did two prayers without asking for any help. And they rarely ever pray for anything for themselves – its usually a gratitude or a prayer for others. They are such a joy, and thoughts of them certainly help combat the dirty laundry during the week!