"in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18
In the last two weeks I have had two recurring themes presented to me over and over. Whether they are from pulpits, books, facebook statuses, other people, they are clear and concise, and I can tell that God is saying something. One I will address another day, but the other one is all about watching what you say and think. It's about staying positive and joyful, and keeping our eyes focused where they need to be focused.
When I think of that, I am reminded of the recent Olympic games. We watched as much as we possibly could of the Olympics. We saw so many incredibly talented athletes, and saw feats performed that we watched in complete awe. And yet, it seemed as if the world around us was looking for the negative. We would see what (to us) looked like an amazing dive off the platform, full of twists and flips, and the commentator would spend the entire dive pointing out all the flaws. Now, I realize this was an athletic competition, and the judges are looking for the flaws, but really. It would have been nice to just watch and enjoy the stunning athleticism and talent we were seeing in front of us. It would have been nice to appreciate the hard work and dedication that athlete had endured, instead of noting all the flaws and then dismissing them because they wouldn't get a medal.
I think that reality TV has turned us as a people into critics of the worst kind. Our eyes are constantly scanning for errors and mistakes. It's gotten to the point where we can't even enjoy an event for what it is, because we're always on alert for errors. We go to a concert, or watch something on TV and one of the singers isn't quite on their game, and we automatically accuse them of being pitchy or off- like we're some kind of pro in the industry. We can't even enjoy a good old American football game anymore because we get upset when a play doesn't go as expected and we think we know better than the coaches and we get all upset and start throwing things and accusing coaches or players of not being worth their salary.
And then we take this criticism to church with us. We listen to the preacher's message with scrutiny- looking for a place for him to say something we don't like so that we can remember that and talk with others about it later. Instead of listening to the message that God would have us hear, we focus on the negative and miss that glorious nugget of revelation that God had prepared for us that morning. Instead of participating in the worship we pick apart the worship team and think about how that person doesn't sing the best or how that drummer isn't as good as the other ones, or how the team just doesn't seem to be having a good day.
You know what this reminds me of? The book of Job. Job and his naughty friends who spent a good deal of the book trying to convince Job that God was the cause of all that was wrong in his life. Over and over they would point out the negative and tell Job to renounce God because of all the atrocities that had befallen him. But Job remained steadfast. He knew his father, and he refused to see anything negative about God. Despite all his losses and woes, Job held onto his faith in God. And God saw this- He saw Job's faith and in the end Job was rewarded.
"And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has." Job 42:7
As I think on this staying positive business, I realize it's more easily said than done. Why, I've even done it myself recently. I posted yesterday about tending my garden. I was so focused on what was going wrong in the garden that I didn't spend any time rejoicing over what was going well. My tomatoes are doing great, my peppers are doing fabulous, I have a small pile of zucchini on my counter for the first time in five years! There is so much going well in my garden this year, I have much to be thankful about, and much to rejoice over. God is so good to us, and I am reminded of my precious son. This past spring- late spring- he was spending time in his bedroom. I was doing work in the kitchen, I think, when suddenly he came running into the kitchen and beckoned me outside. He told me he had spied something wonderful from the window of his bedroom, and he wanted to show it to me. So I followed him outside and he led me to a lone red tulip sticking up in the middle of nowhere. It had been there for a few days already, and I'd noticed it, but I certainly didn't stop to appreciate it.
I did right then and there. Together with my boy, we gazed upon and appreciated this lovely red tulip that was sticking up in the middle of an unsightly weed patch. I asked God right there to check my attitude and help me to see more moments like this in life.
We need to reject this critical spirit that's trying to work its way into the church today. We need to stay positive and rejoice in all things! I plan to start doing that immediately, in fact. Yesterday I spent most of the day canning pears. Today I get to do the same, and I'm not really looking forward to the work. But it IS putting a ton of delicious canned pears in our pantry, and in our extended family's pantry. We've also learned recently that this year's apple harvest is all but gone, which means we probably won't have much applesauce in the pantry. God knew that, and He prepared this pear tree to produce wonderful fruit for us anyway- so that we would have something healthful and delicious to add to our dinner plates come winter. So instead of focusing on the lack of apples, I'm going to rejoice in the abundance of pears. Go God!