Skip to main content

Positive Thinking

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." - Philippians 4:8

There is an ancient parable that goes like this:  

There was once a village that rested along a path where many travelers came by.  At the edge of the village they hired gatekeepers to welcome travelers who wished to move into the city.  A new gatekeeper was hired, and on his first day a traveler came by, stopped at the gate, and asked the gatekeepers what the town was like.  

The senior gatekeeper thought for a moment, placed his hand to his chin, and then replied with a question. "What was the village that you have come from like?"

The Traveler responded "Oh, it was terrible! People were so mean to each other, they took advantage of each other, and they bickered all the time.  It was so dirty and it smelled funny too.  This is why I am traveling, I wish to find a better place to live.  Surely this place must be better than where I came from, right?"

The senior gatekeeper looked at the traveler with a deep sadness, shook his head and said "Oh, I am sorry to tell you, but this place is just like that.  People here can be mean, exploitative, and argumentative.  The alleys are unkempt, full of trash, and it smells of fish most of the time.  You should carry on, I can't imagine you will like it here."

The traveler was sad to hear this news, but it was early in the day still, so they carried on down the road.  Another traveler came by later, stopped at the gate and asked the keepers: "Good day to you! I am travelling along looking for a new place to call home.  This place looks nice, can you tell me what it is like to live here?"  

The senior gatekeeper thought for a moment, placed his hand to his chin, and then replied with a question. "What was the village that you have come from like?"

The traveler was excited by this question and answered "Oh, it was so lovely!  The people were friendly to everyone, we all knew each other and took care of each other.  We had wonderful parties in the streets and the whole place was full of excitement.  It even had quiet places where you could get away from it all.  Is this place anything like that?"

The senior gatekeeper smiled and said "Come in, I think you have found your new home!  This place is just like that.  Everyone is friendly and welcoming.  We love visitors and new people.  We have parties and parades that go down the main street, and we have the best market for 100 miles.  You can smell the ocean in the air and there are many little nooks where you can get away from it all for a little quiet."

They welcomed the traveler in and as the end of the day grew near the new gatekeeper thought about all he had seen.  He asked the senior gatekeeper why he told the two travelers such different stories.  The senior gatekeeper smiled and said "I have come to realize that people will find whatever it is they focus on.  The first traveler found bad things in his old village, so he was bound to find the same here.  The second traveler found good things in his old village, so he was bound to notice them here too."

We do tend to get more of whatever it is that we focus on don't we?  I think that is why Paul tells the Philippians to focus on the good things, the noble things, and the beautiful things.  Paul wrote these words from prison, with his execution coming closer each day.  The Philippians knew great suffering too, the church was being persecuted for their beliefs and was struggling with internal division at the same time.  Paul was not telling them to go into denial about the existence of evil, the evil was clear and present, but instead to make a conscious choice to focus on the good.  We do a lot more to heal the world when we focus on the right thing.  

Mr. Rogers encouraged us to look for the good in bad situations when he said “Look for the helpers. You can always find people who are helping.”  He then added "If you look for the helpers, you'll know that there's hope".  Remember, Mr. Rogers was not denying the evil, he was actually particularly addressing the negativity found in news programs when he said this.

Mother Theresa was surrounded by deep suffering for the duration of her ministry and yet she said this: “I will never attend an anti-war rally. If you have a peace rally, invite me”.

In today's world we cannot ignore the violence, the racism, or the hate, our faith demands that we be peacemakers and justice-seekers, but we can make a conscious choice to focus on what is good.  Think about what you might rally for, rather than what you might rally against.  And I will leave you with this quote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King.

God help us to focus on what is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, short, help us to focus on you in the midst of a broken world.  Amen.  


Popular posts from this blog

Death Will Lose it's Sting

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 1 Corinthians 15:51-57. In these verses, Paul reveals a mystery, that in the end some will be transformed, given a new body, instead of facing death.  In other words death is not one of life's two certain terms.  It seems taxes may be the only guarantee.   " this world nothing can be said to be certain, except  death and taxes ." - Benjamin Franklin. Ok, all jokes aside, these verses are difficult to read.  Paul looks forward to a time when death will have no victory, it will have lost its sting.  But today, we are in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by death.  Many are scared for their lives, or their loved ones, and too many have already been lost.  Death does not seem to have lost its sting at all, it feels as if it is closing in. When I worked in wilderness therapy I remember holding a child who was desperately trying to kill himself.  We cried together as he struggled to end it, and I struggled

The Return Threshold

  As we come near the end of our weekly series on the Hero's Journey, today we will cover "The Return Threshold".  In this stage, the Hero has succeeded in their quest and now they are coming back to their old world.  Joseph Campbell calls this the "ordinary world".   The return to the ordinary world usually includes some type of challenge.  Sometimes an enemy must be challenged, but sometimes the enemy is the ordinary world itself.  As we have followed the hero's journey we have seen the hero change, what was once important is no longer important.  While the hero has changed, the ordinary world has not.  The ordinary world holds values that the returning hero has abandoned for something greater.  This can cause tension as the hero tries to return as a changed person. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, we see the Hobbits finally return to their home in the Shire.  Unfortunately in their absence Saruman and his orcs have taken over the Shire and must be defeat

Master of Two Worlds

  This week we come to the second to last stage of the Hero's Journey.  Campbell called this stage "The Master of Two Worlds".  In this stage, the hero tries to integrate what they learned and gained on their journey with their old "ordinary" world.   Albert Einstein once said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."  This explains the challenge the hero must face in this stage.  All that they learned and gained must be fully mastered and the test of this mastery is being able to use it in the ordinary world.  They must simplify it so that the uninitiated can benefit from it, just as Einstein encouraged the mastery of complex ideas into simple explanations.   In the Star Wars Trilogy, this stage happens off-screen after the film is over, but before the new movie begins.  We learn in the newest trilogy that Luke created a school for Jedi, taking the wisdom he gained from his journey and sharing it with others.  In