Monday, July 23, 2012

Everyday Thanksgiving

It is a shame to say that it often takes a tragedy for people to focus on what is truly important in life. The moviehouse mass- shooting in Colorado has done just that for this country. It reminds me a lot of September 11, 2001, when innocent lives were stolen at the hands of pure evil. No one can explain or comprehend the mind of an individual capable of such unspeakable acts. How could someone storm the cockpit of a plane and crash it into a huge building? How could a man walk into a packed movie theater and just starting shooting a gun at anything or anyone? The terror and horror of these events leave everyone shaken - even if the bloodshed doesn't hit directly at the bond of your family or even the community in which you live. When your country comes under attack, be it from a young med school drop -out or foreign terrorist, you take pause. Everyone, it seems, in America has done just that this week. Every news station is playing non-stop footage, udpates, heroic stories and tributes to those lost. The political banter of a country on election high-alert has taken a step away from the polls and party rhetoric. For the past three days I can't even recall seeing a negative campaign ad - a real testament to the mood of the country. The media is focusing all eyes on reflection, not demonization. In a way it is a sad statement of our country's basic rule of law. We are all negative, all the time until someone (or many someones) get hurt. It takes a tragedy to shut down the yelling, arguing and condeming of the opposing side. How often do you hear a news story during a slow week that focuses on the human goodness of the people in a small town in Colorado? Oh, maybe there is a thirty second "Around the Nation" segment on the national news that features a Grandpa saving his Grandsons life in a fire, but the other 59 minutes and 30 seconds of the program are probably about a child abductor, murderer, lawsuit on capitol hill or missing person's case then any uplifting tale of the heroic. We don't hear about the good when we turn on the TV unless something truly horrible happened first. Our TV has blinders on. The kind of blinders that block out the good and focus on the bad. It is an insidious problemn that threatens to consume not only hundreds of channels on the tube, but far too much of our brain's thoughts. Think about it - how much time do we spend in a day focusing on what we condemn as"not right"? We focus on our problems, what we are annoyed with, how that driver just cut us off, the part of the movie we didn't like.... the list could go on. Conversation seems to often build off of the negative, not the positive. Thinking over my own conversations in the past few days I have become appalled at my own lack of optimistic chatter. I'm begining to see that I start conversations from the negative: I didn't like that part of the sermon; why did that person have to say that with such an attitude; could this lane move any slower? You get my point. I'm not starting with: I really enjoyed that story the speaker told; It was so nice of that man to let me out in this heavy traffic; I enjoyed this sandwich on my plate at lunch! It may all seem silly but I'm beginning to believe that where we focus our conversation is a massive window into our thought life. And there is no denying that our thought life is important. It paints the world in a shade of gray or a million bright and shiny colors. Watching the sudden shift in the news is leading me to believe I need a massive shift in the scroll that runs along my mind. Just like the one rolling across Fox News or CNN, my mind has a news reel and it plays pretty much 24/7. You have one too - even if it does take a commercial break every now and again. What is playing on your news scroll? Is it a list of blessings and moments of thanksgiving and praise? Or is it a list of what you need to get done,  ofstressful situations and complaints? Trust me, to- do lists are helpful, but there are other places to write them down. When we include the stressors in life as our daily mental dialogue we get bogged down and negativity gets a foothold. On the other hand, when we focus on the gifts God has given us, the blessings he bestows on us each and every day, and the beauty that surrounds us we can't help but exude positivity. It flows from us because when good thoughts rule in the mind, the body can't help but follow suit. It is a shame that it takes lives lost to remind us that we have so much to be thankful for. Our world zooms in on the petty disagreements and negative stressors until something serious happens that stops us in our tracks... it is in those moments that we see our day- in and day- out complaints as mere specks of dust. We see them for what they really are. And we see how there are bigger matters worth discussing. We see that each day is a gift and a precious one at that. Whining and bickering becomes foolishness in the light of bloodshed. Today, I am making the vow to focus on the positive without the prompting of a young innocent life lost. I am making the concerted effort to tune into how God is working and showing himself in the world around me, instead of focusing on the evil that is attempting to get the upper hand. Each day we have the choice: will we look at life through God's lens and see beauty as his handiwork and kindness as his smile? Or will we only see the rude man in front of us at the store or the landfill off in the distance? This isn't about being naive or blind, it is about choosing to switch our moment to moment focus from the bad, which we cannot change, to the good that we should be thankful for. Changing our focus can change our world, even if the actions of those around us remain the exact same. The view out one window in the kitchen is different from the window in the living room, even though it looks out on the same city, same neighborhood and same world. Yet, the lens you use to view it makes all the difference. So, how will you view the world? Sure, today you may be all about being thankful for your family and your safety and your job - after all the last tragedy was only a few days prior. But how will you view your world in a week or two when the news has turned its attentions back to the election or latest uprising in the Middle East? When the human interest stories fade, will your thoughts of love and gratitude slip away, too? Decide to live a life of thanksgiving and it won't take a tragedy to remind your how precious and marvelous life truly is.

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