One older person says, “Our favorite museum in town displays quilts from around the country. When I visited recently, I asked the woman at the front desk about a senior discount. It wasn’t to be. ‘Sir,’ she said, ‘this is a quilt museum. We give discounts to teenagers.’”
He wasn’t thinking about it the right way, was he?
I want to show you a video clip from the movie Rudy. Ever since he was a little boy, Rudy Ruettiger dreamed of attending Notre Dame University and playing on the Fighting Irish football team. But Rudy’s dream didn’t seem very practical as his grades were not especially impressive, and standing a shade over five feet tall and weighing a little over 100 pounds, Rudy was hardly built for the gridiron.
After not making the dress list of players for his last game, Rudy decides to quit the team… until the school janitor talks some sense into him.
The custodian’s inspiring talk was built completely on the idea that Rudy was thinking the wrong thoughts. Rudy’s mind was not focusing on what it should have been. Rudy was being misled by his own thinking, as the custodian was years earlier. Rudy changed his thinking, and changed his life.
Not everybody gets that inspiring talk. We don’t always have someone standing by us to help us rethink what we’re thinking. But boy would it be great. It’s crucial we find a way to be inspired to put our best thoughts forward and reject our worse thoughts from guiding us.
Proverbs 23:7 reads, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” And Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
A wise person said, “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
Almost a generation ago, when the computer revolution had just begun, the pioneers in the field coined a brand-new word. In those days, not many people knew how to operate a computer and those who did made many mistakes. Sometimes the neophyte experts entered the wrong data only to discover a universal truth: If the raw data is bad, the computer can’t do anything good with it.
To express that truth, a new word was coined. The word is GIGO. It stands for Garbage In, Garbage Out. The quality of output is determined by the quality of input.
What is true of computers is also true of the human mind.
If you think you can’t, you probably won’t. If you think angry thoughts, angry words are sure to follow. If you focus solely on your problems, they will soon overwhelm you. If you think low thoughts, low living is soon to follow. If you expect defeat, you’ll probably lose. If you dwell on rejection, you will set yourself up for even more rejection. If you focus on how others misunderstand you, you will soon become angry and bitter.
The flip side is also true. If you focus on the truth, you will speak the truth. If you look on noble things, nobility will mark your life. If you seek out lovely things, your life will be lovely to others. If you think on pure things, you will become pure. If you look for virtue, you will find it. If you search for higher things, you will elevate your own life.
Did you know the average person has 10,000 separate thoughts each day? That works out to be 3.5 million thoughts a year. If you live to be 75, you will have over 26 million different thoughts.
Already most of you have had almost 1,000 separate thoughts since you got out of bed this morning. You’ll probably have another 9,000 before you hit the sack tonight. Then you’ll start all over again tomorrow.
Henry Ford gave that truth a different spin when he declared, “Thinking is the hardest work in the world, which is probably why so few people engage in it.” Ford was correct, mostly. What is actually the hardest work in the world and what so few people do is think about their thinking. Not only don’t we do a lot of thinking but we’re even less likely to think about our thinking.
Now we don’t always control what we think. Some thoughts just come to us. So, our choice isn’t always what we think, at least not every one of those thought. Many times, our choice is what to think after a thought comes to us.
If it is a negative thought about yourself, do you agree or disagree? Do you follow along, or do you reboot your mind and say, “Give me something more positive!” If it’s defeatist or doesn’t take into consideration someone else or is a temptation or is the same old blame or resentment or guilt or anger or greed or selfishness or envy, do you go along with it again?
When you put yourself on automatic pilot, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, nor can an old mind be inspired. We don’t get inspired because we don’t think inspired thoughts, and we don’t think inspired thoughts because we’re not thinking about what we’re thinking.
Let’s think about our thinking for a moment, and see what happens.
Life is hard for all of us. As the saying goes, into each life some rain must fall. It’s easy to think that somehow, we’ve been dealt an unfair hand, that while our neighbor is basking in sunshine, we’re living in a perpetual downpour. We fall into the trap of self-pity.
When we start to pity ourselves, we usually look to blame others. We can’t face life on your own, so we find another person who seems to be the source of your problems. This is an attempt to find a scapegoat for our problems. It might be husband or wife, it could be children or parents, a friend, a neighbor, or boss or someone at church. You’re the victim, powerless. Obviously, this leads back to self-pity, which leads to blame, and the circle continues.
Once we immerse ourselves in self-pity and once you discover you’re a victim, we just add another point on that circle—the point of can’t or won’t change. A victim must get others to change because they’re to blame. Victims are free from having to change.
In a circle the end quickly becomes the start, the result becomes the reason. Since you can’t change, then your behavior can’t be your own fault. If anyone suggests otherwise, we get defensive. This way, you never have to face yourself honestly. And if one doesn’t have to face him or herself honestly, how on earth can one change?
The coup de grace is this: If there’s no way to change, no avenue for growth, then what’s the point of being inspired?
But this is not the only option. Years ago, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale wrote a best-seller entitled The Power of Positive Thinking. But he wasn’t the first positive thinker. That honor should go to the Apostle Paul. He gives a prescription for being inspired and staying inspired, that if followed has the power to transform your life.
“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 these things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Paul says, “Think on these things.” It’s a command. Taken together, these eight points of light will lead the way to a new path for your thoughts about yourself and others.
The first light is whatever is true. Now obviously everyone believes they have the truth. Of course, we often believe our opinions aren’t just opinions, that’s what everyone else has unless they agree with us. We have the truth. Perhaps that’s why Jeopardy is still on TV after all these years. We can have our opinion of the question but Alex Trebeck is going to give us the one true answer. This reinforces the ideal that the truth matters. It’s important. It’s the solid ground on which we stand, all others are sinking sand.
Paul is also saying we can’t deal in dishonesty or live according to what’s untrue. Truth is our compass, without which we’ll quickly lose our way.
But more than just being truthful, we need to be inspired by what is noble. The Gospel of John says the Word became flesh and was full of grace and truth. Being honorable is important because having the truth can feel like having a sword. Being someone who is wrapped in honor is someone who won’t use the truth like a weapon.
Be gracious. Lift your thoughts to what is honorable.
When we do this, it’s much easier to think what is right and to do what is right. Sometimes temptations come into our thoughts. We can be attracted to what is wrong. It’s true for everyone. When we lose our right self, when we grasp for more than what is ours, we need to regain our right mind. We need to put our right self into the picture again. We need to let go of that shiny object that we would lose our selves (and more) over. We need to wake up and get back to ourselves.
Think about what is right for you, for your loved ones. Claim for yourself in faith what God has declared is right.
This of course leads us to think about what is pure or unblemished. This is a tall order. Nobody is seriously going to seek to be unblemished by this world, unless we’re going to go off to a nunnery or monastery. But we should get our mind out of the gutter, and keep it there.
In our scripture we hear the word lovely. This is the one and only time the Greek word we translate as “lovely” is used in the New Testament. It literally means “love towards.” Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is to
think lovingly toward them. Forgiving someone is to think lovingly toward them.
Paul’s point is instead of trying so hard to stop from thinking negative stuff, think about what’s lovely, gracious, kind, and well-meaning. Be inspired.
Your soul needs inspiration. Your spirit needs to be lifted. Your mind needs the positive.
Think about what is admirable and excellent and praiseworthy. Find the true and think, or rather think enough to find what is true. Find the noble and think with it. Find the lovely and think through it. Find what’s right think on them. Do this, and “the God of peace will be with you.”
Reject going back to blaming others. Let go of self-pity. Instead, elevate your mind. Consider more often the power of light, the greatness of truth, the wisdom of what’s right, the goodness of what’s lovely, the strength of what’s noble. Seek peace to find the God of peace.
Can the church say Amen?