on the Bright Side
arilyn and I want to go back to New York and visit our churches there. Norman Vincent Peale's old Marble Collegiate Church is a favorite of ours, and it is a short walk from Times Square . It's safe to walk it on Sunday Morning; the street criminals are sleeping in, but you could catch a cab. The aura of the “great one” is still there. Since most of their Pastors, including N.V.P., have been Methodist, Marble Collegiate uses our Methodist hymnals, and the Sanctuary looks like home. The old building is serving well in its center city setting.
Most of us have read Peale's books, pamphlets and sermons. My Dad was a big fan of his. “The Power of Positive Thinking” movement was founded during Norman Vincent Peale's long tenure at Marble Collegiate. One feels uplifted just sitting in the Sanctuary where the Positive Thinking movement began.
We can best sum up Peale's germinal idea by stating that, “Since we all assume that negative thinking will get us nowhere, we can hope that positive thinking can get us somewhere.” It is not that intellectually deep but it is a truth that we forget.
Today's epistle encourages us to “...hold fast to what is good,” “Do not lag in zeal.” “Be ardent in spirit.” ”Rejoice in hope.” “...be patient in suffering,” and “persevere in prayer.” Out of my interest in Norman Vincent Peale has come my somewhat over used expression, “Keep Looking Up! ”
I sometimes forget to keep looking up. I suppose Norman Vincent Peale did too. We get caught up in the whirlwinds of a busy life, adversity strikes, problems shake our foundations and we just forget to remember to Keep Looking Up to God.
Our sweet seven year old daughter Candi used to remind us to be happy, back in the ‘80s when Bobby McFerrin recorded the very simple lyrics, “Don't Worry Be Happy!” Candi sang the song all the time. Here are a few lines:
every life we have some trouble
As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Change your thoughts and change your world!”
Here is another NVP-ism: “Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure. The way you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. You are overcome by the situation because you think you are.”
Another song that encourages us in trouble is, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Your Life.” It has become so popular in Britain that it is called, “The Unofficial British National Album.” At the end of British Football games the losers will stoically sing and whistle this happy tune in the face of loss.
Jack Nicholson played the role of an almost insane obsessive compulsive author in the motion picture, “As Good As It Gets.” There is a scene where he sings and whistles this tune amid his out of character falling in love with a waitress played by Holly Hunter.
The point is that we can learn to remember to look on the bright side. This is in the letter of encouragement to the persecuted Christians in Rome . “...hold fast to what is good,” “Do not lag in zeal.” “Be ardent in spirit.” ”Rejoice in hope.” “...be patient in suffering,” and “persevere in prayer.”
Charles Allen, Pastor of Atlanta's Grace Church in the ‘60's, wrote the book GOD'S PSYCHIATRY in which he underscored how God's practical help is always available to guide, empower and protect us in our daily lives. However, our problem is that we forget to ask in pray and leave our minds open in meditation where we can hear God's answers to our prayers. God does not change our situations as much as He changes us so that we can correct our life patterns.
My mother kept a little plaque on her wall, just above “Sallman's Head of Christ,” which read in gold life, “KEEP LOOKING UP!” Sometimes she would temporarily forget, I forget, we all sometimes do. But the Good News is that God's Spirit will remind us to remember that we have this great power source available for the asking. Almighty God who created the mountains, glaciers and the oceans; and ordered them to cycle in such a way that they would be in perfect harmony if it were not for our interference. The Almighty One wants to come and help us balance our lives in such a manner that we can live in the fullness of Christian Joy.
God has not set us up to operate on autopilot. As we have learned the hard way, by failures, we must make the correct decisions as we listen to Him. If we decide to spend way beyond our means God is not going to send hundred dollar bills out of the blue sky. However, He will help us begin to get our lives in order. We keep looking up to God, in order to be able to look on the bright side of our lives . Then we can not worry and be happy.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor