Herald Journal Columns
August 7, 2006, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

How high can we grow?

Pastor Bill Baldwin, Prairie Community Church, UCC, Lester Prairie

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column titled, “How low can we go?” that expressed thoughts on the state of our American culture.

In some organizations, there is a philosophy about complaints that says if you want to express a problem, you must be ready to offer a solution to it or you should keep quiet. I am not foolish enough to think I have an answer to our American cultural challenges, but I would like to offer a way of looking at things that may be of use.

In order to realize that things aren’t the way they should or could be, or at least not the way we personally want them to be, we must have a vision of how we think things should be to hold up as an example of what is right and good.

We probably have personal memories and experiences of times when things felt like they made sense and the world was a pretty good place to be. And so I ask you to remember a time when you were with someone you respected very much.

Describe in detail what made that person so admirable, and also how that person made you feel. How did they dress, speak, act, and treat you? Let yourself really pull up all the memories around that person and the details of the moment.

You know that it is certainly possible for people to treat themselves and others with respect, because you have seen it and experienced it. Wouldn’t you love to have more and more instances where what you loved in the past is experienced in the present, with hope for lots more of it in the future?

What we think about most often in our minds is what we are creating in the world. If you think about doom and gloom all the time, you won’t be feeling cheery and optimistic. You can’t fill your mind with thoughts of an elephant and have any success in trying to draw a picture of a fish at the same time.

When you are focused on all the reasons why you aren’t good enough to amount to anything, you won’t have access to all your positive traits that would work just fine to create all the good you could handle.

“Pollyanna positive thinking,” you say? Yes and no. Yes, it is positive, but it isn’t naïve and without a proven track record for making a measurable difference in results.

It is a law of nature that what you think about most consistently is how you see the world, and how you see the world is how you experience the world, and how you experience the world is the world for you.

So, how does this intercede with a world that seems to be selfishly self-destructive?

Find out what each person loves. Talk to the people who seem most different to you. Ask them what they love. Ask them to remember a time where they felt very loved, special, and cared for. Ask them what it felt like to be loved and cared for. Ask them if they would like to have more of those good feelings in the future. Ask them what they imagine would bring them more of the love, care, and appreciation that feels so good.

Some of the most counter-cultural-looking people have some of the gentlest, tender hearts that I have ever experienced. Most people put up tough exteriors and act cool because they have been hurt or they feel scared of being judged, but every person on earth has places of insecurity.

I guess what I am saying is that we should set up opportunities for people to remember who they are at their very best, what they really love, and when they have really felt loved. When you get someone thinking about their best self, they can’t simultaneously hold destructive thoughts.

Examine every bias or judgment you have made about anyone or anything. Do you absolutely know that your assumption is true? I’ll help you out and say that no, you can’t know that any assumption you hold is true.

So, consider laying aside all biases and assumptions for now and just love people as they are. Judging people is a personal choice you make. Loving and accepting people as they are is equally a personal choice.

Jesus chose to love people exactly as He found them. He could have judged them unacceptable, unclean, worthless, lazy, immoral, or many other things. But to most people, He just said “be healed and sin no more,” and sent them on their way.

How high can we grow? Good question. It all depends on how much we can bring out the very best living in each person, and affirm and appreciate the good we experience with every person.

We have more than adequately laid out the things we don’t like. Now it is time to see the good that has been there all along, and know that the previously overlooked good is the solid foundation for a beautiful future.

Blessings and peace. Amen.

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