PRACTICE #8: SWAP GOOD NEWS STORIES
SERIES: “EARNING OUR WINGS”
MAY 18, 2008
Eight weeks ago I began our Eagle Flyer Sermon Series with these words:
Over the past few years, I have noticed something. I have noticed that some people have a knack for getting more out of life than the rest of us - not in terms of material goods - but rather when it comes to their enjoyment of life. They do not become as easily discouraged as the rest of us. They seem to be more upbeat than we are. They are challenged by problems instead of feeling overwhelmed by them. They have a great ability to bounce back rather than get down on themselves and on life in general.
Now, what is it about these people that enables them to remain upbeat, positive, enthused about life?
I went on to say that it had to do with their intellectual habits. That is to say, these Eagle Flyers were not necessarily born with cheerful dispositions, nor did they lead charmed lives. Far from it. Many people who fly with eagles grew up in very negative environments, and most suffered some crushing setbacks at one time or another. But along the way they discovered techniques for defeating depression and for keeping their enthusiasm high, and that’s what we have been looking at in this series. Over the past two months we have been highlighting eight biblical, eagle flying practices. Today we turn to the eighth and final eagle flying practice which is: Eagle Flyers like to swap good news stories.
Our passage today comes from the alternate ending to Mark’s gospel. Originally Mark’s Gospel ended at verse eight. This bothered some early Christians, however, because if you end Mark’s Gospel at verse eight, there is no resurrection appearance, just the empty tomb. Verse nine to the end of the chapter was added later, and many believe it was not Mark who added the ending. Rather the extended ending came from a strict religious arm of Christianity that practiced snake handling, speaking in tongues, and casting out demons. One thing good we can say about that sect was that their worship services were likely not boring, and with all the snake handling and demons flying out of people during worship, you may not want to sit up front.
Anyway, our passage for today comes from this alternate ending, and one of the last things Jesus says to the disciples is consistent with his statements in Matthew’s Gospel and the Book of Acts. The last thing Jesus said to his disciples was that he wanted them to be “good news” people, at least “good news” proclaimers. His exact words were, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” Now, what are “good news” people? The obvious answer is those who share the good news of God’s love for the entire creation. That’s the obvious answer. There is, however, a second way of defining “good news” people, and that is people who focus on success, not failure. They stress solutions, not problems. They build bridges rather than burst bubbles. Bad news people do just the opposite. As Dale Carnegie said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most do!” That’s a bad news person. Bad news people complain, whine, burst bubbles and tell you why you can’t do something. For them, the glass is always half empty.
In this regard I think of the middle-aged man who was famous for complaining. He was a nuisance to everyone who knew him and one day he inherited a great deal of money. After observing that it wasn’t as much as he thought it should be, he told his wife, a gentle-spirited women, that he thought he would buy some acreage for them to enjoy in retirement. “What do you think I should name my spread?” he asked.
She replied, “Why don’t you consider calling it Belly Acres?
Bad news people are a pain in the petunia. I think of an experience of a friend of mine. He knew a man married to a stunningly beautiful woman who left her for a rather frumpy looking woman in his office. It was the reverse stereotype. In the stereotype an older man dumps his wife of many years for a younger, more attractive partner.
My friend asked the guy the reason for his move. He told him it was simple. He couldn’t handle his wife’s negativism any longer. Their evenings were spent listening to her complaints. When they were in a restaurant, she was constantly critical of the service and the food. He never did anything right. Eventually this black cloud became too much for him.
His new love might not be a “looker” at least compared to his former wife, but she loved him without qualification and when she opened her mouth it was usually to say something cheerful. That’s not to say she never shared her frustrations or irritations. She did not hide them, but neither did she dwell on them. On the contrary, when recounting the day she mostly talked about the good things that happened, a funny thing someone said, or her appreciation for some quality in one of her colleagues.
Now, do not get me wrong. In sharing this story I am not advocating divorce. Rather I’m attempting to point out one of the qualities of Eagle Flyers. People who get the most out of life swap good news stores rather than bad news stories. And as we learn the art of becoming good news people a couple of things will happen to us.
First of all, when a person learns to be a good news swapper, he or she begins to see a “yes in every mess.” There is a sentence in the first chapter of II Corinthians that always jumps off the page at me. This is a rough paraphrase, but it goes, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is not ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ He is God’s ‘yes,’ the ‘yes’ to all of God’s promises.”
First Church Corinth, the church to whom Paul wrote these words was a mess. Factions, fights, falsehoods, adultery admired and praised, orgies at communion, First Church Corinth had it all, and I’m eternally grateful that I was never called to be the pastor there. Talk about a dysfunctional church, but Paul saw beyond that. Buried somewhere in the mess that was First Church Corinth Paul saw a “yes.”
Did you know that George Frederick Handel first heard the “Hallelujah Chorus” in his head while paralyzed by a stroke and hiding from his creditors? He heard the “yes” in the midst of his personal mess.
Lois Wade died a few years ago. Her husband Barc edited the AAA magazine here in the midwest for a number of years. He had an editorial in every issue of the magazine that he called “Biteless Barc.” In mid-life Lois began to deal with chronic arthritic pain, especially in her back. After years of misery, she decided to do something constructive about it. She formed a support group for people like herself who struggled with managing chronic pain. The group met every couple of weeks and Lois ran the group. By the way the group still meets, four years after her death.
On a summer afternoon a mother put her toddler to sleep in the upstairs bedroom. She left the window open to catch the breeze. The toddler managed to crawl out and fall, impaling himself on the picket fence below.
Carlyle Marney, a great Southern preacher, went to the house. For a long time they sat in silence. Then the mother asked the obvious question. She asked the question many of us would have been tempted to ask ... “Where is God now?”
Marney took a long time, and then said, “I suppose the same place as when his Son was impaled upon a stake.”
Ultimately, the only sound reason we have for believing in the “yeses” in the “messes” is Jesus Christ. If he wasn’t, and he didn’t, and if he couldn’t, then “No” is written across all of reality.
Secondly, when we get into the habit of swapping good news stories another thing begins to happen to us. We not only begin to look for the “yes” in every mess, but also we develop guts to get out of ruts. Good news people prove by the way they live that there is no rut so deep you cannot leave it.
I heard of someone who learned to drive in the mud. He grew up on river bottoms, and if he drove at all, it was often in the mud. He said there is only one way to drive in the mud ... hold the steering wheel steady, put the pedal to the metal, and the car will follow the ruts of those who have gone before you. If you leave the ruts you are doomed.
A number of people do life that way. They put the pedal to the metal, make no turns and follow the ruts. We do it mentally. It’s tough to get us out of our routines, but good news people have develop the guts to leave the ruts. In the Old Testament we read about a twin son, the second to emerge from the womb. He came out of the womb holding his brother’s heel. His parents gave him the name “heel snatcher.” We know him better as “Jacob.” His name went on to symbolize his life. He “snatched” everything. First, he snatched his brother’s birthright. Then he snatched his father-in-laws two daughters, his cattle, sheep and goats. Then God touched him, gave him a new name and knocked Jacob out of his ruth. His name became “Israel,” and he stopped snatching and went on to reconcile with his brother.
Unfortunately, too many folks are parrots rather than eagles. Parrot people differ from eagle flyers. Parrot people like to stay in the same cage, pick over the same pan full of seeds, and listen to the same words over and over again until they same them with ease. They like company, too. They like lots of attention ... a scratch here, a snuggle there, and they’ll stay for year right on the same perch. And by the way, can you remember the last time you saw a parrot fly? Trudy and I did last February while in Costa Rica. We saw them in the wild, but after parrots become domesticated, they prefer the predictable and the secure.
Not eagles. Eagles are driven by an inner surge to search, to discover, to learn and to change.
When I was younger one of my favorite places to go was Disneyland. Growing up in Southern California, I would go to Disneyland at least twice a year. It was great, and when we first moved to the midwest in the mid 70’s I only missed three things about Southern California. I missed the Dodgers, the Pacific Ocean, and Disneyland. Anyway, years ago I heard how the Walt Disney operated his advisory board. It was incredible. Disney would often present some unbelievable, extensive dream he was entertaining, and almost without exception the members of his board would gulp, blink, stare back at him in disbelief, resisting even the thought of such a thing. But unless every member of the advisory board resisted the idea ... that’s right, unless every member resisted it ... Disney usually did not pursue it. Yes, you heard me correctly. The challenge was not big enough to merit his time and creative energy unless the advisory board unanimously disagreed with him. I suppose when you are a Disney, you are free to press on when the board says, “Shut ‘er down!”
Talk about guts to get out of ruts. Talk about an eagle rather than a parrot. It’s no wonder Disneyland and Disney World became realities.
Awhile ago United Technologies placed the following advertising copy in the Wall Street Journal. It read,
The greatest waste of our natural resources is the number of people who never achieve their potential.
Get out of that slow lane.
Shift into that fast lane.
If you think you can’t, you won’t.
If you think you can, there’s a good chance you will.
EVen making the effort will make you feel like a new person.
Reputations are made by searching for things that cannot be done.
Aim low: boring.
Aim high: soaring.
It’s been called a “Rhyme to Run On” and a “Limerick to Live By.” It’s written in calligraphy and it hangs in an office. It reads,
No rut so deep you cannot leave it.
No dream so lost you can’t retrieve it.
No pain so great you can’t endure it.
No sin so bad that God can’t cure it.
That’s what eagle flyers say to one another. They love to remind each other of good news.