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Attitude is Your Paint Brush
It Colors Every Situation
By JAMES W. MOORE
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2012 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
THE ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
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STOPPING TO SAY THANKS
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." —Luke 17:11-19
Our granddaughter, Sarah, is now an active three-year-old—under-score active! She is always busy and always in a hurry because at three years of age, she already realizes that there are so many exciting things to do and see and experience in this incredible world God has given us.
Just last week, Sarah interrupted her playtime just long enough to run into the kitchen in search of a midafternoon snack. Hurriedly, she said to her mother, "Banana, Mommy, banana!" Jodi, her mother, handed her a banana. Sarah quickly grabbed the banana and turned to rush back out of the kitchen. Before she took very many steps, however, her mother said, "Sarah, what's the magic word?" Sarah screeched to a halt, turned around, and said, "Please! Thank you! You're welcome!" And then, "I love you, Momma!" At this point, Sarah got a second banana—and a warm hug! The magic word Sarah's mother was looking for was thanks. She got more than that, but that was the word she was looking for, because she knows how important it is for us to learn how to stop and say thanks.
Thanks-giving, gratitude, appreciation—whatever you want to call it—is learned. We don't come into this world as grateful people. We come into the world selfishly screaming our demands. Now, please don't misunderstand me. I love babies. They are absolutely wonderful—one of God's greatest miracles. But anybody who has ever been around a newborn baby knows that babies come into this world self-centered and impatient. They come into the world screaming, "Hold me, feed me, burp me, change me, rock me, walk me, sing to me—and do it right now!" And this is okay, because they are babies and that's the only way they can communicate—indeed, the only way they can survive. But as time goes by, they grow up, and as they mature—if all goes well—they learn how to be grateful, how to be appreciative, how to say thanks.
The crowning virtue of life is gratitude, and one of the most dramatic signs of Christian maturity is the easy ability to say thanks. Immature people don't know how to be grateful because they've never grown up! They go through life screaming, "Where's mine? What's in it for me?" But mature Christians have a special spirit that is so beautiful. It's called gratitude!
This is why one of the first things we do as Christian parents is teach our children how to say grace at the dinner table. What do you call it at your house? Saying grace? Asking the blessing? Returning thanks? Which one did you learn first? "Blessed art thou, O Lord, who gives bread to the hungry and satisfies our hearts with good things." That's a good one. Or how about this one: "O Lord, bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies and us to thy service." Or maybe you learned this Scottish prayer of thanksgiving: "Lord Jesus, as thou didst bless the loaves and fishes, bless these our humble little dishes." Or perhaps this one: "For health, strength, and daily food, we give you thanks, O Lord."
Fred Craddock told about spending a Saturday with his three-year-old granddaughter, Kristin. They went for a walk and played together at the neighborhood park. They saw acorns and flowers and rocks and sticks and squirrels and birds and butterflies. They had a wonderful morning and returned home in time for lunch. As the two of them sat down at the table, Kristin boldly announced to her grandfather that they should return thanks before eating and that she would do it. And then she said, "God is great; God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen." Her grandfather also said "amen."
Kristin looked at him and said, "Gramps, we've got to do it again."
"Why? What's the matter?" he asked.
She said, "You didn't hold your hands right!"
"Oh, I'm sorry," he said.
Then little Kristin got out of her chair, walked over to her grandfather, fixed his hands, and, like an instructor, said, "Gramps, if you don't hold your hands right, it won't work!"
When Fred Craddock told this story, he ended by saying this: "Do you know what? Listen! I held my hands right, and it worked! It worked! Kristin was grateful, and I was grateful! It worked!"
Isn't that beautiful? Someone had been teaching that three-year-old girl the importance of "stopping to say thanks," and it was serious business to her. It was crucial to her that it be done and be done right. "Stopping to say thanks"—how sacred that is, how appropriate that is! It is one of the key expressions of faith and one of the most dramatic emblems of spiritual maturity.
That's what this poignant incident in Luke 17, where Jesus heals the ten lepers, is all about. Jesus was on the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village, he heard these ten lepers screaming at him, begging for help. They had to scream out because, by law, lepers were required to stay some fifty yards away from all other human beings. From half-a-football-field-away, they screamed out, trying to get Jesus' attention. Jesus gave them his attention—and then some.
He told them to go show themselves to the priests; and as they went, they suddenly realized that they were cleansed, made whole, healed, delivered from the despicable, debilitating disease and from their horrible, isolated, outcast existence. And they were so thrilled, so excited, so moved, so grateful that they all immediately turned around and ran back to thank Jesus for what he had done for them, right? No! Not quite!
Only one of them returned—the lone Samaritan in the group. The outcast among outcasts, he was the only one who stopped to say thanks. The nine others went their merry way. I know what you're thinking right about now: "Shame on those ungrateful nine! If I'd been there, if I'd been one of those cleansed lepers, I would have turned back and thanked Jesus!"
Sure you would have. Why don't you do it now? Has he cleansed you, saved you, delivered you? Have you really thanked him? So often we are like those nine lepers who forgot to say thanks. We are so busy, spread so thin. We are stretched out and stressed out. We are so frazzled with all the things we have to do, need to do, and want to do that we just can't find the time to stop and say thanks to our Lord for what he has done for us.
Stopping to say thanks is so important, so precious, so beautiful, so right. That's what this story is about. That's why we know of and respect this Samaritan, because he took the time to go back and fall down at the feet of Jesus and say thanks. Let me take the time to stop now and say thanks. I'm grateful for so many things; let me mention just a few. I'm sure you will think of others.
I'm Grateful for the Christian Church
A few years ago in Oklahoma, a young woman went to a support group in her church. She was having a rough time. She had lost her husband and now had the full responsibility for her three children. She felt so alone, and she was afraid that she wouldn't be able to give her three children what they most needed as they grew up. This is what she said: "If it were just me, I'd be okay. Sure, I'm hurting and I'm lonely, and I'll have to do without some things, but I can handle it just fine. It's my kids that I'm worried about. So many of their friends have new clothes to wear to school this year—and not just new clothes, but expensive designer clothes. There's no way I'll ever be able to afford things like that, and it hurts me to see my kids feel like they're out of place. And later, when it comes to college, I don't know what in the world I'll do. We're just barely making it now."
With that, her voice trailed off, and she began to cry. Just then, an older woman went over and put her arm around her and tried to comfort her. She said, "You know, I can really relate to what you are feeling right now because twenty years ago, I was in the same predicament. I had lost my husband, I had four young children, and I wasn't even making $500 a month. But let me tell you something. We made it, the five of us, and I'm so proud of who and where my kids are today. I'd put them up against anybody's kids." And then she said this: "I have one piece of advice to give you. It's the best advice I know. You may not be able to give your kids designer clothes or sports cars or trips to Europe, but there is one thing you can give them that's better than all of that: You can give them the church! Make sure that you and your kids go to church and Sunday school every week. That might not seem like much to you right now, but I cannot tell you what a difference it will make in the long run. They'll receive something there that many kids don't have and that money can't buy, and it's something upon which they can build their lives for the rest of their days. Give them the church. It's the best gift you can give them! It's the best thing you can do for them!"
She was right, wasn't she? The church is one of God's greatest gifts to the world. Let me ask you something: What would our community be like, what would our world be like, what would life be like if we didn't have the church? I am so grateful for the Christian church and for all the good it does in our world.
I'm Grateful for the Christian Faith
There is a story about a monastery in Portugal that is perched high on a three-hundred-foot cliff. The only way the monastery can be reached is by a terrifying ride in a swaying basket suspended from a single rope pulled by several strong monks. One day an American tourist was about to ride up in the basket. However, he became very nervous when he noticed that the rope was quite old and frayed. Timidly, he asked, "How often do you change the rope?" One of the monks replied, "Whenever it breaks!"
Many people today treat faith like that. They never turn to faith until something breaks. But, thank God, there are others who realize that the Christian faith is a lifestyle that works in practical daily living. It is not just some last resort. It is the way to live. It is the way to relate to other people. It is the way to serve and honor God.
One of this generation's finest novelists was a man named Walker Percy. Percy became a Christian when he was thirty. He confessed his faith in Christ and joined the church and was a faithful member until his death. Many of his fellow writers and critics were harsh and critical of him. They mocked him and ridiculed him. They said he had "caved in" to religion. One of them said to him, "What do you mean by betraying your intellectual integrity and becoming a Christian? There are so many other options."
"What options?" Percy asked.
The critic said, "Well, there is Eastern philosophy or spiritualism or new-age thinking or secular humanism or astrology or materialism ..." and the list went on and on.
Percy waited until the critic finished and then said, "That's what I mean." Percy believed with all his heart that those aren't options at all; that Jesus is the answer to our deepest yearnings; that Jesus is the one who gives our lives meaning; that Jesus is the one who brings us fully alive; that Jesus is the one who is the hope of the world; that Jesus is the one who can cleanse and deliver and save us.
I am so grateful for the Christian church, and I am so grateful for the Christian faith.
I'm Grateful for the Christian Gospel
Some years ago, a little boy went into a pet shop. He wanted to buy a puppy. The owner whistled, and four cute, frisky little puppies came running into the room with tails wagging, yipping happily. Then another puppy came straggling in, dragging one hind leg.
"What's the matter with that puppy, Mister?" the boy asked.
"Well, Son, that puppy is crippled. We took him to the vet and found that he was born with a weak leg. The leg will never be right."
Quickly, the little boy pulled out his money and said, "I'll take him! He's the one I want!"
"But, Son, you don't seem to understand," said the owner. "That puppy is going to be crippled all his life. Why in the world would you want him?"
Just then, the little boy reached down and pulled up his pants leg, revealing an iron brace that held his twisted leg, and he said, "Mister, that puppy is going to need someone to help him. He's going to need someone who understands."
Now, let me ask you something: Where did that little boy learn how to love sacrificially like that? You know, don't you? He learned it in the Christian church. He learned it through the Christian faith. He learned it from the Christian gospel. He learned it from the one who went to the cross for you and me, from the one who was human enough to understand and divine enough to forgive.
I am grateful for so many things: family, friends, home, health, career. But I also want to "stop and say thanks" to God for the Christian church, the Christian faith, and the Christian gospel.
What about you? Why not stop and say a prayer of thanks right now for these and the many other gifts that God has given you. The attitude of gratitude is so important to have, for it colors every situation!CHAPTER 2
THE ATTITUDE OF COMPASSION
* * *
LEAD WITH YOUR HEART
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'" He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease." —Mark 5:24b34
David Halberstam has written a wonderful book on the decade of the 1950s. In The Fifties, he recalls The Ed Sullivan Show and its dramatic impact on our nation at that time. He points to that particular television program as a landmark of the fifties, and, of course, it was. Halberstam reminds us of some of those wonderful, humorous moments on live national television when Ed Sullivan would accidentally get his words mixed up and end up with "his foot in his mouth."
One night, for example, the great singer Sergio Franchi was a guest performer on the show. He sang Malotte's "The Lord's Prayer," after which Ed Sullivan came on stage and—as only he could do—said, "Come on, ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it for 'The Lord's Prayer'!" I can just see him saying that.
Taking a cue from Ed Sullivan, let me suggest that what this dramatic passage in Mark 5 is saying to us is simply this: "Let's hear it for compassion!" As I noted in the introduction, the word compassion literally means "with heart." It means to reach out to other people with your heart, and that kind of active love is one of the most powerful things in all the world.
Philip Anderson tells about a touching and heartwarming experience he had with his sister when he visited her at work one day. She was, at the time, a director of patient services for the children's unit of a large Southern California hospital. On that particular day, she was giving her brother a tour through the unit. Anderson said that as they walked along, they could hear the cry of a baby coming from one of the rooms.
Finally, they came to that room. When he saw that crying baby, his heart sank. He couldn't believe his eyes. The child, who was about twelve months old, was covered from head to toe with terrible bruises and scratches and scars. At first he thought the baby had been in a terrible accident, but when he got close enough to see the baby's legs, his heart sank even more because written in ink all over the baby's legs were horrible obscenities. The child was the victim not of an accident, but of abuse. Anderson's sister showed him terrible scars on the bottom of the baby's feet caused by cigarette burns. Can you imagine it? The parents had battered and abused their own child.
Excerpted from Attitude is Your Paint Brush by JAMES W. MOORE. Copyright © 2012 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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