Recognizing and fulfilling a great need

Published 7:45 pm Monday, July 30, 2018

Writing in one of his books, the late Bishop Ernest Fitzgerald reminds us of an article he had read.

The article was entitled “Reading Your Own Epitaph” and in that article the author asked a very poignant question. He asked, “When the clock of life has run its course will our lives have counted for something?” He went on say that we have three possibilities: first, we can have a negative effect on the world. Second, we can have a neutral effect on the world, or third, we can have a positive effect on the world.

Without question, one of my favorite Old Testament characters is Caleb. The reason is that he cast a positive light on the situation. In complimenting Caleb, God said that he had “a different spirit (Numbers 14:24).”

Here’s a quick review of Caleb’s circumstances. Under the direction of God, Moses sent twelve leaders of Israel to spy out the promised land. At the end of 40 days of spying, these 12 spies returned to give their report. Ten of the 12 reported that capturing the promised land was a total impossibly-just couldn’t be done. But then Caleb, one of the two remaining spies, quieted the people and urged, “Let us go up at once, and occupy it; for we are well able to overcome it (Numbers 13:3a).”

In my ministry, I have often quoted the words of the late Harry Emerson Fosdick, renowned former minister of Riverside Church, New York. Dr. Fosdick stated, “It is not so much what life brings to us in her hand, as what we bring to life in our spirits that makes the difference between people.”

For a moment, I want us to look at some of the attitudes we bring to life, with the hope that all of us will have the Caleb spirit — that different spirit.

First, there is the fearful “can’t do” spirit. Too many people feel this way too much of the time. I read about a man who was pinned beneath the family car when the jack slipped. His wife, who was of average size and strength, lifted the car just enough for him to slide out from under it.

There was much speculation about how she was able to do that, because everyone doubted that she would be able to lift that car again.

Some say that she was able to lift that car because she had no idea what she couldn’t do and her subconscious mind “kicked in” and supplied the needed strength.

Others say that love lifted the car because the life of her husband was in jeopardy enabling her to lift the car. And there were numerous other suggestions. But whatever the reason, it makes us wonder what else we could do if we didn’t know that we couldn’t do it. There is the fearful “can’t do it” spirit.

Second, there is the “fault-finding” spirit! Far too many people in our day are possessed by a “fault-finding,” “critical of,” “complaining about” spirit. It is literally eating away at all their lives and the life of our society as well.

So where does this “fault-finding” spirit come from? It probably comes from a number of places, but for sure, it comes  from a sense of self-pity. Someone defined self pity as the door of depression, the fuel of fear, the anvil of anger, and the root of resentment. The result of self-pity is always a less than charitable spirit toward others and everything else.

A “fault-finding” spirit should be dealt with in three ways: It should be listened to, learned from and left behind.

Third, there is the “positive oriented” spirit. Here, I am writing  of the Caleb spirit-that different kind of spirit. This is the kind of spirit I pray that we all have or will have.

I’ve just finished reading Parker J. Palmer’s book “On the Brink Of Everything.” Mr. Palmer is the founder and senior partner emeritus of the Center for Courage & Renewal and noted author. As he turns 80 years of age, among other things, he writes and I quote:

“Age brings diminishments, but more than a few come with benefits. I’ve lost the capacity for multitasking, but I’ve rediscovered the joy of doing one thing at a time. My thinking has slowed a bit, but experience has made it deeper and richer. I’m done with big and complex projects, but more aware of the loveliness of simple things: a talk with a friend, a walk in the woods, sunsets and sunrises, a night of good sleep.”

Along with other lessons in his book, Mr. Palmer is giving reminder of the importance of a “positive oriented” spirit. And, of course, this attitude is essential at every age.

To be sure, one of the greatest gifts we can give to the world is a Caleb spirit-that different kind of spirit.