Stretching before throwing the covers back I thought, “I love the feel of crisp clean sheets.” And I do. Clean sheets are up there on my list of life’s special delights. Along with tea, coffee, chocolate, flowers, a sunny morning, friendly faces, a child’s laughter, good music, hot soup, hearing my husband move around the house, a phone conversation with one of our kids... The list goes on, as there are so many positive things in this crazy messed up world.

I attribute last night’s monkey brains to impeachment blues, listening to too much news, and concern for several friends dealing with serious illness, depression, etc. Yet greeting the morning, exhausted as I was, with “I love the feel of crisp clean sheets” pointed me in a positive direction. Try as I might, I can’t will the world to become kinder and gentler. I can’t prevent bad things from happening, but I can become kinder and gentler myself by valuing what is right in front of me and doing my best to gratefully live in this moment. Worrying about all the things I cannot change just makes me tired and grumpy.

The serenity prayer has us pray for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change and the courage to change the things we can. That sounds so simple, and it is — once we are willing to focus on what is right in front of us, right this moment, and let the rest go for later. In spite of what we’ve been told, the Biblical admonition to praise God has nothing to do with appeasing a demanding jealous deity or earning our salvation, but with developing an attitude of gratitude which changes the way we respond to the life we have.

When I am ungrateful and depressed I send out bad vibes, which simply makes things worse all around. When I can accept what is and practice gratitude in spite of illness, difficulties, and disappointments, I send out good vibes. When I can say “I am sorry, I was wrong,” when I can admit “ I don’t know. I need help,” when I take time to say “thank you” for every day kindnesses, when I interrupt my grumbles by writing down at least six things that make my life better in this moment in time, when I stop and ask myself is it true? is it kind? or does it need to be said? before I say or post something, I am courageously changing what I can. And, you know, I suspect that is exactly what Scripture means when it tells us to be in the world but not of it. By simply being able to say, I was wrong, I am sorry, I don’t know, I need help, thank you, is it true? is it kind? does it need to be said? we detach from all of the insanity around us and become beacons of God-light for ourselves and those around us.

Joyce Shutt is pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church

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