Sunday, July 30, 2006

Accentuate The Positive

In today’s Accentuate the Positive is the story of a young boy who seemingly had nothing going for him except determination, tenacity, and raw talent.

Eddie Guest was born in Birmingham England in 1881. His family moved to Michigan when he was a young child. He was hired by Detroit Free Press at the age of 13 as an office boy and stayed on for 60 years. He quickly became a cub reporter, working the labor beat and the waterfront beat.

By the time he should have graduated from high school, he, instead, had developed a reputation as a scrappy reporter in a competitive town. By 1898, this 17-year-old high school drop-out was writing literary verse. He was given a weekly column, and then a daily column.

By 1908, he had developed his own unique style; nearly all of his writing was in meter and rhyme and his readers loved it. His column was soon syndicated in over 300 newspapers and he became known as "The Poet of the People." His popularity led to one of early radio’s longest-running radio shows, appearances on television, in Hollywood, and in banquet halls and meeting rooms from coast to coast.

Guest followed a clear and simple formula to journalistic success: "I take simple everyday things that happen to me and I figure it happens to a lot of other people and I make simple rhymes out of them."

Edgar A. Guest died in 1959. Forty-seven years after his death, he still has fans all over the world. He is certainly my favorite poet. I love the musicality of his verses and collect his books (thanks to EBay).I have also committed some of his poems to memory.

Here is one of my favorites:

It Couldn't Be Done
Edgar A. Guest

Somebody said that it couldn't be done,
But he with a chuckle replied.
That "maybe it couldn't,"
but he would be one.
Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you'll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he'd begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you,
one by one, the dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That "cannot be done," and you'll do it.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:13

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Accidental Platter

My beloved and I love antiques. We love good deals even more, which is why we enjoy going to antique auctions. My sister-in-law and her husband have done this for many years; their home is filled with beautiful treasures. Knowing we were interested in learning the auction game, one evening my sister-in-law invited us to tag along.

It was at that first auction, as the first item was up for bid that I learned my first lesson. I call it Auction 101. Sit still. Sit very still, if you are not bidding. Flailing your arms can, at any time, be considered a bid. I did not know these rules that day; I had to learn the hard way.

I was seated next to my sister-in-law, with my bidding card in my hand as the auction began. The auctioneer opened with his call for bids. "What’llyougimmeforthisplatter? Fivegimmefivefive. Whowillgimmefivegimmefivefive." As he continued his rhymic chant, his voice faded into the background of my mind. My eyes were riveted on the blue and white platter that his assistant held up. I turned to my sister-in-law and pointed my card toward the platter.That is my favorite shade of blue”, I whispered. She turned in the direction I was pointing then back toward me.What?” she asked. I pointed again.That is my favorite color of blue.”SOLD TO NUMBER…SOLD TO NUMBER…MA’AM, PLEASE HOLD UP YOUR NUMBER.” It was at that point that I realized that the auctioneer and all five of his assistants were looking straight at me! I held up my card obediently and turned to her.I think I just bought something." I turned to my beloved. "I THINK I JUST BOUGHT SOMETHING!" My head spun back to her. "What did I buy?" I swung back to him, grabbing his arm. "WHAT DID I BUY?!” With total disregard for my immediate state of panic, she gasped for breath in a fit of giggles.I do believe you just bought yourself a platter!”

In case you’re wondering, I got off lucky. My bid, apparently, was for $15.00. The platter had a large crack; otherwise it would have sold for much more. It now hangs in my kitchen above the stove and serves as my daily reminder to listen and pay attention to what others are saying. Otherwise, it could prove costly.

Look at what the wisest king that ever lived says about listening:

For attaining wisdom and discipline
For understanding words of insight
For acquiring a disciplined and prudent life
For doing what is right and just and fair
For giving prudence to the simple
For giving knowledge and discretion to the young

Let the wise listen and add to their learning.

Proverbs 1:2-5

Directionally Challenged

I am directionally challenged.

I guess I have always been, but it did not become apparent until my husband’s job required that he drive all over town. From time to time he would leave the Dallas Mapsco (for you non-Texans, think Thomas Guide) at home and call me for directions. I have no trouble looking the street up (alphabetical order and all) or finding the page (I can count very far) or even the quadrant where the street can be found (a wicked combination of numbers and letters, like 47Q). Once there, I easily find the street (I made an A in reading), but then it comes, the dreaded question, “Tell me how to get there.”

I wish I could tell you what happens to me from that point on, but I can’t. Whatever it is, I seem to read Mapsco exactly backward. “Ok, get on 75 north, take the Mockingbird exit and turn left (interpret this to mean right). When you get to Preston, take a left (remember, this is another right). Keep going until you go under (this means over) 635. You’ll see Thistle Lane after (think before) the second light. You can’t miss it.” One thing about it, after doing this a few times, he never left his Mapsco at home again.

What puzzles him completely is how I can get lost driving to a place we have been many times. The answer is simple. Usually, he drives and I sleep. For example, our daughters played basketball throughout high school. This usually meant at least 2-3 trips to Ft. Worth a year. However, sometimes my husband could not go and I had to go alone. To me, it was like visiting a new city. Every time. We had a system, though. He knew to answer his cell phone as soon as I called. He picked it up by saying, “Ok, read me some street signs so I can figure out where you are.” Then he’d talk me in.

Another way this affects me is detours. You know how it is. You’re driving along a busy freeway. It’s bumper to bumper; then the traffic stops altogether. In the distance, you see red and orange lights. It’s a wreck, and there is no telling how long you will be stuck. If you’re lucky enough to be in the right hand lane, you can bail at the nearest exit. Then do what? Stay on the service road until you can get back on the freeway? Maybe. But sometimes there is no service road. That’s when the adventure begins. My car has a compass, which should help, but you have to know what direction you are supposed to be headed and compare it to the direction you are actually headed. The problem is, I tend to think that north is whatever direction I am headed. Typically, I will detour for a while, then pull over and call my husband who will talk me back onto the freeway.

This reminds me of my Christian walk. I can know exactly where I am going and start out in the right direction. However, if I decide that the route does not matter, if I take a detour, or break from the plan, I will veer off course and get far from where I should be. I can even get lost. Thank God for His word, and for Christian brothers and sisters who encourage me to get back on track from time to time.

Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
Hebrews 12:2

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Your Secret's Safe With Me

So I headed off to a nearby nursery one Saturday to buy some flowers.

I wandered around the nursery, pretending to know what I wanted, as I prefer to decide on my own, without help/suggestions/pressure from the salespeople. An employee approached me; he was somewhat older than me, or perhaps just looked that way from years in the sun. He was kind and friendly and not at all pushy, so we walked along and talked about plants. He took me to a greenhouse where all of the half price plants were kept and spoke lovingly of the caladiums he had grown himself and was now selling so cheaply. I thanked him for his help and ventured out on my own to make my final decision about what to plant. He hovered nearby as I examined species after species, eventually finding my way back to the caladiums. This time I had a basket, which I began to fill with my choices.

With my basket laden with half-price caladiums and a few other treasures, I began what turned out to be an up-hill climb to the main building which housed the cashier. He appeared again, offered to push my basket for me, and suggested that I bring my car around so he could load up my purchase.

After placing the final plant in the back of my suburban, he turned and said with a grin, “Well, now, I should have counted them before I packed them away. How many caladiums did you get?” With a blank expression I replied, “I’m sorry. I can’t remember.” He counted them, turned toward me and said, “Eleven.” I leaned forward. “What did you say? Eleven? I’m sorry. That is not possible.” “Not possible?” He asked, as his eyebrows rose. “Not possible.” I replied firmly. “You see,” I whispered, leaning in again. “I only buy plants in even numbers.”

He furrowed his brow and turned to the plants. “Well, let me show you. You have two here, and three here. Here’s another two…oh…here’s one I didn’t catch…..Well, it appears you do have 12.” Maybe I imagined it, but the corners of his mouth seemed to twitch a little. I looked away and mumbled, “And…now I hope to never see you again, as I have never before said those words aloud.” He chuckled. “Ma’am, I have run this place for 32 years. I’ve seen and heard it all. Now let me help you with that invoice.” He walked me to the cashier, and as he touched the brim of his straw hat, said, “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you…..and your secret’s safe with me.”

As I think about that encounter, I am reminded of my relationship with God. What a joy it is to know that all of my secrets are safe with Him. He knows my thoughts, my fears, my insecurities, and even all of my obsessions, fixations, and phobias. He has seen and heard it all….and pursues me anyway.

“Search me, O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Accentuate The Positive

Each week, I hope to highlight examples of positive thinking. I love to hear of individuals who make the most of what they have, playing the cards they have been dealt, so to speak. It is especially encouraging when one can do so with dignity or humor. This man uses humor to put a positive spin on what so many men view as a dreaded situation: male pattern baldness.

I have also included an encouraging poem I remember hearing as a little girl. It reminds me of a phrase I also heard growing up: "Keep on keeping on."


Author: by Frank L. Stanton (1857-1927)

If you strike a thorn or rose,
Keep a-goin'!
If it hails or if it snows,
Keep a-goin'!
'Taint no use to sit an' whine
When the fish ain't on your line;
Bait your hook an' keep a-tryin'--
Keep a-goin'!

When the weather kills your crop,
Keep a-goin'!
Though 'tis work to reach the top,
Keep a-goin'!
S'pose you're out o' ev'ry dime,
Gittin' broke ain't any crime;
Tell the world you're feelin' prime--
Keep a-goin'!

When it looks like all is up,
Keep a-goin'!
Drain the sweetness from the cup,
Keep a-goin'!
See the wild birds on the wing,
Hear the bells that sweetly ring,
When you feel like singin', sing--
Keep a-goin'!

Friday, July 21, 2006

God's Will

She sent me an email, this new, young teacher I hired last spring. I need to meet with you tomorrow. Hmmm. Sounds ominous. I replied to her email that I had a 10:00 meeting the next day. She could come at any other time. When I arrived at my office the next day, she apparently had been waiting for some time. In her lap were the teaching materials I had given her, as well as her keys, and an envelope. She wore a very serious expression. “I have terrible news.”

I ushered her into my office and shut the door. Before I made it around to my desk chair, she blurted out, “I’m afraid I won’t be able to take the job after all.” Reeling from the blow, I slowly lowered myself to my chair, my mind racing. From a distance I heard her say, “I know I’m putting you in a terrible position.” I looked up to see her eyes brimming with tears.

She was certainly right about that. I was so excited when I hired her. I sent a mail-out to all of the high school parents and students, inviting them to meet her and hear of the exciting plans we had for her courses. I tailored her course offerings to her certification and interests. I spent days on the phone talking to students, selling them on the new courses. School starts in about a month. We have finished all of the student’s schedules, and I have no other candidates for her position who have not already taken jobs elsewhere. I have no clue what I am going to do.

I tried to focus on what she was saying. “ …it wasn’t until this summer, when I began volunteering at my church full time, that I realized my heart was in ministry. I know of several churches that are looking for a full-time children’s minister. Ministry is where my heart is. It is what I feel I was called to do. If I came here, I know I would not be any good for these students, since my heart is elsewhere.” With this statement, she burst into tears.

There were so many things I wanted to say. I wanted to let her know just how unprofessional it is to break contract. I wanted her to know just how inconvenienced I was, how embarrassing it would be to call all of the students and their parents who had signed up for the courses I had talked them into, just to let them know we would not be offering them after all. I wanted her to have to sit and watch as the registrar and I would spend two days completely re-doing the schedules for all of the students who had signed up for her classes. But I could not say or do any of these things.

My heart went out to her. There I was, worried about what I was going to do. Concerned with how this would affect me and my students, when all along, this young Christian woman was earnestly trying to find God’s will for her life. Without a job, she was acting totally on faith. She paused, looking at me with the saddest eyes. She was obviously filled with pain because of the effect her decision might have on the school. I smiled wearily. “Clearly this is something you must do. I understand completely. I would not consider standing in the way of anyone trying to pursue God’s will for their life. Thank you for coming to see me as soon as you knew.”

She thanked me, handed me the envelope, which contained her letter of resignation, shook my hand vigorously, and left. I opened my Bible and searched for passages that addressed this very subject. Here are a few I found:

King David not only desired to do God’s will (Psalm 40:8), he asked God to teach him how to do His will, and prayed that the Spirit would lead him on level ground (Psalm 143:10).

Jesus often spoke of the importance of doing God’s will (Matthew 6:10, 7:21, 10:29, 12:50, 26:39, 26:42, John 6:38, 7:17).

Paul admonished the church in Ephesus not to be foolish, but to seek to understand God’s will (Ephesians 5:17).

John wrote that we can confidently approach God, and that if what we ask of Him is in accordance with his will we will have it (I John 5:14-15).

Can you share a time you did something because you felt it was God’s will?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Luxury or Necessity?

Hush, hush little luxury. Don’t you cry. You’ll be a necessity by and by.

It was a typical night. I drifted off to sleep at 11:20pm or so while watching television, the sound muted so as not to disturb the rhythm of my beloved’s puppy snores. Some time later I suddenly woke up. Something was wrong; something was very wrong. Our room was pitch black and deathly silent. As I stumbled across the room to the restroom, my husband’s voice rumbled in the darkness, “The electricity is off.” “Ok,” I thought calmly. “That would explain why it is so quiet in here: no television, no ceiling fan, no air conditioner.” No air conditioner! It is July! In Texas! I groped my way back to the bed in a state of panic, stumping my toe along the way. I crashed to the bed, sucking in the last bit of cool air as I fell. “What are we going to do?” I groaned. “Well,” the rumble continued. “I guess we need to call the electric company.

I waited as he wandered through the house in the dark, trying to remember where he had last seen candles and matches. The flashlight that normally rests on the floor between the bed and the nightstand had apparently sprouted legs and wandered off (a.k.a. he left it in his truck). Meantime, I found my cell phone and determined that it was 11:45 pm. Naturally, the book where I keep emergency numbers was not where I usually keep it (a.k.a. I was cleaning in a hurry and shoved it somewhere convenient…but where?). Around midnight, we could be heard rummaging through my closet, looking for the book by candlelight. He called the electric company and obediently navigated through the phone trail (If this call is in reference to a residence, press 1…if you are experiencing a power outage, press 3….if tempers are flaring at your house, count to 10, hang up, and go to your neutral corners, etc.). The calm, recorded voice finally told him that the work order had been sent and we should have electricity by 2:00am.

Great. We were sentenced to two hours in the dry heat of the Sahari desert. I wearily flopped on the bed. My husband disappeared. As he returned, he said, “Well, everyone on our side of the block is in darkness, as well as the street behind us.” I sat up in total disbelief. “Did you go outside in your boxers?” “Yep. I walked down the alley. It’s not like anyone could see me. It’s pitch black out there.” “YOU WALKED DOWN THE ALLEY,” I screeched, incredulously, “AND NOW YOU’VE CRAWLED INTO BED WITH YOUR DIRTY ALLEY FEET?!” He just chuckled, as I made a mental note to wash the sheets ASAP.

In an effort to distract myself, I decided to pray. I began to list for God the luxuries that had, at some point in my life, become necessities. The list went on and on, not just water, but clean water in abundance, hot and cold, running in pipes into several rooms of my house. Even though we have not had rain in Dallas for a long time and our city has implemented water restrictions, I haven’t seen anyone of late going to the river with a bucket on their head. Electricity and windows with screens would be a luxury for most, but we have already determined that the air outside is hotter than inside, so we haven’t opened a window. Not content with air conditioning, we have ceiling fans in every room. A house with three times as many rooms as we have people. Not one car, but one for each driver. Not just one TV, but practically one in every room. I mean, who knows when we will all want to watch a different show at the same time? My heart filled with shame. I guess it is true. We are wealthy by the world’s standards.

As the list went on and on, my prayers shifted from thanking God for these luxuries to asking His forgiveness for not appreciating them and looking for every opportunity to use them to His glory. Maybe He had to take one luxury away for two hours in the middle of the night to help me see all He has done for me.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Garage Sale

I wonder if there is anyone who really enjoys having a garage sale. I, for one, rarely go to them.

My daughter Sweet Pea and her husband wanted to have a garage sale. She started in on me several months ago, trying to elicit some interest on my part. “I don’t really have anything to sell,” I conveniently remember. “Come on, Mom. It will be fun. We’ll do it at my house; I’ll arrange everything. All you have to do is show up with whatever you want to sell. A few hours on Saturday, that’s all. Besides, I’ll need someone to help me watch the baby.” Now that’s hitting below the belt. I never can resist that lure. Ok, I decide. I’m in.

As the date for the sale approaches, I start thinking about what I might sell. I haven’t rustled up the energy to actually look for anything, though, so I tell myself that the thinking part is step one. It’s practically the hardest part of preparing for a sale, if you ask me, so I’m devoting several weeks to it.

With the sale less than one week away, I resolve not to put this off any longer. I spend a couple of days cleaning out closets, gathering items that I am going to put in my car, take to the sale, randomly assign a price that, according to my calculations, is less than 1% of what I paid for it, spend hours in a garage in July bartering with customers over the marked price versus what they want to pay. At the end of the sale, I will then box up whatever does not sell and transport it to Goodwill. I tell myself that any money I make will be more than I would have made that day had I stayed home. As the day nears, I’m still not excited about it. The garage sale stuff (that I didn’t know I had) has taken over the house.

The morning of the sale, I am wide awake at 4:00 am after four hours sleep. I head over to Sweet Pea’s before dawn to get everything ready for the 8:00 sale, knowing full well that professional garage sale shoppers usually arrive at least 30 minutes early. Our first customer walks in and heads straight back to the table where two televisions are. “How much for the TV’s?” She asks. My son-in-law looks at the TV’s pointedly as he says, “Well, this one is marked $20.00 and that one is marked $30.00.” “Will you take $20.00 for both?” she asks. He shakes his head. “No.” “You won’t take $20.00 for both?” “No ma’am. You are my first customer and I think these will be big selling items. The price is firm.” She storms off, and, I might add, returns a while later and buys both TV’s for the marked price. The second customer is from another country, a country where bartering in the marketplace is common and expected. She approaches me first with an item marked $10.00. “How much for this?” she asks. “I look at the price that is clearly marked on the item and pretend to think. “Hmmmm. Well, I guess I could take $5.00 for that,” expecting her to be grateful for the good deal I have just thrown her way. “Fifty cents.” she blurts. “Excuse me?” “Fifty cents.” she repeats a little louder. At this point, my son-in-law steps between us and says, “No. It is marked $10.00. That’s how much we’ll sell it for.” She points to me and says, “She say $5.00!” He looks at me questioningly. I nod, looking at the ground while pushing a rock around with my shoe. He turns back to her and sighs. “Ok, $5.00.” “Fifty cents!” she shouts. At this point, I manage to get real busy at the other end of the garage, so I don’t hear the rest of the exchange. However, he comes over to me a few minutes later. “If she asks you about anything else, send her to me. I’ll deal with her.”

As I look back, we actually had fun. In the morning there were many customers and energy was in the air. I was working with one customer, and another one shouted in my direction, “How much for this?” pointing at yet another item that was clearly marked. At the other end of the driveway, my son-in-law carried items to the car for a customer while someone stopped him to negotiate a price. Most of the morning, we had 12 or so customers at a time. Sweet Pea, who established early on that she does not do negotiations, was seated in front of the fan, manning the cash box while holding the baby. Hmmm. Looked like the old bait and switch trick to me. But, by noon, each one of us had a turn at the cash box. Turns out it was not such a cushy job after all, adding purchases and counting change while juggling a hot, tired, hungry, wet baby.

By afternoon, it was dead. I was slumped in a chair with my back to the sale and my face pressed into the grill of an industrial fan. Thinking I heard a customer, I yelled over my shoulder, “Everything’s negotiable!” My son-in-law, slouched in the chair next to me and drenched in sweat, added “Make me an offer!” But neither of us moved. We were worn out and completely vulnerable. We could have been talked down to anything.

As a Christian, I know I’m also most vulnerable when I am worn out spiritually, but not usually because I have been busy doing great things for others. Every time I get this way, it can always be tied to being disconnected from God. Not because He has moved further from me, but because I have neglected my relationship with Him. Yet, Jesus still offers to carry my load.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Better Late Than Never

I’d like to think that I know my kids pretty well. I have four children; the youngest just emptied the nest, yet, I’ve enjoyed over the years discovering and exploring differences unique to each one. In order to do this, you have to spend a lot of time with your kids, but mostly you have to be committed to watchful listening. That was never more apparent than a couple of years after my oldest, whom I lovingly call Sweet Pea, left for college. She called me one afternoon to unload her displeasure with her roommate. Her voice became increasingly more shrill as she shared each instance in which her roommate disappointed or upset her. Eventually she began to sob, but she never slowed down. I just listened, murmured a sympathetic “Hmmmm” from time to time, and tried to formulate some sage, yet sympathetic words for when it would be my turn to speak. As she neared the end of her displeasure list, she blurted out in righteous indignation, “And she doesn’t even bless me when I sneeze!”

What? Did I hear her correctly? It has never occurred to me to even notice if someone said, “Bless you” when I sneezed. It is just not important to me. Doesn’t even rate on the irritation scale. A non-issue. Furthermore, I can’t remember the last time I blessed someone else when they sneezed. How could I watchfully listen to this child for 20 years and not know this about her? Why did I not know that this was important to her, that this small gesture of kindness meant so much? In my own defense, she has never told me that it was important. She never said, “Please bless me when I sneeze, because it tells me that you care about me.” The fact is, though, it did mean a lot to her (and still does), and I simply did not notice because I cannot relate to this need.

As a result of that conversation, I not only have blessed more (of her) sneezes in the last seven years than I did in the previous twenty, I have also made an effort to study this phenomenon. This ancient tradition of blessing sneezes began over 1500 years ago with a superstitious belief that saying “Bless You” after a sneeze would prevent the sneezer from getting the plague. Another reason for this custom is best explained by Millhouse in an episode of The Simpsons that when you sneeze your soul tries to escape your body and saying “Bless You” crams it back in.

I do slip up from time to time. Recently we were walking along side by side at an outdoor mall. Lost in my thoughts, I realized that I was walking alone. I turned to find her staring at me with her head cocked to one side and her hands on her hips. “What?” I asked. “A stranger blessed me”, she said pointedly. “I’m sorry, I don’t follow” I replied densely. “I sneezed, and a stranger had to bless me because my own mother didn’t.” It took a moment for this to register, but the twinkling in her eye and her struggle not to smile made me laugh, because she, too, is a watchful listener. She knows me well enough to know that even though sneeze blessings are not my strength, I will try to meet this need because it is important to her.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
Proverbs 25:11

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive

Here Come the Waves, starring Bing Crosby and Betty Hutton opens in theatres around the country in 1944, at a time when the United States is heavily involved in World War II. Ninety million Americans are going to the movies every week. The war has dramatically changed the nature of the movies, which are no longer mere entertainment, but a valuable morale-booster, and an instrument of public education. On this particular Saturday, one 15 year old boy sits glued to his seat, his eyes as big as saucers, lost in the scene before him.

Saturday at the movies is a fairly new treat. His family has recently moved to Oklahoma City from a small, nearby farm town. With new, better paying jobs that can more easily be found in a big city, they now own a radio, which provides hours of entertainment. But it is a hot Saturday afternoon in the summer, and this boy is treating himself to a Saturday afternoon at the matinee, having worked all week at Borden’s loading ice cream trucks. This Saturday should have been like any other, a two hour escape into another world. But on this particular day, in this particular movie, a song is introduced that would impact not only this boy’s life, but the lives of generations to come. It goes like this:

Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive (Don’t Mess With Mr. In-Between)

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale
Noah in the ark
What did they do just when everything looked so dark?

Man, they said we better
Accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between
Oh no. Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.

Written by Johnny Mercer and Composed by Harold Arlen in 1944

That young boy left that theatre whistling the new tune. Over time, he grew up, got married, and became my dad. My dad is now almost 78 years old. Over the years, he has hummed, sung, or whistled that tune too many times to count. I remember as little children, piling into the car so he could drive us to school. As the bickering, whining, and general bad attitude bubbled to the surface, he did not scold; he did not lecture; he did not even demand that we ride in silence. He simply looked straight ahead as he drove and burst into song…You gotta accent-tchu-ate the positive, e-lim-i-nate the negative, latch on to the affirmative; don’t mess with Mr. In-Between. As he sang, his voice got sillier and he turned and made goofy faces until we burst out laughing and joined in the singing, our woes quickly forgotten. It was not just the drive to school. He was liable to burst into this song anytime…anywhere…in front of anyone.

About 32 years after he saw that movie, I started singing that song to my children. You can imagine the lump in my throat when I recently heard my daughter rocking her son, softly singing the song his great-grandfather first learned 62 years ago.

Now I’m not saying that movies, TV shows, or popular songs are generally profound. Certainly, my dad who loves to sing can be heard on any given day singing, whistling, or humming a song of praise and worship. What has made this song stand out in our family is that it came from an unlikely source, Hollywood, and yet is rich with biblical principals, and sound advice, not to mention a catchy tune. Having said that, except for the catchy tune part, I think the apostle Paul said it best:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything excellent or praise worthy- think about such things……And the God of peace will be with you.”
Philipians 4:4-8

Can’t you just see Paul singing that song in prison………