When I was pastoring in Bogata Texas I had an encounter that has ministered to me many times through the years. I was in the sanctuary of the church when the minister at the Baptist church came by to meet with me regarding a community Easter service. As with most United Methodist Churches, we had a special service planned for Maundy Thursday and had put up black curtains to make the sanctuary dark for the foot washing service. As Baptists tend not to be as liturgically oriented as us Methodists, Brother Park had some questions about what we were doing, and I don’t think he really understood even after I told him about our Maundy Thursday service. To break the moment of awkwardness of his not really understanding what we were doing and me thinking he was thinking we were engaged in something bizarre, he picked up a pamphlet we had for visitors titled, “What’s So Great About Being Methodist.” There was something in the way I heard him read the title that opened my mind that the title could have a positive or negative connotation. As there was no punctuation, was it making a statement about what are the positives things about being a part of the United Methodist Church? Or was it asking a question and, thereby making a statement, about what if anything is great about being a part of the United Methodist church. It’s all in the perspective, or attitude, one had in reading the pamphlet.
Attitude also plays a vital role in determining our life outlook. Are we generally happy and positive or are we typically angry and negative? Certainly we all have times when our mood is up and down, but as I think of this I also know that the most important factor in determining our mood and countenance is our attitude. In many ways attitude is a synonym for spirit. Do we have a positive or negative spirit? If our spirit is positive then I think we can say without too much argument that ours is of God’s Spirit, and visa versa. I have never known the Holy Spirit to be down or negative and my Wesleyan theology and understanding of grace teaches that it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can have a positive spirit or attitude. Yet, while God prefers us to live with a positive spirit, and is prepared to equip us with such, as with all things God gives us the grace and freedom to choose. Do we avail ourselves of God’s positive Holy Spirit, or do we allow ourselves to be drawn down by another, negative spirit?
Several years ago I was blessed by God’s grace as I was ministered to by a woman named Grace and her husband Al, who were members of the church I was serving at the time. I was visiting Grace who was receiving hospice care when in the course of this visit, Grace and Al ministered to me. As God was close to welcoming her home, Grace was at peace and her spirit was firmly connected to the Holy Spirit as she looked forward to “seeing Jesus.” Grace and Al were witnesses then, as they had been their entire lives, to the Gospel of Christ Jesus. A family friend was in the room and commented that neither of them were “glass is half full people,” but rather they were “glass is always full people.” Anyone who knew this special couple knew this to be the perfect description of their spirit and that it was their living witness to the power and reality of God’s Holy Spirit. But, for Grace and Al, and others we know who share the “full glass” attitude toward life, it is also the result of a choice they made to be intentional in living with and through God’s Spirit. The truth is that anyone can live in this “full glass” way. It only takes faith in God and the choice to do so. As with most things “full glass” spirit and living doesn’t come easily, regardless of desire. It takes practice living with and through the Holy Spirit. As with our bodies, our spirit must be exercised if it is going to be developed and strengthened enough to defy the gravity of the negative seeking to pull us down into the empty glass. The more we practice this living by and in the Spirit, the more we exercise our spirit and faith, and the more we can live life to the fullest even when our glass, in a worldly sense, has been drained.
In our lives at home, work, school, and church, there are events and times that are less than perfect, yet we have the choice to make. What will our attitude be? What is our spirit? Will we seek to see the positives and strive through God’s Spirit to correct and overcome the negatives? Or, will we allow ourselves to live in the negative and permit the positives to be consumed? It’s all in the attitude. It’s all in the spirit we live in and by, and it’s all our decision.