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Barrie Kirby: Plenty to Think About

Don’t tell them I said so. But there are some ways my family members can annoy me. When my daughters are home, they leave their possessions all over the house. When they unload the dishwasher, they don’t always put things in the right place. Then I can’t find the utensil or baking dish I need. They leave the bathroom fan running. They leave the lights on when no one is in the room. And my husband? He lives with me all the time, so there are even more ways that he can annoy me. Like what he does with his shirt sleeves. He always wears his oxford cloth shirts rolled up to the elbows. When he takes off his shirts, he drops them in the hamper with the sleeves still rolled up. So when I do the laundry, I have to unroll those sleeves as I put his shirts in the washer.

Yes, there are ways my family members annoy me. There might even be some ways I annoy them. But in spite of the ways we annoy each other, we are a pretty good family. I have learned over the years that it is possible to ruin a good marriage or a good family or a good friendship or a good job or a good church simply by dwelling on the annoyances.

That’s why the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8). Paul could have said to focus on whatever is false, whatever is disgraceful, whatever is unjust, impure, or displeasing, or disappointing, all that is mediocrity and anything worthy of criticism. But that’s not what he said. Thank God, that’s not what Paul said.

It is both a blessing and a curse of being human that we can imagine something better than what is. That ability is a blessing because if we could not imagine something better, we would not make improvements or advancements. But the ability to imagine something better is a curse when it keeps us from being grateful for what is good. The bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, so the saying goes. It’s those two imaginary birds that keep us from enjoying and being grateful for the real bird in our hand.

And the perfect -— albeit imaginary — spouse, or family, or job, or community or church can keep us from enjoying and being grateful for the real albeit imperfect ones God has given to us. Often we are so intent on the birds in the bush–the romanticized spouse in our heads, the ideal job, the perfect church–that we fail to appreciate the bird we have.

No matter how many times I’ve asked him, my husband doesn’t remember to unroll those sleeves when he takes off his shirts. So I’ve stopped asking him. And you know what else? I’ve quit being annoyed when I do the laundry and see those rolled up shirt sleeves. One day I realized that if I outlive my husband, I am going to miss him when I do the laundry and have no shirt sleeves to unroll. So now when I unroll those sleeves to put the shirts in the wash, I say a little prayer thanking God that I still have a husband — a kind, loving, albeit imperfect husband who puts up with all the things I do that annoy him.

And my daughters who leave their possessions all over the house still want to come home. Not all mothers can say that of their grown children. So I cut them some slack about the lights and the fan. And when I’m looking for a baking dish that isn’t in the cabinet where I keep it, I thank God that my daughters not only come home, but they actually help around the house, even if they do not do everything the way I do it myself.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. During this Thanksgiving week, we have plenty to think about. Let’s think about the imperfect people whose lives have blessed us and say prayers of thanks to God.

Barrie Miller Kirby is pastor of Spencer Presbyterian Church. Her novel “No Such Thing as a Cherokee Princess” is available at createspace.com, amazon.com and the Literary Bookpost.

 

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