By Alex Anderson, Senior Associate Pastor at Bayside Community Church
My Uncle Mutt always smiled. His real first name was Eugene, but everyone called him Mutt. Late at night, sitting around a pot of Maxwell House coffee, my Dad and Uncle Mutt would tell jokes and “side splitting” hunting and fishing stories until around 2:00 am. Glued to every word and facial expression these two giant storytellers would dish out, I would fight as long as a ten year old could, at the kitchen table to stay awake.
These men loved coffee and each other. For gifts, they would buy for each other the most ridiculous coffee cups they could find. Then when together, they would fill these goofy cups with boiling black coffee.
I remember one Friday night around 10:00 pm as my dad was pouring himself yet another cup he said, “Well Mutt, it looks like we have ran out of coffee.” I jumped to my feet to make a pot so they could keep the stories rolling. When the coffee was finished I poured some for Uncle Mutt and as he looked into the cup with a hairy wrinkled unibrow, he paused, then looked back at me and said, “Is this suppose to be coffee?” I said, “Yes sir” proudly and he said, “It can’t be.” I was deflated and asked, “Why not Uncle Mutt?” He said, “Cause I can see the bottom of the cup.” And he smiled his famous Cheshire Cat grin.
Back at the stove, and very determined, I dumped about ¼ lb. of Maxwell House Coffee grounds in the same pot while they turned back and continued laughing and chuckling. When the pot boiled I flooded my uncle’s cup again, held my breath and waited. He peered into the cup then poured a little of the scalding aromatic brew into a saucer. He gave it a fan with his hand then he raised the saucer to his lips and slowly sucked the coffee from the edge. Only after downing a couple of saucers did he then turn to me, cocked his head slightly, winked and said, “Now that my boy, is a cup of coffee.” I grinned from ear to ear. I loved my Uncle Mutt.
That memory is over 43 years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. I have many wonderful memories and many depressing ones. But I have chosen to become the curator of this amazing library of my yester-years. I have learned to find the good and the cheerful. I have turned villains into heroes and monsters into saints.
Why would I do such a thing? Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to be “real?” Well actually, I am being real. I have chosen to galvanize my mind to the thoughts that create true and admirable movies in my heart. Using my memories, I am the producer, the director and the screenwriter. Granted it’s been as tough as nails at times and I’ve wanted to send the heroes and saints back to the evil place I found them in my past. It also took a lot of hunting and pecking around my memories, but I found enough to create my version of It’s A Wonderful Life.
After I realized that I had the power, not the villains and monsters, to create my own blockbuster movies in my heart, I could choose to make a Jimmy Stewart, Oscar-Winner or a trashy “C” movie that’s a waste of time, with no life-giving value.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. ~Philippians 4:8 NLT
It’s also to my advantage to nose around my memories and find something, even if it is small, to “fix my thoughts on.” I’ve known some pretty mean rascals, and yet every one of them had something admirable that I could pull off the shelf of my heart and put into my basket to create my Oscar winner. See ‘I become’ like the movies I watch over and over in my heart. Over time they shape my actions and I become either bitter or better.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. ~Proverbs 4:23 NLT
The movies I play in my mind affect how I feel. If I want to be depressed and unmotivated then I play the C movies of pain and shame. If I want to feel motivated and full of joy, I play my version of Jimmy Stewart’s, It’s A Wonderful life.
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength ~Proverbs 17:22 New Living Translation
This holiday season give yourself “The Gift of Joyful Thought.” If you do, you’ll feel awesome and wiil have a Merry Christmas.
To your spiritual health, Alex E. Anderson
Author, Dangerous Prayers