■ Brian Foxworth / Contributed
Recall for a moment one of the phrases a parent or grandparent always said to remind you of how you ought to act. Perhaps you can even recall how you were actually acting in that moment you heard it. My parents always said, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”
We live in a culture where not saying anything at all can be construed as weakness. What I learned was that it is shocking how easy it is, however, to give in to anger and the desire to belittle others to build one’s self up. Real strength lies in the ability to build others up in all you do through affirmation and kindness. 1 Corinthians 1:4-5 reads, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind.”
Paul reminds us that being kind and saying “good” things is not just about avoiding strife or being civil. It is about reflecting the gratitude we have in our hearts because of the love God has for us.
Looking back, my parents were not just trying to get me to act like I wasn’t raised by rabid wolves. In fact I believe now that if you practice saying mostly kind things it changes your very way of living because you are forced to look for the goodness in all situations. That, in turn, leads to seeking out the goodness in even the most impossible of situations.
A few years ago my wife and I took a group of youth from the church to New Orleans for a youth gathering and outreach to rebuild a community still reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans in July for a group of Californians is not what I would call hospitable, weather-wise. So we created a game where, every time we felt like complaining about the heat and humidity, we would instead come up with something for which to be thankful.
For instance, “I feel like my whole body is dripping in sweat,” would instead be phrased: “My skin is going to be so smooth and youthful because it is so well-moisturized right now.”
Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where people of all different religions, cultures and ideologies can join together and give thanks for all the blessings they have in their lives. We encourage the laying down of division to seek solidarity, kindness, love of neighbor and so many other things that sure sound Biblical.
But do we have to have turkey, stuffing, football and the myriad of other family traditions to do that? What would the rest of the year look like if we honored God and ourselves by seeking to find goodness instead of things to complain about; to share acts of mutual respect instead of putting others down because they are slightly different than us; to share the bounty of what we have with others instead of just being concerned about getting more for ourselves? That sounds like something to be truly thankful for!
Blessings to you all as you gather at the table and remember to pass the stuffing and not just stealthily keep it in front of you!
Brian Foxworth is pastor of Spirit of Joy Community Church, 3126 W. Johnston Ave. in Hemet and has been a hospice chaplain in the Valley for nearly 10 years. Before taking on those roles he studied at California Lutheran University, receiving a bachelor’s in biology and philosophy. He earned master’s degrees in bioethics and clinical ministry at Loma Linda University and holds a Master of Divinity degree from Pacifica Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley. When not running after his two little ones, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, tinkering with RC cars, reading, music and spending time with his family and friends.