Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Rainbow Cheerios

My An Arkie's Faith column from the June 14, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

When my granddaughter was young, she would ask to listen to "those southern stories" when she rode with me. She was referring to a podcast called Tales from the South that I liked to listen to. The podcast features true stories written and told by the Southerners who lived them, in front of a live audience. One of her favorite stories was "Rainbow Cheerios" by Paul Strack. When she asked if we could listen to southern stories, she often added, "Can we listen to the Rainbow Cheerios story?" 

Paul starts his story by saying, "Cool – You have Rainbow Cheerios!" He explains that on the night of April 26, 2011, tornadoes hit the Mayflower, Arkansas, area. His 13-year-old daughter learned that the tornado destroyed her friend's house.

He asked the family, "What can we do to help?" The family needed someplace for their teenage daughters Rachael and Taylor to stay for a few days. Paul recounted, "With three teenagers of our own, and a 10-year-old to boot, we have a pretty good understanding of the adolescent attitude. What was odd and completely unexpected was the positively bubbly, effervescent attitude that these two brought with them. And to have this attitude after immediately being displaced was nothing short of remarkable."

When Paul told them how sorry he was for their loss, Taylor replied, "Oh well, what are you gonna do? It's just a bump in the road." Rachael quickly chimed in, "Yeah, they will bulldoze our house, and we will get to rebuild. And anyway, Mom finally gets to get her new carpet." He couldn't believe their positive attitude.

The following day at breakfast, Paul heard Rachael exclaim, "How cool!" Rachael repeated – "How Cool! You guys have Rainbow Cheerios!" In the podcast, Paul explained, "We often buy our more popular cereals in bulk and empty the contents into plastic containers so they stay fresh. (No, my own Fiber One is not one of these.) But we often do buy Fruit Loops. You know, those sweet and sugary rings full of all the colors of the rainbow. Cheerios have the Honey Nut version, the Frosted version, and the Banana Nut version, and now even the Multi-Grain version, but no rainbow version. Except through the eyes of Rachael."

Two days after a tornado destroyed her house, she could still find complete joy – in a bowl of multicolored cereal. Her attitude reminds me of the admonition found in James 1:2 (NIV); "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds." James explains, "You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:3,4 (NIV)

We are to consider the troubles we are going through pure joy, not because the trouble is pleasurable, but because it helps produce patience. At least one good thing is happening to us in the middle of our situation. Our suffering is more than just pain. God has a purpose, and that purpose is always good. "We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan." Romans 8:28 (VOICE) We can consider all things joyful because God is working in all situations, even the most painful, for our salvation.

When we have trouble, sorrow, and grief in our lives, we must be able to look to the future to find joy. Jesus is our example. "Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith. He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He focused on the joy that was set before Him; and now He is seated beside God on the throne, a place of honor." Hebrews 12:2 (VOICE)

Joy is more than just feeling good. Joy has to do with accepting our present circumstances and having a positive attitude. Our positive assessment is that God is still in control of our difficult circumstances, and in the end, all things work together for our good. "When my worry is great within me, Your comfort brings joy to my soul." Psalms 94:19 (NLV)

Charles R. Swindoll writes, "The single most significant decision I can make today is my choice of attitude." Suppose you let negative attitudes such as anxiety, envy, anger, or bitterness dominate your mind. In that case, those attitudes will lead you to make decisions that negatively affect your life. But if you choose with God's help to have a positive attitude, your life will become positive.

In 1988, Singer-Songwriter Bobby McFerrin recorded the song "Don't Worry, Be Happy," The lyrics say, "In every life, we have some trouble. But when you worry, you make it double. Don't worry, be happy. Don't worry, be happy now." Whenever you have trouble, avoid reacting negatively. You can't control situations or people, but you can choose how to respond.

Our attitudes are an outward display of what's taking place in our hearts. Although enduring problems with a smile and pure joy in our hearts can be difficult, doing so helps us become stronger and opens the door for an attitude transformation. The only thing we have to lose by choosing a positive attitude is a negative attitude.

Gentle Reader, "Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times." Romans 12:12 (NCV) "I heartily recommend that you pursue joy, for the best a person can do under the sun is to enjoy life. Eat, drink, and be happy. If this is your attitude, joy will carry you through the toil every day that God gives you under the sun." Ecclesiastes 8:15 (VOICE) So, what will you do when you hit a bump in the road? Where do you find your Rainbow Cheerios?

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