Vanity Plates: Inspiration or Indictment?
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson
One of the most thrilling experiences of my life was catalyzed by a bumper sticker. It asked a simple question, “What ever happened to the dreams of your youth?”
I passed the car and began cataloguing some of my youthful dreams that I had allowed to slip into the recesses of my mind. By the time I arrived at home, I had chosen one to fulfill. Skydiving. I did it.
Recently, I was similarly riveted by a vanity license plate, on a car. It simply read “NMYHRT!” I don’t know what the driver had in mind when she chose that tag. My mind immediately began searching for cognates in my memory. Songs from youth began to resonate in my mind. There’s within my heart a melody…”, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart…”, But the song that goes, “Lord, I want to be a Christian, in my heart…” resonated in my being. My car became a sanctuary as I rehearsed those songs in my mind.
Later in the day, I thought about the biblical line in Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) that says, “For as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” Building upon that refrain, I remembered a paragraph that I had memorized from the book by James Allen “As a Man Thinketh.” The quote was, “The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state…Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.”
Flowing from that stream of consciousness, I then reflected on another biblical line from the Gospel of Matthew 12:34 (KJV). It says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” It means that what ever thoughts reside in the recesses or forefront of your consciousness, will eventually be manifest in your speech, deeds and maybe even subconscious/reflex actions.
I then remembered a line that my father reiterated in my youth when he exhorted me to clean up my room. He would say, “People can tell a lot about your character by looking at your horizontal spaces and your closet.” My suits, sport coats, pants, shirts and ties are hung in an orderly manner. The suits and shirts hang from light to dark, left to right and my shirts similarly. Old clothes in good shape are donated.
Recently, I found a suit and a few shirts that had small holes in them. Moths? I discarded them. My desk, well, I know where everything is, most of the time. Regularly, I must clear my desk, file what is important and discard what is not.
All of this ruminating was prompted by those 7 characters on the rear bumper of a car. Now I think, was it inspirational or indicting? I think both because it forced me to think about my thought life and how badly I need to attend that closet. What is on the horizontal spaces of my consciousness? What is on yours?
If what is in my heart is reflected by who I am, what I have and if what I am experiencing is the product of my thoughts, I have some work to do. We all do.
Join me in a new quest! Let’s examine and if necessary, reorder the closet and horizontal spaces of our interiors. Discarding old, tattered or destructive mindsets may give us more spiritual and emotional energy.
Embracing and exploring some of the ideas and dreams that lie as eggs in the ovaries of our souls, may restore fertility, verve and productivity in our lives.
Enthusiasm is catalyzed in the uncluttered soul. What’s in your heart?
Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.
Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Columbia Union College (WAU) in Takoma Park, Maryland. He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees–a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.