Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, 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.
I wondered how counting cars painted green could make a difference in a man’s life. My friend Bob told me; my friend Bob showed me!
But first, I must tell you something about Bob. He had that way of making people happy, of making people feel good about life and good about themselves. I thought of Bob like a Labrador retriever coming towards me: all wag and big smile. One look at Bob and you would know that he was at peace with God and himself, inviting you to be at peace with yourself as well.
Bob surprised me one day when he told me that he had not always been like that. He wasn’t born or raised that way. Bob had to learn to live that way. It happened when Bob’s life hit bottom and he couldn’t see any way out. A friend took Bob aside and gave him an assignment: “I want you to count every car you see tomorrow painted green. Then tomorrow night I want you to call me and report how many green cars you counted.”
The friend’s assignment didn’t make any more sense to Bob than it did to me when Bob told me about it. But Bob was miserable and was willing to give anything a try. So dutifully the next morning Bob started counting green cars as he drove to work. Bob said that he expected to see a lot of cars painted white, black and silver, but not many painted green. Bob told me he was surprised by how many green cars he saw that day.
That night Bob called his friend, feeling a little bit foolish to report on the number of green cars he saw. “Wonderful!” Bob’s friend responded. “That really is wonderful! Now tomorrow I want you to count again all the cars you see painted green and call me tomorrow night to report.”
Again, Bob did as his friend asked, and counted what seemed to him an expanding universe of cars painted green. But when he called his friend that night to report, Bob couldn’t keep from asking: “Why am I doing this? Why am I counting cars painted green?”
“Well Bob,” his friend began, “I bet you had no idea that there were so many green cars until you started looking for them.” Bob agreed. “The truth is,” his friend continued. You look for people who are mean and you will find them, plenty. But you look for love and kindness and beauty and you will find that too.” Then came the clincher: “Bob, you find what you look for.”
If you had known Bob you would have known a man who found what he learned to look for. He started going at life every day looking for love and goodness and beauty. Bob told me that every day he found what he looked for. By looking for love, goodness and beauty, he became a conduit of God’s love and goodness and beauty to those he met. Like the aperture of a camera opening wide to receive more light, so Bob opened wide his life to receive the light of God in the world. It has been a few years since my dear friend Bob Coots went home to be with Jesus, but he has me looking for ‘green cars’ every day.
I think that the apostle Paul must have been like my friend Bob. Sitting in a cold, squalid Roman prison, he writes to Philippian Christians who were also suffering pain. In a sense Paul was telling them to go out and count green cars: to look for things “true…honourable…just…pure…
…pleasing…commendable…of excellence…worthy of praise.” “Think about these things” Paul tells them. Dwell on these things.
The great apostle Paul knew something that Bob learned later: “We find what we look for.”
Looking for grace and peace,