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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

by Doug Wysockey-Johnson

The great philosopher Jimmy Buffet sang “Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, nothing remains quite the same.”  I can’t say I know what was inside his mind when he wrote those words, but they ring true for me. It is true in all realms of life, but today I am thinking in particular of our work in the world.    Latitude changes are outside things, external things.  Changes in latitude involve things like recessions, new bosses, and Supreme Court decisions about health care. Things happen in the world that impact our work from the outside, moving us to a new latitude.

But Buffet also speaks about changes in attitudes, and those are internal things.  Sometimes the change comes from the inside out.  Just yesterday I spoke with a lawyer who is revisiting her sense of calling to her work.  Mary is clear that her work is ministry, but something is welling up from the inside that needs attention.  She has a good job that she enjoys, but there is a kind of unsettledness that has emerged.  She is going to make it a focus of her prayer life, and schedule intentional conversations with a few good friends.

 Changes in latitudes and changes in attitudes are related.  A latitude change can alter our attitude; an attitude change can lead to a change in latitude.  Either way, “nothing remains quite the same.”

What to do and how we respond to the many changes around us is a matter of call.  Is this external change (e.g. a new policy at work) something I need to support, fight, or accept?  Is this internal feeling important to listen to, or just last night’s burrito that isn’t digesting quite right?    What of all this deserves my time and energy?  How will this impact others around me?  What will it do to my physical, emotional and spiritual health?  How will it impact the checkbook? 

Sometimes I find it helpful to return to the famous “Serenity Prayer,” written by Reinhold Niebuhr:

       God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
      Courage to change the things I can,
      And wisdom to know the difference.

There is so much change happening around us all the time.  I think I could pray this prayer every day and still find someplace in my life where it is relevant.  The words are simple and true.  But beyond the words, the prayer points to Someone solid in the midst of the changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes.  

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