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Is Optimism always Positive?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

35  Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36  (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (NLT2)

In the Christian catalogue of virtues, despair—that is, the radical opposite of faith and hope—is listed as a sin against the Holy Spirit, because it fails to take into account his power to heal and to forgive and thus rejects redemption. Correspondingly, in the new religion, “pessimism” is the sin of all sins, for doubt with regard to optimism, progress, and utopia is a frontal attack on the spirit of the current age: a contesting of its fundamental credo, on which its certainty rests, although it is, nonetheless, constantly threatened in view of the weakness of talk about a “make-believe” God………….
It was once again evident that there is no greater sin against the spirit of the age than to put oneself in a position where one can be accused of a lack of optimism. The question was certainly not: “Is what has been said true or not true? Are the diagnoses right or wrong?” I have been able to find no evidence that anyone took the trouble to investigate such outmoded questions. The criterion was very simple: “Is it or is it not optimistic?” And given this criterion, the book was, of course, condemned.

When I was growing up, there was a book my parents had me read called, “The Power of Positive Thinking.”  It took a lot of criticism, as did Pastor Robert Schuler,  who preached a message of positivity and wrote books which talked about how faith helped people go from trauma to healing.

They received a lot of criticism, and while I am not sure they deserved it, some took their thoughts and words and turned it into a narcissistic, “I will be blessed” religion.

We’ve gone a lot further than that today.  Now as Benedict indicated in the quote above, anything that is not optimistic is considered negative, and even evil.  An example is bringing to light the problems in our city where young men are besieged by violence, some of which is gang-related, and some of which is an overreaction by authorities in fear of being victims themselves.  

We don’t want to hear about that, it is such a negative thing to talk about.

Or the situations of kids “in the system” who bounce from house to house, unable to ever relax in a home.  There are other injustices out there, elder abuse, child abuse, the damage done by drugs to individuals and their families, 

But let’s not mention these problems, because if we do, the idea of America being utopia could be called into question.

Blind optimism is one of the worst curses today, it is the enemy of faith. It denies reality, and therefore it denies our need for God to be involved in our lives!   Jesus said the well do not need a doctor, and yet we optimistically go around saying all is well.

Paul talks in Romans 8 that all things work for good, and that nothing can separate us from God.  These statements are certainly true, yet they are an inventory of the challenges we will face.  True faith and the positive thinking approach cannot exist without hardship, without facing the reality of our brokenness, and then, depending on God, be assured that He will not let go of us.

God is here with you, comforting you, healing you, renewing you.  

The challenge is in realizing you need Him, and that takes an openness to the truth of wh you are…without him.  Not an overly optimistic one, (or overly pessimistic one… but one that rejoices sin that we were once, lost, but now found, once blind, but now we see…HIM!

May God’s peace, which goes so far beyond our comprehension, guard your hearts and mind… as you realize you dwell in Christ Jesus!  AMEN!

 

 

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 293–294). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

The Christian Religion; A Confident, Holy, Healing Walk With God.

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
9  The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins. 10  But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that Day the heavens will disappear with a shrill noise, the heavenly bodies will burn up and be destroyed, and the earth with everything in it will vanish. 11  Since all these things will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people should you be? Your lives should be holy and dedicated to God, 2 Peter 3:9-11 (TEV)

26 Augustine also reminds us that we would understand the word “faith” in the Scriptures to mean confidence in God, assurance that God is gracious to us, and not merely such a knowledge of historical events as the devil also possesses.

378    Don’t be a pessimist. Don’t you realize that everything that happens or can happen is for the best? Optimism will be a necessary consequence of your faith. (2)

As I was going through my devotions this morning, there was a simplicity to the various readings I do.  It’s Monday, so a review of the basics seems appropriate.
The definition of faith found in the second quote got my mind moving.  Especially that word “confidence.”  Augustin is correct of course, and the amateur theologian sees the Latin for faith, “fide”, buried right in the middle.  To live life, not just believing in God, but having a relationship so deep, so nurtured by Him, that we trust Him.  To have faith means, we have confidence in His working in every part of our life.

That can only come from knowing God’s desire is not to condemn mankind, but to show us love, to cleanse and heal us from brokenness, to set us apart for a relationship with Him.  We trust Him do what He has promised! We know His heart and desire is to save us, to have us dwell in His peace.  We know His beauty,we know that He loves us, you and I.  Put you nickname there, God loves me.

Amazing!

That is why reading scripture is so essential in my life. Not because pastors and holy folk have to do it but to hear more of God’s heart toward us, to grow in our trust of God.  To know that He makes all things, even pain and suffering, work for good because we love Him, we trust our God and our Heavenly Father.

That is why St Josemaria (and Luther for that matter) could speak of living confidently, even though he knew physical pain, and suffered in many ways.  (his biography is fascinating!) Even though he ministered in the midst of war and famine, in spite of adversity.  Luther as well knew these things, as did those who accompanied him. They, like so many who had and have confidence in God’s love for them, endured and even looked at life optimistically while they endured.

They knew the promise of Romans 8 well, that all things would work out as a blessing, that nothing could separate you from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Not because of intellectually understanding anything, but because they knew God, knew His constant and continual presence, knew the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit, which is unlike anything in the world…..

They had confidence in God.  Knew He would fulfil every promise…from saving us from sin to dying on Cross, to rising from the dead to uniting to us in that journey.

That makes an eternity of difference and affects our lives each day.

Trust in Him, have confidence in His love and greet everything in His life, as an incredible blessing!

 

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 45). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 960-961). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is your life of faith a struggle? Yes? Great!!!!!!

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day…..

WARNING –  THIS BLOG WILL BE SOMEWHAT BRUTALLY HONEST AND CAUSTIC

12  I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. 13  Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. 14  I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. 15  So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! 16  Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.   Philippians 3:12-16 (MSG)

  Another paradox of the spiritual way: the soul which has less need to reform its behaviour struggles harder to do so, and does not stop until it has succeeded. And the contrary is also true. (1)

Back in the 1980’s, there was a saying, “life’s a bitch, and then you die….”   There are days I think we said things like that.. and were a bunch of whiney little brats.  There are other days, where looking at the pains of life, whether physical or emotional or spiritual, and the saying is dead on accurate.

Life isn’t always easy.   The life of faith, living each day trusting in God’s promises, isn’t easier.  If anything, it takes more courage, more strength of character, more trust, not blind trust, but committed trust to promises that can only be known within our heart and soul.  You see, our mind will tell us, over and over again, that such trust is based in nothing, that there is no tangible evidence for it.   People will mock you for it, and there will be days so trying of our faith, that we won’t know which way to turn.

And yet, a life lived in faith is more determined to prevail.  We struggle harder, we search harder, we do not stop or give up.  Even when we are crushed, beaten, depressed, wiped out, when nothing makes sense.  When we battle against sin, our sin, “their” sin, the damage caused by centuries and millennia of people just like us.   Somehow, no not somehow, because of the trust God has given us, because He has revealed Himself to us, we endure.  We realize that there is something more that what we struggle with, that there is more strength that we have been given, that every challenge is not so much a challenge to overcome, but a challenge to trust.

And so we do.

A friend’s dad was often mocked as a proponent of positive thinking.  He wasn’t the kind of pastor who proclaimed that if we believe we’ll be rich, we will be, not the name it claim it type of positive thinking.  But instead the kind of positive thinking shown in Paul’s epistle above – that we can strive, that we can keep going, that in the toughest times, God’s presence brings us toughness.  That the scars that we carry, are used by God to cause in us growth, such growth that is remarkable.  Not because we are tougher, but because we are more aware of His presence in our life.  You see, we have no option but Jesus, we have no comfort but His presence.

And yes we struggle – hard.  Even as Paul notes that Christ has already reached out, saved and secured us… we still have to struggle with what that means.  Even as life is painful.  Even as we see people struggle financially, losing jobs, not having enough money to pay bills.  Even as we see others deal with family crises.  Even as we see people deal with heart disease or cancer, with memory issues or just getting old.  As we see people struggle with the fact that they are in bondage to sin… or they try to ignore that fact, because of the grip that sin has on them.  And so we wait and pray, and pray, and attempt here and there to help them realize their sin, that they may realize the blessing of God’s mercy.

As St. Josemarie says – the more we know these things – the more we mature in our faith and yes, in our battle against sin, the harder it comes….

Greater as well though grows the strength and desire to push on, to lay ahold of these truths, to trust in the Lord who has grasped us.   Our effort redoubles, our desire begins to conform to His.

For our trust in Him grows… each and every time we see His hand at work.

We don’t find life easier, we don’t find it simpler… but we don’t need to… for we know He will bring us through all things…

Of that we can be positive.  Our positive thinking has nothing to do with us… and everything to do with Him.

So is life a struggle?  Is trusting in Jesus challenging?  That’s okay… the struggle is worth far more… than the lack of struggling could be…

Oh and btw  – the “die” in the phrase that started this blog?  Have you considered what comes after our death?  Exactly what is promised to us when we died spiritually in our baptism into Christ.  The difference is we shall see Him face to face!

Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Je...

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 858-860). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Blog of/for the Tired and Wondering if it all Matters…

English: Jesus Christ saving the souls of the ...

English: Jesus Christ saving the souls of the damned. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  “If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. 26  Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. 27  “Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? 28  All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, 29  but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. 30  “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? 31  What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. 32  People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 33  Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34  “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  Matthew 6:25-34 (MSG) 

 When you pray, but see nothing, and feel flustered and dry, then the way is this: don’t think of yourself. Instead, turn your eyes to the Passion of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Be convinced that he is asking each one of us, as he asked those three more intimate Apostles of his in the Garden of Olives, to “Watch and pray”.  (1)

This morning, I am a more than a bit anxious. more than a bit distracted, more than a bit pessimistic about life, and in someways, about the future.

I know part of it is being tired… a long day of driving yesterday… and still recovering from surgery.   Part of it is based on what seems to be overload from dealing with some very serious issues within my denomination and the direction it will head.  A direction that will very seriously impact the church’s mission of bringing Christ’ love and peace into the world seems to be the way we are being lead.  (I know God will work through others… He always His people get stubborn and centered on the wrong things… but I still grieve to see it)  And a million other details for which, post surgery, I know I am not ready to deal with, from the idea of strength. 

And looking at it all, I have to wonder whether it is worth it at all.  Whether the weakness and dryness I feel this morning, will ever be diminished.  I wonder if my “neither optimist or pessimist but let’s drink the liquid in the glass” will return.  

The fussiness seems to be dominant, (others versions use anxious or worried) easily distracting me from the peace that I know is ours. I have trouble seeing how the “everyday human concerns” and the concern for our churches will be dealt with, never mind how they will work for good for those God has called, those whom He loves.

I opened the wrong book for reading at the end of my devotions yesterday.  Meant to open “the Way”, opened on my Kindle, “the Forge” instead.  There was St. Josemaria’s quote, hitting me in the face.  This morning the gospel passage came to mind… and I know, in the midst of my despair, the hope that is always there.  I realize the promise are not in vain, even in the darkness of the day.  God is working, the cross is near, the resurrection and immanent as the incarnation.  And the gateways of Hell will not be able to stand against God’s will, against the truth that Jesus is the Chosen and Annointed One.. that He is our Savior, and the Lord who loves and cares for His people.

It’s enough… to help me to refocus, to remember that passion of Christ… to count on it… even when, especially when… the gettup and go… fails…………

“The Lord is with you!”  (exclamation intended) I will cry tomorrow… and know it today…

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2717-2721). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Don’t Confuse me with an Optimist…

Devotional Thought of the Day….

I long ago came up with, what is my theory of life.

An optimist looks at a 20 oz beverage container holding 10 oz of fluid and calls it half full. A pessimist looks at the same container and calls it half empty. I walk over drain the mug of beer, ticking off the optimist and the pessimist simultaneously. It was a good beer, the container served its purpose, and I caused opposing sides of an argument to be united. (against me – but that is cool) That’s a very good day!  (1)

For some reason, I am occasionally mistaken for an optimist.  I’m not sure why.  I am certainly not a pessimist either, and I don’t fit on a line somewhere in between.

Don’t get me wrong – there are times I am sure everything is going to collapse around me, that the world is going to implode – and the proof of the possibility of that is that… well – I am here, therefore it could happen.  At the same time – I a pretty sure that if it does, it will be a truly glorious thing to witness, mind-blowing even, and that I will find myself thoroughly enjoying the spectacle!

This weirdness in me is developed in part – by a long list of tragedies and traumas I have seen in life, either experiencing them myself ( for example my heart issues and marfans syndrome, my dropping out of college, my motorcycle accident, heck I could fill a blog) or by those I’ve walked beside, as they have seen God cause them to persevere and endure in peace …even unto death.

I’ve seen to much to be a carefree, naive, optimist who thinks everything is coming up roses.  I have seen God’s action in those times nearly as often (sometimes I admit I can’t see them) to be a “the sky is falling” pessimist.  Sure  I will rant and rave at times, or celebrate a bit too early in other times.   But overall, I am neither, or both, finding the joy in suffering, and the soberness in joy.

Maybe it is that my optimism is found, in that same place as faith, as trusting in God to fulfill specially what He has promised.

I like how St Josemaria put it,

“659      Christian optimism is not a sugary optimism; nor is it a mere human confidence that everything will turn out all right. It is an optimism that sinks its roots in an awareness of our freedom, and in the sure knowledge of the power of grace. It is an optimism which leads us to make demands on ourselves, to struggle to respond at every moment to God’s calls.” (2)

Call it “baptismal” optimism – the attitude we have in knowing that which God has given and done to us, when He claimed us as His people, when He cleansed our lives, and bound and sealed us with the gift of the Holy Spirit, the never-ending presence of God in our lives.  Knowing that because of the grace poured out there, our lives are renewed, revitalized!  That sin and shame and guilt and fearing death and Satan no longer have a hold on us, that we enter God’s presence and abide there confidently in peace.

There – instead of naively assuming that everything will work out right, or that everything is sure to fail, we can engage the attitude Paul describes as ours..

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:6-9 (NLT

Live in your baptismal grace my friends… and rejoice… not just because all things will work out for good for those that love God, but that they will, because you abide in Christ..

 

 

(1)  DT Parker – ~1988

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2424-2428). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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