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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.

Why do We Seize Defeat in the Midst of Victory?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  I lie defeated in the dust; revive me, as you have promised. 26  I confessed all I have done, and you answered me; teach me your ways. 27  Help me to understand your laws, and I will meditate on your wonderful teachings. 28  I am overcome by sorrow; strengthen me, as you have promised. 29  Keep me from going the wrong way, and in your goodness teach me your law.   Psalm 119:25-29 (TEV)

205      Tell Our Lord with your whole heart: In spite of all my wretchedness I am madly in Love!, I am drunk with Love!  (1)

I understand the cry fo the Psalmist,

There are days I want to lie in defeat, to just give up the fight.

Oh, I bravely dismiss this in front of others, half joking that I want Jesus to return tomorrow.

Yet even as I say that, even as I assure the others of the truth we all know and depend on, that God is with us, even as we know this, like the psalmist, we can be overcome with sorrow.

There are times where this lesson seems like a never ending rollercoaster, as we bottom out in despair, as God lifts us up and we catch our breath, another wave of sorrow swamps us.

We aren’t the first to learn this lesson, one only has to hear the words of beloved hymns, such as

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul

or

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said.”For hate is strong. And mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

You can’t read the great pastors of the church, from Chrysostom, Augustine and Luther, to the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, without hearing this echoing rollercoaster.  Psalm 199 times cries out for God to revive us, not in parallelism, or as a chorus, even as we hear it across so many of the Psalms, across the prophets.

The answer, of course, is always the same.

God is not dead, it is well with our souls, He has revived us in Christ!

THE LORD IS WITH US!

Yes!  We need to hear this over and over, for the waves will come, we will have those times where we feel like we are defeated, the temptation will be to believe that we can’t go on another moment.  We want to snatch defeat, right in the midst the victory we have gained, when the Spirit of God descended upon us in Baptism, and united us to the death of Christ, that we may live.  That our lives would be abundant and filled with the love of God.

In the midst of the anxiety, the agony and stress, these words of St Josemaria wring out – and it is hard to fathom, but knowing God is with us brings hope, as we learn to be thankful, as we learn to adore Him.  Yes – we adore the Lord who allows the storms, but also is there, assuring us, comforting us, helping us to remember the peace which He has given us.

For this is what we know, it is what we teach, it is what we depend upon, and it is real.

We just need to be reminded, often.  Even as the night is still dark, and we wait for the sun to rise.  It shall, He has promised.

AMEN!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 907-908). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Refuge for A Tiring Monday…..

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image2  For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3  I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling….. 5  I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:2,5 (NLT)

19  So far as the Law is concerned, however, I am dead—killed by the Law itself—in order that I might live for God. I have been put to death with Christ on his cross, Galatians 2:19 (TEV)

We live in a world where mental ability is rewarded.  But the heart is not trained.  It just muddles along.  Soon we know more and more, and understand less and less.  (1)  (emphasis mine)

770      When you walk where Christ walked; when you are no longer just resigned to the Cross, but your whole soul takes on its form—takes on its very shape; when you love the Will of God; when you actually love the Cross… then, only then, is it He who carries it. (2)

It was a long, busy weekend, and I am very tired, and thanks to some allergies… wiped out more than usual.

Monday is the longest day of the week for me, most of the time, and I while I love what I do, this day will tire me more.  I know it, even as my aging body groans…..

No amount of knowledge will make it easier.  I won’t find the strength to endure in my knowledge of Greek, or in being able to discuss the communication of magisterial attributes of Christ.  Both things are blessings, but as my prayer book notes, there is a difference of knowing things, of acquiring data, and knowing something, or someone.

I loo around my office, and see the crosses, one painted by a friend, another some fancy hand stitching.  Crosses from Ecuador, from the Ukraine, from Rome and Estonia.   The latter one where Jesus’ body and ornately molded details have been word away from hundreds of years of people holding it close while they prayed.  People who probably could quote the great preachers in history, or the theologian whose works line seminary library walls.

But they knew where to find comfort and peace, in the midst of pain, or anxiety.  They went to the cross, and laid out their lives to the One who loved them. It’s why Paul modeled knowing Christ crucified alone, that they would place their trust in God, in Jesus with who they were crucified.

This goes so against the models of the world, which seeks knowledge for the mind, and allows the heart to struggle and barely survive. Even in the church, the focus is again moving towards a unbalanced focus on knowledge, of getting every aspect of theology, even the minutiae known.  We see a pursuit to explain the mysteries that are unexplainable, and are meant to be that way.  We don’t want to build the tower of Babel, rather a theological equivalent!

But what we need it not knowledge of the material of the cross, or the effective distance of the words of Institution.

we need our souls to live in Christ.  To know the height and depth, the width and breadth of His love, of His mercy, of His desire that we would all become His people.   That can’t be known with the mind alone.  It must be known in our soul, in our heart. That is where the Holy Spirit transforms us (see Ezekiel 36 and 37), as the Breath of God begins our life, and sustains it. (the mind is also transformed, but not just the data storage, but the ability to use that data)

St Josemaria words so resonate here… as do the Celts with Paul.  The cross, the place where suffering can make sense, the place of life….that is where we survive Monday.  It is where our heart, our soul, our mind find the love of God, and find Him carrying all that afflicts us, indeed, it is where He carries us.  For we dwell in Him, in His precious, sacred heart.

So it’s Monday.  You may not want to be where you are, you may be dragging, so much so that your pessimism can’t be overcome with three Trente coffees….. that’s okay…

Run tot he cross… cling to the Lord who died there… that you may live in Him forever.

AMEN

(1)  Celtic Prayer Book – Finian Readings for January 25th.
(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2768-2770). 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.

Hmmmm… another Monday? Lord Have Mercy!

Devotional Thought/Discussion Thought of the day….

“When he saw the happiness with which that hard work was being done, that friend asked: “Is it through enthusiasm that you get all these tasks done?” And they answered him happily and calmly: “Through enthusiasm…? That would be the day! Per Dominum Nostrum Iesum Christum!— through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is constantly awaiting us.”

(Escriva, Josemaria). Furrow )

My thoughts:
Not sure if its cultural, but there is something about Mondays that is… depressing.  I actually like what I do most Mondays, studying scripture for the following weeks sermons, working with whatever deacons the will go out and extend the ministry beyond what I am able to do… its all good stuff.

But it is so different from Sundays, so different it seems from the gathering of God’s people around His word, as they receive assurance of His love, and are told once again the unbelievable news – that sin and the injustice of the world does not invalidate them, for God has taken care of it.  I wrote yesterday – why can’t everyday just be Sunday?  Not because God doesn’t work on Mondays – He does… but my awareness is more attuned to how he does it on Sundays. 

The key is what Escriva noted above – that looking forward to the time when God’s people will be gathered into His presence- to know that He too is waiting for that – leads me to want to focus, so we can get back together.  It is as Paul wrote in Hebrews – Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…. 

 The joy that was set before Him, the Father’s joy as His children come home, as they celebrate the feast..as they enjoy the rest found in community – the people of God in the presence of God……

How do we get through Monday?  To realize that a new Sunday is coming 

How do we get through Life?  To realize that Sunday is a picture of the sabbath rest to come….

Until then… remember He is with you… and don’t hesitate to cry out “Lord Have Mercy!”  

For He has… and He always will!

 

Dt 

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