Can Optimism Rule?

julian-of-norwichI have to say, this one is a tough one to write. It’s tough because I am, at heart, an eternal optimist. Maybe its the way my brain is wired, or faith, or experience, or insight…or delusion, or any combination of therein. My life has not been easy or tragedy free. All I know, deep in my gut, my core is that all will be well and all manner of things will be well. So it is hard to admit, given how I’m wired…why I’ve struggled with pessimism lately.

Pessimism, you weigh heavy on the world like a thick blanket, and rightly so I suppose, given the circumstances, be it depression, disease, violence, poverty, isolation, ignorance or evil, it can be overwhelming. I have to remind myself daily, no hourly, and sometimes minute by minute that being an optimist doesn’t reject those bad things in the world, it simply means that you decide not to be defined or defeated by them. Life is, at times, hard and depressing because that is its nature. Hardship often presents the greatest lessons and growth, the most poignant evolution. And while my rational mind scoffs at this obvious conclusion, my emotional, more intuitive side stamps its foot at the difficulty and discomfort of it all. It’s at this point of the book when I want to skip over the hard and scary parts and jump to the conclusion and see how it all ends.

I know my life and movement is tethered to the many, that my single commitment to optimism is doomed if others can’t be swayed to jump on the hope train. The reason is that my faith demands that I be part of a larger body and help make it work. I am not alone, and yet I feel alone a lot of the time. There is unrest and anger that inhibits the function of the larger body I am part of. There is fear there too, paralyzing fear. Fear that is covered up by institutional mandates and paranoia that on the surface state that they are there for our own protection, but really serve no other purpose but to cut out those parts of the body that are felt to be less honorable. Remember what Paul said:

those parts of the body we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety. Whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

Being an optimist does require embracing at the most fundamental level that the dynamic gifts of each person on this planet are essential to keeping the body of Christ functional  in transforming our world to make it better. So to all you pessimists out there, if you can’t embrace the dynamic gifts of those you hold to be less honorable, then you doom us all. Your pessimism halts the function of the body. It makes it weak and susceptible to the very evils that were vanquished by the death, and resurrection of Christ.

I am vague on who the less honorable are, because they are different for every individual. You may hold gay people as less honorable, or transgender people, or straight people, poor people, or rich people, or powerful people, or famous people, or beautiful people,or the sick, the dying, the imprisoned. It doesn’t really matter who. What really matters is that you, pessimist, with your inability to see that each person is essential in God’s eye, limit the power and function of the most powerful body in existence. A body that has the superpowers of Grace and love, and a gospel of instructions on how to make the body move. It would be easy for me to tell you to get lost, find another body to be part of, but then I would be no better than you. My anger would keep me from recognizing your value, your part to play. So let me say this: my optimism trumps your pessimism. I do know the ending to this story, and I win. So win with me, say over and over again that all things shall be well and all manner of things shall be well, and soon your eyes will be open to the world I wake up to every day. As dark as the world may seem, know that the battle is won. When God is with us (and I mean all of us) who can be against us?

Being an optimist begins with you, it means embracing this truth: you are an essential ingredient in maintaining, sustaining and transforming our human evolution. It means that you have impact and worth regardless of any feedback. You act, because you know on even the smallest level that you can move the world forward. Let it bring a smile to your face, a confidence that you have never had before. No one, not even the most pessimistic hater can ever take that away. Let me honor you, celebrate you and share your joy. And if you can’t, know that I will suffer with you, and pray for your transformation.

 

Magical Thinking

magical thinkingBelieving in the causal relationship between actions and events that can’t be justified simply by reason and observation is a tripping point for many who have a hard time embracing a life rooted in faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t. Not because I choose to believe in magic, but because I believe that there is so much more that exists beyond human limitation and comprehension. For me to believe that the vastness of the universe is limited to the four dimensions of space and time simply because that is all the human mind has evolved to, as yet, is just as absurd. There is plenty of science out there with feasible theories that speak of multiple dimensions…and I’m ok with that too.

My point is that suspending my limitations for a moment, and trusting that there is an omniscience that holds us in dear regard, is as feasible as the probability that there are dimensions beyond the four we experience as science suggests. It is as simple as that, in my mind. When I look around at the insanity going on in the world today, mostly in my own country, with gun violence, racism, and (true to the promise I made at the beginning of the year to speak without filters), idiots like Donald Trump running for president, who is more a candidate for magical thinking that anyone with religious belief (and if there is anyone out there reading this who actually thinks the Donald has a real place in this election, I will pray for you). Why is it any less reasonable to believe in God, than America being the home of the free and the brave? Contrary to what you might think, there is more reasonable evidence of God in the world than America being reasonable and brave.

Hold on, before you freak out…because God only knows a true American would never, could never criticize their birth place. America will never be the country it is touted to be, when the freedom to carry a gun, unhindered by any rules outweighs the ability for any citizen to live free. It isn’t a left-wing, liberal notion to believe that the gun violence in this country has gotten out of hand…it is just the opposite, it is reasonable and observable. It isn’t a marker of bravery to hold onto a weapon for fear that someone is out to get you, just the opposite. Living in fear certainly isn’t living free. A true example of magical thinking is the belief that a gun will keep anyone safe from the “bad guy” often portrayed as a person of color, a different sexual orientation, a different ethnicity. And it is just as magical to think that those shallow distinctions of race, color and sexual orientation are an inherent threat to anyone’s freedom. Our own violence, lack of reason and false observations created the present environment. And only until and when we can embrace something more than can be reasonably seen and understood by our own limitations, the violence, the hatred and the absurdity will continue. I, for one, can’t let that happen. While my belief that grace has freed me from sin instills a deep hope for the future of humanity, it hasn’t freed any of us from the responsibility to stop the future sin. Let’s leave the magical thinking to Donald Trump and focus on the kind of leadership that actually has the courage to see the problem and fix it.

Vengence is Mine, Sayeth the Lord…I will Repay

peter kellyWhen tragedy strikes, the phrase above can be like salt to the wound.  Polarities are ridgidly distiguished and the cry for justice, vengence, blame, and blood is at an all time high…as is natural and expected.  Yet, and this is the hard part, for true healing to begin, these cries must be overcome, and lifted up to God. This is where prayer for our enemy is essential, less the dark side gain yet more souls…and I’m not just talking about the perpetrator, but those good souls whose heavenly talents may become wasted because they let vengeance and hatred cast a shadow over the potential for future goodness. It is in this time that we who bear the gift of Grace are no longer merely subject to human temperament, simply stated, we are more. Yet, to use the power of heaven, we must invoke it, claim it and use it…even when it is the most difficult, even when our hearts are breaking, even when the rage is most palpable.  We cry to God to augment our failing hearts and let his heart, be our heart. It is this time when we are most vulnerable that the dark waits to pounce, to drain the power of heaven and replace it with hatred and fear. It is when these words from 1 John are most poignant and powerful:

Beloved, if God so loved us, we must love one another.  No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.  This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us.

So far, the love the community has shown the family is such a testament to the goodness that lives and thrives here.  It is such comfort in the face of darkness that so many are willing to hold up and help bear the burden of others. It is how God is evidenced in this painful time. Our small community has shown the world that they have the backs of those who are suffering, we must also have faith that God has our backs too.

To embrace the call to love, doesn’t mean that we don’t hold others accountable, we have a justice system for that.  Yet, and sadly this is required of us as Christians, even those who have wronged us are of consequence in God’s eyes and must be held accountable without losing hope that God still has a plan for their souls. For they too are sons with parents. And, although they may be deep onto a dark path, what a holy turn it could take if, from the prayers for them as well, we could bring them back into the light.  Then we could truly say to the Devil himself:  We chose Love…WE WIN.

Where is the Love?

thunderIn all sincerity, I’m not sure whether it is having spring and summer occur simultaneously that has thrown my whole rhythm off, or the unbearable nature of events. from shootings, to the ravages of mother nature, to the quagmire of American politics.  I’m sad much of the time…not the cry your eyes out kind, or the can’t get out of bed kind.  The sadness I feel is like a dull ache based on recognizing a pattern that too many people seem to miss and not feeling like I can act effectually enough to stop it.

The pattern I speak of is fear, the kind of fear that is so deeply in-bedded in our nation that we have begun to suffer a rigor mortise of the soul, expressed in both subtle and obvious ways.  Most obviously, it is expressed in the kind of partiality that blinds one to solutions because national pride lately is only celebrated in opposition to something else, such as guns, the government, climate change, the poor, etc.  In more subtle ways is the complete lack of civil discourse between divergent views, and sense of entitlement that isn’t extended beyond a small group of like-minded individuals.  I know I’m personally tired of being written off, or pigeon holed into a particular ideology that I certainly am not contained by because I ask questions and try to look at a situation from a multitude of perspectives.  The political flavors of the moment are too honed into a blanket kind of hate, blame, and judgment of anyone who harbors a different idea than one’s own. Personal responsibility rarely enters the picture. What is most disturbing, though, is the religious imprimatur that is often used to justify such ignorance and fear.

Jesus says that the truth will set us free, and the way to truth is through him…and he is LOVE.  Love will set us free.  So let us practice love, first and foremost.  Fear will be our demise, if we don’t utilize the powers we’ve been given…  And so I offer a reminder of our greatest gifts:  1 Corinthians 13:1-13


1
 If I speak in human and angelic tongues 2 but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

2

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

3

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4

3 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,

5

it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,

6

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

7

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8

4 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.

9

For we know partially and we prophesy partially,

10

but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

11

When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.

12

At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

13

5 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.