Friday, December 27, 2013

Christian Moderate Optimism for 2014


            An attitude is fundamentally a mental position towards what reality has been, is, and is about to be. It is the inner disposition of the mind as it is shaped by our feelings and thoughts about life and how to respond to life. All the choices, actions and consequences of our lives are shaped by our attitudes. Furthermore, all attitudes towards life are either positive or negative, or in other words, all attitudes are about whether the cup is half full or half empty.

 I am concerned at the beginning of 2014 about our basic Christian attitudes to life and God’s creation. In terms of the cup being half filled or half empty, God has not created us to be “the cup is half empty” people. If we truly understand the meaning of the incarnation at the beginning and the end of the day, we are “the cup is half filled” people. The perception of life as always being half full is what I mean by an “attitude of rational and emotional moderate optimism”

            A Christian attitude of moderate optimism means that we should see the cup of life as always being a little better than just half filled. We should see the cup of life as always being moderately filled in all the events and situations of life.

I found it most interesting to learn that the cancer victims who have the best chance of recovery approach their treatment with a moderate level of optimism. Facing the problems and suffering of life with an attitude of moderate optimism makes a lot of sense. Just because a person is an optimist does not mean that one cannot at the same time have common sense. A false high level of optimism is to have no doubt whatsoever that a cure will happen.

At the other extreme is the negative skeptic who doubts that anything will work. The moderate optimist believes that if they remain positive and make a sincere effort to work with the treatment, then God will take care of them. The point is that a Christian lives as a moderate optimist in all situations. Jesus came so that we might know that God offers a life where He wants us to know happiness and face life always with moderate optimism. The Psalmist teaches, “This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” The Psalmist doesn’t say that I will be happy tomorrow if this and this happens. No matter what is going on in our life, we must face life as a moderate optimist.

            I read recently a study from the University of Pennsylvania conducted by neuroscientists who were studying how Americans perceive God. The study gave me reason to ponder rather seriously the perception of God in our society, and I began to realize that there is a need for a discovery of the authentic Jesus of the Gospel. Approximately 34% percent of Americans perceive God as an authoritarian who is a God who prefers to demand and punish. He is a God who also intervenes in this life to punish the wicked and save the believer. This authoritarian God allows a satanic force to move throughout the world and attack the non-believer. Twenty five percent believe in a critical God who makes heavy moral and faith demands on people but does not really engage in supportive loving relationships with people. It is as if the critical God rules from afar by sending us critical and negative emails. Third, 12% believe in God as being a type of distant cosmic force that we cannot know personally, and this God does not intervene directly in our lives. Finally, it is only 23% who believe in a loving, benevolent and non- judgmental God who wishes for us to be happy and live a life of moderate optimism The remaining percentage are hard-core atheists who have no interest in the question of God whatsoever.

             It is no wonder that we have so much division and problems in America. The problems of the nation and individuals living with negative attitudes come from a belief in the authoritarian, critical and distant God. No, in 2014 we must pray for the awareness and understanding of a benevolent God guiding our Episcopal community and our personal lives on a journey of moderate optimism.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Where Will You Meet God this Christmas?

            There was once a little boy who wanted to meet God.  He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he filled his backpack with cookies and some cans of Coke and started on his journey.

            When he’d gone half a mile or so he met an old woman.  She was sitting in the park just staring at the pigeons.  The boy sat down next to her and unzipped his backpack.  He was about to take a drink from one of his cans of Coke when he noticed the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her some cookies.  She gratefully accepted and smiled at him.  Her smile lit up her who face.
            It was so lovely, the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered one of his cans of Coke.  One again she smiled at him.  The boy was delighted!
            They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.  As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave, but before he’d gone more than a few steps, he turned round, ran back to the old woman and gave her a hug.  She gave him her biggest smile ever.
            When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face.  She asked him, “What did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “I had lunch with God.”  And before his mother could respond, he added, “You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”
            Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home.  Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face and he asked, “Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?”  She replied, ‘I ate cookies in the park with God.”  And before her son could respond, she added, “You know, he’s much younger than I expected.
            Is it strange to think of seeing God as a young boy?  Is it strange to think of seeing God as an old woman?  If you said “yes” to these questions then it will be especially difficult to think of God as a baby!  Yet that is what Christmas is all about.  About, God taking human flesh as a baby. 
            So where this Christmas will you look to see God?  In the face of the old or the young?  In the face of the powerful or in the eyes of a baby – far too young to even smile?  Will you see God in the Liturgy, the scripture, the music, the art, the decorations?  The shepherds, poor uneducated folk, saw God.  The Magi, educated rich folk, saw God.  
          What about you?  Where will you meet God this Christmas?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Blogs You Like the Most

Each Tuesday morning we bloggers and other priests gather for breakfast.  Most of us are retired and some have been retired for more than ten years.  Others are still active in parish ministry and two are on a diocesan staff.  One of us is a retired Bishop and another of us is a Canon to the Ordinary.  Together we have hundreds of years of collective experience.  We discuss whatever is on our minds and we are pastoral with each other if one of us is hurting.  It is a true community of faith that gathers to celebrate our vocations to the priesthood and to share in Celtic-like soul friendships.  Of course we also "solve" all the problems in the church and the world.  It takes us two to three hours to get this done.

During breakfast a couple of weeks ago it was mentioned that I should report to you, our readers, which blogs you read the most and those issues you seem to be the most interested in.  Therefore, here are the top ten blogs that you read ranked from one to ten.

Where have all the Rectors gone?

Rectors (Pastors):  The Odds are Against You.

Rectors - Resign, Get Fired, Retire.

Rector (Pastor): You're Fired.

Clergy Divorce.

The Bishop Speaks of a Punctuation Mark.

Let's Get Rid of the Rector:  A Priest's Nightmare.

The Bishop Speaks from the Heart.

10 Things You Should Know About Fasting.

Episcopal Chaos.

Five of these blogs are concerned with a parish priest's job security.  One of them, clergy divorce, is concerned about this very intimate and personal issue which, when it happens, is a personal and parish tragedy.  Two blogs are about Episcopal authority and another is about Lenten discipline.  The most popular blogs that didn't make it into the top ten are about the decline in The Episcopal Church, how it impacts clergy mission and ministry, and Celtic Christianity as a way to renew and reform the Anglican Church of today.  One could safely then draw the conclusion that most of our readers are Episcopal bishops and priests and they justifiably are concerned with issues that pertain to their parish and diocesan ministries.

It is fascinating to me and other bloggers that you are consistently reading older blogs on a regular basis, even when they didn't make it into the top ten.  We are grateful that readership is continuing quite stable and even rising at times.  While I don't know any statistics about numbers of readers of religious blogs in the United States, Episcopal Journey of Hope does appear to me to be pretty popular.  We have been read in 87 countries.  And there have been over 50,000 pages views, which is more than we could have imaged when we started this little endeavor.

Thanks for continuing to read our blogs.  If there is any subject that you would like us to address, please let us know in the comment sections of the blogs.  Maranatha.  Come Lord Jesus.