(February 25, 2018)
With all of the national news that is SO upsetting … Parkland, Florida … the Mueller investigation(s) … the Me, Too ! Movement … people in the WH not having security clearances to the documents they’re seeing every DAY … the number of now-convicted FELONS coming from this administration … it might seem naive to some that this year, we are re-framing Lent to mean:
Negativity is all around us and somehow, we are thought to be Pollyanna-ish or idealistic if we find things worth celebrating.
Are the negative things still there?
But if I focus on the positive things, then *I* am changed.
That’s what faith does … it changes us from the inside out.
As I’ve said before: faith is not logical. You will never PROVE the presence of God any more than you can prove the absence of Her/Him. But given the choice of living with or without HOPE … well, then we can exercise our free will.
I think we sometimes forget that Jesus lived in very dark times. We look at his life and his teachings (either through reading Scripture or by watching Hollywood portrayals of it) and it seems all bright and beautiful — well, unless you’re watching Mel Gibson’s depiction and then I have other theological issues with that! — and we forget that:
a) He lived in an occupied country with Roman soldiers who exerted unchecked power to loot, pillage, rape, torture and kill …
b) His people had lived this kind of existence for GENERATIONS!
c) As a non-Roman citizen, he had NO RIGHTS …
d) He ended up being hated and hunted by some of his own corrupt leaders!
e) Unless you were part of the aristocracy or Rome, you were poorer than poor and your entire existence relied on what others allowed you to have — including the rights they allowed you to exercise (or not).
Hard, dark times.
That’s precisely WHY his message was so important: God sees you. God knows you. God loves you. Blessed are those who are downtrodden; it won’t be that way forever. The last will be first and the first will be last. And especially: This world is not all that there is!!!
That’s what the KOG (the Kingdom of God for those of us on a first name basis with it … LOL) is all about. It’s all AROUND us. It’s here right NOW. It’s not just something we go to when we die.
Think of it like this:
I’m writing this while I’m sitting in a Starbucks. There’s a couple talking next to me — dating, I think. There are two men to my left talking about business, I think. There’s the sound of the steamer behind the counter and the bells, buzzers, etc. and the constant conversation over headphones for the drive-thru. There’s also Starbucks Radio music going in the background. And then there’s me writing this.
Where do I put my energy?
Every once in a while the daters do or say something that my ear picks up and I smile. A couple of times the two men have intrigued me with something they’re raisin their voices over in excitement. Sometimes the baristas (including my daughter) will catch my eye and I’ll be taken away from my laptop for a nanosecond.
All these things are going on simultaneously and it’s up to ME to choose where I’m going to focus my attention.
The KOG is around me all the time but it’s up to me to choose to pay attention to it.
And how do I DO that? How do I zero in on it????
There are radio and TV waves going through this room right now. They’re everywhere. I’ve read that there are very few “Radio Silent” places in our country anymore. The waves travel until they run out of energy and the resistance (air, solid materials, etc.) is great enough to absorb the remaining energy and they stop moving. The radio/TV waves are constant.
If I had a radio with me … I could HEAR what some of those waves are carrying.
But I don’t, so I’m oblivious to them.
It doesn’t mean they’re not there. It just means that I’m not able to interact with them in a way that has meaning for me. Right?
THAT’s the KOG.
God is all around us all the time. We are NEVER away from Her/Him. But we have to develop the awareness that allows us to interact in a way that has meaning for me.
The good news is that (as we found out at the first Pentecost in Acts 2) God will FIND a way to speak to each of us in a language that we can comprehend. God WANTS to be known by those that God created. Most parents want to be known by their children and have a relationship with them. Same thing — but more.
So if we choose to be open … even if we’re just opening the door a smidge … just a crack … God’s energy will find a way to get through to us. (Think radio/TV waves that never run out of energy and can’t be stopped.)
And once we are open to that … once we have the awareness and the experience of sensing that (either consciously or unconsciously) … then we have experienced the KOG and it changes everything about how we see the world. We are tuning out all of other things that try to interfere with that experience. It’s not that we stop seeing or hearing the distractions … I still hear and see the dating couple and the business guys … but we don’t focus on it anymore. (I’ve been totally unaware of them while I’ve been writing these last paragraphs, for instance.) They recede into the background of my awareness. And that’s like life when we become more aware of the KOG.
I think that people in Biblical times didn’t know how to express this, so they said, “Let those who have eyes see. Let those who have ears, hear.” It’s an awareness thing!
So to bring this back to where I started … Let’s Eliminate Negative Thinking … How do we do that???? Well … we form a habit of intentionally looking for something positive even in the presence of the worst possible situations. (Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning describes this process in his own Auschwitz experience.)
Yes all these terrible things are around us: shootings … investigation(s) … sexual harassment, abuse and violence. Yes, our national security is not what it was. And as people of the Way — as followers of Jesus, we have to remember that we are called to work for justice, equality and expressions of human dignity. As ambassadors of Christ, we are mandated to stand with the marginalized.
But while we’re doing that, we also have to keep our awareness and our focus on the KOG so that we can be fed by the positive energies in that.
How about the mobilization of people to get involved in their government — grass-roots on both sides of the aisle. How about the empowerment of our youth, the next great generation. How about the rising compassion levels we are experiencing around the world as a result of events here and abroad.
How about the fact that you just took several minutes to read and think about the KOG in your midst???!!!
Those are all things to celebrate. They are the positive things that can help to eliminate negative thinking.
You’re on your way.
Keep it up!
… and Happy Lent! … 😀