How Hope Happens

Those who know me best are aware that I have spent a lifetime battling a kind of low-grade mood Depression clinically known as Dysthymia.   This is at least partly why I was drawn early on to the study of our human minds known as Psychology.   A few decades back I became a practitioner of what is now called Cognitive Behavioral therapy, which had originally been called Rational Emotive therapy by its own founder, Albert Ellis.   Along the way I also discovered the mood elevating benefits of a brain medication called Lexapro from within a class of anti-depressant meds called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.

 

Still, I know all too well the dreadful feelings that come from hopelessness.   Perhaps the worst pain I’ve ever been in has happened during times of clinical Depression where hopelessness and helplessness seemed to take over my mind’s thought process.

 

That I can today declare victory over Depression is reason for me to believe others can do so as well.  Perhaps even better than I have done.   Hope happens for many if not most who battle hopelessness at times throughout their lives.

 

But how?

 

How does hope happen in a world where fears seem to be around so many corners these days?   

 

I’m still awaiting the release of my book, “Love’s Resurrection: its power to roll away fear’s heaviest stone,” within the near future.   It’s my own spiritual memoir soon to be published by Higher Ground Books & Media.  In it I come to terms with how hope happened in my own life over the course of my now seven decades plus.  

 

One thing I have noticed about my own mind over the years is that it serves as a parent to my own body.    I sometimes call my own body “little Danny.”  It’s the part of me that applies all my bodily senses in reaction to the world around me.   And quite often that reaction spells f-e-a-r.   It’s a crazy world out there, and so my frightened body has been known to appeal to my mind to take control during times of greatest uncertainty.  As my mind has responded in a kind of parental role of responsibility, that part of me has known much failure.   I’m talking here about my failure to control the world around me that is scaring my inner child, my bodily “little Danny.”   Failure to control results in my occasional Depressed moods.  I feel like the bad parent who can’t calm one’s own crying child.   It’s a helpless feeling.   And it can drag on into a sense of utter hopelessness over time.

 

But if that’s the story of my own body’s inner child and my own mind’s failure-at-control parent, I’m here to tell you with great hope that there is more to my story.   You see, we humans all have a 3rd part of “self” that lives on in final victory.  Many of us refer to it as the soul.

Body.  Mind.  Soul.  Our universal trinity as created in God’s own image.  Body of the Christ.   Mind of the Father.   Soul of the Holy Spirit.   Three in one.   But take away the soul, and one risks a parent-child dynamic with a high risk for fear / control producing depression / failure.

 

For me, hope happens when the soul finds its voice within my mind.   I say “the” soul because I now believe there is only One in all the universe.   It is the indwelling Holy Spirit that constitutes the one and only soul within all of us and all of God.   The soul that whispers heaven’s own love story into the midst of our world’s own fear story.   That fear story which gets shouted into my own mind by means of my bodily senses leading to my failure-to-control resulting in my own Depressed mood of helplessness and hopelessness. 

 

Perhaps I’m not alone in all of this.

 

Perhaps you, too, may have noticed your mind tuned into the loud voice of the world’s fear story around you as communicated through your own bodily senses.    Perhaps you, too, have tried with your own mind to satisfy your own body by trying to control that which was, in reality, uncontrollable around you.   Maybe you, too,  have then found yourself failing-to-control and experiencing your own depressed mood with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

 

If so, I’m praying that as you read this the Holy Spirit might whisper heaven’s love story into your own mind in such a way that you can find that part of your own voice.  Your soul’s stronger voice.   The voice that empowers your mind to place more faith in heaven’s love than in this world’s fear.   The voice that tells you, too, to trust that God’s love can cast out all human fear in the long run.

 

Yes, in the short run I still have fears.   Hey, it really is a crazy world out there and uncertainty really does surround me on all sides.   Of course, my body is sometimes afraid when appealing to my mind.  Just like God’s body, the Christ, felt fear while proverbally sweating blood in Gethsemane and appealing to his mind, the Father, to “take control” and remove his own bitter cup.

 

In the long run, I believe God privileges the soul’s own heavenly voice of love.  And resurrection.  And hope that springs eternal.   Which is how hope happens for any of us.   One mind at a time. One therapeutic breakthrough at a time.

 

May our minds find the soul’s almighty voice within.   And may that voice inform our own hope in love’s eventual resurrection victory.   Amen.

 

 

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Redeeming God’s Kingdom

After finally getting my first and perhaps last book manuscript into the hands of a publisher in hopes for a release date next month, I’m already struck with something of a regret. The book’s title, “Love’s Resurrection: its power to roll away fear’s heaviest stone,” deals in memoir form with what amounts to my own thesis for living.

My thesis begins with this premise: life in a world of future uncertainty requires faith. Faith is not optional. We all live by faith. What is optional is whether to attach our faith to fear or attach it to love. My personal theory as developed across the spectrum of my own first seven decades here on earth is that faith in fear is our earthly default as humans. Yet, over the course of time I’ve shifted my own faith to be in love’s power to cast out fear.  Faith in love is what I now call our heavenly, or “factory,” default. Metaphorically, the world is like a retailer that resets our default for life on earth as it is on earth. Faith in fear seems necessary for our survival. Yet, it is such faith that then produces our doubt in love.

Case in point?

Well, try placing your faith in loving enemies as a survival mechanism. Having any doubts yet?
Faith in “fear of enemies” is like a retail store setting of our default as necessary for our survival. Hence, the world has throughout recorded history known few years of peace. Wars and armies and weapons of whatever level of destruction have been our global norm.  By default.

What does this have to do with my regret in relation of this manuscript I’ve written and re-written seemingly a thousand times? Well, my final submission for this impending publication has failed to name the metaphorical retail store responsible for the high levels of fear that remain evidenced by, of all people, this world’s Christians.  We have in common our having shopped at a store named “God’s Kingdom.”

Yep. God’s Kingdom.

It’s like a telecommunications store for Christians. We all walk out with some version of a smart (???)  product by which to connect with the world around us.   But our connecting point has inadvertently disconnected us from the very people we seek to communicate God’s love to.  The jist of my own regret now is that the very word, “Kingdom,” is used to assert control over others whom we fear as enemies of God. Define  these enemies however you want, but a Kingdom default telecommunicates our Christian faith in fear and not our faith in love.

Which is not to say that Jesus introduced the wrong concept or validated the wrong default. By his actions, he demonstrated that Kingship means serving as opposed to being served. The cross itself was his final act of faith in love as opposed to faith in fear. But his redefinition of God’s Kingdom has clashed with the world’s own default definition, which goes back to having faith in fear and control over enemies as the best plan for survival and salvation.  The message of God’s Kingdom has, ironically, come to mean to the world that God fears us as his enemies and so must control us for his own pleasure.   We are “off message” when we then speak, or in my most recent case write, of that “Kingdom.”

Much smarter folks than I have wrestled with this term, God’s Kingdom, far sooner and better. But I failed to wrestle with it at all in my book, and I now regret that even before it’s actual release next month. I’ve liberally sprinkled the word throughout even my main thesis to imply a servant’s faith in love rather than in fear. But for love’s true resurrection, I’m now having early second thoughts. My main afterthought is that the very term, “Kingdom,” hits “send” without communicating God’s heavenly Gospel for earthly survival.

To redeem God’s Kingdom may require more than simply transforming being served into serving, as may have been the Gospel of Christ’s first coming. The Gospel of Christ’s return may require the very death of this word, “Kingdom,” in connection with God, Christ, heaven, or eternity. To crucify the God’s Kingdom is to, in my thought process even prior to releasing my life’s main thesis, is necessary for the resurrection of God’s Leadership, i.e. servant leadership, on earth as it is in heaven.

From this day on, I’ll speak of God’s Kingdom in the past tense as our own worldly faith in fear that has died so God’s Leadership in the future can truly redeem God’s heavenly faith in love’s resurrection.

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Why it all comes down to interpretation

Communication is interpretation. Just as one cannot not communicate, so one cannot not interpret. Communication always comes down to interpretation.

Seems like pretty basic stuff for most of us, whether or not we’ve ever studied any dynamics of social interaction. Theories of encoding and decoding are hardly necessary to understand this principle we call communication. With our actions as well as our words, we are subject to interpretation by those who see or hear us in this world. That goes for seeing what we have written in this world. Think back, for instance, to a time when your class essay in school may have been, in your own mind, misunderstood or misinterpreted by the teacher, whether in part or in whole. Ever happen to you when you got your  graded papers back?

With that in my own mind now, I have questions about those who would presume to interpret the written words found in foundational documents such as the Holy Bible or the U.S. Constitution. This goes for what in the U.S. we know to be Federal Court Judges, the highest of these being the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

Debate is soon to ensue on President Trump’s nomination to our SCOTUS. In Senate confirmation hearings, there’s a chance we will hear this nominee use the word “originalist” to describe her or his own pattern of interpretation as involves our original Constitution and subsequent laws of the nation we call the USA.

Constitutional originalists, and even Biblical literalists, for that matter, follow a pattern of narrow interpretation. What this means to me, in my own interpretation of their interpretations, is that they work very hard at putting no additional words in the mouths or even minds of those original writers. This, again according to my interpretation of their work, is motivated by a fear of assuming too much about another’s thoughts. Such interpretations are considered safe. They seek to conserve the original author’s intent as fully expressed in the content of that particular document. An originalist might conclude, “if they didn’t write it, they didn’t mean it.”

As a follower of Jesus, who wrote no primary documents, I must rely on secondary source documents to understand what he said. One of those sayings according to a document widely circulated among early Jewish followers of Jesus known as Mattheans (sharing the Gospel of Matthew, one of the original disciples present with Jesus) was this: “Do for others what you want them to do for you. This is the teaching of the laws of Moses in a nutshell” (TLB).

Here is my point, in case you were wondering if I actually had one.

Jesus lived in a community where what we think of as “fulfillment of the law” was commonly taken to mean “correctly interpreting the law.” Abolishing the law would have meant “paying no attention to it” or just not bothering to interpret it at all. And so within his own context, Jesus made the crux of his own ministry about helping his fellow Jews understand (interpret) the difference between the narrower content of what Moses wrote as God’s law (Torah) and the broader intent of God when inspiring Moses to write that law. The broad intent of God’s law was for us to live in God’s Kingdom of love and empathy and altruism where people loved God best by loving neighbor and self better. And where loving neighbor better meant treating others more like we would want them treating us. (For example, how would I like my neighbor to love me if he or she noticed me after I had been robbed and beaten along a dangerous roadside?)

Throughout his ministry, Jesus emphasized how God wanted us to interpret his law not according to its narrowest content (the error of originalists and literalists) but rather its broadest intent. God is broad minded, not narrow minded. And, guess what? We probably are, too.

Let’s try a mini-experiment here.

Let’s say two different people came up to you and said those nice words, “I love you.” But one of those people understood nothing about you beyond what you had somehow written on paper or screen. If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen. If you really intended it, you’d have put it in writing.  Get the picture?

Meanwhile, the second person read the content of whatever you had written to him or her, but also asked questions about what else you may have intended to communicate beyond your written words.  This person wanted to know about any good intentions or objectives you may have had at the time of your writing. Was there more you had in mind than just what was already documented?

So now practice interpreting for yourself the meaning of those original words “I love you.” Which of these two different “lovers” would you prefer having a closer relationship with? Or let me ask it this way, which of these two “lovers” would have done you “justice” in the best sense of that term?

I ask this because “we the people” of the United States are about to be governed in part by another highest court Judge who will be for her or his lifetime referred to as “Justice (name).” For if this new Judge, who will more than likely love the U.S. Constitution and its authors, fails to do justice to the intent, not just the content in question, then that “Justice” may by the accounts of Jesus come to “abolish” the Constitution instead of helping to “fulfill” it. This is why it all comes down to interpretation.  And this should send up all kinds of red flags for Christians in our United States of America.

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