Illustration results for optimism
Some years ago a book was written by a noted American historian entitled "When The Cheering Stopped." It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy. On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn’t believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right. The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President’s health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.
Illustration: Reverse Reasoning
Often when couples meet for premarital counselling, they are entranced in a rosy fog of optimism. Blinded to the shortcomings, each sees only the other’s good points. But as the excitement of the new marriage wears off, they often drift to the opposite extreme and view these same traits as faults. Someone has called this “reverse reasoning,” giving the following examples:
She married him because he was ‘strong and masculine’
she divorced him because he was a very ‘dominating male.’
He married her because she was so ‘fragile and petite’
He divorced her because she was so ‘weak and helpless.’
She chose him because ‘he knew how to provide a good living’
She left him because ‘all he thought about was the business.’
He married her because she was ‘steady and sensible’
He divorced her because she was ‘boring and dull.’
(- H.G.B.Our Daily Bread, June 3)
When Steve and I went to Germany to live, I didn’t know any German, and I knew so little about what it was like to live in Germany that I set out to live there with what I now see as an unbelievably naive optimism that was close to sheer stupidity in its ignorance. Sure I’d seen Germany on TV, and I’d had a good friend who was German, and I knew that the boss I was going to work for was American, and I knew that many Germans could speak some English, but what I did not know was just how different living in Germany actually was. And it began from the moment we landed. We were surrounded by people speaking German, all the time, and for me it was about as useful as being surrounded by a flock of squawking galahs. And day by day I came up against things which were done differently in Germany. Little things, like learning how to use the automatic ticketing system for the trams And then there were the big differences, like when you rent an apartment, it has no floor coverings, no light fittings, no built in kitchen (as in no cupboards, stove or sink or anything in the kitchen). And renting a furnished apartment was simply unheard of. Indeed there were so many differences that it came close to being too much for me and at the end of six months I can remember thinking, “Don’t they do ANYTHING like us (Australians)?”
But you know what I see now, looking back? All along the way God provided us with the people and the access to knowledge and understanding to make it possible for us to live and enjoy living in Germany. He sent the right policeman to sort out our visas. He gave us an apartment with a kitchen sink and really friendly and helpful neighbours. We got the loan of a kitchen stove from a student I worked with. There were classes in German, and people willing to help us learn it. He got a colleague of mine, who was not a Christian, to point out that we could worship in the local American military base church and so we found our Christian community home. Over and over again we had help and guidance and wisdom given to us to deal with the specific circumstances in which we found ourselves and with that help we learned to live in and really enjoy Germany.
A PLAN FOR EVERYONE
In the opening pages of his autobiography, An American Life, Ronald Reagan writes, I was raised to believe that God had a plan for everyone and that seemingly random twists of fate are all a part of His plan.
My mother - a small woman with auburn hair and a sense of optimism that ran as deep as the cosmos - told me that everything in life happened for a purpose. She said all things were part of God’s plan, even the most disheartening setbacks, and in the end, everything worked out for the best. If something went wrong, she said, you didn’t let it get you down: You stepped away from it, stepped over it, and moved on. Later on, she added, something good will happen and you’ll find yourself thinking - "If I hadn’t had that problem back then, then this better thing that did happen would’nt have happened to me."
After I lost the j...
Some years ago a book was written by Gene Smith, a noted American historian. The title was "When The Cheering Stopped." It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy. On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn’t believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right. The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President’s health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.
THE LIGHT OF HOPE
As Craig T. Kocher in his commentary on our text states, "Christian hope is fundamentally different from optimism. Christian hope locks its steely eyes on the devastation of the world around it, and readily acknowledges that things may not get better. Christian hope does not bury its heat in Yule-tide cheer and artificial lights, but like an Advent wreath glowing stronger and brighter each week, this hope pushes its way into the brokenness of the world clearing a path in the wilderness so the true light might burst into the darkness."
Kocher then goes on to cite a story told by Tom Long, about a rabbi Hugo Grynn, who was sent to Auschwitz as a little boy. In the midst of the concentration camp, in the midst of the death and horror all around them, many Jews held onto whatever shreds of their religious observances they could, without drawing the ire of the guards. One cold winter's evening, Hugo's father gathered the family in the barracks. It was the first night of Hanukkah, the Jewish Feast of Lights.
The young child watched in horror as his father took the family's last pad of butter and made a makeshift candle, using a string from his ragged clothes. He then took a match and lit the candle. "Father, no!" Hugo cried. "That butter is our last bit of food! How will we survive?"
"We can live for many days without food," his father said. "We can not live a single minute without faith and hope. This is the fire of hope. Never let it go out. Not here! Not anywhere!" [Pulpit Resource, Logos Productions, Inc, 2005]
From Ronald Harbaugh's Sermon "John the Baptizer Points to the Light that Shines in Our Darkened World"
AN ATHEIST DEFENDS EVANGELISM IN AFRICA
I would like to conclude by reading you an article – that Andrew sent to me - from the Sunday Times dated 27th December 2008 written by Matthew Parris:
December 27, 2008
As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God
Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset
Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean.
I went to see this work. It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them.
There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.
At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi. We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often it was near a mission.
Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.
This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents as you do with the big NGOs.
But instead, I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. "Privately" because the charity is entirely secular, and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.
It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.
There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: "theirs" and therefore best for "them"; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.
I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the "big man" and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.
Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.
How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? "Because it's there," he said.
To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.
Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical-spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.
Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.
And, I'm afraid, it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.
Famous last words in history.
1. Entrepreneur, P. T. Barnum, d. 1891 “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?”
2. John Barrymore, actor, d. May 29, 1942 “Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.”
3. Humphrey Bogart, actor, d. January 14, 1957 “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”
4. Before slipping into a coma and dying 9 days later; Sir Winston Churchill, the statesman who is famous for his commencement address of “Never give up!” died January 24, 1965 with this last words. “I’m bored with it all.” Sounds like he gave up to me!
5. To his housekeeper, who urged him to tell her his last words so she could write them down for posterity; the revolutionary communist, Karl Marx, died in 1883 with these last words… “Go on, get out - last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”
6. Writer Oscar Wilde, died November 30, 1900 saying, “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”
7. William Saroyan was a Pulitzer Prize winning writer of plays, short stories, and novels whose works were noted for their sentimental optimism. Before his death in 1981, Saroyan telephoned his final words to the Associated Pre...
Have you ever heard of Meliorism? Here is what one person said about it. "I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I am a Meliorist. Meliorism cancels out optimism as being too bright, too airy; and rejects pessimism as being too dull, too heavy. Take life as it is, says the meliorist, with much that is dark, evil and undesirable: Life may be difficult but it can be changed."
At first glance, this sounds pretty good, however, the meliorist doesn’t consider God. God is not included in the picture of change. And this is where we come in. And this is what we believe in very strongly! Christ is the author of change in our lives!
(Steve Shepherd "In This You Greatly Rejoice" 1/19/2009)
Sermon Central Staff
Learned Helplessness is a term I came across in my reading this week. It is a technical term originally used in reference to animal psychology but is also appropriately applied to human behavior as well.
Learned helplessness describes an animal or a person who has learned to behave helplessly, even when there is opportunity to avoid an unpleasant or harmful circumstance. It is essentially, in humans, it is a mental state in which the person perceives he or she has no control over the outcome of a situation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness)
A pertinent example of learned helplessness would be the tragic and heart-rending case of Jaycee Dugard who was kidnapped when she was 11 years old while waiting for her school bus. Jaycee was held captive for 18 years, living in sheds and tents in the backyard of her captor...despite numerous opportunities to escape she felt she had no control over her situation.
Self improvement coach and Guru Brian Tracy couches it a little differently. He sums that kind of behavior up in what he calls The Law of Belief. The Law of Belief states, "Whatever you believe, with feeling, becomes your reality; you always act in a manner consistent with your beliefs." In other words, what we think either inhibits and limits us or energizes and frees us.
So what do we do when we realize we have learned helplessness behavior? The key to unlearning helplessness and learning hopefulness is to replace "limiting beliefs and attitudes" with "empowering beliefs and attitudes."
(From a sermon by Monty Newton, Optimism 101, 10/25/2010)