University Congregational Church
Jan. 19, 2020
“Staying Positive in a Negative World: Faith Drives the Blues Away”
Heb. 11:1 and Mark 9:23-24
It was the summer of my 7th-grade year. I was a gangly 12-year-old. It had been a difficult year at school. I was an awkward pre-teen who excelled in school, but not in social graces. I wasn’t in the “in” crowd. I didn’t have the right clothes, the right friends, the right interests, or anything else that helped me fit in. To make matters worse, my best friend had moved out of state, so I was starting over again in the friend department. The best thing I thought I had going for me was a boy. I had fallen head over heals in love with him. It was my first real boyfriend and, as they say, “puppy love is absolutely real to the puppy”.
We had gone to church camp together in the foothills of the Rockies in Golden, Colorado…. It promised to be a spiritually enriching, dreamy week of romance and delightful togetherness reading the Bible and holding hands as we walked through the trees to our respective cabins. I had high expectations. The 2nd day of camp, however, the turkey told me he wanted to break up. I was absolutely crushed. I was far away from home with no friends, no place to hide, and I was absolutely certain I would never recover.
That afternoon, I climbed down a mountain slope into no-where land to be alone and cry my eyes out. It would have been fine by me if I was never found. I sat on a rock on that mountainside all alone and I wept about everything that was wrong in the world. I wept because I felt so alone and unloved.
After a time, I began to notice all the things around me:
• The moss on the rocks
• The various colors of the rocks, the shapes and sizes of the rocks
• The ground cover and the multitude of shades of green – too numerous to count
• The small, natural plants on the ground and their composition and color
• The movement of the grasses in the air
• The minuscule ants and small insects that roamed around on the ground
And I began to think about who or what created this truly miraculous and bountiful place. I was just looking at the space within my immediate vision – a few feet within the rock on which I was sitting – and I couldn’t believe the breadth and diversity of what I was seeing. It was awe-inspiring. I wondered out loud how majestic it would be to consider bigger circles of creation.
And then I realized that who or what that created something so awe-inspiring might have had a hand in creating me and could have knit me together with the same care and concern for detail. And breathed into me the same love and devotion that I saw in this microcosm on the mountain. And I wept. This time I wept because I knew I was not alone, and I was loved.
All these years later, that experience has stayed with me as a formative time in my life. I have never gone back to that camp. Many times, I have thought about searching for it and I have decided not to do it because I can go there in my mind and that is powerful enough. Each time I recall that time and place it is easy to (even all these years later) immediately feel the power of God’s presence and love again. And I realize again that I am not alone and that I am loved.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Today we are continuing our sermon series on “Staying Positive in a Negative World”. Our specific topic today is Faith Drives the Blues Away. Each week we are looking at a topic to help us stay positive, and today I want to hone in on how our faith in a divine power can help us to be more positive.
All of us want to be free from pain. All of us want to be loved. All of us want to live a life of abundance. We have been given the spiritual power of faith as a tool for us to use in this human experience. It is part of our infinite potential as children of God.
Frequently, we may think, “I need to have more faith!” or “How can I have more faith?” The good news is that we already have it. We just need to learn to use it in affirmative ways. Many times in our lives we’ve used our power of faith in a negative way by believing that our fear was more powerful. But every time we override the fear response and instead choose to feel our divine power of faith, it grows stronger. Fear becomes less as our faith becomes greater. We become confident in God within us and in God’s plan for our lives.
When Thomas Edison began developing the phonograph, he grappled with many problems. The high tones were harsh and the low tones were muffed. Edison hired someone to help solve these problems, but after working for 2 years, this man was discouraged and ready to give up. Edison told him that he believed for every problem there was a solution and if they did not find it, someone else would. He encouraged him to continue to work on it for a little longer. In fact, for Edison, it was an issue of faith. He had faith that God provided solutions to our conundrums. We can be grateful for the results of the patience of Edison and his helper, who continued to struggle until they found answers to the sound issues of the phonograph.
In our 2nd scripture for today, people brought a boy to Jesus. The boy couldn’t speak and had a condition that caused seizures, foaming from his mouth, and his body to become rigid. When Jesus asked how long the boy had been suffering with these problems, his father told him that it had been a problem since childhood and then asked Jesus to heal him.
Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:23-24 and the boy was healed.
Negative influences impact us daily. We are bombarded with them.
* We experience physical and emotional pain.
* We have inevitable conflicts with disagreeable people at home and at work and everywhere in-between.
* We receive unwanted mail and bills.
* We drive past hospitals, cemeteries, closed businesses, and other places that cause us distress.
* We read and see the news that is usually sad.
* We must deal with uncomfortable situations.
* Weather changes are often not to our liking. When it is hot, it is too hot. When it is cold, it is too cold.
* Natural disasters strike, bringing loss of life and destruction costing millions.
* Crime soars out of control.
* International tensions seem to be moving us to the brink of nuclear war and destruction and loss of life.
* Our friends and family members die and we grieve.
These things are part of what it is to be human. They are inevitable. How are we to maintain our positive outlook when these unwanted and tragic events continue to break into our lives on a routine basis?
The only way is to choose to fill our lives with positive things! Just as we talked about last week, gratitude is an antidote for depression. So, faith is an antidote for fear. When we are inundated with heartache and sadness, we need to draw upon our experiences of faith to see us through. That is the time we must go in our minds to the side of the mountain and know that we are not alone and that we are loved.
Faith is like a muscle. It needs to be developed. The muscle is present in you. And it will work when it is called upon. But if you wait until your life is crashing around you to call upon it, you may find that the muscle is weak because it has not been used in a long time. However, if you have developed that faith muscle and if you have been feeding it a steady diet of meditation and study and inspiration and nurture and worship, it will be stronger so that when you need it in a crisis, it is stronger.
Faith doesn’t mean that things will turn out the way we imagine or hope they will. Faith means that we believe God’s presence will be with us throughout whatever we experience. Having faith means that we know we are not alone and that we are loved.
Losing a child is one of the hardest and most wrenching experiences a person can ever endure. Some of you have had to go through this horrific loss yourself. Many of you know that my own family endured the loss of my 16-year-old sister and two of her friends in a car accident years ago. The night it happened, Eric and I made a trip to Hutchinson to be with my family. We were absolutely devastated. When I arrived at my mom’s house less than 2 hours of the news, she met me at the door with a tear-stained, swollen eyed red face, but the first words out of her mouth were, “I’ve started counting the miracles. How many have you counted?” After she and I embraced for a long time, she began to tell me about how the sheriff’s officer who worked the accident knew her best friend and went to their house first and brought them along to tell Mom the news. That meant that her friends stood at the door when she crumbled to the ground – friends who themselves had buried a child. Friends who ended up identifying my sister’s body so that my parents would not have to do that task. These were the miracles my mom was counting.
This is the work of faith, my friends. It is there to always – in every circumstance – remind you that you are not alone and that you are loved. And faith also has a face. Look around you. These are the people that look like God with skin on. These are the people who will show up on your doorstep and bring you soup and hug you and remind you when you have forgotten that you are not alone and that you are loved. It is a priceless gift.
So, start flexing your faith muscle. Decide today what you will do to build that muscle so that it will be strong when you need it most. Because all around you is negativity. Chose something positive!
• Read an uplifting book * Mentor a child
• Do something great for someone in need * Read the Bible
• Start a gratitude journal * Exercise regularly
• Begin meditating 10 minutes a day * Begin a new hobby
• Chose a place to volunteer regularly * Develop joy in your life
Campbell, Roger. “Staying Positive in a Negative World”. Wheaton, Illinois. Victor Books.
Unityav.org. “Your Divine Power of Faith”. By Rev. Nancy.