(Newsletter Columns. Occasional Essays, Poems, History, Etc.)

The Original Optimist Club
Most of us grew up hearing about the various civic service organizations of our American communities.  Jaycees, Lions, Rotary, and others were all familiar names on signage at the entrance to many of our towns.  Often, we were not fully certain what these groups did, but they were a part of the fabric of our lives and somehow a reassuring part of the normal order.  
One of the groups that I was always fascinated with was the “Optimists” civic group.  I confess that I knew little about them, but what a great name.  It suggested to me, in early years, a group of individuals who got together on a regular basis to share their optimism with one another.  Could it be better than that?  I suspect that there is more to it than that rather na├»ve thought.  I do however still imagine that in their choice of a name, they reflect a creedal commitment to a philosophical viewpoint. They are committed to approaching the issues of community from an optimistic stance. Someone may correct me on that, but that is somewhat beside the point.  
I really want to point to what I think was the original optimist club.
The attitude of the early church was that Christ had provided for something wonderful as a response to the reality of life.  Through Christ, redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness, and freedom were now a present reality for “Whosoever will”. This optimism radiated within every message shared by the Apostles.  Peter offered the hope of salvation and the infilling of the Holy Spirit to anyone who wished it on the day of Pentecost. Paul and Silas were so optimistic that they could sing hymns at midnight while chained in a jail cell.  Paul could optimistically declare “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.” He could also affirm, “Whatever may be the promises of God to us, in Jesus they already have their yes.”  
I am thinking that we could use a dose of that kind of optimism right now. In this time when it seems a moribund miasma surrounds us in our society.  What a gift to be optimistic when we are tempted to believe that everything is in some kind of mortal decline.  
Is it possible that in such a time as this, we may benefit from hearing the assurance of our faith once again that no matter what; our Lord will never “Leave us nor forsake us?”  
I suspect so.  I encourage you to be of good cheer. Trust in God because God is faithful!  Be an Optimist!  -- Peace, Dr. Marvin J. Hudson

Leaving a Mark: Two Stories

About two miles west of my childhood home was a ring of small hills covered by volcanic basalt boulders.  In one area of this ring, very early native tribes had used the sheltering nature of the hills for seasonal camps in the so-called prehistoric past.  They left evidence of their presence in the form of numerous petroglyphs marked onto the basalt on the hillside.  Many were the times that I would ride over, muse about the strange symbols, and wonder who placed them there.  What were they like?  What did they do?  What was the significance of the symbols they left?  Even though they were long gone from the stage of life, they left a testimony of their presence and passing.  I like that image.  It is a good thing to contemplate that our life here is not completely forgotten.  

It is a significant thing to think that we leave some kind of mark that declares that we mattered.  On the other hand, the nature of the mark may matter as well.

I recall visiting a small cemetery in Western Oklahoma a number of years ago.  This cemetery was well off the beaten track and was quite old.  As I strolled among the tombstones, I was struck by a poignant reality.  Most of the stones were made from a relatively soft stone.  As the years had advanced, the engraving in most cases had eroded until the record of who and when was illegible.  There was no longer a name or date and any epitaph was erased.  

There is a lesson in this I am sure, but at a minimum I came away knowing that whatever mark one leaves must account for the inexorable passing of time.  

Maybe the best mark is not written in stone, but in the hearts of people whom we have touched.  Even better, perhaps we should recall the word of Christ who affirmed that all of these physical elements are subject to moth, rust, and thieves.  It is the mark (treasure) that we commit to our heavenly Father that will stand the test of time.  Are you leaving a mark, and if so, what kind? --- Dr. Marvin J. Hudson (Feb.-April 2016)

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