Optimism Tip of the Week

Take time to be in awe of the miracles associated with every-day life, such as the miracle of birth. 

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Where is God and What Does God Want From Us?

By Dr. Russ,

My attempt to address the questions, “Where is God and What does God want from us,” is inspired by an Op Ed article in the New York Times by David Brooks on January 28, 2014. Brooks begins by noting that many secular people describe the devoutly faithful, Jewish, Christian or other, as “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” “old fashioned” and “out of touch.” I am a devoutly faithful Christian seeking understanding through theology. I agree with the conclusion of the secular people who are in essence saying, “If God is out of touch, judgmental, hypocritical, and old fashioned”, then God is dead. If God is dead, God doesn’t want anything of us and we are left to do it on our own. Perhaps this is why Brooks titles his article, “Alone, Yet Not Alone.”

So, Where is God? I agree, God is dead if God occupies the space of judgment, non-acceptance, and rejection of others based on gender, sexual orientation, race, social class, or any other discriminating factor. God is dead if God rejects and condemns sinners. But, this is not the God I know. The God I know is alive and with me in a loving and accepting relationship each and every moment of my life.

So, Where is God? God is alive and dwelling amongst us, dwelling within us if only we open our hearts and see God within us. According to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement . . . to get up in the morning and look at the world that takes nothing for granted . . . to be spiritual is to be amazed.” In my view, the optimist gets out of bed every morning gazing around and proclaiming that life is amazing!

So, Where is God? The Disciples saw God up close and personal as they walked with Jesus throughout the Holy Lands proclaiming and sharing the Good News. The Good News not that God was going to save a few “Holy Men” of high status in the Jewish culture, but that God was here for the oppressed, the downtrodden, the prostitutes and tax collectors. God just didn’t take the form of a human, but became fully human so we could see then and now, close up, by example where God is and what God wants from us. God is with the last of us as much as with the first. God is a forgiving God who reconciled all humankind to God in the death of his only Son on the Cross.

So, What does God want from us? God sacrificed God’s only Son so that we could live; live in the light of Christ’s resurrection. Yes, I know these words sound good, but you have heard them before over and over and their meaning has been lost. Let’s begin with sacrifice. How many parents would not give up their own life so their child could live? Would leap in front of a speeding car while pushing their child out of the way? Would gladly give up a kidney, lung, or liver to save their child? That is what God did for us; God in Jesus died for us so we could live.

So, What does God want from us? Let’s start with love. How does God get us to love God? Can love be ordered or commanded? Can God get us to love God by threatening us with judgment day, hell and damnation? How absurd for God to say, “You must love me or you will burn in hell?  Such a God would be abusive in the worst sense of the word. Yes, some men order their wives or girlfriends to love them with the threat of a gun or a fist? So, God loves us, and God wants us to love God back, but God can’t make us love God because that would be hypocritical. Love must be voluntary and come from the heart.

So, Where is God? God is patiently waiting for us to love God back. God has forgiven us. God has reconciled us to God at the Cross. God is standing with open arms waiting for us to love back. Reconciliation means God has offered atonement, meaning “at-one-ment” with God and all humanity.  Reconciliation is the offer to restore and heal our wounds and sinful nature, to grow in human perfection, though our acceptance of God’s love. But, to be honest and true love, the love must be voluntary on our part.

So, Where is God? God is there for us, will never leave or reject us.

So, What does God want from us? God wants us to grow in the light of God’s love, but only if we freely submit and become obedient to this love. What does it mean to freely choose to obey? Let’s start with an analogy to parenting. If parents develop a truly loving relationship with their child, then the child chooses to obey not because they fear losing the love, but because they want to honor that love with their obedience. The love commands obedience, not by force but by devotion.  

So, What does God want from us? God wants us to be devoted to him in loving relationship just as the virtuoso violinist is in love with the pursuit of perfection of her craft. There is nothing more joyful to the virtuoso then to get better and better in pursuit of perfection of her craft. The virtuoso is obedient to the demands of this pursuit not because they are forced to, but because there is nothing they would rather do. In the same way, when we freely choose to accept God’s love we are seeking virtuoso status in the love of God. We no longer live in judgment, hypocrisy, fear, out of touch with our fellow human beings. Instead we delight in following in Christ’s example to work for the restoration and healing of all our fellow brothers and sisters in the entire human race.

So, What does God want us to do? Healing does not mean that the gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgendered humans must heal from this, so called sin, but rather through the love we live out in Christ we accept them as God’s gift, love them for who they are, without condemnation or rejection. As we accept and love them we are healed and restored in God’s love and they are healed from the wounds of rejection, condemnation and alienation from a judgmental society, who’s God is dead. Instead they live in the love of God that is within every one of us, a God that was resurrected as Christ to bring “new life.” This same kind of love is meant for all of God’s children regardless of whether they are cognitively impaired, suffering from dementia, sick, poor, criminals, or victims.

So, Where is God and What does God want us to do? God can be found inside each and everyone of us as unconditional love that calls us to a relationship that is so wonderful we see no choice but to honor that love with our obedience and devotion; to honor that relationship by loving God back. David Brooks quotes St. Augustine’s answer to the question: What do I love when I love my God:”

“Yet there is a light I love, and a food, and a kind of embrace when I love my God – a light, voice, odor, food,embrace, of my innerness, where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain, where there is sound that time cannot seize, where there is perfume that no breeze can disperse, where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lesson, and where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part. That is what I love when I love my God.” 

Who wouldn’t choose to be where this God is and to freely choose to stay in this loving light in faithful, loving and devout obedience to carrying out God’s love in the example of Jesus Christ here on earth. The Kingdom has come!!!!





Obamacare and ER Visits: Scientific Study Misses Point in Values Vacuum 

By Dr. Russ,

A scientific study misses the point when it concludes Obamacare will increase rather than decrease ER visits.  While that may be the scientific fact of the study, it is not the truth of the study. Truth is more than scientific fact. Truth goes well beyond a simple fact because truth is about the meaning and practical implications of the study. Such meaning involves values and value perspectives. This study ignores all value perspectives other than the value of scientific methodology of the so-called “gold standard of social science” known as random assignment. The study exemplifies the values vacuum of scientific methods that claim truth while ignoring values.

Today, the New York Times reported a study published in the journal Science that concluded poor people who were placed on Medicaid in Oregon, in 2008, made 40% more visits to the ER than those not provided with such coverage during the first 18 months of coverage. The study, Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, was considered scientific because out of a population 90,000 Oregonians 30,000 were randomly selected to be placed on Medicaid. Random assignment is considered the “gold standard” of scientific methodology.

I do not question the science, but I question the conclusions of the study. The conclusions attempt to answer the question: So what does the study mean? When the study claims that healthcare coverage for the poor will increase ER costs rather than reduce them as proponents of Obamacare have claimed, the study is taking and missing values some inherent in the very question itself. Here are some examples of the values missed.


  1. When poor people get health care coverage, they are going to use it! When they use it, it costs money. The value is not about cost, but about whether we value health over money for everyone!
  2. The study hides behind the bankrupt notion that science and scientific fact is somehow above values; operating in a valueless vacuum. But the study’s very question, do ER visits of poor go up or down after getting healthcare coverage was a value question. A value question about cost with the implication that less is better than more cost. Reduced visits mean better healthcare. I would like to see the reaction of a Tea Party or conservative Republican in the U.S. House or Senate with cushy health care coverage when they are denied coverage for a health care need. Would they say, as their son or daughter is suffering, “Oh this good for the country because it means we are reducing healthcare costs?”
  3.  Cost is only one value, which often competes with the “quality of life value.”
  4.  The study only investigates number of visits, not the need for the visit. How many of these 40% who now used the ER really needed an ER level of care from which they benefited? How many of those without coverage suffer in the silent agony of pain, suffering and incapacitation of an untreated illness, acute or chronic.
  5. One of the authors of the study says the study supports a classic economic principal: When people get a benefit they use it. No S… Shakespeare. We lose confidence in science when it concludes the obvious.


The simplicity of this study’s questions and conclusions leaves it vulnerable to misuse by those who do not value taking care of our neighbors, our brothers and sisters less fortunate than us. Pessimism is the result of such misuse. We would all do well to remember a very important history lesson. When the discrepancy in income and quality of life between rich and poor reaches a certain tipping point, the poor have nothing to lose from rebelling with violence against the rich. If Marie Antoinette were alive today she might be heard to say, “Well if the poor can’t afford the ER let them go see their cardiac specialist.” The USA is now in the midst of the greatest economic discrepancy between rich and poor in its history. How close we are to a tipping point like the French Revolution of the 1790’s, we do not know. But I would much rather pay for the bread of healthcare that covers an ER visit for a poor person, than for the human cost of the rage and violence that comes with indifference to our poor neighbors needs when they are told to eat the out of reach cake of specialty care! Optimists work for the good of their fellow human beings and try to bring about the best for all, not just a few of privilege.






Trucker Plans Climb of a Lifetime to Benefit Truckers Against Trafficking

By: Jackie Monroe

Moment-to-Moment recently become aware of twenty-seven year old professional truck driver/rock climber Matt Hopkins and his quest to summit Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina.  If that goal isn't inspiring enough for you, take a look at what Matt hopes to accomplish: raise awareness of human trafficking within the United States and also raise $22,841 (the height of Aconcagua) to benefit Truckers Against Trafficking, a Denver-based non-profit that is educating and mobilizing the trucking industry to help combat trafficking. 

In February 2013, Matt plans to start his journey to Argentina and his mission to complete this once in a lifetime climb.  The trip had been in the works for a while, but recently Matt heard about Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) while listening to  Road Dog Trucking Radio on SiriusXM. Moved by what he heard and learned about trafficking and TAT's mission, Matt was inspired to take his adventure and turn it into an awareness and fundraising event. Using the online giving platform at CrowdRise, Matt set a goal, came up with a name for his project, and got to work. Thus, the "From Miles to Mountains" campaign was born. 

Looking to achieve something greater than "just" climbing Aconcagua, Matt exhibits optimism by making a choice to do something more by using his trek to educate and inspire others.  Surely his optimism and stamina will be put to the test as he prepares (mentally and physically) for the long journey ahead. But with this awesome goal to motivate his pursuit, and the many others that will be inspired to help and spread awareness, Matt can be confident in his abilities, preparation, and passion to complete the task at hand. Up, up, and away with optimism! Follow along on this exciting adventure! 

In light of this spectacular goal and example, it leads us to ask: 

What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? --Robert Schuller



Martin Luther King's 50th Anniversary of Dream Speech

By Dr. Russ,

Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech on the Washington, D.C. mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 250,000 about his dream for racial reconciliation in America.  To a large extent his dream has been realized as evidenced by a black president, a black USA Attorney General, and laws that prevent discrimination in employment, housing, restaurants, hotels and motels, etc.

Much progress has been made, but there are still major parts of the dream that have yet to be realized. For example, there are 2.3 million Americans behind bars, and nearly half, 1 million are African American. Something is clearly amiss. New York City has been ordered to stop its aggressive stop, search and frisk tactics that are mostly implemented on innocent black and Hispanic youth.

Ever since the end of the Civil War there has been a major pushback against equal opportunity for black Americans whenever promise and progress was shown. After 10 years of social progress for black Americans in voting rights, school achievement, economic status, and employment after the Civil War, during Reconstruction, the first major pushback occurred with the passing of Jim Crow laws in the South; the Ku Klux Clan began to thrive and we had nearly 100 years of regression in civil rights for black Americans.

King’s leadership in the 1960’s changed all that.  But, the dream has not been fully realized. 

We are currently seeing another pushback in the South as Texas, Florida, and North Carolina have recently passed laws designed to limit the black and poor voter turnout. All are being challenged in court. These legislatures did not like the fact that in 2012 a higher percentage of the black electorate voted as compared to white voters. They are afraid that black and poor will contaminate the ballot box. So they are going to make it harder to vote in a way that discriminates against those black, poor and other disenfranchised voters.  

Optimism is hope and something more. The something more is the effort and work required to achieve the dream. We cannot be complacent. The Supreme Court recently gutted the voting rights law that was in place since the 1960’s saying that certain Southern states no longer needed oversight and permission from the U.S. Justice Department to change their voting laws. These Southern states have rushed to a return of a 21st century version of Jim Crow.

Fifty years of oversight is not enough to eliminate the possibility of pushback and recession in progress for equality of all races. I suggest we use the time frame of 200 years. That is the approximate time slavery existed in the U.S. before the emancipation proclamation. 

Optimists have to have more than hope, and like King’s freedom marchers of the 1960’s we must take a stand that involves word and deed. We must take the risk of speaking out for the rights of all people. 


Angelina Jolie Brings Optimism to Women at Risk of Cancer

By Dr. Russ,

When Angelina Jolie announced she had a double mastectomy, prophylactically, to prevent breast cancer, she became a role model for action-oriented optimism. Some 232,000 women in the USA receive a breast cancer diagnosis each year, and 40,000 die from the disease. Genetic testing also indicates that Angelina is at risk of ovarian cancer as well. Breast cancer has many survivors, but ovarian cancer does not. Ovarian cancer is much more deadly. 

In 1962, at the age of 41, my mother died of ovarian cancer. She had been treated 10 years prior for breast cancer with a single mastectomy. My mother’s mother died at the age of 39 of ovarian cancer. Twelve out of thirteen of my maternal grandparent’s siblings died of some kind of cancer at relatively young ages. We have learned since the advent of genetic testing that either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are present in nearly every female in the lineage from my mother’s mother.

In 1968, my aunt, my mother’s younger sister underwent prophylactic surgery that removed both breasts and she had a complete hysterectomy removing the ovaries and uterus, all at the same time.  She was in her forties, approaching menopause, and had born three children. My Aunt lived to be 80 years old. She got to enjoy being with and seeing all her six grandchildren grow into their twenties.

When my mother passed in 1962, everyone was forecasting a cure for cancer within forty years. Well, it has been fifty years, and we still do not have the cure. In 1968, when my aunt underwent the surgery it was truly groundbreaking, but some 45 years later, Jolie is being hailed as a ground-breaker for women’s breast health.

As you know, the Dr. Russ brand of optimism is not about wishful thinking and pie in the sky outcomes, but is about taking constructive action to improve your life situation and attitude. Angelina Jolie’s actions speak louder than any words she has spoken. I have seen the positive results of this kind of action-oriented optimism had for my aunt, up close and personal. It is not easy to have the parts of your body that most define physical femininity removed. Like a good optimist these women assessed their worst-case scenario and its likelihood of occurrence. They then made a decision to save themselves for their families. These are the kinds of actions that define the Dr. Russ Buss brand of optimism.

Let me know what you think.