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The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston

The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston is senior pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, NY.

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Scott Black Johnson: Hold On to the Good

March 25, 2016

Do you savor? Do you take time - pause-and-reflect time - to delight in the moments of grace and joy that flit through your life?

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This morning I read something that troubled me. Psychologist Dan O'Grady claims that our negative experiences and critical thoughts have remarkable staying power. They stick to us like Velcro. They replay themselves in endless loops on the screen that drops down in front of our mind's eye.

On the other hand, O'Grady says our positive experiences and joyful thoughts are fleeting. They slide away from us like eggs on Teflon.

I guess this all makes sense. It is important for humans to remember negative experiences so that we can avoid them going forward. A hot stove will burn your fingers. That dude in the next cubicle will insult you. Remembering these experiences can save us future pain. But what life-saving, face-saving benefit comes from re-reading a complimentary email?

Flowers fade. Scars last.

I know that's true. Still, I fear that, over time, this dynamic might unbalance us. At the very least, it might make us cynical, disconnecting our ability to appreciate "the good." And if we cannot hang on to "the good," how can we possibly hang on to God?

Maybe, as Father Richard Rohr suggests, we need to work a little harder at letting the good things of life imprint on us.

I suggest that we take Rohr's advice literally. Here's why. When I get a positive letter, I will read it, smile, save it in a file and move on. When I get a negative letter, I will read it. Put it down. Come back to it. Now, the worst sentence in the letter - the one that really twists my innards - has been imprinted on my brain. It is in my memory. It goes with me wherever I go. It eats at me.

What if we were as dedicated, as diligent, as persistent in taking time to contemplate - to savor -- the moments that give us joy and hope and a sense of purpose? What if we took time to lift up the positives as often as we lift up our struggles to God in prayer?

What would become of us?

Buddy the Elf

Would we all become "Cotton-headed Ninnymuggins"? The naïve Will Ferrell from "Elf"? Or would we become something more, something deeper?

From Scott's blog, Sharp About Your Prayers


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