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These days I seem to be continually assaulted by snatches of songs or poems I had picked up many years ago and then proceeded to forget — so I assumed. The problem is that once the music has been retrieved from the tiny crack in my brain where it has been lodged, and begins to play, there is no way to turn it off. The only relief comes when the tune or lyric is replaced by some other verse that demands attention. Here is a current example that appeared a few days ago and promises to stick with me for the foreseeable future.

You’ve got to accentuate the positive,

Eliminate the negative,

Latch on to the affirmative,

Don’t mess with mister in between.

I have no idea where that bit of doggerel came from, although I seem to see it linked to a Disney cartoon. I’m sure one or a dozen of my readers will set me straight.

Recently I have been encountered by a more sophisticated bit of poetry whose origin is equally shrouded, although the image of Leonard Cohen somehow seems to be related.

O gather up the brokenness

And bring it to me now

The fragrance of those promises

You never dared to vow

And let the heavens hear it

The penitential hymn

Come healing of the spirit

Come healing of the limb

O see the darkness yielding

That tore the light apart

Come healing of the reason

Come healing of the heart

A third even more familiar set of words comes from Psalm 137.

How can we sing the Lord’s song in this strange land?

All three of these are invitations for me to look on the sunny side of life even when my world is encased in a grey cloak of disappointment at best and despair at worst. They come upon me when the best of times is a vanishing image, and I believe that the worst of times will dominate all that remains. I then am seemingly reduced to mourning what I have loved even as I hope for a new sunrise, or perhaps just a breeze promising a time when the fog will surely lift. For now, I can only live in hope as I hold my breath in anticipation, even when the eastern sky remains black.

Even if I have spent most of my life as an optimist, there have been times in my darker hours when someone has told me to cheer up, and that things could be worse. So I cheered up and sure enough, they got worse! Perhaps it is my age slowly attacking my physical health; the awareness that, Nov. 1, was the birthday of my recently departed daughter, Carol; or it might it be the eclipsing of the dream once alive in our intentional community but now we seem to have disavowed our commitment to finding a way of living together in spite of economic differences. And hovering over everything is a nation that has lost its way in the election of an egomaniac without moral compass or compassion. 

Yet the best in us demands that we accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative and re-learn the tune and the words of the Lord’s song no matter how strange they sound or how they seem now to be submerged in the struggles taking place in this strange land.

Just this morning I was visiting a dear old friend on whose wall hangs words of the 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich: All manner of things shall be well. I will make every effort to accentuate the positive. It will not be an easy discipline. But like everything in which I find myself involved, I never walk alone. Hold my hand and we’ll go together.

Charles Bayer

Charles Bayer is a somewhat retired theological professor and congregational pastor. 

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