Posts Tagged ‘hope’

Hope Restored

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Five stories of hope over the past week…

  1. We planted our Easter Flowers, collected just a week ago, at Interfaith Housing Alliance,  a local homeless shelter. The director proudly showed Angela where the flowers from last year’s planting were coming up.
  2. Harry died at 90.  His last Christmas toy/ present to his two sons? Drones.
  3. In preparing for Minwah’s funeral, a loving wife and mother of two adult sons, her younger son chuckled at the memory at debating with his mother what they would listen to on the way to school – a local FM music channel or “Hooked on Phonics.”
  4. Doing work in a hotel, hearing the cleaner enter the room next year, and talk online to a toddler grandchild while he cleaned the room.  I could not understand a word they said but the joyous tone said it all.
  5. Officiating at our oldest son’s wedding. Seeing a few days later, his wife honored by a local hospital as Julie BLAIR.
All of it Holy.
Somehow that holiness and hopefulness connect.
Maybe this is how.  Maybe we can learn learn to see it is all as holy. Even in the broken places, where we travel often, there is always a preciousness hidden somewhere.  In the husbands tears. In the family’s connection.  In the toddler’s laughter.  In the son’s pride.  In memory.
Holy, holy, holy.
And hope restored, at least in part, at least for today.

What A Positive Outlook Can Do

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

It is hard to remain positive.  In light of so much pain, so much chaos, pushing back away from frustration and dispare takes deliberate energy.

That is not to say life is without suffering and the grieving that attends it.  It is to say that context however … the holding as it were … is best embedded in light, not in darkness.  What do those positive emotions bring?

Positive emotions come down from heaven … from heavenly love … which brings life to everything that it touches. (Secrets of Heaven 1589)

We are pone, simply put, to distortions born of negativity. Distorting the world around us in stories that entrap others and entrap ourselves.  It is normal as a pastor to often work with two people in the same family or marriage, each with their own story, each completely believing in the rightness of their cause, and each in a sense then completely “right.”  Those distorions, merged with a negative outlook or “spin”, swirl together, reinforcing the dysfunctions that can quite literally blow relationships apart.

A positive outlook may not solve all the problems of the world.  But what it might just do is help us to change … to change our stories. We all could use a little more benefit of the doubt.  We all could use a smile.

Planning for Christmas. Preparing for Christmas: Advent Week One – Hope

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Advent, a beautiful, timeless ritual.  4 Sundays.  Each building on the other.  Helping us prepare for Christmas. Not plan … but prepare.

The first week. the first candle.  ”Hope.”

A hope not born of things but born of spirit.  ”Hope that inspires good to reveal itself.” Hope that is the “tender shoot” prophesied of 1,000′s of years ago.  Hope in an event and hope in a becoming.

Time for us to quiet our minds. To light a candle.  To consider.  Where is hope stirring in our lives?  Where is God’s “tender shoot” that opens with our hearts, not with ”fervent hands”?

Welcome hope!


Nagging Prayer

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

A powerful parable in the New Testament reads of a widow pleading before a judge for justice.  As a non-person – the plight of widows at the that time – her appeals met with repeated rejection.  But she persevered, nagging and nagging for justice until the judge relents.  Jesus uses this story to burrow towards a profound question, “When the Son of Humanity comes, will he find faith?”  Will God find faith?  The obvious connotation is that those who “nag” for justice actually are those among whom God finds faith.

And that is not to say that the nagging is the shrill, cynical skeptic for whom nothing ever suffices.  Quite the opposite.  The “nag” are the people of hope.  They are those who passionately believe that the world can be better and that buried deep in all our souls lies an embedded desire to be “called out” towards these acts of Justice.  Such people are part of God’s justice, forgiveness, and homecoming.  Such people may appear as “nags” about conspicuous consumption, the environment, the death penalty, but we need to hear in that nagging, regardless of our individual positions, a song of hope for the world.   Read Wendell Barry or Mary Oliver if you want to “nagged” in the poetic spirit of hope!

Grinding Stones

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

On a recent trip West, to my home town, we visited McConnell’s Mill.  There lying a distance from the old mill, were several disguarded grinding stones. Powered by the creek running past the mill, these old stones had ground wheat/ grain for years long gone.  They had done their job serving both farmers and families.

It brings to mind a passage from the Gospel of John.  Christ offered the words “I tell you that unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” … challenging words, a “hard saying” as it were, and a hope filled one.

Life presents us with numerous “deaths.”   Problems are not conquered as much as they switched out, one for another.  Life often appears to grind us down.  Like the stones,  fate presents as rather rudimentary – an uncaring, unattached set of stones there to simply grind away anything placed between the two of them.  In speaking to a friend recently who is facing a troubled economic future, one can hear the grinding wheels spinning.  I believe we have all been in that place.

Christ was clear on that fact – “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”  To me, what His words mean, is that yes, there are times when we are “ground down” so to speak.  There is little pleasant or happy about those moments … moments that are unavoidable in this life. From that point what we need to ask is, what is it that is getting “ground?’  What is the part that is being stripped away?  And what is the part, that maybe, just maybe is being born, processed or planted?

The Hope To Which We Are Called

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

As we enter Thanksgiving, much leaves me in awe at the incredible blessings with which life abounds. The challenge is that problems/ angst/ stress remain loud. Blessings, like God, are still and quiet.

There are of the course the material parts of life to be thankful for.  With NewChurch LIVE I am thankful for the overwhelming generosity of donors, the clear vision of leaders,  the work of paid and volunteer team members, a continued tradition of inspiring music, amazing congregants here and scattered across the country.

And there is something more for which I am thankful.  In Ephesians 1, we read these words by one of the founders of the Christian Church, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you.”  I am thankful for the Hope to which we are called.

You know, why else do this, build this church thing, unless in some way we were all called to a unique hope.  Words around that probably of necessity fail.  But maybe the concept points to a deeper heart motivation, a deeper “knowing” that resonates with a Heart far larger than this particular church.

I don’t believe we start the journey “knowing” what exactly that hope is.  I do believe we touch it – glancing blows here and there – as we seek to serve.  This mirror’s God’s spirit, a spirit that fails to arrive in a mechanistic, prescribed fashion.  As Christ noted, spirit like the wind, blows where it will and we are not (thankfully!) given to control it.

What we are given is the ability to respond to it, to acknowledge, and allow spirit to accomplish, over time, its works of shaping our lives.

The hope at the Heart of what we are doing is a loving world, one in which selfless endeavor finds itself transcendent over the fevered pursuit of “stuff” and “accomplishment.”   The heart of stone becoming the heart of flesh.  The hope of heaven becoming the hope of the world.  Christ born anew into the world as Spirit, as Hope.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!


Hope and Optimism

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

As is important to note, “Church is a decision to hope and an invitation into the imperfect.”

“Hope” and “Optimism” can be held as slightly different phenomena.  I have met people – and I can be one – with an almost compulsive need to be optimistic.  I don’t like hearing sad stories.  I even struggle to remain in my seat during a sad movie – which means I see about 2 movies a year.  That saccharine”optimism” masks frankly a discomfort with pain and struggle. I am challenged by looking at it “in the eye.”  Ministry is shifting that in time but it is often a struggle.

And what I am learning is that I can sit with others who are in pain, who struggle, and see a deep hope grow in areas where I, in my human smallness, could not imagine hope taking root. And this hope is a sober and at the same time generative hope – one that is able to witness the struggle of life as well as God’s calming and compassionate hand gently holding lives in turmoil.

The miracle for me is that I can decide to hope!   And if I decide to hope, I can then face the imperfect not with a response that recoils from pain, but with response that is able to access compassion – a word literally meaning to “suffer with.”  This hope goes a place where simplistic optimism never could.

Life is filled with hope, if that is the decision we choose to make.  We are after all in the Presence of God – a Presence that deeply loves us and continually calls us home.  That love remains regardless of circumstance – a secret found most profoundly in those whose lives have suffered trials of fire.   To know is to know the imperfect and to know a soul deep, a bone deep hope.

So in that spirit of hope, take 15 minutes and enjoy this short video!


Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

In October we are doing a series called “Toxic.” It focuses on handling the “Hazardous Materials” in our heads – thoughts and concepts that actually get in the way of connecting with God and with others.

Examples so far include being told “Don’t have too much hope.” Other examples were around overly idealistic views of life that left no room for making mistakes.

What would it be for you?