Jun 15 2016

Hope Trumps Despair

_DSC6423Recent events in the news have a lot of people upset and wondering “what is this world coming to?” The massacre in Orlando, in particular, causes one to question the sanity of humankind. How could anyone do such a horrible thing? Of course, the Orlando tragedy is just one of many mass killings we’ve witnessed and the madness of the world can be seen in so many other places. It can be seen in the genocide taking place in Africa, the Syrian refugee crisis, our mistreatment of God’s good earth, terrorist attacks all around the globe, and ongoing racism–just to name a few.  It’s almost enough to want to shout, “Stop the world; I want to get off!”

_DSC7438I will admit that what we see on the news and all around us is enough to lead one to despair. I do not think, however, that is the path we ought to take. In all the dark places I mentioned above there is light to be found. In aftermath of the Orlando shooting thousands upon thousands have responded in love by donating either money or blood.  There are lots of people fighting genocide wherever it can be found.  Although many countries have refused to take in the Syrian refugees lots of other countries have welcomed with open arms those in need of refuge.  Even though we have treated the earth harshly and ended up with lots of environmental woes, countless groups work daily to battle these woes and to improve the health of this planet.  Many people are hard at work each day battling terrorism and the root causes that contribute to it.  Likewise many recognize the injustice that comes with racism and fight diligently to establish “liberty and justice for all.”  The efforts of good people to overcome evil give me cause not to despair.  In fact, they give me hope that things can be better.

Of course, it is my faith in God more than anything else that sustains my hope and keeps me from succumbing to despair. There are many Bible verses that speak of the hope we must cling to.  Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Isaiah 40:31 says “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  In Hebrews 10:23 we are challenged, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  First and foremost, it is the love and faithfulness of God that give me hope.

In the Chalice Hymnal there is a hymn by Georgia Harkness called Hope of the World. In the first couple of verses Harkness offers a prayer we all might pray at this particular time: “Hope of the world, O Christ of great compassion: speak to our fearful hearts by conflict rent; save us, your people, from consuming passion, who by our own false hopes and aims are spent. Hope of the world, God’s gift from highest heaven, bringing to hungry souls the bread of life: still let your Spirit unto us be given to heal earth’s wounds and end its bitter strife.”

_DSC6569For eons the rainbow has been viewed as a sign of hope. I saw one a couple of evenings ago and found its appearance timely.  When I arrived at my office today our church flower garden was full of Easter lilies. They were planted after the Easter service in March and are blooming again.  I saw this also as a sign from nature indicating that there is always hope. Christians are an Easter people and the message of Easter is predominantly that of hope. So whether you are despairing over the world, our country, your church, your family, or your own life, let it be known that there is and always will be hope. My prayer for you is the same as that the apostle Paul offered in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

–Chuck

                                                                                                  


Mar 23 2011

Experiencing Creation Vicariously

Eagle with fishLet me say right off that I believe that there’s no better way to experience God’s Creation than by getting outdoors and enjoying it firsthand.  There are, however, some wonderful alternatives.  In recent weeks I’ve spent a good bit of time in front of the computer watching a live cam of an eagle’s nest in Norfolk, Virginia.  A friend told me about the site about the time the eagle pair had produced their three eggs.  About a week and a half ago the first eaglet was born.  Since then, its two siblings have also hatched.  What an incredible blessing it has been to watch the eagle pair care for their little eaglets.  I especially enjoy watching the feeding sessions.  If you would like to check out the live cam here is the link: http://www.wvec.com/marketplace/microsite-content/eagle-cam.html.  (This has become a very popular site so if you don’t get on at first, keep trying.  Also, make sure to open the discussion site to the right; there’s lots of great information on eagles available there.)

Getting to watch what I’ve seen on the live cam would be next to impossible in the wild.  In the vast majority of cases it would not be safe for me or the eagles to do so.  For that reason I am grateful for modern technology and the opportunities that we are given to observe nature vicariously.  In the past I’ve also enjoyed watching live cams of grizzly bears at McNeill River in Alaska and of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.  If you can’t be there in person, this is the next best thing.

Over the years I’ve learned a lot about bald eagles through books and also lectures I’ve heard given by my friend, Ken Jenkins.  A number of years ago I accompanied Ken on a trip to the Chilkat Eagle Preserve near Haines, Alaska.  It was an amazing experience.   This, combined with the wonderful live cam in Virginia, has vastly increased my knowledge of this majestic bird. 

Lone eagle on branch 4Students of the Bible will recall that the eagle is mentioned several times in Scripture.  Often it portrays speed and power.  In both the Old Testament (Ezekiel 1:10-14) and New Testament (Revelation 4:7) the eagle is included as one of the manifestations of God.  In Exodus 19:4 God speaks to the Hebrews and says, “You yourselves have seen…how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.”  Perhaps the most famous biblical reference to eagles is found in Isaiah 40:31: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I encourage you to check out the live eagle nest cam and to reflect on God’s Word as you do.  If you do I suspect you’ll find yourself giving thanks for God’s wonderful Creation and for the opportunity to experience it vicariously from time to time.

–Chuck

(I took the images above at the Chilkat Eagle Preserve in Alaska.)