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.”



May 1 2011

In The Family of Things

I feel strongly about the things I write on this blog.  They come from the heart and represent to a large degree who I am.   I know there are others who share my same passions and convictions but sometimes—like now—I feel alone.  I know I shouldn’t expect everyone to feel the same way I do about things.  I just wish more people cared about connecting God and Creation. 

Last night I was reading some of Mary Oliver’s poems before going to bed.  One of the poems I came across, “Wild Geese,” spoke to me in a powerful way.  It continues to today.  In this poem Oliver says “Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”  She then goes on to write, “Meanwhile the world goes on.  Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.  Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.”

In these words there is a needed reminder that life goes on.  Sometimes we get down and grovel in our despair.  We may have our own little pity party but all around us life goes on.  The world keeps moving.  The sun keeps shining.  The geese keep flying.  Knowing this might cause some to despair even more but it brings comfort to me.  I am gladdened by nature’s reminder that whatever it is I might be experiencing life goes on.

At the conclusion of “Wild Geese” Oliver says, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”  Here, too, I find comfort.  Sometimes I do indeed feel alone and lonely.  I feel that way when others don’t really seem to understand me or to care about the things that I do.  But as Oliver reminds us here, there is much in God’s Creation that beckons us to remember that we have a place “in the family of things.”  We do belong here.  I do.  You do. 

In His infinite wisdom the Creator has given all that He has made its place.  The rocks, the trees, the flowers, the clouds, the geese, the wind, the rain, the fish of the sea and the cattle of a thousand hills—they all have their place.  It’s no different for you and me.  We’re all in this together in more ways than we can imagine.  We are family.  I am not alone.  Neither are you.


(I took the top image of a large flock of snow geese at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico.  I photographed the whitetail deer and fawn in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.)