Thursday, December 4, 2014

These 7 Things Give Me Hope

This year during Advent, my worship planning team came up with the idea of giving gifts each week, or more accurately, naming some of the gifts God gives to us. Each week we are sending worshippers home with "gift tags" like these pictured that name a gift we get from God and then have a question or activity to connect the gift with life during the week.

This week, in response to Jesus' message "Heaven and earth may pass away, but my words will not pass away" (Mark 13:31), we made this past Sunday about "Hope." The tags we sent home said, "Each day, name one thing that gives you hope about the future." As I've considered this challenge this week, I thought I'd share my list here to encourage and hopefully spread the conversation beyond my congregation.

So here are my seven things that give me hope for the future:
  1. My Kids - I'm biased, I know, but my kids are kind, loving, creative, whip-smart, and generous.* (My daughter recently took some of her allowance to school and gave it to one of her teachers whose smart board had died the day before. The teacher returned the money with a very touching thank you card.) If my kids keep these traits, I have no fear about their own future and if there's a handful more like them in the world, the rest of us will be okay, too. (*Most of the time.)
  2. Modern Medicine - One hundred fifty years ago, we didn't know about germs and we've since destroyed small pox and vaccinated many other diseases into an afterthought. Ebola is doing awful things in Africa now, but twenty years ago we thought AIDS might end humanity and it is now manageable. Just in the time I've been a pastor, I've seen surgeries that used to hospitalize people for days or weeks turn into out-patient surgery. (I once missed visiting someone following a hip replacement because they were released within 48 hours!) Cures and treatments that were once miraculous are now commonplace and more miracles are becoming common every year.
  3. The Fact That My Elders Were Just As Uncertain About The World Their Kids Would Inherit - I recently had a conversation with a mother who confessed she had been uncertain about ever having kids because "I didn't want my kids growing up in a world like this." "But," she said, "My mother and grandmother told me they thought the same thing in their youth." I've thought this same thing, but the world has never turned out quite as bad as the previous generation has thought and has largely thrived in the past century. If their pessimism was wrong, mine probably is, too.
  4. Music - Most people who know me know that I love music. I usually have it playing in the background while I work or clean and my idea of a self-indulgent evening is to sit down with a set of headphones and listen to a favorite album from beginning to end with my eyes closed. Music gives me hope because at its best, I find it to be a transcendent experience that opens my mind and heart to visions of the world as it should be. A great song can transport me to an emotional plain that inspires and energizes me to make myself and the world around me a better place. 
  5. Surprise - I am regularly surprised in my life. I'm surprised by compliments from unexpected sources, by unsolicited help, by small and even anonymous acts of kindness, by people who share hidden passions and interests, by children that blurt out simple but powerful statements of love and truth. It gives me the sense that there is much more goodness and kindness in the world around me than is known or seen. I tend to focus on tragedies and troubles (thank you, media), but there is a great deal of uncelebrated kindness happening, too.
  6. My Spouse - She's my biggest cheerleader and best support. I'm amazed and inspired by her. To crib from Jack Nicholson in "As Good As It Gets," she makes me want to be a better person. Any future with her is worth looking forward to.
  7. My Baptism - Martin Luther once said that when the dark voices start whispering how worthless, hopeless, or sinful you are, a Christian should cry back, "But I am baptized!" As a Christian, when I feel hopeless about myself or the future, knowing that I've had God's promises poured over me -- promises that can't break, tarnish, or expire -- is a great source of hope for me.
I'd love to hear your own thoughts on where you find hope in the comments (or in person). Thanks for taking the time to read mine and may your holiday season be filled with hope. 

In the Gray,
Pastor Ari

“Author of the moment, can you tell me: do I end up happy?” -He Is We, “Happily Ever After”

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