Tenacity of Hope Revisited

As the first week of Advent continues to unfold, I offer this pondering on hope I wrote last year.  Consider today:                     What nourishes your soul?

What gives you the strength to carry on when life gets rough? 


Living without hope is like burying oneself. – Buddha


Years ago, I worked with a chaplain who did not believe in using the word hope in her vocabulary.

She viewed it as “too Christian.”  Hope was wrapped up in a theology of wishful thinking that placed one’s future in the hands of a God she did not believe in.

I have pondered her attitude about hope off and on for years.

Perhaps hope resides too much in the future and sets too many people up for broken dreams and broken hearts.  “Disappointment,” according to Eric Hoffer, “is a sort of bankruptcy — the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.”

Sure.  I’ve been there.

I have cried out for change and healing and direction in my life only to be more than disappointed when my hopes and expectations were not realized.  And, to be frank, each and every time it sucked.  I give thanks, however, that these disappointments have yet to extinguish my ability or desire to continue to hope.

William Sloan Coffin once said, “Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.

Because of my faith, even in the face of disappointment, I trust that God’s spirit is at work despite the train wreck my life may appear to be at times.  In my hope I am embodying that passion for the possible.

Restless the other night with the usual worries I recalled this scripture:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 13:4 NKJV)

Over and over I repeated these words, a mantra filled with tomorrow’s possibilities that soothed me back to sleep.

This is why I am a person of faith.

This is why I treasure my Christian tradition and spiritual practices.

In the times I feel life’s stressors pressing in, I need only to turn to scripture, or prayer, or a fellow spiritual sojourner for strength and guidance while gaining a renewed hope for the future.

That said, I am not convinced hope is exclusively Christian and perhaps, all these years later, neither does that other chaplain.

I have witnessed hospice patients of all spiritual persuasions remain hopeful throughout their disease process. Their hopes may change—hope for healing becomes a hope for comfort, which sometimes moves into the simplest hope of a good bowel movement, and eventually the hope for a peaceful death—but always their  eyes are on the horizon, seeking the best that tomorrow may bring.

That’s the tenacity of hope.  It’s is about never giving up!

Whatever you are facing, may you find a renewed hope that lightens your burdens and makes your journey a little bit easier.


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

The song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,”  was made famous by singer Andy Williams in the 1960’s and quickly became a Holiday classic .  (Are you humming it yet?)

And sure, for many it is the most wonderful time of the year. (Look how happy those folks are giving their best Christmas tree thumbs up. )

I have friends who have already, long before Thanksgiving, posted on Facebook their excitement and anticipation of the Holiday Season.  A few even shared photos of this year’s lights and Christmas decorations. (Oh, the horror of it all!!)

But here’s the deal.  For many, this is NOT the happiest time of year.

I witness year after year the struggles of those overwhelmed before and after the Holiday Season.  Family tensions, loneliness, financial struggles, unfulfilled wishes–all these and more contribute to a less-than joyful experience of the Holidays.  I have certainly been there myself.

This year I will resist the temptation to dive into the Holiday frenzy and  instead immerse myself ever deeper into my faith.

I will actively engage Advent, the liturgical season that marks the start of the new Christian year.

It is a time of contemplating and waiting on not only the first coming of Christ–which we honor on Christmas day–but the Second Coming as well, when God’s Reign on earth will be undeniable.

Please, don’t get caught up in the frantic, busy-ness of the Holiday Season.

Join me here starting next Sunday (you could even subscribe!!) for a weekly Advent reflection of hope, peace, joy, and love as we mindfully make our way to the manger to rejoice,  once again, in the birth of Jesus.

See you next week!

Bah Humbug!

sad faceOnce again, I am irritated with and disgusted by the consumerism of the Holiday Season. In one of the grocery stores I frequent, Christmas items were for sale BEFORE Halloween!!

So I share this post below from August 2012 with my reflections on Boycotting Christmas.  Let’s rage against the commercialism machine and try something different this year!


Am I too late?

You haven’t purchased your Christmas gifts yet, have you?

Well, if you have, I say take them back!

imagesBoycott Christmas!

Don’t fall for all that commercial Christmas crap. Really…you don’t have to buy something for everyone you know. You don’t have to get your children or grandchildren, your spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend or partner everything they want.

Every year I am overwhelmed and saddened with the intense marketing of Christmas. Remember when you didn’t see any signs of the Christmas season until after Thanksgiving? What a sacred practice. These days it seems like pushing Christmas purchases is fair game shortly after Halloween.

What gets me the most is that Christmas, the Holy Day (of celebrating the birth of Christ) has become overshadowed by the crazy frenzy known as Christmas, the Holiday.

I’m not one to routinely tout “Keep Christ in Christ-mas” but I do long to reclaim the holy significance of the day and separate it from the consumer madness of the holiday. (I love the fact that many countries exchange gifts at other times. When I lived in the Netherlands my Junior year in high school, we exchanged gifts on the eve of December 6. Each person got ONE gift, given anonymously by another family member. Sweet and simple.)

To practice what I preach, I’m boycotting the commercial Christmas this year. My family was informed this summer, so as to ease the shock, that they should not expect any gifts this year for Christmas. We have always kept the gift-giving to a minimum, but this December 25 we are going to a big fat ZERO. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

Now, I know. I am probably sounding a bit Grinch-like right now.

But consider this:

If you are a Christian, how do the ways you celebrate Christmas, the Holiday, help you to grow in your faith?

Are you and your family and friends able to exchange gifts without any disappointment, jealously, envy, stress (in finding the right gift), or pressure (in not leaving anyone out)?

Is the money spent on gifts from your financial surplus or do you go deeper into debt because of your purchases?

What expectations arise in celebrating Christmas? How are those expectations typically met or dashed?

I am so tired of our society’s over consumption this time of year. And I cringe at the environmental impact of the useless junk sold in the name of Christmas, the Holiday.

Every year I meet far too many people during and after the holiday season who seem drained and disheartened—myself included.

Instead of glowing with the promise of the Christ Child, spirits are dimmed with overexertion and disappointments.

So here is my challenge to you.

Remove the commercialism from this year’s Christmas season.

Avoid buying Christmas gifts!

Instead, spend time with family, reach out to the needy, gather with friends.

In fact, do it today!

Don’t wait until December to support your favorite charity, visit and comfort shut-ins or serve a meal at a local homeless shelter.

If you want to do something special for your loved ones, surprise them long before the Holiday season.

Give small, meaningful gifts throughout the year. Better yet, give the gift of yourself. Offer your time and show your love to family, friends, and even strangers each and every day.

Spend the Season of Advent (the four weeks before Christmas) contemplating what the arrival of the Christ Child means to you as a Christian.

And when December 25th finally rolls around, allow yourself to be absorbed in Christmas, the Holy Day.

On that special day, take time to consider the difference being a follower of Jesus has made in your life…

…and live that difference out in the New Year to come!