Posted in affliction, Campus Ministry, Community, Hope, Life, perseverance, Promise, Sermons, Story

Four letter word – Hope

Hope is one of those words that evokes….hope, promise, possibility, trusting something to completion, believing against all odds.

Sometimes hope is something that you grasp hold off in the darkest or most challenging of times. Sometimes hope is what you cling to when you know something may not work out.  Sometimes hope is that thing that keeps you moving forward and putting one foot in front of the other.

A friend and colleague emailed me a few weeks ago and said that he was glad that I was hopeful about our Church because we need that.  He said he just wasn’t there anymore and had no idea where his calling/ministry was going.

A student and I talked this week about a relationship where things aren’t quite working out and whether one should be hopeful that things might change or if after time and time again of things not changing, it was better to move on.

Another student and I talked about how it totally sucks sometimes to be single and whether God had someone out there for her or if she would every meet someone.  Should she hope?

I look at all of the freshman coming through Orientation and their hope and fear and wonder about what the next step in college is going to be.

I look at people facing health concerns whether personally waiting for the next checkup to see if tumors or cancer has returned, those facing the health concerns of family members, or those facing the loss of a loved one and I wonder about hope.

A four letter word.  Unlike the others.  Hope.

One of my favorite lines in the Matrix movies was said by the Architect to Neo in the second movie (yes the first one is probably the best, but I really liked this quote) – “Humph. Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”

Now I’m not saying in the case of the relationship that we live into Albert Einstein’s quote of Insanity – “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  I agree that sometimes our hope may be misplaced or that we’re trying to see the silver lining when there’s not one.  We have to be wise and discerning and honest with ourselves in that.

But I do think we rest in the hope of God and let that four letter word shape our story.  I think of the words from Lamentations 3, beginning with verse 19, “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fails.  They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;”

The thing about hope to me is that it’s an active thing.  You don’t just hope to win publisher’s clearing house or the lottery or to strike gold or to find a big pile of money in a brief case outside your house and expect it to happen just by hoping for it.  You have to actually enter to win publisher’s clearing house or buy the lottery ticket or rob the bank to find the briefcase full of money or work hard as heck on “Gold Strike Alaska” on the Discovery channel.  Not really encouraging any of these things but you get my drift.  You discern where the Spirit is leading you.  You don’t sit passively and hide out, but you grasp hold of your life with two strong hands and engage and grow and keep pushing forward.  You rest in the hope of God.  Giving God the chance to move and breathe and blow all over your life and your plans and your hopes and dreams.

If you really want a more solid devotional life, be intentional in making that happen.  Set aside time to pray, journal, sit in silence and listen, subscribe to the Upper Room email every morning, check out Alive Now, ask God to lead you to the people and resources that would best speak to you.  If you want joy at work or you want to do that thing that you’ve always dreamed of but that doesn’t fit with the “plan” in your head – ask God to show you the way.  Actually explore the possibilities and open yourself to making changes and making it happen.  There are many “what if” dreams that we have or moments or seasons of dissatisfaction or frustration, but in some ways we just comfortably stay in our safe little ruts because actually doing something about these things are scary as heck.  And we don’t know if it will work.  Or we’re scared that we’ll try and it won’t work and then we’ll have failed or lost that dream.

Swinging for the fence, hoping when it seems like it’s fruitless – you’ve got to actively and sincerely and intentionally do it and put your time and actions and heart where your mouth is.

What are your hopes?

In your personal life?

In your professional life?

In your vocational journey?

In your spiritual journey?

For your family?

For your friends?

For our Church?

For our world?


Not a “Christian” song but I do think it talks about grasping hold of your life and not making excuses or complaining when we feel hopeless or frustrated or afraid.  Live your story with hope, actively engaging, and knowing that the crud will come, but there is One who gives us hope each step of the way.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. — Hebrews 11:1

Posted in affliction, Campus Ministry, Faith, Health, Music, perseverance, Tumor, U2

So in reading about afflictions…

Affliction is such a yuck word.  Don’t you think?  Affliction.  Doesn’t sound good at all?  I just googled it and did you know there’s an Affliction clothing line?  Why in the world would you want “Affliction” clothing?

The Upper Room this morning was on 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.  It begins with, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”

I wrote about the race earlier and about perseverance and some of our afflictions sure do take some perseverance.  This is the first week of school at Winthrop and could arguably be one of our busiest weeks of the year.  We’ve been doing our thing here at Wesley and things are going pretty well – it’s great meeting new people and love, love, love connecting and catching up with our returning Wesley folks!

But this is tiring….and draining….and so many more depleting adjectives.  It doesn’t seem like it’s just student life, but everywhere it seems that folks are tired right about now as we all get into the swing of a school year.

I admit that at times I am frustrated – I can’t remember things I used to.  I am really tired and the typical adrenaline boost is not kicking in.  I just can’t gear up for this right now – the energy reserves are not there.  I also finally got the letter scheduling the next MRI and surgeon’s appointment – September 14th MRI and September 15th the brain surgeon.

I’d like to think that I can do this normal welcome back wohoo wesley thing no problem and the same as always, but if I’m honest with myself – it’s not the same.  I can’t run around like a crazy person and not feel those affects.  Humbling.  Frustrating.  Frightening.  Freeing?

We get so caught up in a numbers game – so caught up in how much can we produce?  Who is coming to Wesley?  How many?  Who showed up for church on Sunday? How much money is our company making?  What did we do today?  There’s such a focus on numbers and what we do that we forget to just be and that we don’t have to do it all.  I write that, but do I mean that?  Josh and I were talking about numbers and church/Wesley/what is the crazy thing called ministry stuff this week and I know that when pastors say we shouldn’t focus on the numbers, that can sometimes mean they’re just using that as a justification for the size of the body of folks that they work with.  But sometimes I really do question numbers…is that all that there is to say that you’re doing something?  Do we get so caught up in proving that something is happening at our churches or in our classes or in our workplaces or in our lives that we miss the blessings and consolations that God gives us along the way?  Or do we miss being those blessings and consolations to others because we’re more concerned about the to-do lists and keeping up with “that” family or company or church or whatever?

I wonder what would happen if we didn’t just feel frustrated by some of these things that seem to limit us or tie us down but we could flip that and feel the freedom from the endless search for perfection and the chance to claim even our inabilities, sufferings, and crud for the grace and strength of God?  I can believe that at the beginning of the day reading the Upper Room.  It’s harder to believe at the end of a day wondering where it all went and how the list never gets shorter.

Maybe we just need to give ourselves a break…

U2’s “Walk On” is on my itunes dj right now.  Maybe that’s what we do from all the things that can weigh us down – we walk on.  Some of our afflictions may go with us, but we can trust that God is with us and we walk on.

“Leave it behind
You’ve got to leave it behind
All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you steal
All this you can leave behind
All that you reason
All that you sense
All that you speak
All you dress up
All that you scheme…”