Archive for the ‘hope’ Tag

What Gives You Hope?


Lake Huron

by Keith Yancy

What gives you hope?

Stop and think about that question for a moment.  It’s an interesting question that I came across while reading Regina Brett’s book, titled Be The Miracle.  In it, she lists a variety of personal observations that give her hope.

But the question itself is worth considering — after all, it’s different from “what gives you happiness,” or “what gives you satisfaction.”  “Hope” is different — rather than the immediate “what makes you happy,” hope is more about what you look forward to or expect in the future.

So, what gives you hope?  Hope for the future?  The world?  Humanity?  Have you stopped lately to ask yourself what, beyond the typical fill-in-the-blank type reactions, you hope for?  Do you have the courage to think deeply about hope?

I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of hoping for the typical litany of outcomes our culture feeds us.  We hope for success at work.  We hope our families are safe.  We hope for good weather, good service at the local restaurant, good traffic on our commute, an enduring marriage.  We hope our sports teams win, our tax refunds are larger, our boss is nicer.

Perhaps it’s easy and safe to hope for the immediate, the easy, the next step on your path to wherever you’re going in life.  And in a hyper-publicized world, hope can sometimes seem to be easily pummeled into despair by the barrage of negative news which constantly preoccupies our country and our world.  Wars.  Ebola.  Environmental disasters.  The decline of values in our society.  Civil unrest, terrorism, scandals, corruption, partisan politics — too often, these are the main ingredients of the media diet we’re fed.  How can hope survive?  Our culture often seems fixated on its own decay and decline — how can something like hope not seem trite or naive?

With so much negativity, so much to worry about, so much to fear, its pretty easy to keep our hopes focused on the “little things.”  But aren’t there opportunities to hope for something greater?  Something beyond ourselves, or the definitions of success/happiness/achievement that we’ve bought into?

I think so.

When I think of the question “What gives me hope?”, I find myself searching for deeper answers.  Yes, I hope for all the normal stuff — a raise at work, fewer meetings, Granny Smith apples in the cafeteria — but I’m trying to aim higher.  I’m trying to change my opinion of “hope” from a naive, simplistic emotion to the powerful, profound emotion it can and should be.  Hope is more than endurance of life’s disappointments and steadiness in the face of defeat — the things we hope for should help define who we are, what we stand for, what our ultimate goals are for our lives.  Our hopes should inspire us to think more deeply, feel more profoundly, act more purposefully.

Here are some things that give me hope:

  • The glowing red sunrise above me on my drive to work, reminding me that there is always, always beauty in the world — no matter what problems I may face.
  • The knowledge that I (and everyone else) is more than just the sum total of their jobs, their looks or their possessions — everyone has value.
  • The kindness and understanding of my wife, because it reminds me that compassion for others still exists in the world.
  • Watching my daughters growing up with moral values, strong opinions, and dreams of the future.  Today’s kids are no worse, or better, than any other generation.  I believe in the idealism of youth.
  • The knowledge that our present-day challenges are not that different from the challenges of generations past.  If we can overcome slavery, the Black Plague and a host of other problems, humanity can overcome the problems that face us today.
  • The comfortingly predictable and glorious change of seasons, marked by the leaves of Autumn, the chill of Winter, the blooms of Spring, and the glory of Summer.
  • Watching and recognizing that people can and do change.  Not always, and not always permanently, but people DO have the capacity to overcome their prejudices, to fight for what’s good in the world, to become better people.
  • That an African-American can be President, that women are breaking traditional barriers in sports/business/government, that people of different faiths can respect, understand and support each other without hatred, that those who have can and do try to help those who have nothing.
  • The brilliant blue of Lake Huron, if only because of the awe it’s beauty inspires inside me.
  • The enjoyment of art, music and literature.  May they always be an escape from the everyday and give us a glimpse of the sublime.
  • The persistent, calming belief that there is, in fact, an existence beyond death and this world we live in.  That belief is sometimes a tenuous one, but it’s a lifeline of faith that remains unbroken for me.
  • The recognition that the vast majority of people, I believe, are decent, honest, and good… and as such, are rarely if ever mentioned in what we call “news.”
  • That there is purpose and meaning in our lives beyond our understanding, and that, because the human mind has limits, there will always be a need for faith.  What people choose to have faith in is their choice.
  • Loyalty, courage, integrity, faith, morality, perseverance, compassion, empathy.  In other words, the best elements of our nature.  As long as these traits exist among us, there remains hope for the present and the future — and for us.

What gives you hope?  Feel free to share your thoughts with me.  I’m sure my list can be improved.

Until next time… 🙂

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Everyday Miracles


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Resurrection of Lazarus by Vincent van Gogh.

by Keith Yancy

Miracles. 

When most people think about miracles, they typically think of some of the big ones from the Bible.  The parting of the Red Sea.  A pillar of cloud in the desert, leading the Isrealites through the desert.  Christ walking on water, or raising Lazarus from the dead.  All examples of a God that acts directly to affect events.  And all of them happening nearly (or several, in the case of the Old Testament ones) thousands of years ago.

Back then, it seemed like God wasn’t bashful about making sure things went the way He wanted them to go.  In today’s terms, he took charge of the situation, dictated events, and enjoyed successful outcomes.  And there are many people today who wish that God would re-visit this “hands-on” approach. 

Tempting, isn’t it?  Someone bursting in to fix things, right wrongs, save the innocent?

Well, as everybody knows, the Almighty seems to work differently these days.  No burning bushes, no water turned to wine, no fiery chariots into heaven.  Nowadays, God seems to get credit (or blame) for natural disasters ranging from earthquakes to tsunamis to hurricanes.  Remember the natural disaster-themed television program Wrath of God?  

God’s present-day miracles, if you believe in them, seem to be of the second-hand variety, the kind that involve God working through others to affect events.  Much less direct, much less high-profile.  Prone to other explanations.  Not dramatic, perhaps, but meaningful for those who experience them.

I believe — completely — that God does perform miracles.  Every day.  And I also believe that the best part is this: he uses people like you and me to do it.

Perhaps he performed dramatic miracles long ago because His people needed such assurance.  Perhaps God “changed his style” after he gave us his greatest gift and teacher — his Son.  I don’t know.  And, in my humble opinion, neither does anyone else.  What I do know is what I see and experience, and I’m convinced.

Just like the ancient times, today’s miracles can be like the roar of the tempest, or like a whisper in the mind.  In other words, they can be obvious or subtle.  But miracles nonetheless.

Think there’s no obvious miracles?  Perhaps you’ve never seen people recover from supposedly terminal illnesses, defying the odds with the help of loved ones.  Perhaps you’ve never seen the children affected by programs like Make-a-Wish or Special Olympics, or the many, many people who work so hard — and give so much — to make these events so priceless for those involved.  Perhaps you’ve never seen the homeless shelters who take in so many of our poor, lost, and hungry.  Perhaps you haven’t seen so many other examples of organizations — from the Marine Corps around the world to churches across the country — who work so hard to bring happiness to those who have nothing.  

Perhaps you haven’t noticed that in these examples, and so many others just like them, those who give so much have no worldly reason for doing so.   There’s little or no monetary reward.  They’re usually not even helping people they know personally.  They do it simply to do good.  To help those who need it.  To show others that someone cares.  Creating “everyday miracles” in lives that need them.

And if you missed the obvious ones, you probably didn’t see the subtle ones either.  The kind act of a stranger that helps someone in need.  The perfect advice from one person to another that changes their thoughts, then their actions, and ultimately, their lives.  The abuser, the convict, the forgotten — the “lost cause” — who finally hears God’s whisper… and changes their lives for the better. 

I’m sure many people would be quick to tell me that I’m confusing good fortune for miracles, or human generosity for miracles, or even self-motivation for miracles.  And my guess is that I’d never be able to convince such people otherwise.  You see, I think of miracles as those acts — large or small, loud or quiet, known or secret — that bring hope to the hopeless, joy to the joyless, and most importantly, a glimpse of what God is really about to those who have never seen, felt or even heard about Him.   

Matthew Easton, a 19th century religious scholar, once wrote, “Where miracles are there certainly God is.”  And I see God’s hand at work when these “everyday miracles” occur… because my God is one who, instead of giving us signs of his power, works countless small miracles each and every day — and gives us signs of his presence.  Through everyday people like us.  Allowing people like you and even me to be an active part of his plan, rather than just recipients of his plan. 

I can’t speak for others, but that feels pretty damn good to me.  More importantly, it makes me want to be part of that plan.  The surprising thing about that is that sometimes, you’re a part of an “everyday miracle” and don’t even know it.  This has happened a couple of times to me, but one time in particular stands out — because it took me completely by surprise.

I had found out from someone I worked with — briefly — that something I said to her changed her life (her words).  She told me that, several years before, she had asked me for my opinion on what she should do about her problems, and recalled that my advice was to “think about who she was, and what she stood for.”  After telling this story, she thanked me, and told me it changed her life that day.  (I didn’t have the heart to tell her I not only couldn’t remember what the advice was for, I didn’t even remember giving it.)  Yet it still changed her life.

Coincidence?  Maybe to some.  But it meant more than that to me.  Someone once observed, “Your life may be the only Bible some people will ever read,” and I try to keep that in mind every single day.  I think anything that can magnify the good in others — and bring them closer to God as a result — is an everyday miracle.  Just one of the small, countless everyday miracles that remind of us all that is good and right about people… and give us a brief glimpse of the fact that we are, indeed, made in His image.

Until next time… : )