Tag Archives: hope

The Discipline of Hope, {Advent 2, 2016}

wws-cynicsCynicism. In many ways it seems like the most logical, natural way to wrap up a year like 2016. There have been so many unexpected deaths: Natalie Cole, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Gwen Ifil, Florence Henderson, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder. (Whew. And those are just a few.). All of these have been layered over a world hell bent on violence, and a campaign so full of insult and vitriol that even some of the campaigns’ mangers were at each other’s throats after the election. So it was a surprise, but a very small one, when many of my friends who had been supportive of the protests in the Dakotas, responded cynically to the news that the Army Corp of Engineers decided to stop the pipeline construction, at least for now. This was supposed to feel like good news. Within hours of the news going public my social media feeds were flooded with cynical claims that the announcement was a ploy just to get protestors off the land, that it wouldn’t be honored by the powers behind the pipeline, or that it was just a stalling tactic and a PR move.

This cynical turn would be negligible had it not been such a sudden, broadly expressed, and widely accepted sentiment. Even if these fears prove to be true, the speed that they were communicated and embraced said more about the habits of our hearts than our insight into the world. We have been steeping in a rhetoric of deep conflict and distrust for months and years on end. We have become so accustomed to enmity that assuming the worst no longer feels like pessimism, it feels like a practical defense mechanism, a way of tempering or restraining our hopes. It seems as if lowering our expectations actually seems like a useful, if not necessary practice to prepare us for when the other shoe inevitably falls.

I understand its appeal. Presuming the darkness is an endeavor that is rarely disappointed. But I am a Christian, and this is Advent, and it strikes me that cynicism, in its many forms, runs cross grain to the hope I am to be cultivating, especially during this time. Therefore it has no place in my life. So, Now what? What do we do when the most logical, natural conclusion, is incompatible with Christian practice and convictions? What do we do when it runs cross grain to our faith? Continue reading

Its Jesus, Not Dinosaurs…that are coming. Advent Day One

Ah. I begin Advent again with boxes and branches strewn about my small living room.   I just put in the last of what I call the Deadly Poultry Dishes in the dish washer and hope that I have done so prudently enough to keep the infinite number of possible turkey based bacterial death contaminates at bay… I guess we will see soon enough. I worked too many hours selling self described “magic” gadgets to strangers over the past two days and I feel harried and hurried and anxious and I feel certain if I sit down to finish writing this I will once again be late for Church.   It appears that I am exactly where I should be to begin advent. Continue reading

Bumper Stickers Don’t Change Hearts, and Other Reasons the Culture Wars are Hurting Everyone.

Bumper sticker car parked in Santa Cruz, Calif...

Bumper sticker car parked in Santa Cruz, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What good are bumper stickers?   So far in my life I have never seen anyone pull the car over and say to the passenger, “You know what? You CAN’T hug the world with nuclear arms, can you?” or, “I just visualized world peace and it was awesome.”

They are not really arguments, let alone compelling ones.  Bumper stickers don’t really change people’s lives.  Nevertheless it is nearly impossible to go anywhere for a short drive in just about any town and not see the simple black “W,” a Shepherd Fairey, “Hope”  illustration of Obama, a name followed by a “2012,” or a pithy statement about how just such-and-such a position makes the most obvious moral sense or that ridicules the opposition.   So I’ve been wondering, if these little traveling slogans don’t really change things, why do they keep showing up everywhere, and more importantly, what are they really trying to tell me?  Continue reading

When the Bough Breaks: A fallen limb in a friendship is not a dead tree.

Its is the second worst storm I endured since I moved to Texas, making it the second worst storm of my life.  I had been praying, trying to center, and needing to be present.  The storm hit my house exactly within the first five minutes of sitting down with someone for spiritual direction.  The wind was rattling the windows and tossing bits of the back yard around.  The whole house chilled.    I considered ending our time together because I was able to give the moment only 99% of my attention.  I was being tugged away by one haunting thought.  Will the tree hold? Continue reading

End of the Story: Most of the truths we live by are things we cannot prove. Beauty is just one of them. (Faith for Reasons)

The Creation of Adam

The Creation of Adam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We live in a moment in history in which truth is only found in this fairly new thing we reinvented called a ‘fact.’    “This is a table,” we say.  It is a fact that the thing I just set my cup on is a “table.”   Ta-da!  End of story…    It is an idea that seems pretty hard to argue with until all of a sudden I take that same table  apart and plan to build a flower bed out of it.   Fairly quickly it becomes lumber.  So it is now not a table after all.   Er… right?  That is the case until I decide without making any changes to the pile, to burn it in a fire.  Without moving an inch, by mere planning in my head,  it becomes fuel.  This pile of wood is fuel for my fire, end of story.   …Or perhpas this is where the importance of ‘story’ just begins.  Continue reading

Welcome. Let us Work Toward a Hard Goodbye. — Living well in the discovery and the loss of friendships.

“Well,” Fr. Francis said, “That is a relationship and relationships go through transitions.”   Of all of the things I have been mulling over in trying to make sense of a painful friendship, this one made the difference.  It was so simple, and apparently truthful because it made my gut ache. Continue reading

“No Wonder the Door Won’t Open, Silly. I am Already Inside.” -Three things about being a misfit in communities of grace that I keep having to re-learn.

Clearly I write from a position of someone who sits near the exit.  I love church, but sometimes I find it exhausting. I love my weirdo burner friends, and sometimes they can be a little harsh on my faith.   I long to be in Christian community, yet, depending on the community, I find myself itching to get out. I am finding that there are hidden moments of grace ready for the taking in all kinds of communities. And when I am willing to exercise a little humility and receive it, I find that that grace goes further than the edges of my life, and often finds its way into the open wild. Continue reading

Five Un-truths of Easter


There are somethings we can mistakenly embrace about Easter that distract us from the real hope that can help shape our lives.  These things are worth evaluating, not to deflate us, but to focus us on where the real hope lies. Continue reading

The Impossible Will Take A Little While.

It is harder than it looks to know how to take Easter. On the one hand it feels like an easy home run, a touchdown, a triumphal entry.   But those were the kinds of thing we were celebrating last week. How then is this week different?   For one thing it amazes how few people  to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection.

The first to arrive.

One would think he would be taking out billboards all over town that said, “I told you so!”  but he doesn’t.    The first to see Jesus would be the last we would expect.   It was not the disciples, not even his family, but one of the worst outcasts of all of his company: Mary Magdalene.

Continue reading

Then I Looked Up: The shocking revelation that plants and souls like to grow.

This year's first.

When I moved into this place its outside looked very much like my inside did.  The branches of the tall trees drooped to the ground as if to hide the house everyone knew was there.  The house kept dark. The yard looked very much like a bad case of male patterned baldness, only growing around the edges.   The backyard was in no better shape.  It was waist high in un-welcomed greenery and while I am not absolutely positive I think some of that greenery was, how shall I say, questionably legal leftovers from the previous tenants.  Toward the south was a fairly ominous twisting of dead limbs that once was a tree and now became a kind of outdoor dandruff, flaking down  little by little when provoked by even the smallest breeze.   Yeah.  My heart looked like this house.  Things were growing where they shouldn’t and things refused to grow where they were needed.  So when I started purging the untamed overgrowth, I became nervous I would never get the good stuff to live where I wanted it to. Continue reading