Hope is one of those fragile words. Like it's cousins, love and trust, there are countless stories that teach us of both the power of hope and the jagged edge that can leave a scar from the experience of broken hope. And like it's cousins, love and trust, we can turn hope into an all or nothing, zero sum game.

Like a child on the high dive trembling before the glassy surface of the water, not knowing how far down she will sink when she hits the water and whether she will come up. Hope, like its cousins love and trust, is a deep end word. We feel like we either hope or we don't. We either embrace and immerse ourselves fully in hope or we distrust and even despair. We either embody hope or we sound like one of those blogs on either side of the political spectrum forecasting doom and gloom for you, your family, the country and the world.

Let's face it. It is not as though what we hear around us today helps fan the flame of hope. Just this week London riots, the stock market roller coaster, political bickering and blame as the fall out over the debt ceiling...hope seems to have taken a vacation to some secluded, secret, off-the-grid location...and doesn't seem to have plans to return anytime soon.

So, when as a pastor, I use the word "hope" (like it's cousins love and trust), I realize that I am on thin ice. Our experience with hope is checkered. As a kid we might 'hope' we get something for our birthday or Christmas. As a kid I remember the joy of opening the He-Man action figure I had begged my parents for. And as I kid there were moments when what I hoped for went forever unwrapped.

As adults our hopes move (somewhat) from material items to more ethereal dreams. Hopes for peace, for our children to be healthy and happy in their life, hopes for healing of a relationship or our bodies. To be honest, most of my hopes are for that which is outside my control.

And in the end, that is what makes hope so fragile. Hopes for peace or for happiness or for joy depend not solely on either myself or entirely on others, but on a messy combination of the two that seemingly can shift from one day to the next. Sure, we can try to be Zen-like in response to our hopes inside us or to the effects of the outside world on the hope we feel. But try doing that when your child is pitching a fit and you hope it will stop.

Since we cannot manufacture hope or mass product its cousins love and trust, where does that leave us? For the cynic or skeptic, hope is a word to be held at arms length and approached with all the affection of radio-active material. Yet, I cannot do that. Hope that today can be better than yesterday is at the heart of my relationship with God. But better not in terms of what's in my wallet or my stock portfolio or my health. But hope that by God's grace and guidance there is more to the future than what I can consume or understand or experience. To give up on hope for me would be like giving up on breathing.

So, as fragile as hope may be today the alternative pales in comparison. When I remember how central hope is to my faith I notice a trace of God's grace that sustains me and strengths me. God's presence is what keeps hope alive. God's presence, not the nightly news or surfing the net or even unwrapping a present, is what keeps hope alive.

So may traces of God's grace surround you this week and may it help fan the flame of hope in a way that is real and can be felt.



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