Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gleaning Hope in Our Time

Across the board, no matter the generation, gender, financial or employment status, every single person needs it—without it, life becomes mere existence at best.

But, the person who possesses this can survive—even thrive—under the most inhumane or desolate conditions:

-Amid the stifling sickness of the concentration camp
-As a prisoner of war, enduring the pain, waiting for rescue
-As a patient, taking another round of poison-called-chemo into your veins to wipe out the cancer
-Or, a mother praying and believing for her wayward child to come home.

It’s not money, fame or a new drug; it’s not even friendship, although that can bring strength as well…

…It is HOPE.

Emily Dickinson wrote about it so eloquently:

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all…”

Though history reveals many other desperate times, every current generation likely feels the urgency for hope, as if there is no more need like the present. In every situation we find ourselves; in order to get out of bed each morning—we need hope.

The thing is, it’s there for the taking. Now, some may cite the old argument; are you an optimist or a pessimist—is the glass half full or half empty?

But I believe gaining and retaining hope is much more than just your personality or temperament. We can choose to fill our hearts and minds with what brings hope, or with what is devoid of it. Let’s face it, there’s plenty out there that is devoid of hope. And, because those downer things, attitudes and influences are all around us, we need to actively choose to input that which fosters hope. Or else, it’s all too easy to become discouraged.

But, from where do we get hope? What is its origin?

The origin of hope is GOD. Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Italics mine)

Okay, so God is the Author of hope, but how do we acquire it?

The answer is found in Jesus.

Colossians 1:27 tells us that Christ in us is the “hope of glory.” In fact, it is the “hope [that] does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us,” according to Romans chapter 5.

There are three main ways that I gather up hope from the Lord, and I’ve found them to be pretty sure. One is through reading the Word—the Bible. A verse I love, found in Psalm 119, depicts the scenario well: “the entrance of Your Words gives light…” (Psalm 119:130) As if you’re journeying through the darkest caves where you cannot see your next step, and you speak a verse from the Bible; suddenly there’s a little light reflecting off the cavern walls—the more you speak from the Word, the brighter it becomes. And, for me, light and hope are often intertwined.

Another great way to “gather up hope from the Lord” is through music. Singing to God, and singing or playing the songs He gives you; sometimes even singing out what He is speaking to you or someone else, can be so heartening.

I really believe something very special happens between us and the Lord when we are caught up in worshiping Him—it’s a communication and interaction of another level. And it changes us.

Worship changes our attitude, heart, mind and mood. …It fosters hope in us; that hope that “does not disappoint” because it’s Christ in us, the “hope of glory.”

And the third way to bring hope to yourself, is to bring it to others. Jesus told His followers in Luke 6:38, “Give and it will be given to you…” And we know He says elsewhere that whatever we sow, we will also reap. If we then sow hope and encouragement in others, we will reap the same.

It only takes a quick glance around your town to see that the enemy of our souls is working overtime to bring people down. Starting this year, let’s be the ones to counter that—to bring the light of God’s Word; the music of Heaven; and the heart to touch another with His love.

Gather up a little hope from the Lord today.

“Out of the browns and grays, from between the long lines of wet-falling...emerged...color.

And from behind the blank wall of waiting for warmth in my mind...there came...

Creeping in like a shy guest to a room full of strangers, it stayed in the corner for a while.

But as the pastels of spring grew brighter, the flicker kindled yet more and more.

Tentative, so delicate, but blooming nonetheless...”

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Young Man’s Remarkable Grace in the Face of Bitter Disappointment

The much anticipated BCS Championship Game last Thursday night held a few surprises, and one big heartbreak for the Texas Longhorns and their highly-rated quarterback Colt McCoy.

An SI article worth reading, by Andy Staples, notes how close McCoy has come to obtaining both conference and national titles—including the Heisman—in his career, but that somehow each time they remained just out of reach.

This past year—2009—was McCoy’s final year at the University of Texas and his final season with the Longhorns. He led them to a perfect regular season record; 12-0. The 2010 BCS Championship game on January 7, 2010 was the talented quarterback’s final opportunity to shine at the college level.

But, once again it was not to be.

During the Longhorns’ very first drive of the game, in the red zone, Colt McCoy was “blasted” by Alabama linebacker Marcell Dareus, forcing him back into center Chris Hall. It knocked McCoy out of the game with a pinched nerve in his shoulder.

After being x-rayed and examined, he returned to the field to encourage his teammates and especially his replacement, back up quarterback Garrett Gilbert—a freshman.

Despite a valiant effort by Gilbert, the Texas Longhorns were defeated by the Alabama Crimson Tide 37-21.

And while the Alabama victory was certainly earned and deserved, there was another victory of sorts that night.

In light of all that had happened to him in his college quarterback career, Colt McCoy chose not to give into despair.

Staples writes: “Given multiple chances to feel sorry for himself, McCoy didn't take the bait. ‘It would be so easy to question why,’ he said. But he never did.”

In fact, McCoy explained what it was (or Who it was) that enabled him to deal with this disappointment in what began as the biggest game of his young life thus far.

"I worked and played my whole career to be on this stage, to be given this opportunity," Colt told reporters. "I know what it would have been like had I played that game. To know that is tough. But at the same time, I am a man of faith. I stand on the Rock. I'll never question God for why things happen the way they do… There's bigger and better football days to come."

That’s grace, and that’s trusting the Lord for the bigger picture.

It’s a good reminder to each of us that true strength and character isn’t measured by victories, but by how you get up and press on after defeat and disappointment.