Is There Any Hope?

The appearance of Christmas decorations in stores and at church remind us that Advent is here. It’s time to prepare for, and to celebrate, Christmas, Jesus’ birthday.

Christmas is a Christian celebration of God’s choice to come and live among us in the person of Jesus. At church we light a candle each week in December for the four weeks of Advent, symbolizing Jesus as the light of the world. The first is called the candle of Hope. What is the Hope, we are called to have?

The candle of Hope calls me to recognize the goodness that is growing in our world. For sure, there seems to be more and more violence. Or, is it just that we now have the technology to know about the atrocities of war and oppression. For sure, the news media serves it up every day even while it’s still happening. I understand that we need to know that injustice exists in order to be moved to action. But, I’m not sure a steady diet is helpful.

Although the stories of goodness in our world, don’t always make the news headlines, we can seek them out. Today, the world reacts with tremendous support in the face of natural disasters and war. Individuals and groups give both financial aid and on- the-ground personnel in the midst of war. At home, in our own communities we participate in fund raisers to support the homeless and animal shelters and many others. We donate to food drives and Christmas baskets. Many today, are willing to help. When we open our eyes, our world abounds with goodness. No longer do we believe that poverty is the result of God’s punishment. Our tax dollars support social programs that bring goodness to our nation.

When I light the candle of Hope, I remember the children at the nursing home reaching out with hugs to bring smiles from the residents. I remember the teen that shoveled a senior’s drive without being asked. I remember the busy parent that takes time to serve on our church board. As our population increases so does the potential for goodness. This year I intend to prepare for Christmas, by opening my eyes to the Hope that surrounds me.  I want to catch a glimpse of God’s love ruling our world.

“But seek ye first thekingdomofGod, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33 KJV)

 

Why speak out?

The United Church’s official position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was discussed at great length during the Church’s National General Council Meeting this past summer. My first thought was:  Will the position our church takes here in Canada make any difference in a war oceans away?

Yes! I believe my church’s statements, as well as mine as an individual, do have significance for our world and for me. It’s just too easy to accept that violence in this world is inevitable, that there’s nothing we can do.

In my lifetime, the Berlin Wall became a source of pain and violence in Germany. Like many other individuals and groups, I prayed and spoke out at the injustice it created. I remember the amazement and joy when that wall started to come down. I believe that prayers and expressed opinions of people all over the world prepared the way for God to bring forth that miracle.

When you and I join with others to declare our disgust and anger at violence and express our desire for peace, change does happen. People are set free from prison. Refugees are cared for. Even wars will cease. Together we can be catalysts for change.

I encourage you to take time today and everyday to pray, to send your love and desire for peace to one of the “hot spots” in our world. I believe our prayers are like a drop of water hitting a stone. Eventually, a depression is made, and then a hole. We can make a difference. Thanks be to God.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)

 

Remember To Remember

Look closely.

As we age, our memory dims, particularly our short term memory. Do you remember your fifth birthday, or when the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series, or the tragic car accident that brought death to a stranger? We remember events that have wrought changes in the world, and/or in our lives.

“We will remember” are foundational words for Remembrance Day. We remember that Canadian men and women gave and are still giving their lives in an attempt to ensure that others here and in far off places might live with dignity, free from oppression and violence. Why must we remember?

Remembering will push us to live well in the present. Remembering will enable us to value individuals – strangers and family- as God’s precious creations. Remembering will help us to let go of prejudice. Remembering will encourage us to teach love, not hate. Our precious freedom is fragile. Every day on the news, we see the devastation and pain that comes with war. We are not isolated. We do not live on an island, secure from the evils of this world. Lessons of love and acceptance are essential.

Remembering will give birth to giving thanks, giving thanks for the incredible blessing of life here in Canada. Remembering will ensure that we work for a future of freedom, not just for ourselves, but for our world.

When standing at the entrance to the promised land, Moses instructed the Hebrew people to remember God and all that God had done for them in the past, so that they would keep God’s commands and ”that it may go well with you and your children after you, and you may live long in the land the Lord God gives you for all time.” (Deuteronomy 4:40)

Remember to remember on Nov. 11th and every day.

How Can I Forgive?

Anger dominated his thoughts. Like a slow poison, a litany of bitterness rolled over and over in his mind.

“I did my best. It’s just not fair. Their expectations are way too high.

All they do is nitpick. None of them are perfect either.

Two of them are out to get me. They just want rid of me.”

After several weeks, he offered his letter of resignation. His anger increased to a fever pitch when it was accepted. Now, rejected and bitter, feeling wronged and persecuted, he must move on. How?

Forgiveness is the antidote to the poison of bitterness Forgiveness isn’t easy, partly because we’ve been taught that to forgive we must forget. For some, forgetting means that somehow we must pretend the unfairness never happened. It’s as if we’re required to say it’s okay to be treated unfairly, or to be beaten.

For me, forgiveness means that I must stop fighting the reality of what happened.  Yes, my boss, my husband, my friend, took advantage of me. Forgiveness means shifting my focus from the people involved to how I can prevent that same situation happening again?

Demanding that others must see the error of their ways in order for me to feel good, can mean that I’ll have a life time of misery.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot force someone else to change. The only person I can control is me. Therefore, I must let go of the anger and pain because I need a clear mind to learn from what happened. I need to change myself so that I’m not in a position where someone can treat me unfairly again. For me, that’s what forgiveness is all about. That’s why, when Peter asked Jesus, “Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me”, Jesus could respond, “…not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22.