Hope in Community

snow 2017

It’s been almost a year since I posted to this blog. It’s Advent season, however, and a few dear readers have let me know they are revisiting Waiting for Jesus.  I am truly flattered and inspired to return to this space.  Thank you, friends.

 

Optimism isn’t my strength.  I don’t consider myself a pessimist, but I’m pretty good at imagining a worst-case scenario or completely overlooking the silver lining.  Of all the Advent themes, HOPE is the most difficult for me to generate.  But hope floats.

Besides fire, I can’t think of anything less stoppable than water.  With a year’s worth of rain falling in a short, five-day period, Houstonians watched helplessly as the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey rose in every direction.  Homes, businesses, even lives were washed down the drain like last night’s bathwater.  But hope floats.

Before the rain had time to slow down, the heroes of hope began to emerge.  Anyone with a tall truck or a jon boat sprang into action and began moving people out of the water and onto dry ground.  Before long, our Louisiana neighbors came with their boats, and others flocked in from states even farther away.  Because hope floats.

First responders, city officials, and news crews worked around the clock with little time for food or rest.  Celebrities, sports heroes, even presidents raised money to help rebuild once the storm was over.  When people feel supported, hope floats.

Schools, churches, convention centers, even a furniture store housed people who had no other dry place to stay.  Donations of food and clothing poured in.  A few folks complained, but most spoke of their gratitude for safety, shelter, and basic needs met.  Hope floats.

Once the water receded and clean up began, everyone pitched in: the kid next door, the relatives from across town, the church people from all over the country.  Neighborhoods looked like war zones with debris piles as far as the eye could see.  Cleaning products, sheetrock, trustworthy contractors, and other necessities were in short supply.  Hope bubbles just below the surface sometimes, but it always floats again.

For days, there was no regular television programming, only news coverage with constant weather reports and seemingly endless video of displaced people, devastated homes, and submerged landscapes.  It was difficult to watch, yet impossible to turn off.  Houston has always been known as a large city with a small-town personality, but watching so many helpers, living in such close quarters, and sharing so many meals took our sense of community to “a whole ‘nother level.”  We even decided to alter the way we capitalize the name of our city, hoUSton, if only for a while.  When times are tough again (I hope it won’t be any time soon), hope will float up on a capital US.

Sometimes hope floats so high it spills over leaving extra that can inspire a World Series win or be loaded into a plane and sent to far-away places like Puerto Rico.  Hope floats, but it also flies.

Things are returning to normal for many.  Some will continue to rebuild their homes and lives for months or even years.  Some, particularly those who lost loved ones, will learn to live with a new “normal.”  My prayer is that the rest of US will continue to help and not become complacent in the comfort of our normality.  Hope floats, but it can always use a boost.

There was snow in Houston yesterday.  Social media was filled with pictures of children playing in the snow, dogs playing in the snow, a 290-pound defensive end playing in the snow.  The city was energized and more beautiful than we have seen it in a long time.  Hope floats down from the sky in fluffy white flakes.

It finally feels like Christmas.

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On the 12th day of Christmas…

wise-menToday (or yesterday, depending on how you see it) marks the end of the Christmas season.  By now we have received every imaginable gift, from a partridge in a pear tree to 12 drummers drumming.  Not literally, of course, but if you count up every token of affection, gratitude, or umm… obligation you have accepted since Thanksgiving, chances are, they add up to at least as many items.

This day is also called Epiphany, the observation of the Wise Men’s visit to the Christ Child.  Their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh honored the baby king and foretold his life and death.

History and folklore give us many other examples of gift givers such as Santa with toys for good children.  One of my favorite gift bringers is the little drummer boy with his gift of music.  Music is a one-size-fits-all sort of gift with no need for returns, but mostly I love that the little drummer boy found a way to give when he had nothing tangible to offer.  Another favorite is Amahl from the opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors.  When he had no gift to give the Christ Child, Amahl gave his crutch and was healed in return.  This story points out a universal truth.  When we give, we always get something in return.

During this new year, there will be many opportunities for each of us to give.  Sometimes we will give gifts to celebrate special occasions. We may donate money or supplies for those who have little or to further a cause.   Hopefully we will “lend an ear” or a “shoulder to cry on” to a troubled friend.  Some of us will give our time, talents, and hard work to make the world a better place.  I can’t wait to get started!  How about you?

May all your acts of giving bring you ultimate joy in the new year!

P.S.  It has been delightful to share these seasons of Advent and Christmas with my dear readers!  To those of you who purchased a copy of Waiting for Jesus, commented, “liked,” or offered other support and encouragement, please know that I am filled with gratitude.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Christmas Eve

jesus

 

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

Rejoice!  Advent comes to a close and Christmastide begins.  I wish you joyous celebrations and a year filled with daily “advents” as you welcome Christ into your heart and home throughout the days ahead.  Rejoice!

A Christmas Wish

From last year, but it bears repeating.

idabethgeschkedotcom

beach sunrise

The winter solstice has passed, and we are on our way to longer days, shorter nights. It makes sense that we celebrate the birth of Jesus at about the same time as the world around us begins to grow brighter.

As we wait these last few days, I wish you hope.

I wish you love.

I wish you the joy of welcoming an infant savior into the world and the peace that comes from welcoming the adult Christ into your days.

Merry Christmas!

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But the greatest of these…

heart-grass

1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most quoted chapters of the Bible.  It’s used at weddings a lot, but it’s actually part of a letter to the church.  The advice within is sound for any relationship, marriage or otherwise.  Maybe you can spend a few minutes today reading, or more likely, rereading the beautiful, guiding words of the apostle Paul.  Here are some of my favorite highlights:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong…

2 …and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

8 Love never fails.

11 …I put childish ways behind me.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

I hope you will revisit 1 Corinthians 13 and see which ideas speak to you the loudest today.  Be sure to share.  And love each other.

Love

hopepeacejoylove

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.

-Mother Teresa

I’m not sure there’s much I can add to that.  May we love each other and the rest of the world unconditionally, this week and beyond.