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.


One Candle for Hope



Come surely, Lord Jesus, as dawn follows night,

Our hearts long to greet you, as roses the light.

Salvation draw near us, our vision engage.

One candle is lit for the hope of the age.

-from “One Candle Is Lit” by Mary Anne Parrott


I was going through some old papers today when I found a note a friend had sent me during her battle with cancer.  It read, in part, “Ida Beth, I have hope because of you!”  She went on to write of her faith in God and her determination to beat cancer.  I honestly don’t know what it was about me that inspired hope in her at that time, but I can tell you for sure that she has given me a new definition for the word hope.  Six months or so have passed, and my friend is feeling well, looking great, and defying all odds.

I hope you have found inspiration for hope this week.  If so, please share your story in the comments and spread the hope!

In the Movies: Hope


Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most.  You need to remember that when you find yourself at the beginning.  Just give hope a chance to float up, and it will, too.

From Hope Floats   

This is one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies.  Do you have favorite movie lines that reflect this week’s theme of  hope?  Maybe you have a favorite song lyric that inspires hope.  If so, please share in the comments below.


angelBefore the journey to Bethlehem, before the lack of adequate lodging, before the manger or the shepherds or the wise men, there was an angel speaking to a young woman.  This is where our Advent story really begins.  This is where the wonder and the mystery and the waiting all start.  I began my Advent observance by placing an angel in the manger scene.

It was the angel, Gabriel, who delivered the good news to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38), but angels appear throughout the Christmas story.  When we think of the angel in the manger scene, we most often consider the one who appeared to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20).  An angel spoke to Joseph as well (Matthew 1:18-24).

If you read about each of these angelic encounters, you will notice a theme.  Each time the angels speak, they say, “Do not be afraid.”  In each case, there are plenty of reasons to be fearful.  It is difficult to imagine how we might react to finding ourselves in any of these situations.  But each time, there is someone there to offer reassurance.  “Do not be afraid.”

That same reassurance is offered to us today, and we, in turn, can offer it to others.  That’s really what HOPE is all about, right?



Advent begins today.  I hope you are spending this Sunday of HOPE with family and friends.  Maybe you will worship in a formal setting, or maybe you will simply sit quietly with a cup of coffee and revisit the blessings from your Thanksgiving celebration.  Perhaps you are reeling from the aftershock of Black Friday, or you might be enthusiastically cheering your favorite NFL team to victory.  Maybe you’ll do all of the above.  Whatever this day brings, my hope is that it finds you in a spirit of anticipation for the special days ahead.

I love that Advent begins with Hope Sunday and follows so closely on the heels of Thanksgiving.  Hope is sometimes difficult to muster, but gratitude breeds hope.  God’s perfect timing.

My HOPE for you this week and throughout Advent is that you find ways to make your observance personal and then share it with others.  What is your HOPE for the upcoming holiday season?  Please share in the comments below and join us on the Waiting for Jesus Facebook page.  https://www.facebook.com/Waiting-for-Jesus-225478267868701/


A Christmas Wish

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!

Down the River

down the riverDown the river, we pray for one another.
Down the river, we hold on to our dreams.
Down the river, hard times make us stronger to get by,
And leave this world behind down the river.
Malcolm Holcombe

Current events have me feeling a little like a character in a Dickens novel, surrounded by tragedy and injustice while those who have the capacity to help seem like nothing more than unfeeling caricatures of leadership and strength. From global terrorism and oppression to presidential candidates’ buffoonery, from irresponsible journalism to a religious debate over non-religious coffee cups, I am overwhelmed with the amount of strife at every turn. I wish I had the answers, but of course, I do not.
This weekend, however, I think I got a glimpse of some things that could lead us to the answers. Or maybe they’re just things that can provide respite for a time as we attempt to navigate this chaotic maze of negativity in which we find ourselves. I’ll share it here, and you can take what you need from it.

I went to a wedding.

The bride has been my friend since first grade. In nearly 50 years we have witnessed lots of ups and downs as one would expect. The greatest “down” of all was when she lost her husband to a lengthy, terminal illness. It was the cruelest kind of disease, the kind that ravages the mind and leaves a lingering, failing body. Watching her provide care and advocate for her husband was one of those situations that makes you say things like, “I don’t know how she does it,” or “I could never do that.”
She did do it. She did it well and for a long, long time. Anyone would have understood if she had emerged on the other side tired or bitter or just ready to focus on herself. But after her husband passed away, her heart remained open, as it has always been, to new possibilities, new love, new life.

On Saturday she married again. It was a small wedding as weddings go, but it was grand in many ways. Her three grandsons walked her down the aisle and gave her away. Her granddaughter stood with her in the wedding party. The weather was grand, sunny and warm, on an incredible Texas autumn day. We were reminded, in the words of the apostle Paul, that while many things we value are temporary, three remain: faith, hope, and love. A grand idea for troubled times.

And then I went to a concert.

It wasn’t a big venue event, but a house concert in the home of a friend. Malcolm Holcombe was the artist. I had seen him several times before and heard him, recorded, long before that. Malcolm is a force of nature, someone you must see to truly experience. He is both childlike and ancient, his conversation moving in a direct path from juice to Anita Bryant to black and white TV (“as it should be,” he says) to matters philosophical.

Malcolm plays guitar with his entire body from his furrowed brow to his tapping, stomping feet. His chair moves back and forth like a rocker on the back porch. It is not a rocking chair, but a simple metal folding chair that he balances first on front legs then on back. For much of his time on stage, he is balancing on two chair legs and one of his own, the other three on the way up or on the way down. On the rare occasion that the chair is fully grounded, he is sideways in it, and soon the rocking begins again. He is a teacher’s nightmare, but an audience’s delight.

Holcombe’s rasp suggests years of smoking and drinking, maybe whiskey, maybe sand. Tonight however, he drinks coffee and pineapple juice. His stories and songs make me nostalgic for places and things I have never known. He stares, trancelike, into the audience during an instrumental piece, and I know he has gone somewhere else for a moment. He returns, and eventually ends his show with words that, despite his colorful language, can only be described as a benediction. I feel like I have been to church. Or down the river.