Saturday, January 30, 2010

Travel Brochure

It's winter. Maybe you're ready for a trip. Consider today's blog as a travel brochure, highlighting some of the places Tom's family traveled in the 50s and 60s. Perhaps they'll encourage you to get out the maps and start making your summer plans.

(Photos: Mt Pilchuck, Mountain view in the Cascades. Lake Louise; Yellowstone; Grand Canyon; Mt Rainier; Mt Saint Helens (before she blew); Ellensburg barn; Ellensburg Rodeo; Crater Lake. All photos taken by Tom's dad)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Urban Renewal

The song keeps running in my head, looping throughout the day, playing as I fall asleep. It's the first thing I hear every morning as I begin to waken. It's Chris Tomlin singing, "Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city..."

Did you know that half of the world's population lives in cities? Tokyo, the largest city in the world, has 33,800,000 people! New York City, with a population of 21,900,000, is fifth on the list. Beautiful, exciting, alluring places, people often move to the city to find work but all too often find trouble instead. Too many people; not enough money; difficulty finding housing; no jobs; crime; poor schools -- and little hope.

As a child I had thought I would grow up to work in the city, and I guess you could say I did, with three years in Japan (three different cities, as a matter of fact) and several years in Seattle. But my work was not the inner city work I expected, and it's been years since I even lived in a city. Still, I have met a number of people whom God has called to the inner city, to live in the neighborhood and be Jesus' hands and feet to their communities. I've been with them on occasion when they have met together from across the country, and I've heard them sing. Tired and weary from their work, they sing with their whole hearts, knowing that the God they are worshipping is at work in the city to meet the needs there. The gatherings are charged with a kind of electricity.

And now God is stirring my heart again for the city. What will He do in my city (Seattle), in your city, in cities around our nation and our world, as we pray for the city and keep ourselves open to be His hands and feet there?

"..Greater things have yet to come, greater things are still to be done here."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hospitality Evangelism

There we were in a new big city 2,000 miles from home with four young children and feeling very strange. We had started attending a big church, and the young married Sunday School class had taken us in, but that was strange, too, and a little frightening.

Then one day a sweet faced young mother about my age asked us to come home to dinner. Her name was Wanda.

"Oh," I said, "that is so nice of you, but there are six of us!"

"That's all right. There are six of us too!" she responded. "I have a big pot roast in the oven. It won't be fancy, but we want to get to know you folks."

Our eight children and we four parents hit it off and First Church had us solidly in the Fold.

Your might call it "Hospitality Evangelism."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

From the January/February 1995 issue of Family Scrapbook, the one I mentioned yesterday, this column called "Oldtimer's Wisdom" was written by Tom's mom. Just recently, as Tom has been scanning slides from his childhood, he came across a photo of these two families, taken about the time Mom was referring to here. I hope she sees it today and remembers the sweetness of that special years-long friendship between these two families.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Passing the Faith Along

Written in 1995:
"When I die and go to Heaven will I live in a temple with God?"

I was pleased with Tommy's question. He's only recently allowed for the possibility that he would die at all! Maybe everyone else would, but he wouldn't!

We watch our boys work through issues daily. Whether it's coming to grips with the reality that balls are the only toys that may be thrown (and those not in the house!) or what happens after we die, they are continually processing life's patterns and questions. Their expanding world presents them with a barrage of issues that, in time, will need to be resolved. How do I handle it when my brother destroy my castle? Can God really hear through wood? What do I do when kids make fun of me? My friend doesn't believe Jesus loves him. Why don't we watch those TV shows?

The responsibility of helping guide and shape children -- whether we are parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, or youth workers -- is awesome. We are called to pass the faith from one generation to the next, demonstrating a vital personal relationship with the Lord that will come to be owned by those who follow after us.

Praise the Lord for the grace and strength which He freely gives to all who ask Him for it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

That's an excerpt from the "Editor's Desk" column of Family Scrapbook, the magazine that Tom and I published in the 1990s. Our boys were three and four at the time, and these 15 years later we are still answering questions, and asking a few of our own. We realize that it is up to our boys if they will follow Jesus or not, but as we love them, pray for them, seek to know them, accept them where they are, and serve Jesus faithfully and humbly before them, we are nurturing the seeds of faith that were planted long ago. Above all, we leave them in the hands of God, who loves them even more than we do, and trust Him to do his work in their lives and bring them to Himself.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Couple of Great Movies

We watched a couple of great old black and white movies recently, something we really enjoy doing. The first, Suspicion, starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine, was a 1941 Hitchcock thriller about a charming playboy and a shy and proper rich girl who fall headlong in love and marry before she learns the truth -- he has no money. His strange behavior leads her to believe he is going to kill her. It's the kind of movie that gets your heart beating but not so fast that you can't breathe. I never really suspected where the movie would take us until the very last scene.

Last night we saw Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Filmed in 1953, it was also in black and white. It was wonderful! Beautiful Princess Ann, from an unnamed European country, was visiting Rome, fulfilling the obligations of the crown -- meeting dignitaries, addressing crowds, dedicating buildings, and being interviewed by the press. When she had what we'd call at our house a "meltdown" in her room one evening, she was given a shot and tucked into bed. But before the shot could put her to sleep she dressed and went into the street to explore the city and the life she could see from her window. Her Roman holiday includes every day life experiences she's never had before: a trip to the beauty salon, an ice cream cone, romance. Just delightful.

We love the older movies, and probably watch more in black and white than we do in color. Maybe that explains why, when we were watching a 2002 film about Winston Churchill, we were only slightly surprised to see that it was also in black and white. The movie was introduced in black and white but just as it really got going we noticed that through the top left pane of his office window we could a hint of blue, and we expected the color to begin to spread across the screen. But the color never materialized. Well into the movie we discovered that the cables at the back of the TV had gotten bumped. One simple adjustment of the cables colorized the movie.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What is a Weed?

Weed: a noun. Three definitions. Which do you prefer?

1. A valueless plant growing wild, esp. one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop. --

2. A plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth. --

3. A plant whose virtues have never been discovered. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Vocabulary Practice

Here is a conversation that was held over a scrambled egg and milk break that my friend Dennis was serving his five- and six-year-old grandchildren:

PopPop: Would you like any more milk?

Camden: No, I am content.

PopPop smiles.

Camden: That was a nice use of that word, wasn't it?

PopPop: Yes it was.

Camden: Do you know what I said to Mommy yesterday?

PopPop: What?

Camden: I was thirsty, so I said, "My stomach water has evaporated."

PopPop: Wow! I like that.

Sophie: Did you say "evacuated"?

Camden: No, I said "evaporated." That is when water disappears into the air.

Sophie: I know what evacuated means.

PopPop: You do? What does it mean?

Sophie: It's like when a bad thing happens to a town, and everyone has to leave.

PopPop: You are right.

Sophie: It's like if it was Christmas, and there was a large Christmas tree in the middle of the town, and a bad person comes to take the tree, and all of the people leave (motioning that the people leave in two different directions).

PopPop: Do you know what movie that reminds me of? It reminds me of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Both kids: Yeah!!!!

So, if you ever have to evacuate, I hope that you have enough liquid refreshment for when your stomach water evaporates!

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Riddle

I am something you have
in abundant supply,
an unlimited well
that will never run dry.
Yet give me away
and what do I do?
I usually come sailing
right back to you.

I'm a gift you can give
to whomever you meet.
I don't cost a dime,
but the man on the street
or your neighbor or friend
will receive it like grace,
and I will appear
on the other guy's face!

And you, in return,
will be glad that you gave me.
Share me with others --
don't just save me!

What am I?

Your smile, of course!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Venezuelan Youth Orchestra

Feeling frustrated over today's youth? Wishing for a little good music? Need a pick-me-up? Not to worry. Here's a video that will renew your hope while feeding your soul. As a part of Venezuela's El Sistema (a national music program) the young people in this orchestra are phenomenal musicians. If you'd like to learn more about them, here is an article announcing their trip to the US in 2007.

Our high school orchestra never sounded like this!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Welcome to the Neighborhood

I'm not overly fond of our house. On a company-clean day I like it quite a lot, but I can't say there's anything I really love about it -- except our orange door. I love that door!

I know that one day I will look back and remember this house as the place we hammered out family issues and grew to love each another more, and maybe then the lack of personal space and the toilets that sing in the night will be but a dim memory. One day, but not just yet.

The house may not be all my dreams-come-true, but there's something remarkable about living here that I really do appreciate. It's being a stone's throw to both adequate amenities and heart-stopping natural beauty. We are at a kind of crossroads between commerce and countryside. If we turn left at the end of our street, we've got plenty of businesses -- supermarket, drugstore, doctor's and dentist's offices, hair salons, restaurants, cleaners, theater, schools, gyms. Turning right, we run right into nature -- jagged snow covered mountains both east (Cascades) and west (Olympics), ever changing skyscapes, trees dressed for the season, farm fields presently at rest, driftwood lined beaches. Just this morning, standing at the kitchen sink, I saw the enormous vivid white wings of two geese passing behind the trees across Pioneer Highway. I can take you to two or three huge nests in the area, made by bald eagles. Siberian snow geese blanket many nearby fields, displacing the usual seagulls. (When I lived in Japan we drove two hours to see the same birds; now they are in my own neighborhood.) Some days the Stillaguamish River is brown and angry and nearly over its banks; other days it is quiet and blue. Coyotes in the nearby ravines often sing us to sleep.

My favorite spot of all is where you turn off Pioneer Highway onto Miller Road, the one that takes you diagonally down the hill, across the old bridge, and onto the flats. The view from that spot is glorious, different every day. Those clear blue sky days with the snow dazzling on the Cascades, or the early morning mists hanging over the fields, they take my breath away. And that's just a three minute drive from home.

Why don't you meet me at our orange door and I'll show you the neighborhood.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Double Take

My friend Deanne is an avid reader. She recently read Double Take: A Memoir about a young man with no legs, and I asked her to write a post about the book. Here is what she had to say, along with a video clip promoting the book:

Double Take: A Memoir is an autobiography by 23-year-old Kevin Connolly. Unique to the memoir is the fact that Kevin, a native of Montana, was born with no legs. Fortunate for him, his parents followed their doctors’ advice to “treat him like a normal guy and he’ll have a normal life.”

To his parents “normal” meant just that -- letting him go to the local school and driving him thousands of miles to compete in skiing events on a wannabe snowboard. Finding a wheelchair too limiting, Kevin adapted a longboard as his means of transportation and managed to tour New Zealand and Europe in this way.

In Double Take he describes a defining moment of his life: when he made he decision to photograph the people he saw as he was out on his longboard. Tired of having to deal with the inquisitive or pitiful looks of those passing him, he made the choice to reverse the feelings this personally evoked by turning the table and taking pictures of his onlookers. These pictures, which are on the inside covers of the book, capture the looks he had to repeatedly deal with in people’s “double take” of him. “Each photo was a miniature catharsis,” he writes. “There was something empowering about taking those photos; realizing that I created such a universal effect on people. The feeling of power stemmed from the feeling that I could go almost anywhere in the world, and while people’s reactions may be unpleasant, they would always be predictable. Until now. being stared at had been a frustrating -- but unpreventable -- burden that I had to bear with a grin. Finally, I was able to find my own use for that stare, and it felt good.” Later in the book Connolly insightfully shares his maturing beyond this need.

Why a skateboard as his preferred mode of transportation? “That skateboard served as a representation for who I was and where I had come from: a world based on adaptation and practicality over aesthetics. It was a world I clung to, and without it, I wouldn’t have managed to do so many of the things that seemed odd or even impossible to an outsider.”

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story

Today is the day we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. I came across a comic book written in 1957 about King and his bus boycott. It's a bit long, but very interesting and informative. It includes an explanation of his Montgomery Method. If you'd like to read it -- and maybe you'd like to share it with your children -- click on this link. It is a part of the website entitled The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. The website takes a while to load, so be patient. One the page comes up you'll see the cover of the comic book. Click on "view document" on the bottom left of the page to see the entire comic.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoons

It's Saturday morning. Do you know what your kids are doing? They are likely sprawled out before the TV, like Tom's brother Danny and sister Carol in this 1957 photo, watching cartoons!

We don't have TV, and I hadn't paid much attention to cartoons for years. But earlier this week Samuel was involved in a sleep study and spent one night and one day in a hospital bed, wired like Robocop, remote in hand. After a good night's sleep on Tuesday he got to watch cartoons during the day on Wednesday, except for the four naps he was forced (his word!) to take. Tom and Jerry cracked me up.

Poor Tom! He's like the weighted Bozo the Clown punching bag we had as kids that fell back every time you popped him one, only to bounce back for another go. All of Tom's teeth shatter like glass when hit by a sailing golf ball; Tom hides in a bush, Jerry comes along with a push mower and cuts down the bush, and Tom comes out looking like a poodle; Tom, suspended in air in the midst of some amazing acrobatic, pats the air under him and realizes that there is nothing holding him up -- and then he falls into the water! Is there no limit to the battering he is willing to endure, all in the hope of one day outwitting Jerry?

Somewhere Tom finds a corset and converts it to a pair of wings so that he can get up to the birdhouse where Jerry is visiting his bird friend. Like a pink-winged butterfly, Tom flies through the sky, his wings flapping. Suddenly Jerry is close enough to untie the corset so that dear old Tom falls to the ground. Next thing you know, he's back in the sky in his wings. Hey, how'd he do that?

On Tuesday we saw the line-up for Saturday's shows on Cartoon Network -- no Tom and Jerry! No other good ol' shows that we grew up with either. I looked up the Saturday morning shows on three kids' channels, and here's a sampling of what your children might be watching right now: super heroes outsmarting villains, children outsmarting adults, inanimate objects outsmarting each other (you know, cars and sponges and things like that), and barnyard animals wearing disguises to outsmart whoever.

Don't you think this would be a good morning for the kids to help you clean the garage??

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How Do I Pray for Haiti?

In the face of a cataclysmic event such as Haiti's earthquake, our minds cast about for some way to begin to grasp it, a starting point to try to imagine the unimaginable.

I begin my attempt to make sense of what I'm seeing and hearing with the news that Danny, Tom's dentist brother, left Haiti just two hours before the quake. He'd been there for two weeks with a group of dentists from the Wesleyan Church, providing dental care for locals.

What do I do next? I think about what I know of Haiti -- an island nation, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, the home of 14,642 Free Methodists, 4,000 sponsor children through International Child Care Ministry, and 53 schools for these children, many in or near Port-au-Prince. I remember that just recently we became sponsors for one of those children (see post on October 29). How is he, I wonder. I check the website but it is too soon for them to know anything about the children there. As a matter of fact, there are three Free Methodist missionaries (out of 19 currently in the country) who are still unaccounted for. The young adult daughter of friends of ours was dug out of the rubble after several hours and she and one other of our mission staff were taken to Guantanamo Bay for medical treatment, where they are in stable condition.

How do I begin to pray for something this huge? I start with what I know and work out from there.

I pray about what I know. I thank the Lord that my brother-in-law is safe. I ask God to care for our Jean-Philippe and his family and schoolmates. I pray that the three missing missionaries will be found. I pray that the leadership within the Free Methodist Church responsible for decisions about supporting relief efforts will make wise decisions and that all agencies providing relief work will work together in an efficient manner. I pray that those who care for people will have strength to do what they need to do, and that those trapped under debris who are still alive will be found in time. I pray that money donated will be used wisely so that the greatest good can come of it. I pray for clean water to be made available. I pray for the sanitation conditions, always a huge concern at such times, and for the clean-up efforts. I pray that God will turn the hearts of people to Himself during this devastation. I pray for God's comfort and peace for the nation of Haiti.

And I ask God to help me be faithful in prayer, to watch the news with a prayerful heart, and to be available as He would direct.

Oh, God, hear our prayers for the people of Haiti. And when we have no words left, hear our cries.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Drop of Water

The laws God has set up in nature are really amazing to observe.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Polar Bear Elizabeth

When I saw the photos in the paper of the folks who joined in the polar bear swim in a nearby river to welcome in the new year it reminded me of a story that Tom once told me. As he was watching TV on New Years Day in the early 80s he saw his cousin Elizabeth jumping into a lake in Mt. Gretna, Pennsylvania! A member of the polar bear club, she jumped into the water at least two different years.

Now there's a gal with a spirit of adventure!

I got to know Elizabeth when she came out to Seattle in the early days of our marriage to work as a fisheries observer for NOAA. Over a span of about two years she made several trips from the East Coast for three month contracts in the Bering Sea. She would fly into Anchorage, then to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians, and await assignment to a fishing boat. Onboard she would sample the fish catch, estimate the weight of the catch in tons, identify the bycatch that came along with the target fish, and note the date, weather, and location of the boat each morning.

Elizabeth told me that once while they were on a small 'catcher' boat their engines stopped and they had to be towed back into the nearest harbor by another fishing boat. When they got there, they were asked by the fishermen if anyone wanted to jump into the water to see if the net had gotten tangled in the propeller. Remembering her polar bear days, she volunteered. The dive took her breath away, but she did manage to discover the bright orange net wrapped around the prop. It helped out the staff on the fishing boat, but it gave Elizabeth a severe "ice cream" headache and two weeks of bronchitis!

Another of Elizabeth's interesting jobs was as a research technician at Hershey medical Center, where her lab was looking at the development of cancer in zebrafish. She's currently manager of a lab testing drugs that inhibit the development of cancer in various cell lines.

After two-and-a-half years of practice, she will test for her black belt in tae kwan do in three weeks; and she'll run in a 5k benefit race with two nieces next week!

I finally got a chance to meet Elizabeth's husband, Bill, last summer. They came out to their nephew Sam's wedding and we all boarded a tour boat in Puget Sound for the event. Bill brought along his fiddle and someone loaned Elizabeth a guitar for the occasion. After the ceremony and dinner some of us joined them on the upper deck for some toe-tapping music.

As an adult Bill taught himself to read music and play the fiddle. They are a part of an old-time and celtic band called Stone Soup and a part of the larger Lancaster County Folk Music and Fiddlers Society. Bill is a juggler and often performs for the local mental health organization and at church block parties and other venues. He's turned the garage into a wood shop, but they have to move the cars out to get to the power saws and work benches.

Elizabeth's travels have taken her to Thailand, Norway, most of Europe, Mexico, Canada, England, Scotland, and Ireland (where she and Bill went for their honeymoon). They are planning a trip to Scotland this year.

I wrote to Elizabeth last week and told her I'd like to write about her for the blog. She wrote back and filled in the gaps in the story. I got a chuckle out of the last sentence of her response: "I have had an interesting life, and it's kind of fun to look back on it, now that I'm more settled and ordinary." "Settled" might be a fitting word, Elizabeth, but you, my dear, are far from "ordinary"!

Monday, January 11, 2010

God is Worthy!

Offer praise to God our Savior
because of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Only God
can keep you from falling
and make you pure and joyful
in his glorious presence.

Before time began
and now
and forevermore,
God is worthy of glory, honor,
power, and authority.

Jude 24 and 25
Contemporary English Version

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My Brother Tom

Yesterday morning I headed south on I-5 just about the time the sun came up. Mountains laden in snow drew my eyes again and again as the sun, filtered by billowy clouds, crept higher and higher into the sky. From the HOV lane I looked down on the Snohomish River valley, green patches through the winter trees, the meandering river, the foothills.

My brother Tom took the River Road each evening to his job at the cannery in Snohomish the summer of 1967. He was earning money for tuition at Everett Community College. On August 9 we celebrated his 18th birthday, which had been the day before, and waved him off to work. Along the River Road he was in a one-car accident, and instantly he passed into Heaven.

Our parents' firstborn, Tom was a remarkable guy. He was happy, easygoing, friendly, attractive, talented. How many times, I wonder, did my girlfriends say, "Hi Ginger. How's Tom?"

Everybody loved him, except maybe the grumpy people at the end of his paper route who couldn't understand why he was always late with their papers. I can tell you why. He would stop and chat with the lonely ones at the beginning of the route, or help a kid who'd fallen off his bike, or try to get a cat out of a tree.

He played Curly in our school's production of Oklahoma and for several months he was Curly, wearing a Western shirt and cowboy hat to go to the store for Mom, talking with an Okie accent. During the performance, the audience thought they were watching a reality show. And when Curly (Tom) proposed to Laurie (Sue Forrest), he stepped to the edge of the stage and, with a dazzling smile, called out to the audience, "Hey, all you out there that can hear my voice, I just asked Laurie Williams to marry me!" The crowed stood to their feet and burst into applause, right in the middle of the show!

He was just that kind of guy.

Tom's faith was as natural to him as breathing. He loved Jesus, and I can't think of any time that he lost sight of that. But something happened to him at a youth conference in Indiana earlier in the sumer of 1967 that took him even deeper. We knew by his life that he'd made some significant new commitment to the Lord, but he was gone before we got to hear what it was.

Over six hundred people came to his funeral. We celebrated his life, mourned his passing, and heard of the grace of God that surrounds and sustains those whose hope is in Him. My parents, in the midst of their grief, thanked God for lending them Tom for 18 years, assured that they would see him again in Heaven.

I've got to tell you, I'm looking forward to that too!

The Amazing Story of "Amazing Grace"

Today is the first Hymn of the Month installment. I have found a wonderful source of stories about hymn writers, a video series prepared by Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and will use several of them to give some insight into the lives of the writers. I will also share the lyrics or a recording of the hymn selected for the month.

The remarkable story of John Newton follows, along with a rendition of his beloved song, Amazing Grace, sung by Il Divo.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Travel: A Grand Adventure

It was while Judi, Barb and I worked at Warm Beach Camp the summer of 1970 that we met a vivacious, joyful woman from Eureka, California who invited us to come stay with her and her husband later in the summer. That, and the invitation to Steve and Sue's wedding (see December 30 blog), was all the encouragement we needed to plan a California road trip. Joyce, a friend with a car, completed our traveling group.

Joyce pulled in to our driveway that first morning with a luggage carrier on the top of her car. We stowed our stuff in every available space but there was no room for Barb's guitar. She had to trade it for my sister's ukelele. Here we were, four young women stuffed into a VW bug with a load on top, Barb sitting cross-legged, facing out the back window, strumming the ukelele. We must have been a sight! We certainly had more attention from truckers than I'd ever had before.

Along the way we experienced the Redwoods, basked in the gracious hospitality of friends in both northern and southern California, played at Disneyland, reunited with college friends, feared for our lives in a Mexican taxi, and sang our hearts out. Looking back, I wonder that I had any money left for school tuition.

This wasn't my first big adventure -- I'd already been to central Oregon, Wyoming and Alberta with school or church groups. But this was the first time I'd been with peers who made our own decisions along the way. We paid for the gas, we decided where to stop and eat, it was up to us to figure out how to get along in such close proximity. What a grand adventure for a young person.

When he was in high school, Tommy and a couple of his friends talked about taking a road trip to "East Virginia" some day. Just where is East Virginia? I'm not sure, but I hope Tommy has a chance to find out.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why God Wants Us to Sing

This video is an introduction to a new feature I am starting in the blog -- the Hymn of the Month. Before I begin the series I wanted to share this interview with you of Bob Kauflin as he talks about why God wants us to sing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

That's What I love About Reading

That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.

From The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Thanks to Whom Thanks is Due

As I stepped from the building into the parking lot of my son's school a bumper sticker on a van caught my eye. "IF YOU CAN READ THIS, THANK AN ECUADOREAN." Strange. What does an Ecuadorean have to do with it? I glanced back at the bumper sticker and read it again: "IF YOU CAN READ THIS, THANK AN EDUCATOR."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Optimism vs Hope

optimism noun
an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome

hope noun
a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment; someone or something on which hopes are centered

(Definitions from Merriam Webster Online)

Time Magazine called the last ten years the decade from hell, and gave plenty of supporting evidence for the title. To tell you the truth, I'm not too optimistic about the decade ahead being significantly better than the past one -- or even the new year for that matter. But I am hopeful!

I am by nature an optimist; I see the bright side and not the dark side of most situations. But sometimes optimism is not enough. Certainly it is not adequate when facing life in our uncertain times. If it is just my cheery disposition or my thinking good thoughts, I am going to be anxious and easily shaken as soon as the next crisis comes along. I will be dependent upon circumstances for my happiness, and circumstances are so fickle.

The difference between optimism and hope is that hope is based upon something or someone whereas optimism is not. I choose to place my hope in God, the only constant in our ever-changing world.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
For God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:5-8

I am choosing Romans 12:12 as my verse for 2010: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. When our hope is in the faithful God, we can be joyful. He is in charge and He does all things well. That's reason enough to be joyful in hope. And as for being patient in affliction and faithful in prayer, opportunities abound to practice these virtues as well!

And this is my prayer for you, my friends:

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace
as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Happy New Year!