Meditations on hope and resilience for the first Sunday of Advent

Hope begins in the dark … the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You don’t give up. — Anne Lamott

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope. — Thomas Merton

SONGS about HOPE:

Blessing of Hope — Jan Richardson
So may we know the hope
that is not just for someday
but for this day—here, now,
in this moment that opens to us:
hope not made of wishes
but of substance,
hope made of sinew
and muscle and bone,
hope that has breath
and a beating heart,
hope that will not keep quiet
and be polite,
hope that knows how to holler when it is called for,
hope that knows how to sing when there seems little cause,
hope that raises us
from the dead—
not someday
but this day,
every day,
again and again and again.

Advent 1: The Parable

In a mother’s womb were two babies.  The first baby asked the other:  “Do you believe in life after delivery?”
      The second baby replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery.  Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
      “Nonsense,” said the first. “There is no life after delivery.  What would that life be?”
      “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here.  Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.”
      The doubting baby laughed. “This is absurd!  Walking is impossible.  And eat with our mouths?  Ridiculous.  The umbilical cord supplies nutrition.  Life after delivery is to be excluded.  The umbilical cord is too short.”
      The second baby held his ground. “I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.”
      The first baby replied, “No one has ever come back from there.  Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere.”
      “Well, I don’t know,” said the twin, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.”
       “Mother?” The first baby guffawed. “You believe in mother?  Where is she now?” 
       The second baby calmly and patiently tried to explain. “She is all around us.  It is in her that we live. Without her there would not be this world.”
       “Hah. I don’t see her, so it’s only logical that she doesn’t exist.”  
        To which the other replied, “Sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.  I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality when it comes….”
 
— Attribution uncertain: According to Wayne Dyer, the original story was told by Henri J. W. Nouwen. Possibly  adapted from the writings of Pablo Molinero. Or penned in 1947 by Orthodox Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tucazinsky. Or from the Hungarian writer Útmutató a Léleknek.

The spiritual task of life is to feed hope. Hope is not something to be found outside of us. It lies in the spiritual life we cultivate within.— Joan Chittister

There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster. ― Dalai Lama XIV
 
Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose. ― Viktor E. Frankl
 
Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality. – Jonas Salk
 

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. – Maya Angelou

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for. – Tom Bodett
 
Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A ‘you can do it’ when things are tough. – Richard M. DeVos

A lot of people have their big dreams and get knocked down and don’t have things go their way. And you never give up hope, and you really just hold on to it. Hard work and perseverance. You just keep getting up and getting up, and then you get that breakthrough.– Robert Kraft

Hope is the dream of a soul awake. — French proverb

Dum spiro, spero: While I breath, I hope. — Latin proverb

The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. — Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

IS HOPE ABOUT NOW or TOMORROW, IS IT a HELP or an OBSTACLE?

Grounded hope has two parts. The “grounded” part refers to a realistic understanding of our lives and ourselves. Instead of painting a smiley face over what has happened, we bravely look at reality head-on. Seeing the situation clearly enables us to work toward recovery.
     We cultivate the “hope” part by building confidence in our ability to shape what happens to us next. We start by asking, “Given what’s happened to me, what am I going to do about it? How can I build a better life on top of it?” Then we set goals for ourselves and find sources of motivation to pursue those goals.
      At some point, most of us will face the task of recovering, rebuilding, and rebounding from adversity. Grounded hope can help us not just bounce back, but bounce forward. — Lee Daniel Kravetz, Option B, https://optionb.org/build-resilience/advice/steps-to-grounded-hope

Hope is important, because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. But that is the most that hope can do for us – to make some hardship lighter. When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment. We use hope to believe something better will happen in the future, that we will arrive at peace, or the Kingdom of God. Hope becomes a kind of obstacle. If you can refrain from hoping, you can bring yourself entirely into the present moment and discover the joy that is already here…
     Western civilization places so much emphasis on the idea of hope that we sacrifice the present moment. Hope is for the future. It cannot help us discover joy, peace, or enlightenment in the present moment. Many religions are based on the notion of hope, and this teaching about refraining from hope may create a strong reaction. But the shock can bring about something important. I do not mean that you should not have hope, but that hope is not enough. Hope can create an obstacle for you, and if you dwell in the energy of hope, you will not bring yourself back entirely into the present moment. If you re-channel those energies into being aware of what is going on in the present moment, you will be able to make a breakthrough and discover joy and peace right in the present moment, inside of yourself and all around you. — Thich Nhat Hahn, Peace In Every Step

When considered only philosophically, hope, more often than not, seems to be at odds with rational, analytical thinking. But due to its proactive nature, hope in action touches the heart and creates its own validation. A good example of this is found in the philanthropic work of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. In the 2015 Annual Gates Letter he wrote: “Optimism for me isn’t that things will get better; it’s a conviction that we can make things better — that whatever suffering we see, no matter how bad it is we can help people if we don’t lose hope and we don’t look away.” — article from ornishliving.com

Hope is not always comforting or comfortable. Hope asks us to open ourselves to what we do not know, to pray for illumination in this life, to imagine what is beyond our imagining, to bear what seems unbearable. It calls us to keep breathing when beloved lives have left us, to turn toward one another when we might prefer to turn away. Hope draws our eyes and hearts toward a more whole future but propels us also into the present, where Christ waits for us to work with him toward a more whole world now. — Jan Richardson

When God saves people in this life by working through his Spirit to bring them to faith and by leading them to follow Jesus in discipleship, prayer, holiness, hope, and love, such people are designed…to be a sign and foretaste of what God wants to do for the entire cosmos. What’s more, such people are not just to be a sign and foretaste of that ultimate salvation; they are to be part of the means by which God makes this happen both in the present and the future. — NT Wright

Reflections on songs of justice and resilience: themes for Advent 1 from Mary’s Magnificat (song) in Luke 1.

PLAY LISTS: Justice Songs (some lists)

  • Social justice songs: link
  • Songs about class and poverty: link 
  • Songs to listen to while fighting for social justice: link
  • Civil rights songs that promote freedom and justice: link

Questions to consider (Luke 1):

  • What songs of justice are on your play list?
  • When have you stood and sung for justice, or in resistance to injustice? What was at stake?
  • Who still needs songs of justice in this world?
  • When you sing for justice, do you sing solo or as part of a group or community? When and how would you choose either role?

One Song — Rumi

Every war and every conflict between human beings
has happened because of some disagreement about names.

It is such an unnecessary foolishness,
because just beyond the arguing
there is a long table of companionship
set and waiting for us to sit down.

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured into a huge basin.
All religions, all this singing, one song.
The differences are just illusion and vanity.
Sunlight looks a little different on this wall
than it does on that wall
and a lot different on this other one,
but it is still one light.

We have borrowed these clothes,
these time-and-space personalities,
from a light, and when we praise,
we are pouring them back in.

Of Songs and Music: Love Beyond Language

Then the singing enveloped me. It was furry and resonant, coming from everyone’s very heart. There was no sense of performance or judgment, only that the music was breath and food. ― Anne Lamott

You are the music while the music lasts. — T.S. Eliot

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination …— Plato

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. Plato

Words make you think. Music makes you feel. A song makes you feel a thought. ― E.Y. Harburg

Thus, though music be a universal language, it is spoken with all sorts of accents. — George Bernard Shaw

There is as much music in the world as virtue. In a world of peace and love music would be the universal language … All things obey music as they obey virtue. It is the herald of virtue. It is God’s voice. — Henry David Thoreau

Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones. — Keith Richards

If music be the food of love, play on. — William Shakespeare

If I cannot fly, let me sing. – Stephen Sondheim

Without music, life would be a mistake.  – Friedrich Nietzsche

The only thing better than singing is more singing. – Ella Fitzgerald

The greatest respect an artist can pay to music is to give it life. – Pablo Casals

Love, I find, is like singing. ― Zora Neale Hurston

She sang, as requested. There was much about love in the ballad: faithful love that refused to abandon its object; love that disaster could not shake; love that, in calamity, waxed fonder, in poverty clung closer. The words were set to a fine old air — in themselves they were simple and sweet: perhaps, when read, they wanted force; when well sung, they wanted nothing. Shirley sang them well: she breathed into the feeling, softness, she poured round the passion, force … ― Charlotte Brontë, Shirley

Songs as Justice & Resistance

Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. … To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim … that death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, we still make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber,Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint

Do it. Hell, get the song taken down if you want. But you’ll never silence me. I got too goddamn much to say. ― Angie Thomas, On the Come Up

Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music. Jimi Hendrix

Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music. Jimi Hendrix

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness. — Maya Angelou

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. — Victor Hugo

Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music. — Jimi Hendrix

Sirens everywhere, singing that street song. Violence everywhere, barely holding on… — Alicia Keyes

Turnin nothin into somethin, is God work, And you get nothin without struggle and hard work— Nas

Writing, painting, singing- it cannot stop everything. Cannot halt death in its tracks. But perhaps it can make the pause between death’s footsteps sound and look and feel beautiful, can make the space of waiting a place where you can linger without as much fear. For we are all walking each other to our deaths, and the journey there between footsteps makes up our lives. ― Ally Condie, Reached

Reflections on Advent 1: Hope

Of History and Hope (excerpt) Miller Williams

We have memorized America,
how it was born and who we have been and where.
In ceremonies and silence we say the words,
telling the stories, singing the old songs.
We like the places they take us. Mostly we do.
… But where are we going to be, and why, and who?
…. We mean to be the people we meant to be,
to keep on going where we meant to go.
… Who were many people coming together
cannot become one people falling apart.
Who dreamed for every child an even chance
cannot let luck alone turn doorknobs or not.
Whose law was never so much of the hand as the head
cannot let chaos make its way to the heart.
Who have seen learning struggle from teacher to child
cannot let ignorance spread itself like rot.
We know what we have done and what we have said,
and how we have grown, degree by slow degree,
believing ourselves toward all we have tried to become—
just and compassionate, equal, able, and free …

Hope: Optimism With a Plan— Ron Breazeale, Psychology Today

  1. First of all, hope is future oriented. …
  2. And secondly, hope is based on a system of belief that you can find a pathway to achieve your goal …
  3. And last of all, hope involves a plan.

Link: A Guide to Grounded Hope Option B


Reflections on Hope

Hope is patience with the lamp lit. — Tertullian

I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe. — Dalai Lama

Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings. — Elie Wiesel

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. — Dale Carnegie

A lot of people have their big dreams and get knocked down and don’t have things go their way. And you never give up hope, and you really just hold on to it. Hard work and perserverance. You just keep getting up and getting up, and then you get that breakthrough. — Robert Kraft

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Where there is no vision, there is no hope. — George Washington Carver

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. — Robert Kennedy

Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future. — Lewis Smedes

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful. — Marie Curie

On Personal Hopes

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return. — Maya Angelou

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’. — Erma Bombeck

I have hope in people, in individuals. Because you don’t know what’s going to rise from the ruins. — Joan Baez

On Present Hope

We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds. — Aristotle Onassis

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. — Thich Nhat Hanh

On Future Hope

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. — Nelson Mandela

Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future. — Robert H. Schuller

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