Hope supplies the light…

January 5, 2022

I’ve has these two quotes in my saved file for a while and they just seem to go together –

“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” (Stanley Kubrick)

“Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent”.  (Mignon McLaughlin)

Kubrick’s quote points out that we must find our own way our of the darkness of sorrow or anger or despair – the things that plunge us into darkness.

I wrote a few years back about four candles – Peace, Love, Faith and Hope – and how one by one they were extinguished until only the candle of Hope remained burning (see https://normsmilfordblog.com/2014/01/27/where-there-is-hope-there-can-never-be-complete-darkness-2/).

Our lives can seem like the candles sometimes, especially when jarring events snuff out the candle of Peace or the unexpected loss of a loved one causes the candle of Love to flicker out. Sometimes it is all too easy to allow events to overcome us and so we lose sight of the candle of our Faith. In those times all we have is the candle of Hope to show us the way our of the darkness.

If we can get to the point that McLaughlin mentioned, where we realize that the darkness we are in is not permanent by holding out hope for a better tomorrow, we can start to reignite the other candles in our lives.

Recent events in the U.S. and around the world have provided vivid images of people who have lost everything or endured unimaginable hardships and yet still cling to hope. Out of that hope many have expressed their faith that things will get better, and that life will go on. Most often they express gratitude that they still have their loved ones and state that they will rebuild their lives and their homes. They know that the feelings of loss and despair that they may have at that moment will not last.

You do not have to suffer a disaster to be plunged into a dark place. For some, mental illness takes them to those places often. No matter how you got there, the candle of Hope is the way out. Keep Hope burning in your life and let its light show you the way out of the darkness. Peer into the darkness with the light of Hope and you will see God standing there with the candle of Faith ready to be reignited.

Faith is most often the first candle to be relit by Hope. Hope illuminates God as our guide out of our funk and allows us to ask God for His help.

Once you have the candle of Faith burning in your life again it becomes possible to relight the candle of Love and to once again allow the candle of Peace to guide your way through life.

Hold on to Hope…it supplies the light in the darkness.


Just beyond reason and logic…

November 22, 2021
Portrait of U.S. statesman, inventor, and diplomat Benjamin Franklin as he looks on one hundred dollar bill obverse. Clipping path included.

I seldom see quotes from Ben Franklin that I disagree with, but this is one – “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”

Perhaps Franklin meant to advise us not to let reason get in the way of faith. Many great scientists and thinkers, including Albert Einstein, have resolved any conflict that they might have had between faith and reason.

“The more I study science, the more I believe in God.” (Einstein)

I prefer to think of it this way. Faith lies just beyond the boundaries within which reason and logic try to constrain our imagination. Hope also lives in that nether land that is, by definition, beyond our ability to comprehend using logic and reason. In fact, it is hope that brings faith into focus and allows us to see what we do not need to understand to believe.

I think that one can use reason and will logically arrive at Faith as the only answer to the great questions of life – the Why’s and How’s and What happens next questions. At some point one accepts that there are no earthly answers to those questions and realizes that all logical paths lead back to the same place – faith in something that we cannot comprehend but which must exist in order for us to exist.

At the beginning of each episode of the TV show The Twilight Zone the narrator said – “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone!” Faith goes well beyond the twilight zone because takes us beyond the limits of our imaginations.

So what Franklin might have said, instead, is, “The way to see by faith is to look beyond what we can see with the eyes of logic and reason and to use hope as your lens to focus upon what is important.”

Open your eyes to faith. See your future through the lens of hope.


What do you do with your failures?

July 9, 2021

I really don’t want to write about failures; but, rather, how you react when you have experienced a failure in your life. I found this quote that kind of sets the tone for this post…

I’ve observed that if individuals who prevail in a high competitive environment have any one thing in common besides success, it is failure — and their ability to overcome it.
– Bill Walsh, college and NFL football coach

Failures are an inevitable part of life, unless you never try anything, which would make your life really boring. Some people spend so much time worrying or planning for failure that they actually DO very little. Others develop a fatalistic outlook on life that almost assures the failures that they are confident are about to happen to them.

We don’t have to be highly competitive people in sports or in business to better position ourselves to deal with failures – to overcome them. Overcoming them, by the way, may not always mean continuing to try to do the same thing over an over until you succeed.  Sometimes overcoming a failure means learning and accepting that doing the thing that you failed at is not possible and deciding to try something different or a different approach towards the same goal.

Many people spend a lot of time following a failure trying to find something or someone else to blame. That is basically a denial of personal responsibility for the failure or a way to refuse to accept that the failure happened. Some people retreat into a “poor me” response and try to find comfort in the thoughts that the whole world is somehow against their success. They make up conspiracy theories to explain their failures.

A key word in Walsh’s quote is “prevail”. One dictionary definition of the word prevail, when used as a verb isprove more powerful than opposing forces”.

How does one prevail and prove more powerful than whatever failure the opposing forces have caused? One can begin by not allowing the failure to extinguish hope. Then you can turn that failure into a learning experience that will help guide a future attempt at success. Instead of spending time asking who or what caused this failure, instead ask, “what can I learn from this and what can I do differently in the future to avoid another failure like this one”. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, turn your energy towards planning a better future attempt or perhaps even a different thing to attempt. Doing that requires two things – letting go of the past (the failure) and continued hope for the future.

I’ve posted here a few times about the intertwined impacts of faith and hope in our lives. Whether hope precedes faith or faith is the bedrock upon which hope is built is a debatable topic. I choose to believe that having faith in God allows us to have hope in the face of our trials and failures in life. It is in that moment of surrender to God with the prayer, “not my will but thy will be done”, that hope is rekindled. It is that surety that God is with us that allows us to prove more powerful than opposing forces – to prevail.

So, what do you with your failures? If you take them to God in prayer, you will prevail. After all we have been told in Romans 8:31 – “If God is with us, who can be against us?”

Remember, however, to pray for the right thing: not that God make the challenge facing you disappear (God doesn’t work like that); but, rather, that God be with you and give you the strength and perseverance to prevail.

That’s what you can do to overcome your failures.


Don’t lose hope…keep the faith…

June 7, 2021

“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”  (MLK Jr)

That was the quote used by Pastor Freed in today’s post to the blog, Jack’s Winning Words. It pairs nicely with a sign that I have in my yard right now – “Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.”

Hope and faith are often paired, and one could argue forever about which one comes first or which supports which. Does faith give us hope or does hope lead us to faith? I think that they are so intertwined that the one cannot exist without the other.

Life is filled with small and large disappointments or setbacks, yet a person of faith never loses hope for better days ahead. When faced with disappointments, we search for answers to the question – Why? – but a person of faith learns to accept what has happened, trusting, and accepting that it was God’s will and moving on.

The key to never losing hope in the future is found in the King quote about living with an audacious faith in the future. How can we have that audacious faith? The answer is that we have already been promised a future of everlasting life by Jesus. The trials and tribulations that we suffer here on earth pale in comparison to the promised eternity with God after life here.

The dictionary definition of audacious is bold, daring or fearless. In the context of the events of his day, I suspect that King’s quote was using the fearless definition. That is also a good definition to use for people of faith. Certainly, faith will not prevent the disappointments in life from happening; however, when the fear of death is replaced by faith in life everlasting, one can step into the future with a confident stride. One can audaciously look life in the eye and say, “bring it on”, I’m ready for you. You have faith in God and an unshakable hope for the future.

So, start each day by praying that God recharge your faith and renew your hope. Remind yourself that your faith has already cemented for you an infinite future with God, and you will see the trials and tribulations that you might face today within the proper context, and they will melt away. Hope is a great thing, but your faith is the greatest thing of all.

Be audacious in faith today.


Keep the candle of hope burning…

April 12, 2021

In his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote today – “Once we choose hope, everything else is possible.”  (Christopher Reeve)

I’ve written here before about faith and hope and which comes first. One post in particular that I wrote about four candles representing peace, love faith and hope provided an answer. When the candles of peace, love and faith were extinguished and only hope remained, the flicker of the candle of hope was able to reignite the other three.  So, perhaps faith is born of hope or at least hope leads inevitably to faith as the only logical answer to the question, “What happens next?”

But, beyond providing the spark that ignites faith, hope also fuels the imagination and lets us dream about what might be. Hope illuminates what is possible out of the gloom of all that we think is impossible. Hope still says “Maybe”, when all else says “No!”

Pairing hope with faith creates a formidable combination indeed. Hope tells you that maybe it can be and faith tells you that God is with you in the pursuit of that maybe. Hope gives you strength to carry on and faith gives you perseverance to not give up.

When you think about it, the duo of hope and faith are really inextricably intertwined. One cannot have faith without hope. Nor can one really have hope without faith to sustain it.

So, as you start a new day and a new week, stoke the embers of hope in your life and rekindle your faith through prayer. Include your hopes in your prayers. Giving them voice makes them more real and keeps them in front of you. Then start your day with your To-Do list of hopes in mind and God at your side.

It’s a new day and all things are possible to those who believe and have hope. Keep your candle of hope burning.


Hope may be the best medicine of all…

June 6, 2018

In today’s installment of the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack used this quote – “He (she) is the best physician who is the most ingenious inspirer of hope. (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Modern Medicine is at best an art, which tries to cloak itself in science to add credibility. Certainly, there is some science involved, but mostly it’s a practice of techniques that pillswere developed through a process of trial and error, whether it be in diagnosing aliments or performing surgery. Even the development of our modern wonder drugs is mostly a matter of trial and error; although the newest gene therapies are based more in a scientific understanding of how our genes work and what they do in the body. Of course the current opioid epidemic shows how out-of-hand modern medicine can get with it’s prescription drug approach.

And then there are all of the alternative or holistic medical practices, many of which focus primarily on allowing the body to heal itself. Some are accompanied by lengthy discussions of “energy flows” within the body or other scientifically questionable explanations of why they supposedly work. Most of them have been developed over centuries of trail and error, too. In the old days Snake Oil salesmen also had explanations about why their elixirs would cure all ills. Many of the alternative approaches might sound like that; however, some work as well, if not better,  than modern medicine at relieving pain and allowing a person to heal.

It would seem that Jack’s quote is the most reasonable explanation of why many of these approaches to healing actually work. The most successful practitioners inspire the hope of the patient and out of that hope comes the time and attitude to promote healing. The fact that many also relieve pain reinforces that hope.

woman-prayingI’m certainly not advocating for the position of refusing modern medical help and putting all of our hope in either alternative approaches or even in faith. Misguided people who try to use faith as a reason and defense for not vaccinating their children or giving them the benefit of modern treatments and drugs, where needed, are just wrong and a danger to themselves and society. It is unfortunate that too many get away with that approach until it is too late.

I do think it is important to add faith to the strength of the hope that one has in whatever medical approach is being employed. There have been a few studies that were at least as scientific as many drug tests that showed the positive impact of faith in the healing process. Combining hope that one will get better; with faith that God will help make it happen is strong medicine indeed.

So, keep the faith and keep hope in your medicine cabinet. Have a healthy rest of the week, no matter what approach you take to healing your body.


Are you making progress?

January 31, 2018

In a recent post to his blog – Jack’s Winning Words – Jack used this interesting quote – Pablo Casals“Cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice at age 90.  ‘Because I think I am making progress,’ he replied.”  (Seattle Opera post). Jack went on to write about his grandmother who was still reading her Bible at age 92, even though she needed a magnifying glass to do so. She was still learning about God and Jesus and making progress in her relationship with God.

Life is a journey of discovery during which we accumulate knowledge (which one hopes eventually turns into wisdom) and we form relationships. In almost all fields of knowledge, we eventually reach the end of human understanding of that topic and conclude that only God knows the rest of the story. It is at those intersections that we begin to hunger for more knowledge about this God, who apparently is the source of all things. We desire a relationship with Him and look for some guidance on how to meet gods-hands-2Him and form that relationship. That guidance is contained in the Bible. Fortunately, for us, the Bible tells us that we have also been given a guide. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

One of the great dichotomies of life’s journey rages between the concepts of faith on the one hand and our own ego on the other. Faith demands that we let go of the quest for understanding and just believe; yet, our egos pull us in the direction of continuing to try to understand everything. We are driven by our egos to try to dissect things down into smaller and more elemental pieces that we can “wrap our brains around.”  Faith says, “Let it go and just believe” while our ego says, “there must be a way for me to understand this.”

At the root of that problem is our human tendency to see things and try to understand them only within the context of the physical world that we already understand. We god-micelangelo-sistenechapel-creative-commonsexpress this ego-restricted view of the world in our religious art, which always depicts God in our own image. We have a hard time conceiving of something that we cannot depict in a material way.

The leap of faith from relating to the things we can see and touch to accepting a God that we can neither see nor touch is the last chasm that separates us from Him. Jesus came to earth to provide a bridge so that we can make that we can jump that chasm in our “leap leap of faithof faith”. Jesus beacons us to jump and trust that He will catch us and take us the rest of the way.

So, why keep reading the Bible after years of doing so? Why keep going to church every week, after years of doing so? Why keep praying to a God that we cannot see or touch, after years of doing so? Why do we continue this never-ending journey to meet our God? Maybe it is that little bit of faith that we have already achieved that is providing us the hope that Pablo Casals expressed, “Because I think I am making woman-prayingprogress.” It is a journey that I realize that I will not finish on this earth; but, I hope that I get enough done here to be able to continue the journey in Heaven.

Are you making progress, too?


A life well lived? Defining success…

January 16, 2018

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this bit of life advice –

“Have faith, hope, and charity; that’s the way to live successfully.”  (Dale Evans)  Jack went on to write  – Dale and her husband (Roy Rogers) were both very religious people.  Her quote is from a song she wrote, called, “The Bible Told Me So,” based on 1 Corinthians 13:13.

man reaching for starTo me, the most interesting word in that little saying is the word “successfully”. That begs the question of who is measuring the success of one’s life and by what standards? Too many people measure themselves and their achievement of success in their lives by what they think others will think of them or how they think others measure success. For those people, success equates to the accumulation of what they see as the three “P’s” of success – possessions, power and position.

Many things in our social environment seem to point to fame and fortune as the keys to success and thus to happiness. Yet there are also many indications that tell us, in the tragic, drug-related deaths of thosedepression3 who we admire and believe have achieved those things; that just achieving fame and fortune may not be the answer to happiness in life. How often we hear their stories of loneliness and insecurities after their deaths. All too often, we find out that they suffered from depression and turned to drugs as a refuge from a life of fear and torment. They seemed to have had it all; but, did they really live a successful life?

Then we can recall the story of Mother Teresa in India or closer to home of Father Solanus CaseySolanus Casey , the Capuchin Franciscan from the Detroit area who was recently elevated to the level of Blessed by the Catholic Church. They certainly didn’t accumulate great possessions, nor were they in positions of power or great prominence; yet who would say that they did not live successful lives. By what standards were their lives judged? I would submit it is by the standards that Dale Evans was espousing.

In the final analysis, the only two judges that matter in evaluating the way you lived your life are you and God; and God has the final vote. As one analyses their life, which makes one the more successful – self-esteem and arrogance or Faith in God; a sense of entitlement or hope for the future; giving a small portion of one’s great wealth (and asking for a receipt for tax purposes) or giving all that you can and wishing you could give more? I would submit that the person who does the latter in those cases is living the more successful life.

As you start a new year, resolve to live life according to the measure of success that DalePinterest Wayne Dyer graphic Evans recommends and not by that old Malcolm Forbes hack, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” Inspirational writer and speaker, Wayne Dyer, put it nicely in this quote that I saw on Pinterest.

At the end of the day, will you be able to look back in satisfaction on a life well lived through faith, hope and charity or will you still be dissatisfied that you haven’t quite accumulated all of the possessions and power and position that you believe will make you happy?

How happy or sad I will be for you.

 


Hope based upon faith is not dreaming or wishing…

July 17, 2017

Recently the Jack’s Winning Words blog has featured a couple of post on wishing and hope –

“Wishing are the dreams we dream when we’re awake.”  (Buddy DeSylva)

“Accept life and what it brings, I hope tomorrow you’ll find better things.”  (The Kinks)

Jack went on to write – Peter Marty wrote recently about the difference between wishing and hoping.  Wishing upon a star is different than placing hope in God.  Hope seems to have a spiritual tone to it.  It’s what sustains us when we’re not ready to give up on God.  The Kinks’ song came out of the writer’s down time.  As I read the lyrics I see more hoping than wishing.  What do you see?    😉  Jack 

I suppose that one could argue about which comes first faith or hope. I would take the position that hoping in the absence of faith is just like dreaming or wishing; there is no basis for belief that something will actually happen to make the dream or wish come true. As Jack wrote, “Wishing upon a star is different than placing hope in God”, and thewoman-praying main difference is that “placing hope in God” is actually placing your faith in God. After all, who are you asking when you wish for something without a belief in God? Who will grant your wish? To whom do you turn when you have a dream of a better life? Hope based upon faith provides clear instructions on where to take your wishes and dreams and how to ask for what you need and want.

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” – Matthew 21:22

As you read the first part of that quote the tendency is to say, “Alright, I can have whatever I ask for”; however, the kicker is in those last four words – “if you have faith.” Time after time in the Bible you will read that faith is the precursor to hope or the fulfillment of prayers. Many times we “pray” for things that we do not get and there is usually the same answer for why not –

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” – James 4:3

There are many things that we may dreams about or wish for that fall under the general man prayingcategory of our passions – the things of this world that we sometimes think are so important. We might pray to win the Lotto or we might pray for a new car or for other material things, rather than praying that God help us do the right things in life and trust that He will provide all that we really need. The key is having faith first and allowing that faith to guide what you ask God for in your prayers. Base your hopes on faith and they will be fulfilled –

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24

I think I wrote here once before that, if I happen to include a mention of the Lottery in my prayers, I ask God to help me do the right things with the money, if I should win. Lately I have refocused my requests in prayer to a very simple ask – “God help me make good decisions today.” I have faith that those good decisions will actually be God decisions.

What do you ask God for in your prayer? Are your hopes based upon your faith?


Now more than ever…

November 22, 2016

“Cast all your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”  (1 Peter 5:17) – from a post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time ago.

Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”

The recent election has caused a great deal of anxiety among people who voted for Hillary winner-loserClinton and against Donald Trump. That anxiety is driven by fears that President-Elect Trump will actually carry out some of the more outrageous promises that he made while campaigning, concerning things like building a wall at our southern border and deporting illegal aliens or taking harsh and discriminatory measures against various ethnic or religious groups. There would have been a similar anxiety had Hillary won from those who saw her as a threat to their right to own weapons or who fear more and bigger government interference in their daily lives. Those on both sides should step back and remember Peter’s advice – “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

There is a great deal of irrationality in both of those views. While a modern President can impact our lives in many ways, our governmental system does not allow for him/her to run roughshod over the will of the people or even that of the minority. Having rebelled against an onerous king, the founding fathers of America put enough checks and balances into the reality2system to insure that tyranny by a ruling leader would not be possible. Also at work here is the shift that President Obama has spoken about that occurs once one actually has to be the President, rather than just campaigning to be the President. We can see that already in Mr. Trump’s rapid backpedaling away from some of his more outrageous stated positions from his campaign. Some have called that being pragmatic, but perhaps the Lord is already at work and you can, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

If one lives long enough, one gets to see (and live through) the various swings of the political pendulum back and forth between the two major parties and their underlying philosophies on government. The earliest that I recall being actually aware of who was President and what they meant was during President Eisenhower’s terms in office; although I do vaguely recall early TV news reports of Margaret Truman playing a piano eisenhowerconcert for her family while in the White House. I do remember how the press seemed to cover every golf outing that President Eisenhower took and how he was called the “do nothing” president; even though he was the father of our modern Interstate system of highways and a bulwark against the spread of Communism after WW II. Eisenhower also created NASA in response to the launch of the Sputnik satellite by the USSR. He fought behind the scenes against Joe McCarthy and effectively ended McCarthyism. There were many who feared what would happen when Eisenhower was elected; but, also many who had faith enough to, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

I could go on to give examples of the anxieties caused by the elections of each of the Presidents since Eisenhower; but, here we are today, still anxious yet still hopeful. Things will change for a while as the pendulum prepares to swing back towards the other side. Perhaps it is at its furthest rightward point away from the center, but I suspect that this last election was actually a turning point and the momentum has already shifted back reality-checktowards the middle for the next few elections. Those most likely to be disappointed are not those who voted for the losing candidate, but those who voted for the winner, in hopes that all of their anger, hate and prejudices would be assuaged. For those who standing quivering in fear and anxiety at this turn of events, I can only offer the comfort of faith and ask them to, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

Now is not the time to abandon your faith; now is the time to find strength and comfort in it. Many may feel the same way they recalling feeling when they faced a bully at school or bully.pngat work. There is a lot of bluster and bravado from the winning side and some disappointment, whimpering and shame on the losing side. Both have already subsided as both now try to envision a future with this status quo. One side is focusing upon what they can actually do for the next four years and the other is deciding what they can actually prevent from happening in that same time period. The gridlock that is our Congressional arm of government has shifted from “prevent Obama from doing anything” to “prevent Trump from doing anything.” The Lord does work in mysterious ways, indeed. “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

In churches across the land the prayers remain the same – “Lord give our leaders the wisdom to lead us wisely and to do the right things” (or words to that effect). We haveman praying no power over what those leaders see as “the right things”, but God does. Now, more than ever, we need to trust in God to put into the hearts and minds of those in power the wisdom and compassion to do the right things. So pray often and pray hard for God to intervene to make the right things happen; and, pray with the conviction that you can, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

Have a great and anxiety-free week ahead.