Hope

Hope

It seems like it’s in short supply these days.

Hope

for a better economic future – while thousands upon thousands if not millions flee their homes and their home country

in hope of a better future.

Hope

For safety – whether that be in rural parts of Africa, the refugee camps in the Middle East, or the streets of Chicago

Hope to make it to tomorrow

Hope

For a freedom to be able to express who you are – even if it doesn’t line up with the Main Street culture of your “town.”

Hope for a greater sense of “neighbor” and a lesser sense of “I need to be like that.”

Hope

For a future generation growing up in such times as these.

Hope that they’ll grow up for such a time as this.

Hope

That there will continue to be leaders who are devoted to bringing Hope

Hope

like oxygen to a world continually gasping for breath.

Hope

that the next generation will catch that Hope – and share it with others.

Hope.

Hope in something bigger than myself.

Hope in a generation that uses their iPhones to communicate.

Hope that they will use them to do good.

And not to bring others down.

Hope

Hope – that an older generation looks for in the younger generation

But rarely truly sees it.

Hope

That a younger generation looks for, but has trouble seeing

Hope

Hope that they can see a future

and help the One who made it

bring it

here

to our world

Not because it’s our Hope – but because it’s the Hope He gave to us.

Hope

Hope that because my God is in control of it all, I can hope to be part of a new tomorrow.

Last night, in a small gym at a small school in this place called Grand Rapids Michigan, I saw Hope.

I saw a group of teenagers come together. With Hope.

They wanted to mix styles and cultures and blend it all together and give us hope.

Hope in a God who loves us.

Not because we deserve it, but just because He loves us.

Hope in the leaders of tomorrow, hope that they will be God’s leaders of today.

Hope that teenagers can be more, can dig deeper, can use their gifts to bring hope in their world.

The Potter’s House High School is located in Wyoming Michigan and they serve an amazingly diverse student body – made up of students born in over 30 different countries. Made up of students, many of whom did not have Hope before coming through the doors of Potter’s House, who now see that they do have Hope and a future.

The Potter’s House Gospel Choir, led by Professor Nate Glasper, is a diverse group of teenagers with an amazing passion for music and for being a witness to the Hope we have through God no matter comes our way.

Check out Potter’s House at https:tphgr.org.

I went to a worship concert last night. I came home with a distinct sense of hope.

God is good.

All the time.

TV

It started with a piece of tape.

And then another, and another and another. And then the next roll. And the next….

A view from upstairs and you can see what it is. The chairs are all gone and the tape marks the outline of where the congregation normally sits.

Why?  Because Good Friday isn’t comfortable.

Then came the musicians.

Plugging in cords. Setting up microphones. Tuning the cello and the guitars.

Hey, you see those two over there? What are they doing? I don’t know.

They move from place to place around the room. Soon it’s obvious what they are doing.

They are praying. They are praying for the worshippers that will soon be coming in. .

Every one of them.

The pastors and musicians gather for prayer as people start wandering in. Some of the elderly sit in a row of chairs around the back. Everyone else sits on the floor.

Just enough light shows to help people pick out spots on the floor. Families sit in groups. Parents tell their little ones why it’s dark and why they are sitting on the floor.

Some are very comfortable on the floor, many are not. But more and more people are coming in.

It’s quiet, unusually quiet. Reflective, somber, anticipatory.

And more people come in. The ushers keep busy trying to find a place for them.

They succeed even as the empty spots get smaller and smaller. They ask and people gladly move closer together.

The minister spoke in the dark. Words of reverence and hope. Words of redemption. Words of awareness.

The music joined in – many of the musicians were playing from their heart and soul – and without any written music. The music wove itself throughout the room, turning people’s hearts to Jesus and to Good Friday.

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that would be a present far too small.” A heartfelt admission that we are more broken than we think we are and more loved than we could ever imagine.

The seven stations of the cross – followed by a candle being extinguished. The darkness grows.

Judas betrays Jesus. The darkness grows.

Peter denies Jesus. The darkness grows.

The thief begs for salvation. The darkness grows.

Every step of the way, the darkness grows.

“Father into thy hands, I commit my spirit.

It’s late on Friday and a wise man and a believer worked with the Mary’s and get him down and buried him.

It’s Friday – but Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday – but Sunday’s coming.

The pastors jointly said, “May the Lord Bless you, may the Lord make his face to shine on and keep you. Go forth in the knowledge it is currently Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

Sunday is coming and God is so so good.

Tom

The undercover Face of Grief

I don’t think I ever really grasp, until this last year, the impact that my previous “episodes” with my AVM had on me. Looking back on it, there are a number of times where it changed the course of many things and I didn’t know it at that time.  Looking back on it, my life, my family and both sets of parents are richer because of it.

I’m going to call this Face of Grief – the Undercover Face. I know I probably watch too many cop shows on TV, but you know the undercover cops? The ones who are just moving around in the “normal” world trying not to be noticed.   
Trying to do their job, trying to gain access to the center of what’s happening, and trying to do it without you realizing it. That’s what the undercover face is.

Except on the cop shows, the undercover cop is the good guy and the people he’s trying to get “in with” are bad guys. In this case, it’s the exact opposite. He’s the bad guy, grief is the undercover face that’s trying to sneak in to your life. And you don’t see him and you don’t notice the trail of dirt that he left walking through your kitchen late at night. You don’t see that all is not well.

And then suddenly, you realize that he’s there. And suddenly you see all of the things that have happened which are ways you could should have seen him coming. But you didn’t. And he scared you quite badly.  

My parents lived with that undercover face of grief from 1972 to 2018. He was always around, but not always seen. I believe that in many ways, God used the grief and the sorrow that my dad experienced with his cancer to make his ministry and his life a much deeper and more impactful life for so many.

I’ve had that undercover face of grief hiding around me for a long time too. 1978 – I was in 8th grade. And I had to go to Mayo Clinic (at that point, I thought Mayo was the place where all of the really really sick people went). 1986 – the AVM was back – just as I was finishing college and expecting our oldest…..

So what have I learned from the Undercover Face of Grief? A couple of things:

 • Trust God – God is the parent there to help you when you are scared, sad, worried, and happy, funny, joy-filled. God is there to walk beside you – invite him to join you or you join him and the Undercover Face of Grief won’t be so scary when it shows up – and it will – we live in a fallen world.

 • Remember that as scary as the undercover face might be, when he “shows up” the light of Jesus and the support of others makes him less scary.

 • Don’t live your life scared of the Undercover Face. Instead, look for the joy in life. Look for the things that will add purpose and meaning to your life. Look for the difference you can make in your world – whether it’s in your home, your community or way beyond that.

 • Look around you – there are probably people you know who are staring down that Face of Grief right now. Stand up with them, stand next to them, tell them, “You are not alone.”

One of the many things I have learned over the last years is that there are way more people who are struggling and way less people who have all of their “ducks in a row” than I ever would have thought.

So, when your grief shows his head after hiding behind the scenes, acknowledge him, look at your life – are there things you’ve been doing that have made it easier for him to hide? I’m thinking of the old country and western song about drowning your sorrows…..

God’s grace is enough. Actually, the writer of Psalm 4 says, “I have God’s more than enough”

When grief shows it’s face, know that God’s grace is more than enough.

TJV