Welcome to the August Carnival of Hope! As I explained in a blog post a few days ago, this will be the last edition. While I've enjoyed working on the carnival, I want to move on and do other things. I'm very grateful to the people who've submitted posts over the year I've been doing this. Thank you all!
My favorite post this month is Tom Gilson's delightful Two Churches, Two Races, One Heart. "Our church, especially our youth, is spending the week ministering in a poor and troubled part of town, partnering with a church that's located right in that neighborhood. Our church is 99.8% white. The other church is just as thoroughly African-American. We have absolutely fallen in love with each other this week." I dare anyone, religious or not, to read this and not feel more hopeful about the possibility of transcending ethnic and cultural barriers!
And on an only slightly similar but still delightful note, here's Mother Jones' Got God?, in which she rewrites the Nurses' Prayer ("God, please get me through this shift in one piece"), adding, "I'm convinced that the only thing that keeps me in nursing is divine intervention." As a hospital volunteer, I can attest to the fact that to patients, nurses themselves often seem like agents of divine intervention! Thanks for your devotion to your profession, Mother Jones.
Not everyone can be a nurse, but almost everyone can follow Vivek Khemka's lead in making a list of Ten Simple Ways to Save the World. We'll probably all have different lists, but even small efforts can have large effects.
If you need an item to start your own list, you could do worse than Roger Carr's idea of Giving Thanks, Love and Appreciation. Roger notes how strangers smile at him when he says "I love you" into his cellphone in public. I always enjoy overhearing that phrase, too -- even though I usually loathe cellphones!
If a chance encounter with a stranger talking on a cellphone can brighten our day, what could a chance encounter with a shaman do? Tupelo Kenyon tells us in Reverence For Life Through Nature.
Tupelo's encounter with the shaman deepened his reverence for the interconnectedness of creation. But how can we reclaim aspects of creation that have been devalued? Bdurfee offers an instructive anecdote in Sharing the Wealth. This post is less personal than most I include here, but I was really struck by the observation that while money is often a taboo subject in our culture, wealth and abundance are celebrated. If money feels dirty or shameful to us, then, the trick is to perceive it as a form of abundance.
Perception is also the key in Karen Murphy's self-deception, and the way out of it, which concludes with her observations about the healing power of writing. Although my approach isn't quite as metaphysical as Karen's, I loved the humor in her writing, especially in the phrase "the Special Extra-Dark Glasses of Half-Emptiness." Hey! I've got a pair of those too! We must go to the same optometrist!
Wouldn't that make a great Boy Wizard Book title? Barry Rotter and the Special Extra-Dark Glasses of Half-Emptiness. Yes! It's perfect!
Dr. Hal describes his own Extra-Dark Glasses prescription, the one that consists of seeing what isn't there rather than what is, in What Are You Looking For? Note: While I love Dr. Hal's story about his and his wife's different perceptions of the lake, I don't agree with his final statement, "Remember, We Live within the Environment Created by Our Choices!" The power of choice is a luxury denied to many people in the world, especially the very poor, the very young, and the very old; while perception and attitude can certainly make a difference in what we do with our circumstances, certain material conditions can't be changed by willpower. Victims of genocide in Darfur didn't choose to die: their environment was created, tragically, by other people's choices.
That doesn't mean that there's no hope, though. It does mean that each of us has to consciously make the best choices we can, and find ways to try to influence others to do the same. We can begin the work of creating a better world, even if we can never finish it. In that spirit, I leave you with Bishop Ken Untener's famous, but always timely, prayer in honor of Oscar Romero:
It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.May whatever you believe in most strongly sustain you, and may you journey with hope towards a bright future.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.