I wish that hope was shiny and bright. That it fit neatly in a stocking or tucked all pretty under the tree. But hope can't exist without lack. As Paul says, "Who hopes for what they have?"
These words and prayers and poems try to hold the tension of both the night and the promise of the light. Read about my Hope Week cancer scare. Watch Zachariah resist the vulnerability of hope. Listen to songs of promise in a minor key.
As you advent softly, consider. What if hope was not a discipline to enact, but a grace to receive? What if all you have to do is name the night, open your hands, and wait?
The Light is coming.
Zechariah & the Tension of Hope
Click on the gallery below for a contemplative reading from Luke 1:8-20 (MSG)
Songs of Hope
Click on the songs below for songs of hope. Expect deep notes, minor keys, and palpable longing.
Poems of Hope
These poems, from my journal, were written during past hope weeks. Don't expect polished edges, here. It's a little too raw for that.
"Waiting for the Knife"
A journal poem from hope week, 2021
On Tuesday, the doctor
told me I might have cancer.
Next week, after removing an organ,
we will know for sure.
Here we are in Hope Week,
and truly it’s making me rage.
“I don’t want hope,” I railed at God.
“I want it to be better.”
Hope is ugly vulnerable.
Hope is the longing
for something unpossessed.
Hope is gnawing lack.
Hope can be disappointed.
After all. Generations died in the desert
before the Messiah came.
I imagine suffering.
I imagine cancer.
“I know,” He said. “I know.”
And those nail-torn hands
stroked my hair
as I watched the lights on the tree.
He knows, I said. He knows.
This flesh-wrapped God
“I would never ask you to do
what I would not.
I came for this moment.
I came for you.”
I still just want Him to fix it.
I don’t want
to have to hope.
But as I played out
all the worst-case-scenarios,
I realized that one way or another,
they all end with Him.
And there it was.
"God of Slow Art"
A journal poem from advent week, 2022
The walls are bright and open.
You stretch me out, Your canvas,
splayed across the empty space.
Your fingertips are stained
the remnant of broken things.
You gather Your brushes
and come near. Smile.
You are in no rush.
Your paints drip down my face
like mercy. Colors, curves, a carnival:
who knows what I will be?
No hasty layers here.
Time captures the light in the room
and traps it in my heart.
I love the flecks of gold,
the rough edge of textures,
the subtle fade of hues.
I consent to the time it takes.
I consent to paying attention
to the beauty You create.
Layer on the vibrant shades
or wipe my surface clean.
I would be easy under Your brush.
Lean in, Oh Painter.
Take all the time You need.
Paint Yourself upon my life:
in both the light
and the darker hues.
I accept the beauty and the broken
so long as You
are what remains
on the canvas of my soul.
Art & Photography for Hope
Click on the gallery below to dive into images - ancient & modern - of Zechariah, hope, light, and darkness.
Prayers of Hope
Ancient prayers. Breath prayers. Scripture prayers. Lean on these or create your own.
O Wisdom, Lord and Ruler, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Rising Sun, King of the Nations, Emmanuel, Come, Lord Jesus.
Inhale: May the light of your hope Exhale: Drive out the darkness
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
Look upon us, O Lord, and let all the darkness of our souls vanish before the beams of your brightness. Fill us with holy love, and open to us the treasures of your wisdom. All our desire is known to you, So perfect what you have begun, and what your Spirit has awakened us to ask. We seek your face, turn your face unto us and show us your glory. Only then our will longing be satisfied, and our peace shall be perfect.
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” -"The Uses of Sorrow"
Steer the ship of my life, good Lord, to your quiet harbour, where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict. Show me the course I should take. Renew in me the gift of discernment, so that I can always see the right direction in which I should go. And give me the strength and the courage to choose the right course, even when the sea is rough and the waves are high, knowing that through enduring hardship and danger in your name we shall find comfort and peace.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me. Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me. O good Jesus, hear me. Within Thy wounds, hide me. Suffer me not to be separated from Thee. From the malicious enemy, defend me. In the hour of my death, call me, and bid me come unto Thee, that with Thy Saints I may praise Thee, forever and ever. Amen.
"Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown. Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You. Christ of the mysteries, I trust You to be stronger than each storm within me. I will trust in the darkness and know that my times, even now, are in Your hand. Tune my spirit to the music of heaven, and somehow, make my obedience count for You."
Use them all, or only a few, or none at all.
Notice which ones draw you. Notice which ones repel you. Create your own. Draw. Discuss. Play.
May these prompts serve as a springboard.
Where in your life would you like to see hope kindled?
Does anything in you resist hope? Consider the push-back.
Is there anything you would like to receive from Jesus before risking hope?
When have your hopes been fulfilled? Dashed? Remember. What was it like?
What might it be like for God to hold hope for you? Consider His face, and His delight in you.