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the pastor's story file

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THEME: Hope                                               September / 1988

Volume 4, Number 11

HOW IT WORKS Hope works in these ways: it looks for the good in people instead of harping on the worst; it discovers what can be done instead of grumbling about what cannot; it regards problems, large or small, as opportunities; it pushes ahead when it would be easy to quit; it "lights a candle" instead of cursing the darkness. Hope can be a good loser because of divine assurance of ultimate victory.

Adapted from a submission by Bernard Brunsting, Mariner Sands Chapel, Stuart, FL

TO LIVE BY HOPE AND FAITH I see that I am inwardly fashioned for faith and not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear and doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry my being is gasping for breath . . . these are not my native airs. A Johns Hopkins' doctor says that "we do not know why it is that the worriers die sooner than the non-worriers, but that is a fact." But I, who am simple of mind, think I know: we are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue and brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. Therefore, the need of faith and hope is not something imposed on us dogmatically, but it is written in us intrinsically. We cannot live without it. To live by worry is to live against reality. Adapted from E. Stanley Jones, submitted by Robert Strand, Grand Junction, CO. ++++

HOPE VERSUS OPTIMISM In a recent Peanuts cartoon, Lucy is out in her regular position in right field. A batter hits a ball to her, she looks up to catch it, and it instead falls to the ground just behind her. When she returns it to pitcher, Charlie Brown, she says, "Sorry I missed that one, manager ... I was hoping I'd catch it ... Hope got in my eyes!"

Oh, isn't that what we sometimes think "hope" really is - a sort of wishful thinking? A Pollyanna spirit? A pie-eyed passel of positive thinking that we gussy up out of our own meager resources? Something we really don't believe is going to come to pass, like winning the sweepstakes, but we "hope" we will anyway. This is to mistake hope, for optimism, for the propensity to look on the bright side of things, the tenacious clinging to silver linings in dark clouds. It is this kind of "hope" that Reinhold Niebuhr called a greater threat to faith than despair. It is this kind of "hope" that in fact leads to despair, for despair is the result of misplaced idealism that cannot bear the weight of our belief.

But our hope is something quite different. It is hope in God. And it is the gift of God. It comes by virtue of God's resurrection power, says Paul in Ephesians 1:18-21. There he prays that "the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." It was this kind of hope that Abraham had, says Paul in Romans 4:18, when, against all hope, he believed and so became the great daddy of all nations. It was not the wishful thinking of Lucy in right field, blinded by the brightness of the sun. It was the clear conviction born of faith that God keeps His promises even in times that at first glance don't look all that promising.

Submitted by Terry Morgan, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Kettering, OH ++++

JUST A RAY OF HOPE Dr. Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist, observed that a prisoner did not continue to live very long after hope was lost. But even the slightest ray of hope — the rumor of better food, a whisper about an escape — helped some of the camp inmates to continue living even under systematic horror.

George Sweeting, Great Quotes and Illustrations (Word, Waco, TX, 1985).

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THE FLOOD IS COMING A man who lives in Maine told of his little hometown by the name of Flagstaff. He said several years ago the town was flooded as part of a large lake for which a corps of engineers built a sizeable dam. He said the most painful part of this experience, besides the relocation, was watching his hometown die. He said improvements and repairs ceased.

Why paint a house that will soon be covered with water? Why repair a building when the whole village will soon be wiped out? Rubbish collected in the streets and week after week the process of deterioration set in. Then he closed by making this very telling observation.  "When there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present."

I think he's right, because without hope, without a sense of something beyond our immediate problems, we become overwhelmed. Without hope, without the feeling of something that will outlast this current dilemma, we despair. In his Divine Comedy Dante put it as straight and as plain as you can get. He writes: 'Life without hope is hell.'"

Submitted by Terry Morgan, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Kettering, OH.

YES, GET YOUR HOPES UP! The Bible tells an interesting story about two young men who used their hope in an active God to stay positive amid dire circumstances. In 1 Samuel 14, the Israelite army was in a desperate situation. The Philistines had five times as many chariots as the Israelites had men; the troop strength had dwindled to a mere six hundred. King Saul had clearly lost control; he couldn't make up his mind what to do. His options were severely restricted, as the Philistines had already captured all the Israelite blacksmiths, which meant no new weaponry. The cold fact was that the Israelites were all waiting to die.

But there was Jonathan, the king's son. Did he stand and rally the army with an impassioned speech full of faith?

No. He could muster only a scrap of hope. He turned to one other person, his young armor carrier, and suggested going to check out the Philistine outpost. Why? "Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few." (1 Samuel 14:6) Notice, he made no promises. No predictions. He just stated a fact: It was possible.

The two young men gingerly let themselves be seen by the swaggering enemy. "Come up to us and we'll teach you a lesson," the guards shouted. But before the day was over, it was the other way around. Jonathan and his armor carrier had reversed the tide, and the Israelites won a stunning victory.

That's what hope can do. People in trouble often say, "I don't want to get my hopes up." Yes! Get them up! Hope is not silliness. Hope is the quiet whisper inside the Christian's heart that says, "Well ...  it's possible."

Dean Merrill, "Why Be Optimistic," submitted by Craig Davies, First Presbyterian

Church, Littleton, CO. ++++

SECOND TIME AROUND A gentleman who had been very unhappy in marriage married a second time, immediately after his first wife died. Samuel Johnson said of him: "His conduct was the triumph of hope over experience."

2500 Anecdotes For All Occasions, ed. Edmund Fuller (Avenal, New York, 1980).

The Pastor's Story File (Copyright c 1988) (ISSN 0882-3545) (USPS 738-650) is published monthly for $24.95 per year by Saratoga Press, 14200 Victor Place, Saratoga, California 95070. Second-Class Postage paid at Saratoga, California. Postmaster: Send address changes to THE PASTOR'S STORY FILE, c/o Saratoga Press, 14200 Victor Place, Saratoga, California 95070. To foreign countries — subscription rate is $30.95 in US$ or currency of equal value. Phone (408) 867-4211.


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THE RESURRECTION CONSPIRACY "As the late E. B. White watched his wife, Katharine, planning the planting of bulbs in her garden in the last autumn of her life, he wrote, "There was something comical yet touching in her bedraggled appearance . . . the small hunched-over figure, her studied absorption in the implausible notion that there would be yet another spring, oblivious to the ending of her own days, which she knew perfectly well was near at hand, sitting there with her detailed chart under those dark skies in dying October, calmly plotting the resurrection." Katharine was a member of the resurrection conspiracy, the company of those who plant seeds of hope under dark skies of grief or oppression, going about their living and dying until, no one knows how, when, or where, the tender Easter shoots appear, and a piece of creation is healed."

Submitted by Terry Morgan, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Kettering, OH ++++

BEGIN AGAIN According to Jewish tradition, creation did not end with man, it began with him. When he created man, God gave him a secret — and that secret was not how to begin, but how to begin again. In other words, it is not given to man to begin; that privilege is God's alone. But it is given to man to begin again — and he does so every time he chooses to defy death and side with the living.

Elie Wiesel, Messengers of God, pages 26,27 (Random House, 1976), submitted by Terry

Morgan, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Kettering, OH.

ALIVE AGAIN There are times when all of us need to be brought back to life. We need to know that the sleepless nights won't last, that the days consumed by despair will become easy again (or at least easier), that the world goes on and us with it, changed but alive again.

And that happens. And we learn that it happens in very quiet ways. There are few lightening flashes or glorious visions. There are many less dramatic agents of resurrection. There is a phrase in a conversation with a friend that all of a sudden opens up a way that wasn't there before. There is the person you haven't known long and don't know very well who seems to understand your death so well it's uncanny, and who says to you the words you would say to yourself if you weren't too dead to say them. There is the relationship, broken for years, that somehow finally finds the grace to start to heal. There is the one who asks you for help, and in the midst of ministry you suddenly realize it is yourself you are ministering to, and you must be alive or you couldn't be doing it.

It is like that for me. I suspect it is like that for us.

There are Resurrection stories about what it is like when the gift of life comes from one who speaks your name when you were sure he didn't know it. The one who comes and finds you when you've locked yourself up inside your fear. The one who welcomes you home from a fishing trip just like he's never been gone. The one who follows you down the road until, with your mouth full of food, you recognize that he's not a stranger after all but your best friend in the world.

Simple gifts. So much a part of ordinary life that you could miss them if you blink — and sometimes we do. But they never stop happening. The gift of life restored, given back, made whole again, carried on — this is the gift of a Risen Savior.

Susan Ross, Alive Now, May/June 1988, submitted by Terry Morgan, Good Shepherd

Lutheran Church, Kettering, OH

HOW LONG CAN YOU LIVE? It has been said that man can live: 40 days without food, 4 days without water, 4 minutes without air, but only 4 seconds without hope.

Submitted by John Fitts, Soncoast Evangelical Free Church, Tarpon, Springs, FL

TODAY OR TOMORROW?  The American dream offers a shining vision of tomorrow.  Christian hope, based in the Spirit, holds out meaning for today. Thomas Porter, Inspiring Quotations, Ed. Wells

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HOPE BEYOND At the age of 80, the well-known poet Alfred Lord Tennyson was being taken from his summer home at Aldworth, England, to his winter residence on the Isle of Wight. As the boat left the mainland and crossed the strait, Tennyson heard a moaning sound caused by the fierce beating of the waves against a large sandbar. He recognized this as a prelude to a coming storm. A few days later his health began to fail, and a nurse was hired to stay with him. In conversing with him she said quietly, "Sir, you've composed a great many poems, but few hymns. I wish you'd write one now on your sickbed. I'm sure it would help and comfort other poor sufferers."

The next morning Tennyson handed her a scrap of paper, saying, "I followed your suggestion and wrote these verses during the night." The poem proved to be a masterpiece filled with imagery about the sea, the emotions related to dying which the "moaning of the bar" brought to his mind, and the glorious hope of seeing Jesus at the end of life's voyage.

The selection reads in part: "Sunset and evening star, and one clear call for me! / And may there be no moaning of the bar, when I put out to sea. / Twilight and evening bell, and after that the dark! / And may there be no sadness of farewell, when I embark. / For though from out the bourne of time and place the flood may bear me far, / I hope to see my Pilot face to face when I have crossed the bar."

Submitted by Wayne Holloway, First Baptist Church, Pine Mountain, GA. ++++

HOPE AS FAITH'S LEAP In Paul Tournier's A Place for You, the famous author has depicted our Christian hope as a leap of faith. He said that we live in a rhythm of life between quitting one place and seeking another. He used the analogy of a trapeze artist swinging on a high bar to the utmost distance it can carry him, then turning loose and reaching hopefully and courageously for the next bar.

There is a breathless suspense of mid-air placelessness. This is the anxiety of faith. It calls for hope. Everyone is holding his breath — the artist as well as the watching crowd — until the transition is safely made. The transition will never be made unless the trapeze artist (or the person of faith) find enough hope to let go of the past and take the leap of faith.

Submitted by Wayne Holloway, First Baptist Church, Pine Mountain, GA.

FUEL FOR THE FIRE There is only one way to accurately predict the future . . . through hope. When I applied for the position as Secretary to the Area Minister, I hoped I would be hired for the position, I hoped the Disciples would not mind that I was Jewish, I hoped I would handle the tasks at hand in an appropriate manner, and I hoped I would at long last find a long-term office position and a compatible executive with which to work.

After the first interview I was called by the Area Minister and informed that someone else was hired . . . still I hoped and remembered that God does everything for a reason. A week later the Area Minister called me back and hoped I was still interested in the position, I was; and here I still am in the position I hoped for five years later.

Hope is the fuel that feeds the fire inside all of us to make us stretch, grow, and change ... it is the light at the end of the tunnel that calls to each of us "come hither unto a new world." Instinctively, we crawl, walk, or run to be a part of the rebirth. Unions bound together by hope endure.

Submitted by Melissa Robnett, Northeast Office of the Christian Church, Columbia, MO.

A TIME FOR HOPE Tristan Bernard was a French dramatist and novelist who lived from 1866 to 1947. Bernard and his wife were interned by the Gestapo during World War II. When arrested, Bernard told his wife, "The time of fear is over; now comes the time of hope." Bernard survived his ordeal in a concentration camp whereas other members of his family did not make it.

Adapted from The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, Clifton Fadiman, ed.

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WISHING VERSUS HOPING It is essential to distinguish between hoping and wishing. They are not the same thing.

Wishing is something all of us do. It projects what we want or think we need into the future. Just because we wish for something good or holy we think it qualifies as hope. It does not. Wishing extends our egos into the future; hope desires what God is going to do-— and we don't yet know what that is.

Wishing grows out of our egos; hope grows out of our faith. Hope is oriented toward what God is doing; wishing is oriented toward what we are doing. Wishing has to do with what I want in things or people or God; hope has to do with what God wants in me and the world of things and people beyond me. Wishing is our will projected into the future, and hope is God's will coming out of the future. Picture it in your mind: wishing is a line that comes out of me, with an arrow pointing into the future. Hoping is a line that comes out of God from the future, with an arrow pointing toward me.

Hope means being surprised, because we don't know what is best for us or how our lives are going to be completed. To cultivate hope is to suppress wishing - to refuse to fantasize about what we want, but live in anticipation of what God is going to do next.

When people say they've lost hope, what usually has happened is that they have given up wishing. Their wishes have turned out badly, they didn't get what they wished for, or they got what they wished for and it wasn't what they wanted after all. Hope, by contrast, is never disappointed (Romans 5:5).

Hope affects the Christian life by making us expectant and alive. People with minimal hope live in drudgery and boredom because they think they know what's going to happen next. They've made their assessment of God, the people around them, and themselves, and they know what's coming.

People who hope never know what's coming next. They expect it is going to be good, because God is good. Even when disasters occur, people of hope look for how God will use evil for good. A person with hope is alive to God. Hope is powerful. It is stimulating. It keeps us on tiptoe, looking for the unexpected.

Eugene Peterson, "Wishing and Hoping," Practical Christianity (Guideposts), submitted

by Craig Davies, First Presbyterian Church, Littleton, CO.

DOWN, BUT NOT OUT In recounting his experiences as a political prisoner in Russia, Alexander Solzhenitsyn tells of a moment when he was on the verge of giving up all hope. He was forced to work 12 hours a day at hard labor while existing on a starvation diet, and he had become gravely ill. The doctors were predicting his death. One afternoon, while shoveling sand under a blazing sun, he simply stopped working. He did so even though he knew the guards would beat him severely — perhaps to death. But he felt that he just couldn't go on. Then he saw another prisoner, a fellow Christian, moving toward him cautiously. With his cane the man quickly drew a cross in the sand and erased it. In that brief moment, Solzhenitsyn felt all of the hope of the gospel flood through his soul. It gave him courage to endure that difficult day and the months of imprisonment that followed. Submitted by Wayne Holloway, First Baptist Church, Pine Mountain, Ga.

ALEXANDER THE GREAT Alexander was setting out on his conquest of Asia and he inquired into the finances of his followers. To ensure that they should not be troubled over the welfare of their dependents during their absence, he distributed crown estates and revenues among them. When he had thus disposed of nearly all the royal resources, his friend General Perdiccas asked Alexander what he had reserved for himself. The king answered, "Hope." Perdiccas replied, "In that case we who share in your labors will also take part in your hopes." Thereupon he refused the estate allocated to him, and several other of the king's friends did the same.

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OUT OF DESPAIR G. F. Handel's biographer described a time in his life when his health and his fortune had reached the lowest ebb. His right side had become paralyzed, and his money was all gone. His creditors had seized him and threatened him with imprisonment. For a brief time, he was tempted to give up the fight, but, then, he rebounded again to compose the greatest of his inspirations, the epic Messiah. When we stand to sing "The Hallelujah Chorus" — 'The Lord omnipotent reigneth' — we thus remember that the triumphant notes were composed by a man who was 'dead broke' and 'half paralyzed.'

Submitted by Wayne Holloway, First Baptist Church, Pine Mountain, GA.

HOPE AND SCIENCE  Bernard Ramm, in Offense to Reason, comments on hope.  He says, "Scientism says that our only valid knowledge is that given to us by modern science.  One thing science cannot give us is hope, for hope is not in the vocabulary of science. Science may give us more and more sophisticated civilization, but it cannot give us hope." Submitted by John Fitts, Suncoast Evangelical Free Church, Tarpon Springs, FL.

THE CYNIC CONSIDERS HOPE Hope is the roadhouse between one illusion and another. . . . He who has lost all hope hopes he is wrong. . . . Hope is the lacquer over fear, cracking when exposed to the heat of reality.

Paul Eldridge, Maxims For The Modern Man (Yoselof, New York, 1965).

DEPRESSION One of the most precious of the Psalms seems to be one of the least known as well as one of the shortest. It is the 131st. "0 Lord, my heart is not lifted up," is the way it begins, "my eyes are not raised too high; / I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me."

To be in a state of depression is like that. It is to be unable to occupy yourself with anything much except your state of depression. Even the most marvelous thing is like music to the deaf. Even the greatest thing is like a shower of stars to the blind. You do not raise either your heart or your eyes to the heights because to do so only reminds you that you are yourself in the depths. Even if, like the Psalmist, you are inclined to cry out, "0 Lord," it is a cry like Jonah's from the belly of a whale.

"But I have calmed and quieted my soul," he continues then, and you can't help thinking that although maybe that's better than nothing, it's not much better. Depression is itself a kind of calm as in becalmed and a kind of quiet as in a quiet despair.

Only then do you discover that he is speaking of something entirely different. He says it twice to make sure everybody understands. "Like a child quieted at its mother's breast," he says, and then again "like a child that is quieted is my soul." A kind of blessed languor that comes with being filled and somehow also fulfilled: the sense that no dark time that has ever been and no dark time that will ever be can touch this true and only time; shalom - something like that is the calm and quiet he has found. And the Lord in whom he has found it is the Lady Mother of us all. It is from her breast that he has drunk it to his soul's quieting.

Finally he tells us that hope is what his mouth is milky with, hope which is to the hopelessness of depression what love is to the lovesickness and lovelornness of fear. "0 Israel, hope in the Lord," he says, "from this time forth and for evermore." Hope like Israel. Hope for deliverance the way Israel hoped and you are already half delivered. Hope beyond hope, and — like Israel in Egypt, in Babylon, in Dachau - you hope also beyond the bounds of your own captivity, which is what depression is.

Hope in the Father who is the Mother, the Lady who is the Lord. Do not raise your eyes too high but lower them to that holy place within you where you are fed and quieted, to that innermost manger where you are yourself the Child.

Frederick Buechner, Whistling In The Dark, pages 35,36 (Harper & Row, 1988), submitted

by Joe Barone, First Christian Church, Windsor, MO.

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RESULT OF NO HOPE The Wolf Magazine of Letters includes this quotation which was written by the noted agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll to his brother: "I feel that we have passed the crown of the hill, and that the milestones are getting nearer and nearer each other, and now and then I catch glimpses of the great wall where the road ends. A little while ago, I pressed forward, now I hold back. In youth we woo the future, and clasp her like a bride-- in age we denounce her as a fair and beautiful liar and wonder at the ease with which we were duped. Pursuing that which eludes - gazing at that which fades - hoping for the impossible - regretting that which is - fearing that which must be - and with naught worth having save the bliss of love. And in the red heart of this white flower there is this pang - 'it cannot last.'"

Submitted by Wayne Holloway, First Baptist Church, Pine Mountain, GA.

EVEN WHEN I believe in the sun even when it isn't shining. I believe in love even when I am alone. I believe in God even when He is silent.

Found on a basement wall in Cologne during World War II, inscribed by a Jewish


HOPE NEGLECTED My little girl, Carragh (pronounced Kara) soon to be four years of age was diagnosed with leukemia on December 3, 1986. She is now in remission by the grace of God and the marvel of medical science. She is on a maintenance program of chemo-therapy for three years.

My darling daughter, at that time just over three years of age, was in our car with my wife and as they were travelling through the downtown core of Waterloo, Ontario, they were listening to Mylon Lefevre's "Crack The Sky," which is a song about the second coming of Christ. My little girl, who loves contemporary Christian music, asked my wife, "What is Mylon singing about? and why does he want to 'crack the sky'?" My wife, surprised by the question, but not deterred, explained, "Mylon is singing about Jesus coming back for all the Christians, all little boys and girls and their mommies and daddies, everybody who loves Him. He is going to take them home to heaven to be with Him."

To my wife's surprise, our  daughter exclaimed,  "I don't want to go!  I have too many

things to do . . .1 want to play with Melissa and Donna." My wife went on to explain that

Jesus only wants to give us the best and that when we are called home to be with Him, it
will be for the best.

The deep truth of this little episode is not the innocence of a three-year-old child, but the awesome truth that we who are Christians have an eternal hope in Christ Jesus, in His return for us, His children. There are too many of us who are consumed with our daily lives down here on this earth. We are controlled by our passions, our ambitions and desires and most often by the unprepared circumstances of life. My daughter is right, I too may on occasion not be so ready for the coming of My Lord. I may be too busy doing things, to even notice that He is there beside me. Jesus Christ is our hope, no matter the trial, circumstance, or situation. He is our reason for living, our reason for dying. He is our living hope, for He said, "Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:1-3). Jesus declares that the resurrection which we have in Him is our only true hope. Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die." (John 11:25-26a).

As Christians let us not be consumed by the things of this earth, but by the living hope of this earth, Jesus Christ our Saviour, our Redeemer, and our soon returning King! Submitted by Samuel Buick, Hope Harbour Home, Petersburg, Ontario.

FALSE HOPE Nothing gives you more false hope than the first day of a diet.

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C. S. LEWIS C. S. Lewis, in his remarkable book, Christian Behavior, said, "Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not, as some modern people think, a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. It you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get the earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither."


HOPELESS? . . . When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.     Charles Allen

PATIENCE Hope is patience with the lamp lit. Tertullian

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