Hope' is the thing with feathers--
That perches in the soul--
And sings the tune without the words--
And never stops—at all--
And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard--
And sore must be the storm--
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm--
I've heard it in the chilliest land--
And on the strangest Sea--
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
- Emily Dickinson
Hope has been the driving force behind change throughout time. Great speeches such as "We Shall Fight On The Beaches" by Winston Churchill, "Inauguration Address" by John F. Kennedy, and the "I Have A Dream" by Martin Luther King Jr. stirred hope in people. Hope for a new life, hope for a changing world, and hope for a different tomorrow.
When we hope our hearts cry out with an unspeakable desire for positivity in the world that is yet to come. Hope is about the anticipation and preparation for that world. So let's look deeper at hope: the motivation of hope; the complex relationship between faith and hope; and Jesus' role in hope.
The Motivation of Hope
In 1991, Professor C.R Snyder developed was is now known as Hope Theory. Dr. Snyder defines hope as “a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy) and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals)”. When we have motivation and various strategies/ pathways to achieve it than we move forward. Hope is not wishful thinking but a predictive outcome and a cognitive system in which new plans are created despite barriers/ challenges that come.
A study in 2010 by Liz Day found hope being a better predictor of objective academic achievement over intelligence, personality, and past academic achievement.
Another study in 2012 by Martin, Rand, and Shea found hope was a greater predictor for success among 1st year law students rather than LSAT scores or undergraduate grades.
Hope vs. Faith
Hope has been intertwined with faith for many years. You may be someone that is questioning your faith or not certain of what you believe. Despite your current faith hope gives us an opportunity to explore and engage in communities, practices or different ways of life. The website Hope and Optimism shares a great 4 minute video describing the in depth connection between hope and faith. It speaks to the importance of hope even if we do not have evidence or certainty of faith. Please take the time to watch it by clicking on the above website.
The Hope of Jesus
So what does hope have to do with Jesus? The first week of Advent (Dec. 2nd) is focused on the virtue of Hope. Advent means the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. In the liturgical calendar Advent is all about the arrival of Jesus. Jesus escorted in a new way of living that turned the world upside down. Advent not only prepares us for his birth but reminds us of the expectation and promise we have that God is working with us every moment, every hour, every day. The hope of Jesus is not just the hope beyond this life but the hope that this world is moving toward the obtainable goal of justice and peace. That our communities uphold the rights and beliefs of one another and affirm them with a loud shout saying "You are worthy." You see the hope of Jesus this Christmas season moves in you. Allow it to flow in your actions and words as you proclaim your hope for humanity.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
- Romans 15:13
Let's end with the Irish traditional folk song "Canticle of the Turning" by Rory Cooney. It speaks of the hope we hold dearly this Advent season.
May Hope flood your heart this week. Let the hope of a new spiritual journey drive you forward this Advent season. Follow along next week as we explore the virtue of Peace.
With Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to spend some time focusing on gratitude. One memory sticks out to me more than the rest when it comes to being thankful. In college I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Now if you know me musical talents somehow skipped out of my gene pool. Despite this inconvenient circumstance, I pushed forward practicing countless hours attempting to get better and find this mysterious thing called rhythm. I did improve through practice and repetition but progress was slow.
One day my friend, now wife, Emily was heading back home for a few days. Before leaving she reached into her bag and handed me a blue sheet of paper. I inquisitively opened it up to find the guitar chords and lyrics for the song, "Thank You" by Ray Boltz. Immediately, I was taken back by this simple, thoughtful gift. She knew I loved playing the guitar though my abilities were limited. But more importantly she remembered the importance of this particular song to me. It was the song sung at my father's funeral 13 years before always holding a special space in my heart.
The story highlights my thankfulness for someone who listened and cared for me. However gratitude is not just a feeling we receive from a gift but can be a way of life if we allow it to be. Read along as we explore the science of gratitude and how thankfulness can enhance our spiritual lives?
Science of Gratitude
Why should we be grateful? How does it change who we are? This 2 minute video gives you the quick and easy to understand version on the science of gratitude.
Enhancing Spiritual Life
As you watched above, gratitude can rewire our brains, evoke happiness, and increase our overall well-being. It is also essential for our spiritual journey. Dr. Robert Emmons a researcher on gratitude says gratitude is "an affirming of goodness "good things" in one's life and the recognition that the sources of this goodness lie at least partially outside of the self."
If we look at gratitude as a spiritual practice with this definition than we first have to acknowledge the goodness in our lives. For example writing down or just mentally being thankful for: the day before us, supportive people in our life, shade from a tree, a drink of cool water, shoes on my feet, the warm memories I have shared, and each and every breath I take. What is the goodness in your life? What are the little things you miss out on everyday? What is at the center of your heart?
Secondly, we have to acknowledge the goodness we have comes from outside of ourselves. This may mean believing in a higher power or spiritual being that has provided this goodness by means of the worlds motion. Or it may just mean relinquishing the thought that we control everything in our lives; that everything we get is from our own means.
Gratitude brings humility in our lives. When we step back and humbly become appreciative with what is really in our hearts suddenly our perspective begins changing. Our perspective moves from our past and future to the present. Everyday moments are suddenly treated as a gift to take in and behold. This is spiritually powerful as it allows us to stay present with people, with nature, and with ourselves. It can reshape our spiritual lives if we allow it.
If you have felt spiritually lost, disconnected, or unsure about what you believe, I invite you to try the spiritual practice of gratitude. There are many forms for this practice to take. For three specific ways to engage in this spiritual practice go to the CanyonRanch blog.
I challenge you to have the first thought in your head when you wake up be "Thank You." Not who posted last night, what do I have to get done, or I just need five more minutes as you press the snooze, but simply "Thank You." For me this is hard but a goal to shoot toward because I know when I wake up thankful for another day, most likely I will be more thankful throughout that day and end the day with gratitude.
I will leave you with the song "Thank You" by Ray Boltz. The line that I love the most is "each life somehow touched by his generosity." What are you thankful for in your spiritual life? In what ways can you further others spirituality?
A big THANK YOU for all those following and sharing this blog! This week practice being thankful! The advent season is here so over the next 4 weeks we will specifically look at the virtues of Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. The first will be about Hope leading up to the 1st Sunday of Advent on Dec. 2nd.
A couple I go to church with recently told a story about their interesting experience touring a historic mansion. They set up a tour time but were running late and quickly pulled into the Mansion driveway. Knowing she had just talked with the person they went ahead and walked in the main door. Immediately they noticed the shoes on the ground and slid theirs off leaving them with the rest of the pile. They began walking around the house looking for someone. Suddenly from around the corner they hear "May I help you?" She explained they were here for the tour of the house. The man gave a confusing look before letting them know they were at the wrong house as this was his personal home. The couple aghast at their mistake apologized immediately. The amazing part of the story is that instead of leaving the Mansion, the man offered instead to give them a personal tour of his home. Of course they could not turn down his generosity. They were gifted with a wonderful, genuine tour of a historic mansion, just not the one they expected.
I find this story incredibly inspiring! The man could have very easily escorted them out but instead welcomed them in and generously gave of what he had. Mistakes are often wonderful learning opportunities if we allow them to be. It really comes down to whether we welcome the opportunity before us whether that's from our own mess ups or someone else's. Welcoming is something everyone can achieve without a cost. Welcoming is about showing genuine positive regard to others while creating a safe environment. I know for some church has not been a welcoming place. In contrast it's been the opposite which has produced anger, shame, and many other emotions. Today let's examine how we can welcome mistakes as opportunities, identify what welcoming others is, and how we can become a "living welcome."
Carol S. Dweck wrote a book called, "Mindset: The New Pathology of Success." In the book Dweck writes about the difference between "fixed mindset" and "growth mindset." Fixed mindset is when you believe your skills and abilities are unalterable. In other words people believe their current talent, intelligence, or ability is what makes them successful. On the other hand growth mindset is when people have an underlying belief that they can develop their skills through hard work, strategy, and learning. Research indicates those using growth mindset achieve more. To learn more about growth mindset click here. A major part of growth mindset is praising effort and hard work not intelligence or ability. I think this practice is helpful for parenting, mentoring, or cultivating leaders. The most important thing to realize is we all have various traits we feel are fixed. That's ok, but for growth to happen we have to acknowledge what those are. We have to welcome our own inabilities, misconceptions, and mistakes. In doing so we truly begin moving into who we want to be.
What is Welcoming?
Welcome is a verb which means it is action oriented. The definition of the word is: "To greet someone in a glad, polite, or friendly way". In other words we show joy in our interactions with others. However I think welcoming goes beyond this. Such as setting aside our preconceived notions and putting ourselves in this persons shoes. Asking questions helps me identify how to welcome someone. What knowledge do I have that might be helpful for this person in this environment? What is my face and body showing? How will what I am doing or saying make them feel? What cultural background is this person coming from? Am I accepting all of this person for who they are? Welcoming others consists of all of this and much more. I encourage you to continue reflect on how you welcome others in passing, in your home, or at your church.
So how do we become a "living welcome?" It seems we first have to move ourselves, our positions, our church, etc. out of the way. Welcoming is not about beliefs or practices. It's about meeting people where they are at and becoming genuinely interested in them. This article "9 Principles That Will Make You Treat People Better" by Lolly Daskal really lays out what we can do. I like in particularly how we must remember everyone has a story. It is in the stories of life where we find understanding and appreciation of one another. I also love how she states we do not meet people by accident. When we see interactions in this light they are opportunities waiting to happen. If we allow these principles to be infused into our lives than we can truly become a living welcome.
And let's end today with "Moana's You're Welcome" not because of Maui's attitude just because I love the song.
I so appreciate all of you following along. What does becoming a "Living Welcome" mean to you? This week examine what changes you need to make to be more welcoming!
September 7,1964 marked an important event in society. This is the date Lyndon Johnson ran the "Daisy" commercial. In the commercial a little girl is pulling off the petals of a daisy, counting how many there are. A man's voice comes in getting louder, drowning out the girl's, counting ten, nine, eight,... As the countdown ends the screen shows an atomic explosion. Lyndon Johnson's voice enters saying, "These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God's children can live or go in the dark, we must either love each other or we must die." The "Daisy" commercial is commonly referred to as the first fear-based political ad in the United States.
It seems like the presence of fear in society has grown since this date. I find this topic imperative to explore as we continue to see political ads from both sides trying to distort images and produce fear in the heart of voters. This isn't about politics its about our society's continued increase of fear. So what does this have to do with spirituality? Fear creates unease and misperceptions which ultimately turn into divisions among people. These walls shut people out from genuinely engaging in diverse relationships. Churches need to unite people in love and peace by breaking down the barriers between us. Let's explore the perception of fear in society, how it affects us, and how fear can impact our spirituality.
Fear in Our Brain
Much of the power of fear comes from our perceived notion of what might happen. Now I am no brain expert but will try to explain our brains response when perceiving fear. When we perceive threats our brains have two roads in which they can take, a low road and a high road. The low road is short and messy. Thalamus receives the signal and sends the message straight to the Amygdala (part that detects fear) because of a potential serious threat. The Amygdala triggers our body by telling the hypothalamus to push more blood to our body and to turn up our adrenaline glands. This is when fight, flight, or freeze take place. The high road is a longer pathway. The thalamus perceives a threat and alerts the Pre-Frontal Cortex (Interprets meaning). The Pre-Frontal Cortex sends it to the Hippocampus (memory center) which measures it to past threats. The Hippocampus shares the information with the amygdala. The Amygdala than alerts the Hypothalamus on whether it is a threat or not. A threat would heighten your senses for a fight, flight, or freeze response. Both of these processes take place in a matter of seconds.
We know that trauma can actually change the wiring in our brains. Click here to read more. The reason for this is neuroplasticity which means our brain can make new neural connections and adjust to various situations we are exposed to both positive and negative. This is why people are able to learn new things despite injuries or diseases. Research indicates the use of meditative practices actually changes our wiring to make us less reactive. If you want more information about neuroplasticity and rewiring your brain click on this article written by JR Thorpe.
I think it's helpful to know how fear works in our brain because we are all triggered differently by the experiences we have been in. If you are like me, you might have fallen into a pattern of listening to the fears around you. This perpetual problem may not be helpful for our long term physical and spiritual health. That's why we have a need to make new neural connections instead of listening to our fearful thoughts.
Perceptions of Fear in Society
Every night the news presents a world of havoc with terrible acts happening in our communities. How else are we to think if we are surrounded by messages instilling fear in us? The perception of safety in society among people has continued to decrease since the 1960's. However Professor Steven Pinker wrote a book in 2016 called "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined." In his book he identifies how we are actually living in the safest time in history. His research shows how homicides, violence towards women, and violence towards children are all declining. Check out an article written by Eric Dietrich on Psychology Today which gives a good synopsis of Professor Pinker's findings. I do want to state there are very real safety concerns in our world and some live in worse situations than others. However most of us allow the messages and perception of fear to distort our views. So if our perception of the outside world is faulty what does that mean about our self-perceptions? How can you let go of your fears to live in the beauty of the day? How can you move past your fear to actively explore this world and diversify your relationships.
Fear and Our Spiritual Lives
So what does all this mean for our spiritual lives? If we are living in fear than we are being "emotionally highjacked" throughout our day with thoughts and feelings of a need for safety. If this is happening than we are missing the opportunity to be present in the moment. Spiritually I believe we are called to face our fears. Facing our fears opens us to a new level of understanding, a spiritual awakening about ourselves and our God. Instead of worrying we sit with a loving awareness of who we are and who we were made to be. It's a powerful decision when we say we will not be held captive to the fear in us or around us. It builds our self worth reinforcing we have value. Fear however does not just go away, its a natural part of who we are. So overcoming it takes time and a continued choice to sit in loving awareness. Sometimes it also means developing skills such as grounding techniques, meditation, etc. to get us through the worst moments.
So what is your fear? How has it impacted your spiritual journey? What would it take for you to begin overcoming it? What steps do you need to take?
"Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you" Isaiah 41:10
I would love to hear more of your thoughts. Please comment as you feel led. This week write down your fears and identify one you will work at overcoming.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting. They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation. They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response. They support sacramental ministries by preparing people for baptism and/or confirmation, presiding at sacramental services, and performing most sacraments. They promote community by inviting individuals, households, and families to respond to Christ’s call to discipleship. They promote justice and peacemaking by inviting people to experience all aspects of Christ’s peace through active discipleship. They create ministry partnerships with mission center officers, apostles, elders, and evangelists.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.