HOPE FOR A NEW WORLD, by Melinda Sposto Harrelson

While the world seems to be in a state of destruction, I honestly couldn’t be more elated about our future.

Creative minds are coming up with inspiring new technologies and a fresh perspective on unity, consumerism, and poverty. Like-minded individuals are bonding to create communities that inspire and support each other. The possibilities are endless! So many amazing ideas are on the table, like self-sustaining gardens in every city, organisms and bugs designed to eat and break down plastics, and batteries made with simple items like copper, zinc, and saltwater. Just these few ideas alone could have a hugely positive impact on our future.

As mysteries of the universe and ancient history unravel before our eyes, we are more clearly recognizing our problematic systems with each dawning day. I can see and feel a togetherness happening all over the world, and my heart couldn’t be more elated.

Advancements in technology, along with all the brilliant minds yet to be discovered, will usher in a much-needed change. A promising New World is on the horizon, and I believe the best is yet to come!

Melinda Sposto Harrelson loves diving into the depths of quantum physics, ancient history, philosophy, and religion. She is currently writing a book that explores her theories of how these realms interconnect. Most of her life has been dedicated to the research of human nature and religion. Her hobbies include martial arts, poetry, amateur photography, and music.

HOPE AND LIGHT, by Jerrod Lowry

Last November, my wife died after a three-month battle with COVID-19. For sixty days she fought for her life in a coma before succumbing to complications from the disease. During that time, I grieved as I prayed for her survival. I grieved as she missed moving our oldest daughter into her dorm for her freshman year of college. I grieved as she missed our boys’ sporting events. I grieved even as I made optimistic plans to incorporate breathing aids and apparatuses into our homes and our lives. Those were dark days.

Then, on November 2nd, 2021, her body stopped functioning and my grief deepened as I said goodbye. We were together for 20 years, married for 19. I can’t begin to explain the pain I felt in her absence.

All of this happened in the midst of a two-year pandemic that drastically impacted all of our lives in some way. Maybe you lost a loved one, a friend, or a colleague. If you don’t know someone who suffered such a loss, you now know me. We all grieve in one way or another.

As a church leader, I see the impact on congregations I serve. Churches planning to build or remodel are finding that supplies are limited and their cost greatly increased. For various reasons, many have stopped attending worship since the pandemic began, affecting congregations that were already struggling to survive. I know of pastoral voices that have chosen other vocations or have endured crises of faith. I have witnessed congregational governing boards argue whether or not they should implement safety measures, fearing this might be seen as a political statement or allegiance. And at this writing, I can’t say whether we are still in the midst of a pandemic or whether the virus has become endemic. I can say with certainty that this has been a season dominated by darkness, difficulty, and distress. We have been collectively and individually grieving.

For our grief, I wish to remind us that Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” Included in his statement is the assurance that we do not live in dark desolation. In this world there is light. Even when all feels lost, there is light that pierces the gloom. Knowing that Christ, Emmanuel, walks before us is a sign of hope in this broken world. Similarly, knowing that there are people who will walk with me is another sign of hope for my broken heart. Their companionship cannot take away the pain of grief, but their presence does provide comfort that cannot be measured.

So today, I grieve and give thanks for the glimmers of grace that shine in my darkness. They are a steadfast reminder that I am not alone.

When your days are darkest, I pray that you are comforted by the assurance of Christ that there is a light that shines in the darkest times. When your grief is heaviest, may you find comfort in the promise that the Prince of Peace, the Emmanuel, abides and brings a peace that can surpass all understanding. When you feel alone, may you realize the love of so many that walk with you. May these be sources of hope.

Reverend Jerrod B. Lowry serves as the General Presbyter/Stated Clerk for the Presbytery of Coastal Carolina in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Before this call, he served churches in Sandy, Utah, and Louisburg, North Carolina. He is a graduate of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary and currently serves on its Board of Trustees. Jerrod loves football, has developed a tolerance for running, and enjoys “playing at golf.” Regrettably, he is a lifelong fan of all professional Cleveland sports teams. He was married to his college sweetheart, Molly (a Carolina girl) for 19 years. Together they have three kids—Kerryn, Kaleb, and Kendle.

WHAT GIVES ME HOPE, by Gary Poole

My first reaction? Nothing. Given time to reflect on my visceral take, it seems to me there are two truths about hope.

First, hope is not dichotomous. That is to say, it’s not like a light which is on or off. Hope exists on a spectrum ranging from zero to completely confident of a preferred outcome. Either consciously or subconsciously, a person processes their understanding of the world and decides where they stand on that spectrum.

Second, hope is contextual. Stated in another way, “What are the boundaries of the range of outcomes?” One’s sense of hope for career progress or relationship success or world peace are largely based on different conditions, forces, and scale. The amount of hope one feels in one context is not necessarily the same as they feel in a different context, though the subjective feeling may bleed across boundaries and affect the calculation in another.

With my context being life on Earth, I can unequivocally say that I am very hopeful for its continued evolution and success. There will be some collateral damage here in the Anthropocene and other bumps along the way with the occasional cometary impact, but life will go on.

My reason for this hope is simple: in the geologic record, there are about four billion years of the continuous presence of life on Earth. There have been several significant and even devasting extinction events in Earth’s history. But life on Earth, within the span of a few million years, has always come roaring back. Of course, the portfolio of flora and fauna is always radically changed on the other side of these events, with many species becoming extinct and new species arising. With the possible exception of some prokaryotic bacteria, no species continues forever. Humans will not be the exception to this empirical observation.

But I think when most people talk about hope their context is narrower, anthropocentric, and not measured in geologic time. Instead, it is measured in units of human civilization, in millennia. And the question to be answered is “What is my expectation for human culture in the future?” or “Will human beings continue to exist?” Qualifiers and definitions are always critical to answering a question. How long? What kind of culture? What kind of quality of life for humans and other species? The details are important.

There are good and wise people in the world as well as solutions to the problems that plague us. The problem is that there are not enough of the former, and there are institutional obstacles to the implementation of the latter.

We live in a rapacious culture driven by profit-seeking and the desire to consume more and more products while preventing other people in the world from sharing in that excess. Collectively, we have not shown the ability to change our behaviors to save our future. As evidence: the recently lauded Inflation Reduction Act, an anemic attempt to address climate change that has arrived 40 years too late, and which half the Congress voted against. It merely waits for a later iteration of the US government to toss it out.

Capitalism, racism, nationalism, and consumerism are our four horsemen of the apocalypse. There are no gods to save us from ourselves. Of course, conspicuous consumption is primarily in the industrialized countries where an accident of birth gives us this opportunity. The Third World can only dream of eating the world the way we are.

And yet, in the aggregate, human beings may not be wise creatures, but we are clever and adaptable primates. In the end, it is because of this quality that I have considerable hope that human beings and their society will continue to exist. But it will not be pretty, and it will not look like early 21st Century North American culture. In the long term, our lifestyles will be massively changed. We will live much closer to the natural world which we have degraded and will have much less technology. Survival will depend on physical labor and local self-sufficiency. I see it as a kind of “steampunk” world but without a coherent story line.

But I have do have some hope that we will survive.

Gary Poole has worked as an engineer, geologist, radio technician and teacher. He has kept beehives and surveyed caves. His favorite place in the world is Mexico, though any of Latin America will do fine. He has been a naturalist most of his life but only became an official Texas Master Naturalist with the Alamo Area Chapter in San Antonio, Texas, recently serving as president of their board. He is a father of two.

HOPE IS CONTAGIOUS, by Michael J. Adee

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And in the sweetest 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 chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
– Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

I am what some might call an eternal optimist. I wake up happy and I am even happier after a good cup of coffee and an English muffin, a vehicle for butter. I was adopted by parents who loved my older brother Steve and me with fierce, unconditional love. I was loved into faith by a small Presbyterian church in southern Louisiana. After affirming being gay and experiencing rejection in the workplace and society, I was loved back to faith by Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, Ohio. I am an optimist because I am person grounded by hope.  

I am grateful for the gift of hope. I have often clung to Emily Dickinson’s image of hope as a bird perching in my soul singing a tune without the words in the midst of proverbial and actual storms in my life and, of late, in our country and world with the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian war on Ukraine, political and economic distress. Hope is present in the midst of these storms. Hope is now a daily, if not hourly, necessity, not a rare extravagance.

As a person of faith and a human rights activist working for the equal rights, acceptance and human dignity of LGBTQ+ people and their families, hope is an essential resource. It is an anchor offering perspective in the midst of the current political attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender children, students and their families. I am a survivor of the first culture wars, and I must confess that I am profoundly disheartened to see targets being painted on the backs of trans children for political gain in this new wave of culture wars.  As before, too much of this is done with religious sanction and fervor.

So, hope is a survival tool in addition to being a gift in the midst of a storm, an anchor while working for a more fair, just and loving world for all.  Hope is best not confused with a wish. One might say, “I hope it doesn’t rain today” which is a wish. 

During an interview when asked about his cheerful disposition, Desmond Tutu offered this declaration of clarity, saying that he was “a prisoner of hope” in the midst of working to end apartheid in his beloved South Africa.  For Desmond Tutu, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” The power of this definition of hope comes from the person, their context and circumstances.  Who is saying this to us and in what context? A faith leader standing up to one of the most powerful white supremacist regimes in modern time: Desmond Tutu, the first black Anglican archbishop during apartheid South Africa.

Before entering the international stage of human rights work, I spent the good part of my adult life working to end the barriers to LGBTQ+ people serving in the Presbyterian Church (USA).  There was no question, the odds were against change.  And yet, somehow we believed change was possible even if we might not see it in our lifetimes. We held onto hope and each other. Hope became a collective experience. Hope is contagious. 

Desmond Tutu and His Holiness The Dalai Lama became good friends. They spoke at global forums together. Their affection for life and each other was captured in a number of extraordinary photos, including a delightful one of them dancing together. They wrote a book together in 2016, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. Their lives, teachings and legacies inspire hope. 

Reflecting upon the place of hope in my life and in the lives of Dickinson, Tutu and The Dalai Lama, surely the seeds of hope are love, belief, and joy. Hope is a gift, a necessity, and it is contagious. Hope is present in the storm, it is the light shining in the darkness, it is the tune that never stops at all. Here’s to hope, inside you and me, and available to all of us.

Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D. is an educator and human rights activist.  He earned his Ph.D. in Communication at Louisiana State University. He has been working in the LGBTQ+ and HIV-AIDS communities since 1988. He has been a university teacher, hospice chaplain and campus minister. He served as a relief worker in Zimbabwe. He served with More Light Presbyterians and directed their successful campaign to end barriers to LGBTQ+ ministers in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is the founder of the Global Faith and Justice Project. He taught LGBTQ+ courses at San Francisco Theological Seminary. After Katrina, he created RainbowCorps to rebuild houses in New Orleans. He has competed in tennis in ten Gay Games and World Outgames. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro as a benefit for LGBTQ+ equality. His home is Santa Fe, New Mexico.

FINDING HOPE IN THE DARK, by Nancy Chester McCranie

There is no need to recite the long list of heartache, turmoil and struggle we have lived through these past few years. We know it by heart. Collectively, it seems we are swimming in a tidal pool of grief and loss. Washed out to sea one minute only to be hurled back to shore the next. One monstrous wave after another leaving us sputtering, breathless, and exhausted. New words have been forced into the lexicon of our understanding:  global pandemic, armed insurrection, no-knock warrant, zoom, tele-health, supply chain issues, monkey pox. Just when we began to get our feet underneath us, another wave has come barreling our way, knocking us back down.

It has seemed to me cosmically unfair that on top of everything we were experiencing globally and nationally, each of us had our own personal difficulties and anguish with which to contend. Everywhere I looked, people were staggering beneath loads that seemed impossibly heavy. This meant that the places and people to which we would normally turn for comfort, wisdom and hope were often not as available, making our lives feel lonelier and more desolate. 

For me, 2021 was the most difficult year of my life. One of our young adult sons made some life-altering and life-threatening choices. It was excruciating to watch him struggle, knowing I was helpless to protect or rescue him. Normally an upbeat person with a positive outlook, this experience flattened me emotionally and physically. I was terrified and confused. My husband was equally as devastated. Hope seemed completely out of reach. Like a bad joke. Like something meant for other people. It felt like the rug had been pulled out from underneath me, and then the floor, and then the earth beneath the floor. For several months, I had the disorienting sensation of falling. Of falling out of my own life with all its perceived certainty and order and into emptiness. I had finally come to the end of my own rope and there was nothing to do but let go and surrender to the fall. I wondered if I would ever stop falling or if I would eventually crash, leaving a pile of smoking wreckage where my life had once been. 

While I cannot pinpoint when the freefall stopped, I do remember noticing that I had landed quietly and without incident in a place that felt unfamiliar and empty; still and peaceful. As I rested there in the dark, my eyes began to adjust, and I noticed that I was not alone. There were others nearby. Others who had also fallen into this surrendered, stripped-down territory. They came alongside me, whispering words of encouragement. They made me cups of tea and hugged me until I could breathe again. They took my face in their hands and reminded me to lift up my head and look around. You are ok, they said. No matter what. You are okYou are here. You are safe.

This place is called Love. It is most often reached through experiences of great suffering or self-emptying love. Once we find ourselves there, we never want to leave. It feels like something true, solid, and sure. It feels like home. 

As I have become more accustomed to the geography of this place, I have discovered a new kind of hope. Less about being positive, optimistic, or looking for a particular outcome, this kind of hope is about surrendering my whole self into the heart of God in whom I live and move and have my being. It’s the kind of hope that can find a way when it seems there is no way. The kind of hope that waits and watches in the dark for the light to return. 

Nancy Chester McCranie is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the 2022 Moderator of Mission Presbytery. She serves as Director of Volunteer and Bereavement Services for Hospice Austin where she has worked for more than two decades. She is a frequent speaker in the greater Austin area, educating people about end-of-life issues as well as the nuances of the grieving process.  Nancy chairs the Clinical Pastoral Education Committee for The Ascension Seton Family of Hospitals; is Parish Associate for the First Presbyterian Church, Elgin, Texas; and is co-host of a podcast about worship and life called Passing the Peace.  She and her husband, Sheldon, live on a biodynamic farm and ranch in Bastrop County where they produce the finest tasting blueberries and beef imaginable. In addition to their two young adult sons, they enjoy their three dogs, two cats, a small herd of Irish Dexter cattle, and a friendly donkey named Jennifer. 

CHOICE IS WHAT GIVES ME HOPE, by Yasmin Gudino

There is no escape for you except by a radical psychological transformation of yourself. – Neville Goddard

I believe that some people are taught hope by example. I wish I could say that about how I was raised.

I grew up always looking to others for direction and a sense of purpose, never understanding what it meant to make my own way in the world. When I became a parent, sharing life with my husband, I let his presence overshadow me. I let his dreams and desires take the lead. Essentially, I was living his life, not mine, and his life was very destructive and indulgent, centered around self-medicating with drugs.

Please hear this: I am not blaming him. This was my internal struggle, as if my mind and feelings were working against each other. I felt like I wanted something more for my life, but my mind told me that I wasn’t worth it.

I joined my husband in addiction for many years, doing things I thought I would never do. We were physically abusive with each other, waking up and getting high every morning. I used drugs and alcohol to numb the knowledge that I was living a life I didn’t want. I didn’t see myself as worthy, and the longer I stayed in that relationship, the longer I delayed the development of my own identity.

Basically, hope died during those years. I gave up on myself. I was still pretending that I was a good mother even as I continued getting high. I was in denial about the neglect my children were experiencing.

Then it all came to a head. One morning, my husband slapped my daughter, and when school authorities noticed the bruise on her cheek, they sent Child Protective Services to our apartment. They demanded that my husband leave immediately because of his obvious drug use, but he refused. A week after their case was opened, he went to the kids’ school and caused a major scene, cursing at teachers and the principal. The cops arrested him, then came and got my children later that day.

I ended up sitting alone in our apartment with a cat.

That was the darkest moment of my life, an epicenter of despair. I had lost everything as a result of repeatedly making the wrong choices.

I know it sounds crazy, but at 31 years old I finally started taking care of myself. I had to construct my life from the ground up, knowing that the love I had for my children was more important than any of the habits to which I had clung.

I got a new place to live and continued to work. I welcomed the programs CPS required of me, seeing them as necessary to take responsibility for everything I had done, every choice I had made. Most importantly, I started to search for meaning within myself, to finally prepare for the life I always wanted. Everyone has dreams. For me, this was resurrecting my gifts as an artist. I began to paint, take photographs, and reconnected with my joy for singing.

It took me over a year to get my children back.

The greatest gift that came out of that period of loneliness and regret is a truth that is now essential to me. Hope is about the will to choose what is right for us, choices that manifest love and fulfillment in our lives. We don’t have to live in regret. There is always a new day.

Choice is what gives me hope. I have the power to choose my dreams and to make them as big as I want. This is a power that each of us has and it gives me so much hope to know that this power is within me. It helped me rebuild my family from broken pieces. I am now self-sufficient, no longer living on public assistance, and I am actively involved in both loving my family and pursuing my dreams every day.

Every time I feel lost, I remember how I survived that time, how I worked to pull myself out of that darkness. If I can do that, I can do anything. So can you!

Yasmin Gudino is an artist and mother of three gifted children living in San Antonio, Texas. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree with an emphasis on photography from the University of Northern Iowa. As a singer, she has performed with a local alternative band as well as the San Antonio Choral Society. The San Antonio Housing Authority chose her painting as the design for its annual Fiesta medal in 2015. She is the co-curator with Krin Van Tatenhove of two compilations of art and writing: Box of Darkness and Presence. Currently, she is a member of the Blue Star Arts Collective in San Antonio, preparing her contributions to its Yanaguana ART-A-THON and Fotoseptiembre USA.

LIGHTING CANDLES IN THE WIND, by Mark Koenig

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love
– Bruce Springsteen, “Into the Fire”

Hope is like lighting candles in the wind…

The northern and southern parts of Sudan engaged in periodic conflict since the country achieved independence in 1956. In at least two instances, the conflict rose to the level where it was considered a civil war. The second began in 1983 and lasted, off and on, until a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was brokered in 2005. The CPA, as it is called, provided that the people of the south could vote to remain part of Sudan or to become their own country. After six years, that referendum finally occurred.

From January 9-15, 2011, the people of southern Sudan had their chance to vote. In support of their effort, an interfaith community in New York City held a prayer vigil on January 11, 2011. We met in the Church Center for the United Nations directly across the street from the UN compound. Petero, Katherine, and other friends in the faith communities and I gathered in Tillman Chapel, joined in spirit with Milcah and Michael and the people of southern Sudan, some of whom stood in line to vote. We also gathered with other people from Sudan, people we had never met but whose photos we clutched tightly in our hands and held to our hearts.

After prayer and song in the chapel, we went outside to continue our witness in public. The cold blast that greeted us as we walked through the chapel doors and onto the sidewalk failed to deter us any more than long lines deterred our friends who were voting halfway around the globe. 

On the sidewalk, we sang and prayed. We lit candles and worked to keep them lit. Wind gusted down First Avenue as big, wet snowflakes swirled in the wind. We cupped our hands to protect the fragile flames until our fingers were warmed and singed. Then we turned to song sheets to fashion protective shields. When the wind triumphed for an instant, or a snowflake momentarily extinguished a candle, we turned to one another, sharing light, keeping alive the tender flames which proclaimed connection, commitment, and hope.

As we experienced the reality that lighting candles in the wind and snow takes a community, we realized that hope takes a community as well. To hope, I need to be connected to God. I need to pray and read Scripture and worship. To hope, I need to be connected to others.

Hope is an amazing grace, a gift from God. But like so many of God’s gifts, hope is not given to individuals in isolation. God gives hope to the community. Hope is corporate.  Like light passed around a circle, hope comes from one another. Hope is shared. Like neighbors helping to keep candles lit, together we call forth hope in each other.

Hope grows. As candles in wind and snow are never all lit in an instant, hope does not spring forth full-blown. In tiny, tentative steps, hope comes to life among us. Hope is relational. It is experienced in the grace of God and in the wonder and love of others who hope in me, hope for me, hope with me, even hope when I cannot hope.

Your hope truly gives me hope.

The Rev. W. Mark Koenig currently serves as the Internal Communications Specialist for the Administrative Services Group of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In this role he writes for the national staff of the church – think employee handbook revisions and COVID updates and the like. In his 42 years of ordained ministry, he has served in congregations, presbyteries, and on the national level. The events in this reflection occurred when he was the director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. 

THE SPARK OF HOPE, by Sharon K. Youngs

In the Christian tradition, the book of Hebrews defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). But what does “hoped for” really mean?

What do I hope for? Well, like everyone else, world peace. And food, shelter, safety, education, and well-being for all those with whom I share this fragile planet. I hope for an end to violence and discrimination against “the other.” I hope for politicians to value the common good more than staying in office. I hope for an equal and fair distribution of wealth among all peoples. I hope for climate change to be at least stopped, if not reversed. And, while I’m at it, I hope the lowest-seeded team in the NCAA basketball tournament will be crowned champion.

Unfortunately, the odds of any of those things becoming a reality are right at zero. The vitriol in all sectors of society—both in this country and in the world—appears to be rising much more rapidly than the courage, compassion, and conviction needed to turn the tide toward shalom.

Bottom line: the world is a mess. But you don’t need me to tell you that. And yet, I don’t think we are doomed. Perhaps the place to find hope is in returning to ancient traditions.

The Potawatomi people know about shkitagen, a black, softball-sized fungus that erupts through the bark of birch trees. Robin Wall Kimmerer, a member of the Potawatomi people, also known as “the People of the Fire,” writes about shkitagen in her New York Times bestseller, Braiding Sawgrass (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions (2013).

Kimmerer writes, “It takes some effort to find a black knob of shkitagen and then dislodge it from the tree. But cut open, the body of the conk is banded in glowing shades of gold and bronze, with the texture of spongy wood, all constructed of tiny threads and air-filled pores. Our ancestors discovered a remarkable property of this being, although some say it spoke its own use to us through its burnt exterior and golden heart. Shkitagen is a tinder fungus, a firekeeper, and a good friend to the People of the Fire. Once an ember meets shkitagen it will not go out but smolders slowly in the fungal matrix, holding its heat. Even the smallest spark, so fleeting and easily lost, will be held and nurtured if it lands on a cube of shkitagen” (364).

And in the right hands, that one spark is enough tinder to start a fire.

I think our job is to be shkitagen—firekeepers of the spark of hope. Oftentimes, we hold and nurture that hope for one another and, thereby, hold it for the world.

To take in the messiness of the world all at once is, honestly, overwhelming. The problems are massive and formidable. But look more closely, and you’ll see firekeepers hard at work, holding onto and nurturing hope amid the mess. Unlike actual shkitagen, which is an increasingly rare find, the firekeepers of the spark of hope are plentiful. Hope may be fleeting and fragile at times, but it will not be extinguished.

And where is hope found? It rises with the morning sun and shines forth in the daily wonders of nature. It is held in the promise of a child. It is on display in a puppy’s tsunami of joy. It floats along on the melody of a hymn. It wafts in the air with the aroma of freshly baked bread.

The spark of hope burns brightly with each good deed that often goes unnoticed—each “please” and “thank you,” each meal that fills a hungry belly, each act of forgiveness, each welcoming of a stranger.

So much in life threatens to douse the flames and dampen hope. That makes our work as firekeepers ever more important: holding hope alive, safeguarding the spark of all that is good and holy and possible.

Sharon K. Youngs has served the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in several capacities, from the national to the local level. She has also worked as a family therapist. Currently, she is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Oak Ridge, Tenn., which is a short drive from where she grew up. Sharon loves music, dogs, a good laugh, and all aspects of the outdoors. Photography is a growing avocation for Sharon, who finds her camera to be a great entree into the infinite wonders of nature and the holy hands that fashioned it all.

HOPE IN THE MIDST OF CHAOS, by Heiwa no Bushi

History has proven that chaos is the framework for most human endeavors. We have more chaotic moments than moments of serenity or peace. We have more sorrows and difficulties than experiences of Christ or Buddha consciousness. This chaos has reigned throughout human history.

So, hope is rather odd for me. I do not hope for blissful moments. I do not hope for rapture or some sort of anomaly to relieve me. Instead, I wish to experience the chaos. It is only in these experiences that we become mindful of the nuances we often miss due to anger, anxiety, or shortsightedness.

I find hope right in the midst of chaos. And what gives me hope at this particular juncture of history—ecologically, spiritually, socially—is that so much of our chaotic behavior has awakened us to be more reflective as human beings. What was once covered up, dressed up, even nurtured to appeal and appease, has now been laid bare.

For instance, when the previous president of these United States was sworn in and began his term, a new brand of chaos came through the woodwork of our society. It was more blatant with what it felt and believed. It stripped away the veneer to expose what lies beneath our smiles, our hugs, our neighborliness. It was the trigger, the opportunity for many with certain vitriolic beliefs and ideologies to come to the forefront and do more damage.

What gives me hope is that since that time we have also seen a resurgence among progressives, an equal uprising, a push back. We’ve seen people who were quiet in the past now saying what they are unwilling to tolerate. And this has brought new hope.

For instance, many African American mothers, fathers, and grandparents—folks who believed that their lives would always be marred by the system, that they would never see the hammer of justice come down—have a new sense of hope. Maybe now that the thermostat of what we feel about each other has been turned up, we will get somewhere! Maybe voices that were long silenced will now be heard! Maybe new alliances will be formed in the work for justice!

More and more young activists are addressing racism, inequality, injustice. This brings hope to all generations. So, in one way, I think that the array of tragedies we’ve experienced—from having a president who was narcissistic and autocratic, to the pandemic which broke down a lot of civility—have helped us discover what is truly beneath our skin. In this chaos, we are seeing it, hearing it, feeling it in a new way.

One of the terms people have used about me is prophetic iconoclast. There have always been those who cried out in the wilderness, speaking of the shape of things to come. John the Baptist was one, utilizing the chaos of his time to point towards a balanced way of living. MLK, Jr. was one, always lifting up his vision of what we can be if we make the effort.

Prophetically, what I see is a sort of Armageddon on the horizon. Archaically, this has always meant a cataclysmic war between good and evil, heaven and hell, the righteous and unrighteous. I see it as more complex and elegant.

We have witnessed the mutation of a perverse American iconography and its adherents. Relegating people to some future heaven or hell was not enough for them. They have now transformed their movement into one that uses violence and threats of violence. This new version of “Christian nationalism” seeks to arm itself not with righteousness, but with weapons of steel. They are not just fighting our words. They are now fighting our flesh.

While prayer and legislative responses are important, there has to emerge a righteousness that is willing to match that nationalistic ideology. And I have hope that this is already happening! I think what we are going to see is a very chaotically fed-up society that will become more progressive because they are willing to match the vitriol with a bright new movement of justice.

The Rev. Dr.  Heiwa no Bushi is a Buddhist-Christian monk. He has advanced degrees in philosophy and systematic theology. He also received training in both Mahayana and Daishin Zen Buddhism. He places his teachings under the moniker of “BodhiChristo,” which means “enlightened Christ,” an amalgamation of the two rich streams of Buddhism and Christianity.