Category: Hope

Ties that bind

After a blissfully grueling 30-day trek in a small camper, we picked up another passenger, my 91-year-old aunt. The final leg of this vacation was a 5-hour drive for her to have an interview this morning at her potential new home–a memory care facility much closer to her still-breathing family.

We three old folks spent last night in a motel with a curious but flexible canine companion. As we moved toward sundown yesterday, my dear aunt explained to me that my parents (her sister and brother-in-law) are not deceased. I have their death certificates, but I didn’t buck my aunt.

She said my parents were with her parents back in Jellico (their hometown). It reminded me of the biblical phrase applied to several people, including Issac. When he “breathed his last, he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days, and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.”

My aunt’s loss of short-term memory can be exasperating, but it has a whole other dimension that I have observed in her and other people, but do not fully comprehend. In the next few posts, I plan to share some reflections about the institutional and informal ties that bind us together.

Jellico United Methodist Church (Tennessee)

Transformation

In Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity, pp. 107ff is about “Born Again: Dying and Rising.” He wrote: In the gospels and in the rest of the New Testament, death and resurrection, dying and rising, are again and again metaphors for personal transformation, for the psychological spiritual process at the heart of the Christian life.

When I was young, operating from the “earlier paradigm” Borg describes (September 13 post), I thought resurrection and life eternal were “invented” by God after the death of Jesus. Borg wrote: … the path of death and resurrection is “the way” that Jesus himself taught. I now see that the crucifixion and resurrection story as a revolutionary, timeless “object lesson” to demonstrate the way things are.

Borg helps me understand that the point of this story, of creation, of life itself, is transformation. It is a universal experience to which Christianity witnesses but does not hold a copyright. It is at the heart of every faith and everyone’s life experience, whether or not one is conscious of it or grateful for it. Because transformation is a universal experience, it can be a starting point for every human conversation.

The Jesus story–which I understand within the context of the larger Jewish story, which I understand within the larger context of the story of the Universe–is my story. As I live into the theme of transformation (which I understand to be the heart of everything), I’m able to receive, appreciate and find common ground with everyone’s story. This makes me excited about waking up every morning!

From “Marcus Borg: The Essence of Christianity is Transformation,” Interfaith Voices, June 13, 2014

Remaining hopeful

My third read of the day is Today’s Edition Newsletter, written by California attorney Robert B. Hubbell. It’s a free email distributed by Substack. This resource was recommended by some guys in my weekly Fullness of Love group shortly after I learned of it through Morning Rounds by blogger Rita Clagett.

Hubbell’s theme is “A reflection on today’s news through the lens of hope.” He’s a tenacious attorney, passionate and partisan, though primarily focused on the US Constitution. He’s a tour de force, providing essential legal background for the day’s news. I think of him as Jamie Raskin on steroids.

Hubbell saves me an enormous amount of time by condensing important news stories with a hopeful tone. A daily dose of Richard Rohr, Heather Cox Richardson and Robert Hubbell puts my day within the context of faith, freedom and hope. Together, they help me stay oriented to life’s greatest theme: love.

Hubbell’s August 30 installment of Today’s Edition Newsletter, “A coward’s bluff” unpacks the legal issues surrounding the current investigations into Donald Trump. Hubbell referenced a new free Substack blog by Joyce Vance, Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance. Hubbell ended this edition with:

As always, we have plenty of reason to be hopeful, but no reason to be complacent.

From “A Conversation with Robert at the Los Angeles Arboretum,” with Jill Hubbell, November 8, 2020, via YouTube, about his blog that began on the day Donald Trump was elected president. The Hubbells’ daughters were devastated by the election. He writes Today’s Edition Newsletter to keep them informed and to give them hope. I’m one of many thousands of readers who eavesdrop on this resource.

Artistic resistance

Tyrants tend to underestimate the opposition. Early war reports emerging from Ukraine quickly made it clear that the Ukrainians would not be easily overrun. An August 14 article by Javier C. Hernández in The New York Times describes an inspirational “artistic resistance” to the Russian war by Ukrainian musicians. In “An Orchestra Supports Ukraine, and Reunites a Couple Parted by War,” Hernández quotes Yevgen Dovbysh, “I don’t have a gun, but I have my cello.”

Dovbysh and his violinist wife, Anna Vikhrova, were members of the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra. Now, they are among the 74 musicians in the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra.that gathered in Warsaw, Poland to begin a world tour. The Canadian Ukrainian conductor is Keri-Lynn Wilson. The tour itinerary includes London, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Berlin, New York and Washington. They will play at the Lincoln Center in NYC on August 18 and 19, and at the Kennedy Center in DC on August 20.

In the 1990s, a choir of Cuban Methodists visited the US. They were mostly professionals–attorneys, teachers, and various others. The Cuban economy was reeling from the US boycott and the collapse of Cuba’s Soviet benefactors. Everyone in Cuba was poor. The choir arrived in Birmingham with paper sacks for luggage. A host congregation took them shopping for shoes. The unforgettable moment for me was their closing song, in English, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

From “Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra review – tears and roars of delight for new national ensemble,” by Flora Willson, The Guardian, July 31, 2022

Hope for post-viral illnesses

Estimates of ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) sufferers in the US range from 836,000 to 2,500,000. From 1,000,000 to 3,000,000 people in the US suffer from POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). Some people may be diagnosed with both syndromes.

So far, more than 40% of adults in the US have reported having COVID-19 in the past. Of those, 19% are still having symptoms of “long COVID.” Thus, 1 in 13 (or 7.5%) of US adults have “long COVID.” There are some symptom similarities among sufferers of ME/CFS, POTS, and “long COVID.”

Our son Rob is a self-taught expert on POTS and ME/CFS. His symptoms are consistent with both ME/CFS and POTS. He reads everything about these syndromes. For the first time in over a decade, he has hope that treatments may be discovered. COVID-19 has led to an avalanche of new research.

For about a year, he has followed a project by Germany’s University Hospital Erlangen in Bavaria and the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light. They are developing a drug named BC 007. Rob was encouraged by their Thursday report. (I’ve posted an English translation on a blog page here.)

The focus is autoantibodies found in ME/CFS sufferers and “long COVID” sufferers. So far, it’s just one patient, but it’s a sign of hope. Here’s a hopeful excerpt about her progress:

…her symptoms improved over many months: First, cognitive symptoms such as brain fog, poor concentration and limited short-term memory decreased, and later also noise and light sensitivity. Fatigue, muscle weakness, and POTS—the postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome that causes tachycardia and dizziness in ME/CFS sufferers when they stand up—also decreased over several months. Driven by this initial success, the Erlangen researchers want to review both the diagnostics and the therapeutic approach in a larger number of patients with ME/CFS.

From “Berlin Cures…? Could BC 007 Help With Long COVID and ME/CFS?” by Cort Johnson, HealthRising, December 30, 2021

Hope–more than a strategy

In financial and political circles, sometimes we hear the phrase, “hope is not a strategy.” It is usually spoken with a cynical edge in response to a business or government leader who begins a sentence with the words, “I hope….” Sometimes, “hope” comes across as merely wishful thinking.

Hope catalyzes and energizes positive action. Hope shapes life-changing and world-changing dreams, strategies and platforms. Hope forms worthwhile goals and ideals. Hope fuels progress. Hope is more than a strategy; hope is the seed, the basis, the nucleus of every worthwhile strategy.

Hope is expressed through poetry, music, art, writing, gardening, medicine and science, plans of action, statements of purpose or faith. Nefarious intent can be disguised temporarily as hope, but sooner or later, disillusion occurs and authentic hope emerges. Hope heals. Hope endures. Hope floats.

From “Does Hope Really Float?” by Maria Bucci, Wholehearted Workshops (The quote from the movie is “endings are usually sad….”)

Hope–more than optimism

I’m a 1950 white American male. I thought Ozzie and Harriet Nelson were neighbors. I thought Vin Scully called our little league baseball games. I lived with naive optimism. I believed America saved the world from fascism and could accomplish anything.

Now, in my 72nd lap around the sun, the naive optimism is gone. That’s a good thing. Optimism isn’t bad. It’s better than pessimism. What’s best is realism, a wisdom marked by wrinkled skin and creases not yet paralyzed by botox.

I’m not optimistic about America, but I’m more patriotic than ever about being an American, receiving with gratitude the imperfect idealism of our Founders and determined to live (like Lincoln) with malice toward none and charity for all.

I’m hopeful. Hope isn’t dependent on any party, executive, legislature or court. Hope is rooted in self-evident truths that transcend every institution, government, religion and ideology. We can respond to any situation with hope. Hope is more than optimism.

A paraphrase from Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search fpr Meaning

Hope–a basis for action

My friend Don offered some helpful insights about hope. From Walter Brueggemann’s commentary about Jeremiah in Hope Within History (p. 67):

…history makers may see clearly that things are deeply wrong, while they may not see how in any way a turn can happen, they are characteristically not voices of despair. History-makers and historical action do not proceed out of despair but out of hope that acts against the data at hand.

Don also passed along this quote, which seems to have originated on Twitter, from Matthew (@CrowsFault) on March 10, 2022:

People speak of hope as if it is this delicate, ephemeral thing made of whispers and spider’s webs. It’s not. Hope has dirt on her face, blood on her knuckles, the grit of the cobblestones in her hair, and just spat out a tooth as she rises for another go.

Don and I have conversed about Fannie Lou Hamer. This quote reminds me of Hamer and her thought-provoking rendition of Mahalia Jackson’s A City Called Heaven:

I am on a pilgrim of sorrow. Tossed in this wide world alone. I have no hope for tomorrow. I’m trying to make Heaven my home. Sometimes I’m both tossed and driven. Sometimes I know not where to roam. I’ve heard of a city called heaven.

From “A Pilgrim of Sorrow: Fuller Story of Fannie Lou Hamer Told In New Documentary,” by Aliyah Veal, Mississippi Free Press, March 4, 2022

Sabbath hope

Sabbath is one of Judaism’s great gifts to humanity. Walter Brueggemann wrote a little book called Sabbath as Resistance. The subtitle is Saying No to the Culture of Now. Hope is woven into the fabric of Sabbath. I believe hope is the essence of Sabbath.

Brueggemann ends his book with a story about Psalm 73:

I recently heard a Lutheran pastor describe a woman who had walked seven hundred miles as a refugee to escape a violent war and was finally able to cross a national boundary out of the war zone. She walked all that way and brought with her an eight-year-old girl, who walked beside her. For seven hundred miles the child held her hand tightly. When they reached the safety, the girl loosened her grip, and the woman looked at her hand. Ir was raw and bloody with an open wound, because the little girl had held on tightly in her fearfulness. It’s like that in verse 23.

Nevertheless I am continually with you; You hold my right hand.

This is no casual hand-holding. This is a life-or-death grip that does not let go.

“No-Sabbath” existence imagines getting through on our own, surrounded by commodities to accumulate and before which to bow down. But a commodity cannot hold one’s hand. Only late does the psalmist come to know otherwise. Only late may we also come to know. We may come to know, but likely not without Sabbath, a rest rooted in God’s own restfulness and extended to our neighbors who also must rest. We, with our hurts, fears, and exhaustion, are left restless until then.

From “Sabbath as Resistance: An Interview with Walter Brueggemann,” by John Pattison, Slow Church, February 2, 2015

Legacy of Hope

Our son-in-law Michael died in June after an April 2020 lung transplant. He had 16 good months without supplemental oxygen, but he was up against a genetic condition called short telomere syndrome. His last several months involved numerous hospitalizations. This is the first time I’ve mentioned Michael’s death, due to our daughter’s concern about identity theft and the normal delay in securing a death certificate when a body has been donated for medical research.

Michael knew the rejection couldn’t be reversed, but he continued to fight until one week before his death, when he finally opted for palliative care. He had fought for time and for other transplant patients who benefited from the transplant team’s learning from Michael’s response to new treatments. Many years ago, he made the decision to donate his body to science. He benefited from a young man’s decision to be an organ donor and he wanted to pay it forward.

Each state has a process for donors. COVID-19 has changed some of the protocols. Two resources are the Anatomical Donor Program at UAB’s Heersink School of Medicine (205-934-4494) and Legacy of Hope, Alabama’s Organ & Tissue Donation Alliance (800-252-3677). In the US, 114,000 people are on a waiting list for a lifesaving transplant. Up to eight lives can be saved by a single organ donor, and up to 100 lives can be improved by a single tissue donor. It’s truly a way to leave a legacy of hope.

From Legacy of Hope