Hope, felt

Hope is there even if it’s hard to see.

Yes, uncertainty is everywhere and it’s certainly scary, especially these days. Yes, these times are dark and not knowing what’s around the corner is daunting.

But it’s not hopeless. Just because times are despairing and darkness surrounds us, we needn’t despair.

Often the light can’t be seen in the night, but it comes. It breaks night’s grip on the sky when we are frightened and sleepless.

Dawn dawns.

It’s inevitable. After the night there is morning, a new day, fresh like a newborn child, the reward after the pangs.

Do we know how daybreak will appear for us now? No. Do we know when? No. But, it will.

See, there have been generations and generations before us who’ve lived through terrible times. I mean, could you imagine living through World War I or II or the Civil War or the Revolutionary War or the Spanish Flu or the Black Plague or or or? No. But—many did. And yes, there was incredible tragedy. But humanity (I believe, by the grace of God) survived and, then, thrived.

As the seasons cycle in our lifetimes, there are also cycles that arc across the horizon of history that bring tremendous pain followed by brilliant flourishing. Spring always follows winter.

This time feels like the end. But it’s not. It means hope’s around the bend.

Wait for it. It will shine.

It starts in you. For, hope is best not seen. It’s felt.

In our hearts.

The YouTube ad that made me cry

Last week, we were watching a video when the greatest YouTube ad I had ever seen appeared. We couldn’t stop watching it. The skip ad button turned on and I ignored it. The ad went on for seconds then minutes. Until it ended nineteen minutes later. (I know, it might feel weird reading about a YouTube ad, but it’s just as weird or weirder writing about one.)

What was the ad? It was a Charity Water video.

Charity Water is a nonprofit started by a guy named Scott Harris. And in the ad he told his story from his challenging childhood in the suburbs to becoming a nightclub promoter in New York City. He got paid to throw huge parties and be around beautiful people and drink. It was fun until wasn’t. Eventually he discovered he wanted something more. That led him to abandoning that thrilling life and paying a nonprofit so that he can go with them to third world countries to take pictures for them as they did humanitarian work. When he was there, he discovered people drinking the most heinous water. It was dirty, muddy, diseased, bug infested water. And they (mostly the women in those villages) would walk miles to bring it home even though it was unclean enough to kill and carrying it was backbreaking work. That’s when Scott found his calling and started Charity Water which has a mission to bring clean water to the 780 million people who don’t have access to clean water.

Huddled around our computer screen with us was our first born. He loves YouTube videos. We’re Dude Perfect subscribers. These days we’ve been watching ones with deep sea fishing on BlacktipH. But this YouTube ad did something different to our boy. He saw people’s pain and had compassion. He saw for the first time that too many children didn’t have something he took for granted ever day—clean water to drink. And that was not the only story in the video that moved him.

There was a 9 year old girl, Rachel, who gave up her birthday in hopes to raise $300 for the nonprofit. She didn’t reach her goal: she raised $220. But weeks later she died in a car accident. It was tragic. But from the ashes of tragedy arose a phoenix of hope. As news traveled about Rachel’s death, people and media noted how while she was alive she offered up her birthday to give clean water to others—and many were inspired. They gave hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, eventually more than a million dollars for the cause she sacrificed for just before she died.

I was crying. And my son says, “I want to give up my birthday. I want to give money.” And he ran off to get his piggy bank and wanted to give right then.

“Buddy we can’t jam dollars through the screen,” I said gently to him.

“Why not? I want to give right now,” he said adamantly.

It was beautiful.

In times like these, when brokenness and sadness reigns, there are still stories that can shift our paradigm and remind us how rich we are. We have clean water. I still have my child. We are alive.

We are richer than we know.

If you have a chance check out Charity Water.

It’ll make you want to jam your money through the screen.

Most of all it will help you see the world afresh.


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A better tomorrow is a choice

Your past isn’t you; and your future is always being made in the present.

You’re walking potential. You’re becoming. You’re changing, growing, evolving.

That is, if you choose to be.

You’re not simply who everyone thinks you are. You’re not stuck. You’re not just you.

Decide to make new relationships, form new habits, develop new practices, and amazing things will happen.

Sure, it’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable, challenging, difficult.

But it’s not impossible. It’s within reach. Stretch for it.

And if you do, there is one thing that surely won’t happen. And it’s this.

Regret.

This Is What Love Looks Like

I have an uncle that I admire. His name is Rick.

You probably don’t know him. But, if you did, you would sense that he’s different.

He’s one of the most loving guys I know. And we can all learn from him.

When he wants to talk to my wife or me, he will call and call until he gets a hold of us. If he can’t reach me, he’ll call my wife. If she doesn’t pick up, he will call me, then her, then me, then her again. And if he still can’t reach us, he will wait a few hours then call us again, even if we don’t call back.

When he finally reaches us, he will ask to see us. There’s no shame or guilt in his tone; he’s not upset that we didn’t pick up or call him back. He seems genuinely happy to talk to us. And while my wife and I are deliberating on when to see him, I will look at my wife and she will look at me, while Uncle Rick is still on the phone–waiting. He’s not pestering us. He’s not shrinking or embarrassed that we are taking our time. He quietly waits.

And then when we eventually say, “Yes, it would be great to see you!” he’s delighted. Even though he had to wait minutes for us to figure out the timing, he didn’t interpret it as us not wanting to see him. He gives us the benefit of the doubt.

When he shows up, he blesses us. He loves on us with his words, big smiles, and kind gestures. He brings gifts for our kids; he wishes us well.

And that whole series of events from calling to showing up hasn’t just happened once, it’s happened multiple times, in one form or another, since my wife and I married.

See, Rick’s a pitbull of love. He doesn’t take no for an answer. He’s not deterred by our indecision, upset by our uncertainty, troubled when we don’t call back. He just keeps coming.

He doesn’t think, “Oh, these people have disrespected me by not calling me back or not picking up or making me wait.” No. He just keeps on loving.

And I love him for it. I can’t help but respect him for it. I admire him and try to imitate him. He inspires me. I’m far from being like him, but I’m trying.

I hope he inspires you, too.

In a world that is broken relationally, we need that type of behavior. We need people who fight for each other, take the initiative, reach out, and give generously. We need more generosity. We need more Uncle Ricks.

What would this world look like if people were more resolute, resilient, resolved, tenacious, unwavering for others? What would we as a people be like if we loved each other through the awkwardness, the pauses, the silence? 

We should all be more like Uncle Rick.

Let’s try today.


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This Is the Freedom You Can Hear

A choir of birds chirp outside my window each morning. And the melodies breathe a refreshing breeze into my soul that helps me face the day. It’s a simple sound, never ceasing to surprise and delight me, reminding me of something greater.

Taking pleasure in the every-day moments, common yet majestic, can bring mirth even in the darkest times. But first you need to hear them.

It’s easy not to notice them. Some mornings I don’t because I’m too distracted or worried or something.

Awareness is key. Take note of the world around you. When you do, it makes all the difference. Noticing those small details can have big effects on your life.

Hearing the chirps helps me reframe my mind. It reminds me that there’s a whole world out there that’s still chiming, dancing from branch to branch, living as it has for thousands of years.

And just because a pandemic has struck human life, some creatures go unperturbed, singing the song of life, as they eat worms and fly and soar, freely going about their lives.

And I’m reminded that someday we will be free too.


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Have hope

Everything is in flux. The future is unclear, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have hope.

Yes, a virus is ravaging our world, our countries, our neighborhoods, our lives. Fear is everywhere.

Last week, I saw a woman open the door with one hand and the other one looked like it was cupping something small like a baby hamster. And, when she crossed the threshold, she put her hands together and started to rub them. That’s when I realized she had hand sanitizer with her cupped hand.

Our world is changing. We now have to distrust everything we touch, thinking that it might be infected.

The world has changed. And we have no idea where it’s going.

But you can have hope.

You can know that the sun will rise again. You will feel the breeze on your cheek, watch the buds blossom, smell the sweet spring air. Summer is coming.

You don’t need to live in fear, believe the worst. You can still see that things can get better, will get better.

Humanity will learn. Humanity will grow.

So will you.

jordan-wozniak-xP_AGmeEa6s-unsplash
Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash


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Remembering our way into the future

We used to live next to The Whitney Museum.

From our windows we would see long lines of people, snaking around the modern white building, waiting to absorb contemporary art, as the sun set spraying its varied colored glow over the city with sea breeze air wafting in and around the west side streets.

Now it’s empty. The Whitney. The streets. The city. All of it.

Before we moved from NYC last Wednesday the virus case count was still relatively low, under five hundred. Now at this writing it’s mushroomed to over twenty thousand, with no sign of it slowing down.

Life can change in an instant.

A pandemic apparently does that. New York was thriving. Full of life. Alive. Now it’s on life support. Sure, it has buildings. But they are shells without the people inhabiting them. The sidewalks, once teeming with feet, are bare.

Barrenness is everywhere.

One moment you live in a city swarming with activity, the next moment the same city is quiet as death.

I don’t write this to make you sad.

This is about remembering what life was like in a city I love, that was filled with mirth, possibilities, dreams, hopes.

These words are about not forgetting, reminding myself—you— that things were not always filled with fear, sickness, nor will they remain as they are.

They will improve.

See, it’s easy to get swept into the pain, the loss, the panic, the scarcity of toilet paper. It sweeps you up and takes you wherever it goes like a raging river.

But, remembering a different time, better times, in these moments of agony is an act of defiance against the darkness that wants to take any shred of light you have.

Be hopeful.

For me, hope is best cultivated in faith. In dire times only an infinite God who took on flesh and suffered as I suffer and bled for me, you, us, so that we can be in relationship with Him is a balm to my soul and wings for my heart. With that, I can fly, even in a starless night.

But even if you do not believe as I do—fair enough.

As we remember, we shouldn’t live in the past. That is gone. It remains as a relic of a bygone time that can never be resurrected, but it can be referenced. It allows us to see what could be in the future.

Humanity has survived horrible times; history is riddled with them: other pandemics, The Great Recession, The Great Depression, World War II, and so many other wars, diseases, disasters.

Feeling like the world is teetering on the edge of a dreadful abyss isn’t a new experience.

Yes, at the moment we are swallowed in the blackness of night. But the dawn always comes.

And one day we will see the streets bustling with people buzzing around to swim in the beauty and majesty of the city.

We will live.

Accomplish more by thinking like this

“You need to be more ‘realistic'” is a phrase that we hear. We say it to ourselves. But that is shaping our mindset, and it’s stifling you.

Mediocrity is borne on such words. That’s how the status quo is preserved, and growth is hindered.

You won’t push beyond your limits by thinking realistically.

Dreams are rarely “realistic.” They are outlandish, laughable, silly, stupid even.

But those who’ve reached unimaginable heights, the dreamers, were not “realistic.”

If they were, they would have never accomplished what they did.

So don’t be “realistic.” That’s not how you realize dreams.

Be silly. Be stupid. Be unrealistic.

Dream.