Prisoners of Hope

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Credit: Magnus Hagdorn (https://www.flickr.com/photos/hagdorned/8504467548/)

It has been almost two weeks since the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.  

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a lifetime ago.  So much has changed so quickly I’m not sure what to feel at any given point. 

I woke up a few mornings ago and realized that not knowing what to feel actually provides me with the opportunity to choose how I’m going to feel.

Last week, a colleague reminded me of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah’s admonition:

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
    today I declare that I will restore to you double.

(Zechariah 9:12)

The great South African theologian Steve De Gruchy took the concept of hope a step further and once said that “We are called to be midwives of hope.”

The COVID-19 Pandemic is testing us in ways that few imagined just a few weeks ago.  The cost—human, economic, social—is huge and growing.  It is easy to lose hope in these times.  But as the prophet Zechariah and De Gruchy remind us: despair is not an option.  

Not only must we remain hopeful ourselves, but we must also bring hope to others.  We can do this through our own acts every day—with our coworkers, our family members and our neighbors.  By doing so we are united with one another through our common humanity.  

Moreover, that is where we will find God.

It is through that strength of unity that we can be of real service to those in need even as we face challenges like the COVID-19 Pandemic. We are only going to get through this by working together. 

My prayer for each of you is that you can find the hope of which Zechariah reminds us so that you can continue to be a midwife of hope for others.

So, each morning when I get up, I choose hope.

Light in a Very Dark Place

black-and-white-blur-book-164821We are now approaching the darkest days of the year.  Our Advent wreaths and Hanukkah menorahs have brought light into our lives.  It is an opportune time to reflect on how one can bring light to dark places.

Several months ago friends from out of town invited me to a benefit organized to support Musicambia.  I accepted because I wanted to spend time with these friends and this was going to be a good way to do it.

After a nice dinner getting caught up on family news, we made our way to the event.  We settled into our seats and I began to focus on Musicambia and its mission.

First up was Dexter.

Continue reading “Light in a Very Dark Place”

Interstellar Space

Living as I do in an urban environment, it is not usually possible to see many, if any, stars on a regular basis.  Fortunately, my work takes me off the beaten path to places where there is little ambient light to obscure the night sky.  

Most recently, I found myself in the desert of New Mexico at the Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert on a silent retreat.  There, after the sun had set, the heavens blazed.

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Continue reading “Interstellar Space”

Fulfilling God’s Dreams

IMG_2399One of the great and humbling honors of serving Episcopal Relief & Development is the opportunity I have to visit our work around the world.  

In April, I led a pilgrimage of friends and supporters to Zambia to learn about our work with children.  

For the last several years we have worked with the Zambian Anglican Council Outreach Program (ZACOP) to establish nearly 70 Early Childhood Development Centers across the country.  

We’ve focused on the most vulnerable children—those impacted in one way or another by HIV/AIDS.  To date we’ve served over 10,000 children. We’re scaling the work up over the next three to five years.  

What I love about this program is that it speaks both to my head and my heart.

Continue reading “Fulfilling God’s Dreams”

God’s Jewels

alcyonewebsterikeulemansAnyone who knows me will attest that I am fundamentally a city person.  Having lived in New York City on and off for over 30 years, my instincts are well-honed and distinctly urban.  I can emerge from the subway and my sense of direction is intact. I know the most likely corners on which to catch a taxi during rush hour.  My knowledge of animals is limited to the best kinds of pets for apartments.

So, when I recently found myself on safaris in Zambia and Botswana, I was out of my element.  Unending open space. Myriad shades of green. Where do you even begin to look?

It was disorienting.

Continue reading “God’s Jewels”

One billboard outside Sandusky, Ohio

Each year my wife and I attend St. Bartholomew’s three-hour Good Friday service.  Each year I wonder how on earth I will sit through three hours of music, extended periods of silent prayer, readings on the seven last words of Christ, and a homily on each.  Each year the time disappears. Continue reading “One billboard outside Sandusky, Ohio”

An Australian Parable of the Return of the Prodigal Son

Palm Sunday and Holy Week are not my favorite liturgical season.  I endure them in anticipation of Easter. And so, this year I’ve frittered away the final days of Lent and Holy Week binge-watching The Heart Guy, an Australian television series.   I have a soft spot for Australia, and Australian television programs give me the sensation of being there, if only for the duration of the show.

368px-Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_ProjectThe Heart Guy isn’t brilliant television, but it’s fun and harmless.  It chronicles the misadventures of an arrogant and infallible Sydney heart surgeon, Hugh Knight.  Dr. Knight has bad boy habits involving drugs and other misbehavior that result in his surgery license being temporarily suspended.  The medical board sentences Knight to a year’s probation at a country hospital in a town called Whyhope. The aptly named Whyhope also happens to be the town where Dr. Knight grew up and where his family still lives.

Knight returns to Whyhope with his tail between his legs and quickly begins the process of re-integrating into his family and community.  Complications ensue.

At a deeper level, however, The Heart Guy is a retelling of the parable of The Prodigal Son as found in Luke 15:11-32. Continue reading “An Australian Parable of the Return of the Prodigal Son”

And yet…

I try not to regret much in life.  God knows I have no cause for regret.  I’ve been abundantly blessed from birth.  Just about any white male born in the developed world starts life on at least second, if not third, base in the baseball game of life compared to the rest of humanity.  So regret is nothing but self-indulgence. And yet…silhouette-1082129_640

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Fog Over the Promised Land

stock-photo-17181584-mountain-manLast Thursday afternoon, just before heading home to New York, I stood on Mount Nebo in Jordan and looked west to the Promised Land.  Mount Nebo is where Moses stood at the end of his life, having led the Israelites in the desert for forty years, and died.

Today there is a modern Catholic church built over the remains of an ancient Byzantine church on Mount Nebo.  The mosaics from the Byzantine church have been beautifully restored and are displayed as part of the modern church’s design.

Continue reading “Fog Over the Promised Land”

Abir and Smadar

IMG_2132A good pilgrimage leaves one with more questions than answers and this one has not disappointed.  Several evenings we were blessed to have guests come and talk with us about the current situation here in the Holy Land.  It’s hard not to be discouraged.  How does one get to a just peace?  What does that even mean?

But I did see God moving in the lives of those most heartbroken by the conflict.  It was in their brokenness that I found hope.

Continue reading “Abir and Smadar”