faith

Practice

Yoga requires practice. I’ve been practicing it for almost two years and have so much to learn. I’m amazed when I even miss a few days at how tightly bound I become.

Sports require practice. Music does. I feel like relationships do. After 33 years of marriage, I find myself still practicing at being a good partner.  Parenting takes practice. I’m still working at that too. It’s hard because the kids keep changing. Parenting young adults is different than any other stage we’ve been through.

I practice faith. I practice the spiritual disciplines. One of my disciplines is to journal every day. Recently I started reviewing each filled journal before I begin a new one. Today I reviewed my journal from the last four weeks. When I do this I always learn something. This time I was stunned by how much had happened in the last four weeks and how much my practicing of the spiritual disciplines anchored me during quite a bit of life’s storminess. Ritual, routine, writing and prayer kept me steady.

Even with all this practicing, for some reason, I’ve never thought of hope as something I needed to practice. This week’s devotion reminded me, Practice hoping for things you do not see–both for this life and the next. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening, by Sarah Young.

How do we practice hope?

Engage in healthy mind, soul and body practices even when life is swirling around you.

Visualize the tiniest twinkle of light during the darkest of times.

Knocked down? Get up again, breathe and take a step.

Preacher Fred Craddock said hope only needs one calorie a day to survive, one calorie and practice, I guess.

Can you imagine practicing hope on a daily basis? The diagnosis comes but we practice hope. The friend or loved one dies but we practice seeing them free of all that weighed them down here and enjoying life forever with God. Addiction claws at a loved one but we practice holding them in God’s healing hopeful light because all our best efforts haven’t worked.

You submit one more job application. You go back for more chemo despite how it makes you feel. You look up. You notice the tiniest bit of beauty in your midst. You practice hope.

In Anne Lamott’s new book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. She writes, Sometimes despair and uncertainty surround us, in the news, in our families and in ourselves but even when life is bleakest, when we are doomed, stunned, exhausted and over-caffeinated the seeds of hope and rejuvenation are at hand. If you arrive at a place that is miserable, it will change. We cling, she writes, to Wendell Berry’s words,”be joyful even though you have considered all the facts.”

Hope as a practice, one calorie at a time, one image at a time. Hope, despite the facts.

My favorite way to watch the sunrise is to wake up while it is still dark and wait. I scan the horizon over and over to see that first almost imperceptible light. The light always comes. Some days it is white or gray. Other days it is gold or pink. Sometimes it is red, orange or even blue. Now I know why I do it. Waiting in the dark for the light I cannot see is practicing hope. When you are alone in the dark, it sure seems like that is all there is. Practicing hope teaches us otherwise.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three grown children, Mimosa/Mocha to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor. She counts carbs and one calorie of hope a day.      

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