Faces on Faith: Hope does perch in the soul
As the Pianist of Peace (as he called himself) sat down and began to play, the strains of music flowed over the crowd and a certain calmness descended on the room. Peace-filled and hope-filled words from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 4:6-7 accompanied the notes as the pianist offered us his own unique arrangement of music inspired by scripture. I wear a small wooden cross each week with the same verses – a cross given to me by a young girl from Our Little Roses – an orphanage and school in Honduras. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ.” I read it as I put it around my neck before every service – a reminder that the peace of God is beyond our understanding and hope must conquer fear and worry.
After the pianist told us how he “hears the music before he finds the words,” I thought also of Emily Dickinson’s poem that begins: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words – and never stops at all” This former chemistry major, MBA, financial planner touched the ivories with such soulful depth that we could not help, but close the door to the outside world of unpredictability and fear and allow peace and hope to enter – if only for an hour.
If only for an hour – and there lies the challenge for us. In the midst of all we have going on in our lives, in the routine of daily tasks and responsibilities, in the work we do to help others in thrift shops, food pantries, causes that heal the oppressed, causes that assist the poor, programs that focus on social justice issues – whatever activities we engage in that offer hope to others – how do we maintain hope and peace in our own souls. How do we keep that hope “perched in our souls” as we try to offer hope to others?
Finding a time each day for solitude and thankfulness to the Lord is a good way to start. Solitude and stillness – even for 10 minutes – forces the body to pause and gives the heart and soul a chance to breathe. Prayer – whatever your custom or religious preference – for thanksgiving, for forgiveness, for strength, or for guidance also spawns hope in the heart and soul – as we realize the tremendous blessings in our lives and also look to God for that which we cannot grasp alone. I also discovered new hope during the concert that night – hope in community – as I watched friends and complete strangers sit together, heads tilted to one side as they listened to the music, some wiping away a tear as the music and images on the screen prompted sadness or joy. I saw a couple holding hands – who’d not held hands for quite some time. I’d like to think I saw forgiveness in her eyes as she also looked at her spouse with new hope.
As we enter the Advent season and the days get shorter and the hours of darkness lengthen, let us “in prayer and thanksgiving” discover pathways of hope among one another – wherever or with whomever you interact. The hope-filled Psalm 139 reminds us of God’s presence in our lives – especially during any fear or human darkness: “If I say surely the darkness will cover me and the light around me turn to night, Darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day.” Look to that Light which surpasses our understanding. Look to one another as God works in you. There are opportunities for hope all around us.