Monday, January 31, 2011

To End All Wars (and Hopelessness)

Get it at Amazon!
  Despite my love of hope, I still have dark days. We all do. I had one a while back, had to spend half the day in bed recovering. I was looking for a story of hope and found it in the book To End All Wars. Ernest Gordon wrote his experiences in WWII in Japanese POW camps (Death Houses) in Thailand and Burma. (He helped build the "Bridge over the River Kwai" may have heard of the movie, it's based on his story).
Basically it's this amazing story of how despite brutal conditions, backbreaking work, constant debilitating sickness, and seemingly hopeless conditions, he and those around him were able to keep hope alive. And it came from a willingness to look beyond themselves and their current situation. Ernest is a Christian and was forced to come to terms with the evil surrounding him and his idea of a loving God. After reading the stories of Jesus in the Bible, he summed it up this way.

I see that the victory over the impersonal, destructive and enslaving forces at work in the world has been given to mankind because of what Jesus has done. This is the good news for man: God, in Christ, has shared his suffering; for that is what God is like. He has not shunned the responsibility of freedom. He shares in the saddest and most painful experiences of His children, even that experience which seems to defeat us all, namely, death. He comes into our Death House to lead us through it.
To read the stories of the little acts of hope (making a special meal for a prison-mate by blending lime juice with their rice ration) becoming entire industries of hope (they created an entire factory to make prosthetic limbs from scavenged tin, leather and bamboo for amputees). He was moved to several camps. In each one, it would feel hopeless, despondent. He would begin with kind, encouraging words and regular contact with people in need. Other men began to see the joy of serving others. One man who was the most despondent Ernest had ever met, ended his time in the prison by making it his daily duty to clean and collect the pus-and-maggot-infested, putrid-smelling dressings of men with major infection. He'd be seen whistling the day away, carrying his bucket of putrid purpose.

Ernest ends his book with words that were particularly striking for me, living in a privileged easy life in Canada.

Being forced to face life in the raw may help one to understand the nature of the Debate (between good & evil, health and suffering etc), but that isn't necessary. Every person who uses the talents God gave him so that he is not afraid to live as a sensitive human being among the impersonal forces at work in society is participating and will be conscious of its only possible conclusion.

So what is that only possible conclusion? He goes on to write about Jesus in the paragraph I quoted earlier. And I would summarize it with Paul's words: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Faith and hope to you all.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I'm taking a graduate class called "Hope and the Helping Relationship". Fascinating to see how the academics look at hope and how much Jesus fits all their lofty wonderings ; )
After my initial readings, this verse just popped into mind

John 16:33
'These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

The entire Christian gospel is wonderfully, completely encased in this little pearl...
a) peace - we all want it, whether it's peace in the middle east or peace in our hearts: So Jesus addresses our greatest felt need
b) you will have tribulation - this is not an airy-fairy, Tony Robbins, one-sided positive message. It addresses reality: this world sucks, it's evil and you'll get hurt.
c) but be of good cheer - in my reading I've encountered a new phrase that encapsulates what Jesus is saying here "have hope as your orientation". Let hope be your compass.
d) i have overcome the world - Why should I choose hope when doubt makes oh so much more sense? Because Jesus has beat the evil, He's faced it before you, He's won and thus HE IS YOUR HOPE. He is your true north. He is your inspiration, and His loving arms are your final destination.