And when that mockingbird does sing

Cover for free ebook from Lake Drive Books: "How I Find Hope in the 2020s."
A couple months ago, my publisher, David Morris at Lake Drive Books, asked us authors to consider writing an essay around the theme "How I Find Hope in the 2020s: Essays on Getting Through This Mess." Longtime readers know I am no stranger to writing about hope, and David's assignment gave me a chance to comb through some of my past reflections:

  • "Still, even though my ears aren't picking You out, my heart is. And it somehow knows You're helping the canary warble from the dark depths of the coal mine. Please keep that little guy singing, Lord. Its hope is music to us all."

  • "Hope is a stubborn weed I pull with all my strength and never kill."

  • "For the year that wasn't, let us pray: God of hope, restore our vision."

  • "Hope nurtured. Summoned. Forgotten. Feared. Invited. Desired."

  • "What I have now that I didn't have 12 months ago, however, is literal hope growing inside me. I am pregnant with my second child [...] How full of possibilities are the next four months. How full of possibilities is this new small person. How full of possibilities is our world beyond this cataclysm. May we see and hold them all."

I didn't want to regurgitate any of these musings, though. I wanted to more closely examine my increasingly complex understanding of hope, my evolution from equating it with optimism to fostering it as (in the words of fellow LDB author Frank Rogers Jr.) "a spiritual resilience that can endure all things."

What I ended up contemplating was a physical experience I had at this year's Good Friday service, in which my dormant desire to sing suddenly reawakened, inspired by a mockingbird trilling outside the church window. As I wrote in the essay:

Surely few things felt more hopeless to early Christians than watching the historical Jesus suffer and die on a cross—the event we modern Christians commemorate on Good Friday. Yet there I was two thousand years later, marking the solemn occasion within a church community to remind myself that redemption is both here and on its way. Each day we experience re-births large and small, and each day we’re reminded of all that is dying. In spite of this dichotomy—or maybe because of it—we decide to hope.

I wrote more leading up to that, of course. Stuff like the sensory details of the sanctuary that sunny afternoon, details about vocal training techniques, the stubborn scientific facts about mockingbirds that thwarted my efforts for a seamless metaphor. I encourage you to read the whole thing by signing up for Lake Drive Books' email list; when you do, you'll receive a free ebook full of honest reflections about hope and its place in our lives and in our world.

In the beat between now and you clicking away, however, I will leave you with the simple breath prayer I wrote for the occasion, and may it nourish you for your journey.

Prayer #379: Breathe for Hope

Inhale: Fill my lungs with hope
Exhale: and carry my song to the world.