The H.O.P.E.

"Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off." Proverbs 23: 18

Sometimes the ancient spirit of my former days as a student minister is sparked, by those who continue to play that vital role in the lives of young people. I am grateful for what they do to invest in the lives of the leaders of the next generation. They plant trees under whose shade someone else will sit, and often don't get to see the fruit of their labors. If they do, they are in for a long wait. God bless them.

Recently I read on "Facebook" of the heart-ache borne by a former member of my student ministry. She is now a dedicated teacher, investing deeply into the lives of her students in school. She was broken-hearted over the suicide of yet another promising young person. I hurt for her.

There is nothing like it. So much hope is out there for young people. Yet, in a moment of despair, they take their lives, unable to grasp hope in the dark. How can we help them?

I remember being called upon to bury a 17 year old young man who had taken his life. After a breakup with his girl friend, he drove to a deserted road, and while listening to a country western song, the last words he heard, before the bullet ended his life were, "I'd Be Better Off in a Pine Box." No heavy metal music wailing, no rap, no drugs, nothing but good ol' C&W. Thanks Nashville.

As I prepared for the funeral, his grandfather came to see me. He was a distraught man. As he choked in his personal grief, his heart hurt for those young people who would gather for the service. He kept saying, "Tell them the truth! Tell them the truth!" I did.

Telling the truth meant stiff-arming a lot of sentimental drivel. For some reason, death brings out the poet in people. I was offered all kinds of rhymes and verses for the occasion. They ranged from Edgar Allen Poe angst to Hallmark card pablum. One of the creative writing teachers of the school my young friend attended handed me a piece of her work, just as I stepped up to the platform. She accosted me after the funeral, and demanded to know why I didn't read it. I explained to her this was not her turf, nor was it open mic Friday. What we say at this time and in this place is the truth, and nothing but the truth. That means God gets the last word. I said, "You won't let me say a word for God in your classroom, and you don't get to have the last word from my pulpit. God will." We are not friends.

I have come to understand HOPE, as Having Our Perspective Elevated. For me this involves prayer. Prayer is the night-vision goggles given to us by God for spiritual warfare with the forces of darkness. Prayerless people lose their way, because they lose hope. In the dark night of the soul, they sense they are alone. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Prayer reveals a silent Presence, available and anxious to comfort and to guide us through the night and into the light.

I am often comforted by the way Jesus made Himself available to a couple of disciples on the Road to Emmaus, after The Crucifixion of their Savior put them on a slippery slope of despair. In the midst of their darkness, Jesus turned on The Light. He still does.

"While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached." Luke 24: 15

Talking our way through our crises seldom ends them, but most assuredly extends them. We never talk a crisis to death. Talking only breathes new life into a crisis. Jesus approached these two disciples, when they had lost hope. He still does.

H.O.P.E. - Having Our Perspective Elevated. How? Pray your way through a crisis, don't try to explain it away. Talking about it increases your blindness. Prayer allows your eyes to adjust to the dark, until you see Jesus at work in the middle of it. He makes sense out of the senseless, and brings hope to the hopeless. He only dos this...EVERY TIME.

In the mid-1990's I was introduced to this statistic. 80+% of the young people who come through our Evangelical churches, never return to them after they turn 18 years of age. Staggering. Still, recent reports indicate that those who do return to church say that the homing mechanism for them was knowing that their parents prayed for them, by name. Good to know.

Parenting and praying are the twin towers of the next generation of leaders who will usher in the next Great Awakening. There is hope for them, and for us. PRAY!

Prayer changes things, because prayer changes people. Changed people change the world, when they come to the end of themselves and run to Jesus instead of stumbling in the dark. In His Presence hey receive a fresh perspective of God's vision. They begin to sense His direction, protection and correction. Talking prolongs our blindness. Praying improves our perspective. Take H.O.P.E.