Monday, November 7, 2011

Hope Shall Bloom

My wife and I made a trip to the city of New Orleans at the end of last week.  We flew this time, which is incredibly better than driving since one can fly from Houston to New Orleans in just 45 minutes compared to a 6-8 hour drive from our house to the city.  We were there before you knew it and it did not cost a lot to fly as we found bargain fares on Southwest Airlines at just $49 each way per person.  We did have to fly at 6 a.m. in order to get this great fare but I have been wondering if I can stay up all night now as I once could and found out that I can.  So, we left our house after seeing the 10:00 news and drove to the edge of Houston and stopped and had coffee and a bite to eat and then drove on to the airport.  We were sitting there waiting about 2 a.m. and were told that security did not open until 4 a.m. so we had a couple hours to enjoy the airport.  I was fairly wired from the coffee but my wife fell asleep soon and I watched the people who work in the airport cleaning and mopping and sweeping.  Pretty soon we made it through security and went to the gate to sit for about another hour.   We got on board and arrived just before 7 a.m. so we had an entire day ahead of us in New Orleans.  We found some breakfast and a place to park the rental car and began walking down by the Mississippi River and went to an IMAX movie about the lions in Africa (King of Beasts has two wives and five kids and has to fend off a you don't have to read the book). 

We decided to walk around the French Quarter a bit and looked in some shops and then had lunch at a great place at the corner of Decatur and Toulouse---oyster po boys, yum!  Then the lack of sleep began to set in so we found the car and began the search for our hotel.  Easy enough to find and check in and then a good nap was in order.  Dinner followed and then more sleep and the next day gave us more adventures.

Our purpose for going to New Orleans was not just to have a getaway, although that worked itself in too.  We went there to attend the closing worship service for the Hope Shall Bloom disaster relief ministries that the United Church of Christ had been doing in the New Orleans area since Hurricane Katrina had hit in 2005.  The service was held on Saturday afternoon at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in New Orleans.  People from across the US had come for this service, partly because many of them had volunteered in service over the past six years to help rebuild the homes of persons who had nearly lost all they had in the flood.  Some of these volunteers had come and given a week or more of their time, had paid all their own expenses to do the dirty work required, and had returned to their homes with a deep sense of satisfaction that it was all worth the effort.  They had slept in church halls, showered in make-shift showers, eaten food prepared by other volunteers, and done all this with little complaint.  These volunteers and the pastor who had given up his parish to lead this effort were honored with standing ovations at the service.  The leadership of the UCC was represented at the service and a litany was read that gave praise to God for all that had been accomplished. 

The theme of the disaster recovery effort for the past six years was "Hope Shall Bloom".  It reflects the scripture from Isaiah 35 that says that when the redeemed of the Lord returned to Zion, "The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom..."  Hope would re-emerge in places where the dry wastelands had been.  The people of New Orleans had been overwhelmed by what must have seemed impossible circumstances.  Many had given up on them and declared the city to be a place of desolation and death.  The volunteers and leaders who gave of themselves became symbols of hope to those who were without hope.  Their efforts and optimism became the strength they needed to continue to live. 

Hope Shall Bloom can be our motto of life also when we place optimism in the forefront of our lives.  When we think positively about life instead of letting negatives rule our lives then we foster a positive outlook for all to observe.  The motto is very demonstrative...Hope SHALL looks forward to the future even in the absence of proof that better days are coming.  We are in a cycle of negativity in our country at the present time.  Embracing a positive way of life and a positive attitude about life will make us to be people of hope and that hope will encourage others to also have hope.  Hope Shall Bloom in our lives and the lives of others as we continue to spread the message of hope to all with whom we share life. 

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