Stop, find joy, give thanks

I hope, and pray, for presence of mind, kindness and peace. One of Judaism’s blessings I find particularly meaningful is the Shehecheyanu. We recite this blessing at certain sacred occasions and at joyous moments.

I interpret this to be any time we want to stop and acknowledge the greatness of the moment, appreciate it and say, “Wow! Thank you, God.”

I love the intent of the Shehecheyanu: stopping to acknowledge the moment, appreciating it and giving thanks. Someone once told me “love what is right in front of you.” When we are content with what we have, we love not only those in front of us but those around us and those beyond us. Those whom we may not know but who need and deserve kindness just the same.

In my not quite 50 years, I have started to figure out that life is about ups and downs, and the space in between. What helps us a whole bunch through the dark and bumpy times are the people without whose kindness we do not where we would be. And there are the people who are so close to us, it feels like they hold us up when we cannot on our own. And then there are all the other people, some strangers, whose gentle gestures make us smile and remember that the world is still a good place filled with kind people with whom we can live together in peace.

-- Lauren Cohn, Temple Beth El, Anniston

Hope lies beyond this world

There is no hope for a better world. Jesus said these things about the world: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (John 17:9).

The Bible has much to say about the world: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

“And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19).

The world is not getting better, nor is it going to. The world has become more scary, more threatening, more dangerous, more deadly and more hopeless than it’s ever been. We’re not headed for some man-made utopia, or the Age of Aquarius, and neither will there be world peace.

This is a cursed planet; it exists under the effects of sin and divine cursing, and Satan is its ruler. Not only does all creation groan because it is cursed, but sinners living in this creation are also cursed, and so it is a compounded curse that makes life so difficult.

The environment, the population and all of mankind feel the effects of sin. Man, with all of his genius and technology, cannot rid the planet of sin because it is embedded in its very DNA.

I have no hope for the world for this coming year, but there is hope for you, and that hope is in Christ … “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

— Bob McClain, Living By Faith Ministry, Oxford