A reflection on Hebrews 6:19. Mobile, AL, September 2015.Hebrews 6

{Cardboard, acrylic paint, calendar pages, hymnal page,colored pencils, permanent marker.}

As part of my current work, I lead a Bible study once a week at the breakfast my church serves each weekday to people who are hungry (some are homeless, some aren’t). We’re making our way through Hebrews at the moment, and not too long ago we were in chapter six, verse nineteen of which includes these words: “We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…” As I silently asked for forgiveness from my seminary professors who constantly reminded us of the importance of context, that one verse (half of one, really) stuck out to me. On a societal level it seems that we are constantly surrounded by tragedy, often of our own making. On a personal level, I just moved to a new city and a new job, knowing that in a year I’ll be on to yet another next thing. When the optimism that I love so much starts to falter, hope is what I find myself clinging to. Sometimes it probably looks more like desperation – thinking there just has to be more than this pervasive fear of “other” that seems to turn so many people toward hatred. How do I seek that hope when its opposite seems to be all I see when I turn on the news? How do I preach that hope when my (literal) neighbors who come to breakfast each morning may be experiencing more hardship than I can even imagine?

With all of that tumbling around in my brain, I sat down with my trusty glue stick to see what would happen. To be perfectly honest, I hardly ever actually have a plan when I start working on a new project. This can be equal parts totally freeing and totally frustrating. It comes in handy, though, when I’m not sure what I want to say but I know that I want to say something.

The stakes feel pretty low, too, when I use borderline garbage in my visual personal spiritual practice. If I don’t like the way it turns out, okay, nobody else has to see it. If I use cardboard and calendar scraps, the whole thing can end up in the recycling bin at the end of the day and I don’t feel like I’ve spent a whole bunch of money on supplies. After all, the things already around us are what we have to interpret God’s work in the world. Why shouldn’t I use the stuff already around me to figure out God’s work in my life? So back to Hebrews and the glue stick.

Still thinking about that sure and steadfast anchor, I was flipping through some old calendar pages when I landed on some blue canoes. I liked the way they look, so I cut them out. A few calendar pages later came the yellow and green mandala you see behind the flames. Since I’m ever the fan of old books, they end up being put to use too. I headed toward the topical index in my falling-apart-already red hymnal, looking for the suggestions under “hope.” For the musically curious, the hymn I used is “When In the Night I Meditate.” When I started cutting this page I wasn’t sure if the words would turn into water or fire but, opposite as they are, both seemed fitting. Noticing the flame-colored flowers in the mandala, fire it was. The beginning of Hebrews 6:19 is painted in the background.

I know better than to say I have all the answers. But here’s what this piece has told me so far: even in the midst of uncertainty, there is hope settled deep in my bones. When the Holy Spirit shows up, it is simultaneously startling and calming. I don’t always know where a question is going, but that doesn’t mean I get to stop asking . . .