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The basic message we try to convey through this web-site is that if the things we hope for are faith-based (in accordance with God’s will) then God will assure that those hopes are fulfilled, in his time and his way. On the other hand, if what we hope for is not in accordance with God’s will, then it’s just wishful thinking, and we should not expect it to be fulfilled. However, sometimes God turns what we might think of as wishful thinking into a hope fulfilled.
Sometimes we wish for something, but we never let it become a hope because we don’t believe it is something God will get involved in. Usually, it’s something that is very important to us personally, but in the whole scheme of things, appears to be so inconsequential or self-centered that God’s response will be “don’t bother me about that. Just get over it. I’ve got bigger real hopes to fulfill”. So we try to forget about whatever it is we wish for, because we accept that it is just wishful thinking. But every now and then it pops into our mind again. Then one day, when we have finally forgotten about it, we discover that God has arranged things so that our wishful thinking has become a hope fulfilled. Here’s one example from my personal experience which I will always remember.
During my 24 years as a pastor there have been times that things were not going well. Times when I felt hopeless. Times when I just couldn’t see any good news coming out of whatever I was trying to accomplish in the name of Jesus. Most of the time, I would eventually see how God turned things around so that once again I could feel that I really was serving according to his will. But other times there was this lingering feeling of hopelessness. One of the ways I dealt with that was to stop thinking about my hopes for the future, and to stop dealing with whatever issue was causing my hopelessness in the present. Instead, I would set my thoughts on the past. That is, I would engage in nostalgia. I would say to myself “if only things could be like they used to be”.
I was in that situation about twelve years ago. Whether it was true or not, I had this feeling that every time I proposed some new idea for ministry, there were people who would remind me that “We never did it that way before”. The implication being that they weren’t going to support this new idea now. So I followed my usual pattern, letting myself think back to what now looked like better times. In that particular situation my mind took me back about 40 years earlier, when I was a musician in the U.S. Navy. I began to remember a lot of good times, ignoring the reality that there were also some not so good times back then.
I started thinking about one thing from the old days that I wished could do just once more time. That one thing was to be able to play, just one more time, in a big band, like I did in my Navy days (for those who don’t know, a big band is what is today often called a stage band) . Oh, I still played my saxophone now and then, mostly in our church praise band. But to me there was nothing like playing in a big band. But I understood that as just wishful thinking. I had no hope of that ever happening. I didn’t believe God really cared about it one way or the other. After all, I had already given God a number of much bigger hopes to deal with, having to do with the church. I was convinced that there was no way I would ever play in a big band again.
Of course I couldn’t literally go back to the old days. But I tried to get as close as I could. I thought that maybe I could use the internet to find some way to contact some of the guys in the bands I played in back then. Maybe we could get back in touch and reminisce about the good old days. So I started searching for some military sites. None of them were any help. One night I decided to give it one more try before I gave up. The next thing I knew I found a website which opened with the sounds of a band playing the Navy theme song- Anchors Away. That same song we all got tired of playing over and over again back in the day. Now it was sweet music to my ears.
I had found the web-site of something I had never heard of – The Navy Musician’s Association. Now I was getting somewhere. I noticed a link to a membership list. I brought up this list, which included e-mail addresses. On that list were about ten people I once served with or under. I contacted them, and they responded. Then I sent in my dues and became a member. I discovered there was an annual five day reunion. I asked what they did at the reunion. The answer was that mostly they played music. I pointed out that since my Navy days I had not been a professional musician, so I probably wouldn’t be able to participate. Then I was told this wasn’t a problem. Everyone who came got a chance to play in one of the bands if he wanted to.
As it turned out, the next reunion was scheduled for only a few months in the future. So Joan and I decided to go. That was twelve years ago. I still remember our six hour drive to the reunion site. All the way I was worrying about how I would fit in with all these people, many of whom were still professional musicians. I feared that I would look and sound like a little kid trying to fit in with the big boys. Finally we arrived, registered, and went into one of the rehearsal rooms to see and hear what was going on. I sat there with tears in my eyes, listening to the big band play.
The next day I got out my saxophone and was invited to take my place on the bandstand with the others. And I can honestly say that, while there were a few places where I couldn’t keep up with the rest of them, for the most part I did pretty well. Yes, God had changed my wishful thinking into a hope fulfilled. I had played in a big band again. But it was not to be just one more time. I have continued to attend and play at the reunions. In fact, in about six weeks I’m going there again, to again experience hope fulfilled.
I still believe that in order for our hopes to be fulfilled, they need to be in accordance with God’s will. But based on my personal experience, as well as what I have read and heard from others, I also believe that God sometimes chooses to pleasantly surprise us. Sometimes, when we least expect it, God changes our impossible wishful thinking into hopes fulfilled. Without our even asking him to, he changes our bad news into good news. Come to think of it, isn’t that what God did about 2,000 years ago? On that first Easter Sunday, didn’t God change the wishful thinking of the followers of Jesus into a hope fulfilled? Didn’t God change bad news into good news, with the resurrection of Jesus, for them and for us? I think – no, I know – the answer is – yes! You can expect God to do the same for you. Change wishful thinking into hopes fulfilled.
Grace and peace, Ray Gough
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray