Emily Dickinson imagined “Hope” as “the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all.”

Hope is one of our most commonly used phrases. We say, I hope it won’t rain, I hope I can make that train, I hope I’ll pass the test; our expressions of things we “hope” for is endless. But what does hope really mean?  John F. Kennedy’s quote springs to mind, he said, “We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes.”

We really do not understand hope until we find ourselves without it. When we are hopeless even for a short time our world becomes dark.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow must have understood this. He said, “The setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun. The brightness of our life is gone.”

I love taking pictures of sunsets and sunrises. It intrigues me that sunrises and sunsets appear very similar. Looking at pictures I took a long time ago, I am the only one who is certain whether the picture is of a sunset or sunrise.  Friends may guess but only I know whether it was beginning or the end of the day.  Sometimes, hope is like  like that, we can’t be sure in what guise it will return. When the glow of sunset turns to darkness, we hope for the sunrise.


No biblical story illustrates better a state of utter desolation and hopelessness than that of Sarah’s maid[GC1]  Hagar in Genesis 21 (KJ21). She was sent into the desert with her son Ishmael for mocking her childless mistress illustrates utter hopelessness. Hagar had every reason to fear her son would die of thirst. We, who live in the desert understand better than most the consequences of being without water and shelter in the desert.  Her wailing was interrupted by the angel’s greeting, “Fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the child where he is”. Once fear dissipates,  “hope is at hand” .

“Fear not,” is often announced by angelic beings to human beings in desperate times.Their message always offers hope. When fear is taken away, hope is born; For Hagar, hope of life came when her eyes were opened to see the spring nearby. Hope is there for us when we perceive things in a new way.  The darkness of hopelessness gives way to light when we see our situation in a new light. The message of hope may come to us in many guises. Hopelessness may be lifted by prayer, meditation, witnessing a beautiful sunset or sunrise, a flower, may bring hope and comforting in our time of distress.

Meister Eckhart‘s poem gets to the heart of the matter. We become hopeless and fear the most when something we love appears lost to us.

The Hope of Loving

What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure?

I think it is the hope of loving,

or being loved.

I heard a fable once about the sun going on a journey

to find its source, and how the moon wept

without her lover’s

warm gaze.

We weep when light does not reach our hearts. We wither

like fields if someone close

does not rain their





Patiently we must wait for the darkness to give way to the glow of day, reach out for the hand offered in kindness. open our eyes to new possibilities.

Inspiration and Prayer for 7/28/13, offered by Rev. Judith Vadergrift posted each week on the On-line Swedenborgian Community

Your inspiration this week is to find a place where you can be alone in silence and listen for the voice of God. Take your journal with you, and any books for inspiration you like. Write, pray, listen, Love Enjoy! ” Dear Lord teach me to take your Love deeply inside my being. Teach me to keep my focus on you. Let me be the observer only, of this world. Thank you for my soul’s rest and renewal each day. Gratitude fills my heart for all I have been given both good and bad. The good uplifts me and the bad strengthens me. My heart fills with love for all beings. Let me walk in deep peace with you knowing your love fills me completely. AMEN.” With Love, Rev. Judith


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Gabriella was born in Budapest Hungary. Some of her family still resides in Hungary. After escaping the Communist regime in the aftermath of the 1956 Revolution, Gabriella's family settled in Cleveland OH. She graduated from Cleveland Heights High School and attended college but did not earn a degree. She met her husband in Devon PA, and soon they were married and began family life in PA. Only a few years married, John and Gabriella moved to FL to be with Gabriella's aging parents. Two o their three children were born Florida. After the children began school, Gabriella volunteered in schools and libraries. Her love for swimming drew her into the world of aquatics. Part time coaching jobs evolved into career aquatic management. Her children out of the home, Gabriella worked full time as an aquatic manger, coach and swim instructor. In 2001, John and Gabriella's plans to ease into retirement in Tucson changed drastically when John suffered a heart attack in 2002. John’s amazing recovery after bypass surgery allowed Gabriella to seek a new career. It was a life changing experience for both of them. Gabriella returned to school at the University of AZ and John took over household responsibilities. A shift occurred in their lives. Gabriella felt called to become a spiritual care provider. Preparing for seminary, she chose interdisciplinary program, combining Psychology, Family and Religious Studies. She graduated with honors in 2006. Gabriella and John moved to Berkeley for her to begin seminary at the Pacific School of Religion. Gabriella was accepted on the ordination track in the Swedenborgian Church of North America. Her goal was to becoming a chaplain. John's health crisis necessitated a move from Berkeley back to Tucson in 2008. Gabriella transferred to Earlham School of Religion to complete the Master’s program. In her senior year, working in required Supervised Ministry, Gabriella created a dual ministry; Circle Community, a sharing, praying and studying support group and worked as a crisis advocate in Tucson area hospitals. Most of her family was present in Cincinnati OH when Gabriella was ordained in July 2012. In July of 2011 she was ordained in the Swedeborgian Church and accepted a call to be the pastor of the New Church of Southwest FL. Soon after her ordination Gabriella accepted a call to become the pastor to the New Church of Southwest FL in 2011. John, a VA patient needed comprehensive medical care unavailable in Fort Myers. For Gabriella ministry begins at home. Once again new a health crisis changed their life. They moved back to Tucson AZ. Back in Tucson, Gabriella found ministry opportunities with Circle Community, did workshops and conducted weekly Prayer Meditations at Rincon U.C.C. She completed a course in Spiritual Direction at the Hesychia School for Spiritual Direction. In mid October 2012, Gabriella began to work as a Chaplain for Harmony Hospice. The job all she had expected. She found great satisfaction working with patients and their families. Gabriella left the per diem position with Harmony for a full time job with Valor HospiceCare. Here too, she worked with grieving families, conducted grief support groups and lead Community Memorial services during the same time that her husband's health was spiraling downwards. Gabriella resigned her job to care for John in the last months of his life. John died in April 2014. Life became chaotic. An intense search a chaplain position in Tucson and other parts of the country was unsuccessful. Peers suggested Gabriella look into open churches with the Swedenborgian Church. She candidated in Kansas with two churches. She was called to pastor the Pretty Prairie and Pawnee Rock churches in July 2014. A new life began with the move to rural Kansas. In August 2014, Gabriella began to serve as the Pastor of the two churches.

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