This year's theme for the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress is "Bearer of Hope, Restoring Spirit." We asked our speakers for messages of hope based on our theme -- taken from Bible passages, books, or their own reflections. The following are their submissions: 

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"Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in."

"Anthem," by Canadian rock singer Leonard Cohen

Contributed by Kathy Chesto

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I believe hope is a gift of the darkness.  When everything seems lost and broken, the light creeps in through the cracks.

-- Kathy Chesto

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“In the light of all the tragedy we have experienced in our nation, it is wonderful to see the resolve in the faces of our young people to reach out to others in need through service outreach, prayer and financial support.  In my experience today, I see our youth more committed than ever to spreading the Gospel to others.”

-- Mark Friedman

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Forty-three years ago, when I was in the seminary in Washington, D.C., I participated in a workshop training us to help implement the civil rights act through non-violent methods. One of the presenters was a young--and then relatively unknown--Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. Somebody asked him what qualities we needed to help bring about positive change in our society. He responded: "Two basic stances of the heart--sustained anger and genuine hope. Without anger, hope becomes a vague optimism; and without hope, anger becomes a destructive rage."

-- John Heagle

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 We need to take care of the person we see in the mirror. We need to make choices to be healthy, happy, holy people. Only then do we discover our giftedness and live each moment fully.

-- Anne Bryan Smollin

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 This summer in Italy I worked with several others to build a labyrinth on the floor of a stone chapel. The light of candles defined its spirals. Weeks later, in describing this moment to retreatants in the U.S., I realized for the first time that the pathway of light we'd created was a perfect depiction of our lives. At each bend of the path, at every turn: light. And no way to permanently get lost, because if you stay on the path, you will ultimately reach the center. Whether or not a turn in the road "appears" to be dark, the pathway is in fact pure light. That image powerfully reminds me that "darkness and light are both alike to God" (Psalm 139). Nothing gives me greater hope.

-- Paula D'Arcy

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The verse of Scripture I hold closest to my heart is Jeremiah 29:11: "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm, to give you a future and a hope!" Being born as a child of rape, I know that no matter who you are or where you came from, Our God knows you and has big plans for you! You are known and loved by your Creator!

-- Pam Stenzel

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Repeated experiences of promises kept lead a soul to trust in the Promise Keeper. Personal history of healing following pain and grief giving way to growth lures a soul to cultivate confident assurance in the ever-present action of Divine Providence. This, then, is hope! Belief during a current moment of distress that "all things work together unto good" because the Promise Keeper assured us "I am with you all days." Not knowing how life can come from apparent death, but confidant nonetheless that "all will be well."

-- Patricia M. McCormack, Ed. D.

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Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift. Perhaps that is why it is called the present.

-- Patricia M. McCormack, Ed. D.

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"For the wonders that astound us,
For the truths that still confound us,
Most of all that love has found us,
Thanks be to God."

Hymn “For the Fruit from All Creation”

Contributed by Dick Sparks

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So often in this time of violence and mistrust one wonders about the presence of God. "Where is God?" people ask in despair. A story comes to mind that may give hope in a gentle and reassuring way: A family was awakened one night noticing their house on fire. Everyone quickly left the house and gathered near a big tree not far from the building -- everyone, that is except the youngest son seemingly trapped by the fire in an upstairs room. The father returned to the house and called for the son to break through the window and jump into his arms. The little boy called back, “Dad, I want to jump, but I cannot see you.” The father's replied, “That's OK, son, you may not be able to see me, but I can see you, and everything will be all right.”

Barbara Fiand, SND





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"Bearer of Hope,
Restoring Spirit"

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