Elpida, The Hopiest of Hopes

The first time I came across this word was during my undergrad studies when I minored in Biblical languages. I took 4 semesters of New Testament (koine) Greek and elpida, the word for hope, certainly pops up.

38d6fc49-9b5c-4dfe-85c3-a2119ff5b442Romans 12:12 is one of those places. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, devote yourself to prayer.”

And often this “hope” is a reference to the hope we have in the resurrection. Our hope is in Christ because Christ has conquered death…removing the stinger from the wasp of death so that it is not to be feared.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 encourages, “Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep (in death), so that you will not grieve as others do who have no hope.”

Long after my Greek classes in undergrad and seminary, I encountered this word again…inked onto my older brother’s arm.

Elpida tattooI was vaguely aware of a spiritual community Bill was a part of which had suffered the loss of an amazing human being named Mark Palmer. Although I did not know Mark personally, I knew of him through Bill and some others in the “Elpida Community.” (Which is how I referred to it). Over a short span of time, this community had suffered the loss of 4 friends/family members (that I’m aware of). Over the past several years, I’ve gotten to know some in this community a little better, especially Chris Marshall, who has been a great friend to my big brother for well over 15 years now.

When my older brother died a little over 4 weeks ago (after a brief battle with a pulmonary carcinomicsarcoma in his chest from July-December), I drew even closer to this “Elpida Community.” And my “little” brother and I (Jason Bean) got inked in our brother’s memory just a few hours before the funeral. 19cefba1-921a-46da-95b9-009e3f51ea6f

So, this notion of hope…elpida…continues to be magnified by present-day mourning while longing for the truth of the resurrection.

One of the younger members of this elpida community has the full version of the tattoo on his shoulder and encountered someone not too long ago (who may have been slightly intoxicated) but recognized the Greek word. He asked my friend about the tattoo and Izaac said, “Yeah, it’s a word that means hope.” The older inebriated gentleman with slurred words corrected him. “Oh no man…not just hope…it’s the HOPIEST of hopes.” When Izaac told me that story, I laughed externally but teared up internally. The truth came out of a random dude in a bar who has some history with Greek words in the New Testament. He was obviously guided by the Spirit in that moment to drop some Truth which has now stuck with me. Elpida is not just hope, it’s the HOPIEST of hopes. It’s the hope that we cling to…the hope that we steady ourselves on as death and grief come against us like strong waves pounding against the rocks of this truth.

And just a few hours ago, we got the news that my mother-in-law died after less than a week in hospice. In less than 6 months, bladder cancer spread to her lungs and then her brain and just now took its final toll on her physical body. But she was a Godly woman who was such a beautiful example of kindness, compassion, spunk, and so many other good qualities. Having known her for more than 25 years now, I am so grateful for her life, her love for my family, and her strong faith. I ache for my kids and my wife as we continue through this shadow-of-death-valley season.

We all need elpida…the hopiest of hopes to help us through!

Book #1 for 2019


Quoting Fredrick Neitzsche, Eugen Peterson speaks of an essential “long obedience in the same direction” which is required of anyone who would engage the life-long pursuit of being formed by Christ.

This great communicator who has given us The Message translation/paraphrase of Scripture takes a section of the Psalms (Psalm 120–134) and builds an approach to Christian living which mimicks the Jewish custom of pilgrimage to worship in Jerusalem.

Along the way, he skillfully reminds us of the path from repentance to blessing which guides us towards true encounters with God in the context of community. And for Peterson, the proof is in the pudding. The Gospel is livable. And the scriptures are not primarily a source of information, but the inspiring voice of God which fuses with our prayerful response to result in a life that is formed by Christ.

The Epilogue which has been added to the 20th anniversary edition of the book summarizes nicely an appropriate approach to Scripture. We should be reading the Bible slowly, imaginatively, prayerfully, and obediently. For anyone who takes life-long discipleship in the way of Jesus seriously, this book is a must read!

Nutrition Is The Key (spiritually speaking)

Over the past few years, I have neglected a few things that used to be important to me: reading scripture, prayer, journaling, reading, spiritual disciplines, etc. At the same time, I’ve increased some bad habits: sleeping in, watching too much tv, playing games on my iPad, etc. During this time, I’ve noticed a growing skepticism and cynicism towards God, faith, and spiritual things in general. Coincidence?

That’s why my faith has come to resemble this coffee plant.


This plant was healthy and thriving a few years ago. Then it was moved to a place with no natural light. And while the shop was closed for a few months, it wasn’t watered and cared for. This is the result.

Over this past weekend, I got away to the Abbey of Gethsemani for what I call my “Soul-Keeping Retreat” and a strange thing happened. As soon as I rid myself of the distraction of my devices and put myself in an atmosphere conducive to silence, solitude, and prayer…my soul perked up. The soil of my heart became receptive again…becoming moist with the Spirit. As I was also fasting, my soul recognized its hunger again for the things of God. I read a few books, attended prayer times with the monks, and went on long hikes in the woods…praying and reflecting.

As I drove back to Cincinnati on Sunday evening, I wept in worship listening to some old Keith Green songs. One song in particular struck me with this line: “Oh, I want to thank you now for being patient with me…It’s been so hard to see, when my eyes are on me…I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what you say…” It has been quite awhile since I’ve encountered God’s presence in worship like that.

In sharing this experience, I suppose a confession is implied. I’ve been going through what some have called the “dark night of the soul” but kept it to myself for the most part. I’ve tried to continue doing, saying, and living in a way that most wouldn’t know of my struggle. Only a few people were aware of the depths of my doubt and spiritual anxiety over the past few years. One of those was my older brother. And perhaps that why his recent death was such a blow. When he was gone, I knew that one of only 2-3 people I could talk to was no longer there. In a way, that may have set me up for this spiritual renewal or “homecoming” this past weekend.

It will still be a process of nurturing the “plant” of my soul back to good health (which is a Spirit-thing and not something I can do by willing it to happen). And the selfish habits I’ve developed over the past few years will probably not change easily, but I can tell that there’s been a fundamental change…a reconnection to the Source that is fueling me now. There’s a new sense of HOPE…elpida! Perhaps more about that in the next post.