Keep Hoping Machine Running

February 13, 2017

Several years ago I wrote a tribute to Woody Guthrie on my blog and it was one of the least popular things I’ve ever written (ha!). I don’t care, I’m at it again, talking about Woody Guthrie. Today, it’s about his idea of a “hoping machine.”

Woody wrote this list—“New Years Rulin’s” he called it—in 1943. It is poignant, folksy, and to the point—true to a much simpler time of life. There are 33 things on his list, and I find all of them meaningful, though some of them I hang on to tighter than others:

  • Keep rancho clean
  • Clean teeth, if any
  • Love everybody
  • Wake up and fight
  • Keep hoping machine running

It’s this last one I want to talk about.

The idea of a hoping machine is something that Woody wrote and talked about often. It seemed to be packed full of meaning for him.

Woody said,

The note of hope is the only note that can help us or save us from falling to the bottom of the heap of evolution, because, largely, about all a human being is, anyway, is just a hoping machine.

He also wrote a song by the hoping machine name:

Hoping Machine by Woody Guthrie

Don’t let anything knock your props out from under you
Always keep your mind clear, let your plans come out of mistakes
These are the plans and nothing can tear down
Made out of things that have already been torn down

Whatever you do, wherever you go
Don’t lose your grip on life and that means
Don’t let any earthy calamity knock your dreamer and your hoping machine

Music is the language of the mind that travels
Carries the key to the laws of time and space
Lonesome train whistling down the silent wail of wind
Life is the sound, creation has been a song

Whatever you do, wherever you go
Don’t lose your grip on life and that means
Don’t let any earthy calamity knock your dreamer and your hoping machine

Out of order

Quick to manufacture their schemes and ideas
Faster than any turn a tide can wash you out
Word is the music and the people are the song
Tomorrows chances feel like a singing god

Whatever you do, wherever you go
Don’t lose your grip on life and that means
Don’t let any earthy calamity knock your dreamer and your hoping machine

Out of order


This past week at church, we read and studied Romans 12. Clay and I are choosing a new home group, so we went to two groups this week, and studied the same passage both times.

Paul is writing to the Christians living in Rome, and teaching them how to live, work, love, and serve together as the body of Christ.

This verse stood out to me against the page full of other words:

Romans 12:12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (ESV)

These three ideas go along together perfectly. If we’re losing hope by the negative circumstances swirling around us, we are probably not being patient through that tribulation, and the likelihood of us being constant in prayer is slim.

Do you feel this like I feel this? I don’t know about you, but my hoping machine has been clunking along on empty, and some days I just didn’t even bother starting it up at all.

I find myself incredibly disheartened—by the things I read in the news, by the state of the world and the alarming things going on in our culture, the detrimental choices our political leaders are making on behalf of us, the obvious corruption, the hatred we act out toward one another, the overflow of our sick and broken hearts hurting others, the callous words I read on social media, the lack of empathy, the lack of love. Even within the church as a whole, I see division and brokenness—the opposite of what God would have for us.

I have noticed that my go-to is often discouragement, worry, or cynicism. I have not been rejoicing in hope. This does not mean I cannot have righteous anger or speak the truth in love,  but rather a deeper focus on and understanding that my hope is in Jesus Christ and the promises of God, not in man or earthly promises.

There is little I can do about the problems in the world today. This is healthy realism—it doesn’t mean I am drifting into apathy. The feeling of helplessness can be overwhelming. I’m just one woman, with two very small children, with my own struggles and limitations. But I can be patient. I can rest in the Lord.

Psalm 62:5-6: Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

and verse 8: Trust in him at all times, you people, pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

If he’s taught me anything, it’s that he is good. If you are having a hard time remembering, write down the measures of his goodness and put it in a place you will see it every single day. God was good when we’ve wondered how we would afford groceries. God was good when I stepped out in fear and applied for a job, knowing I’d be leaving my children every day. God was good when Clay lost his job. God was good when I wanted a divorce. God was good when I got pregnant in college. God was good when I was depressed (and again and again).

There are always reasons to rejoice. The darkest times in my life are the times I’ve lost that hope. I can learn to be patient. I’ve learned more about about others, about myself, and about God when things have been the most difficult, when it felt like I was barley treading water (or worse, drowning). I am eager to learn what comes when I am constant in prayer. 

Romans 12:12 is definitely an area in which I want to grow. Meditating on this verse over the past week has given me a renewed sense of strength, and this is Biblical, too:

Isaiah 40:31: but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.


What things encourage you when your hoping machine is running on empty? How do you stay motivated, engaged, and afloat when your circumstances are painful or challenging?

By Kellie

Kellie is a redeemed woman pursuing vulnerability, color, and hygge. She loves to write, take photographs, play, and learn. She's a marketing specialist by day, a blogger at night... and a mom all the time. Kellie lives in Denton, Texas with her husband, Clay, and their young daughters.