Even more about faith

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The word “faith” creates many impressions in my mind. From the faith to heal the sick to the faith to move mountains, the common associations come with doing things or seeing them get done. Then there is the faith that is linked to believing things that we cannot prove.

For me, though, the strongest connection to the word “faith” is with trust. Trust that the circumstances I find myself in will turn out alright, or trust that someone else has ultimate control over the universe. This is the kind of faith that I think about the most frequently.

So that then leads to questions about what does trust look like? Can trust sometimes look like inactivity? When is it time to trust and when is it time to take action yourself?

For me I think I know when I have faith at a particular time when I can go to bed at night and leave my concerns behind, or when I can get up in the morning without being preoccupied with the concerns of the future.

And that only comes about when I remember that the Divine One loves me and cares about me.

I hope that you can find comfort in that.

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More about faith

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‘Faith gets excited about change, rather than resisting it’.

You know you are hanging around with some seriously amazing people when, over coffee, a friend says something as profound as this in the course of everyday life. Thank you Cheryl; you are a genius.
This quotable comment is transparent in its meaning, full of wisdom and easily understood.

Let’s take a look at a frequently used comment about faith: ‘Faith is a crutch’. Now, this statement is usually not intended as a compliment, and often insinuates weakness. It is commonly framed in judgements like: ‘She uses faith as a crutch’ or ‘He needs his faith to get through life’.

Well, good on them! She, who knows how to lean on faith when she feels injured or rejected, and He, who knows that life is hard enough without doing it all alone. Both He and She are willing to draw on the strength and faithfulness of a Divine being. Maybe they have come to know through previous experiences that this God/dess is real and active and caring, and, that this Deity can be relied upon in hard times as well as good times. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps they’re onto something!?

There is a beautiful old hymn that I use to love as a child entitled, ‘Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?’. I can’t remember all of the words but I can remember these lyrics from the chorus: ‘We have an anchor that keeps our soul, Steadfast and sure while the billows roll, Fastened to a rock that cannot move, Grounded sure and deep in the Saviour’s Love’ (or something like that).

Call it a crutch, call it an anchor, call it a necessity, call it a strength, call it a weakness. By any other name, it is faith. And I think it is beautiful and truthful.

While we are on the topic of faith, I would also like to propose a statement of my own that you may quote if you consider it worthy of such esteem: ‘Faith is sometimes the only reasonable option’. This comment speaks against the dualistic understanding of the relationship between faith and reason. Our regular readers will be aware that many of our blog posts are concerned with the Science/Spirituality conversation and that we like to play in the ‘middle ground’ of this interaction of synergy. We are well aware that faith and reason can, and should, be used in the same sentence as often as possible.
So, it is with this freedom that I dance the dances of faith and I sing the songs of faith. And, I laugh often because I know that I also hold the crutch of faith for times of injury or weakness. And I know the anchor of faith holds me safe and secure in the rough waters of life.

I would like to finish with a question. Is it reasonable (wise, healthy, intelligent) to reject the gift of faith when it is offered to us? Who knows what that small seed of faith will produce.

Faith

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What is faith?  Can we have too little faith?  Can we have too much faith?  Do we have enough faith?  What, or who, should we put our faith in?  If we have faith in a Divine being, what is S/He like?  Is faith quantitative or qualitative?  What does faith achieve?  Where do you find faith?  How do you get it?  Is it worth searching for?  Or will it arrive as a gift?  Is it something we do?  Or something we choose to receive/reject?  What does faith look/smell/taste/sound/feel like?

I will not attempt to answer these questions.  I guess I believe that anyone who asks such questions probably already has faith.  So, instead, I will walk you through what I think I know about faith:

  • Faith is a unique thing for each person; as unique as the relationship Creator has with each one of us.
  • The character of the God that we have faith in is more important than the faith itself.
  • For me, faith is trusting in the faithfulness of God.
  • ‘God is Love’.  I have faith in this statement and this God.
  • It is impossible to please God without faith.
  • In the Hebrew/Greek sacred text, faith is often talked about in the context of small things (mustard seeds, children) so it is probably more qualitative in essence than quantitative.
  • What can be achieved through faith is talked about in the context of large things like moving mountains, growing big trees, enacting miracles.
  • Maybe we should not ask ourselves, ‘Is my faith big/good enough?’, but instead, ‘What color is my faith? What color is your faith?’
  • To believe that God loves me perfectly, sent Christ to secure my friendship and asks me merely to have an inkling of faith to receive abundant eternal life is probably not too much for me (most days!!).
  • If this is too much for you at the moment, may I suggest you hang with someone who has faith in a God/dess that you want to believe in. Also, spend some time with young children (under 7) because they are our teachers when it comes to having faith.

So, please, don’t make faith harder than it is, and don’t judge another person’s style of faith and don’t belittle your own attempt at faith.  All (and any) faith delights our loving, faithful Creator.  Christians believe that when Christ returns, one of the big questions will be, ‘Is there faith on earth?’

I hope the answer is ‘Yes!’

If you would like to read more about faith, I suggest reading this blog post: Faith so Simple

Redefining masculine

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As we begin a new year, 2018, we look to the future and the possibilities of new opportunities, new priorities, new ways of thinking, new relationships.  Those of us who live in cultures that have been ruled by patriarchal values and structures, are now looking for a new paradigm.  We are looking for a new healthy definition of masculine in our selves, our homes, our relationships, our culture, our world.  This new gender-balanced world view will not be achieved by passivity.  It will be achieved by intelligence, direct goal-setting, clear communication, passion, grace, respect and a genuine desire for equality.

I recommend reading this blog post, written by an amazing young woman called Sascha Hjort:

The Element of Fire

The Living One who sees me

A Christmas gift to our readers written by one of our favourite bloggers…

GinAndJesus

“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’ That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi (well of the Living One who sees me); it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.”

– Genesis 16:13-14

This story is detailing the conversation between Hagar the slave and the “Living One” she encountered at a well as she ran from Abram’s wife Sarai.

As a slave, Hagar had been forced to sleep with Abram and then mistreated by Sarai to the point where she found it better to run away, risking death, than to stay where she was.

Desperate, alone, abused, and fearful.

At this point of extreme emotional trauma as well as dehydration, Hagar met what she deemed to be “God.” She met “the Living One who…

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Knowledge and Mystery

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During our short lifetime on earth, many of us spend our time searching for knowledge, truth and meaning.  In the West, this includes trying to stay abreast of the rapid advances in science and technology.  By doing so, we are able to ensure that our knowledge base is up-to-date and that those we love (including ourselves) are given the best in health, employment, communication and lifestyle.  And, to some degree this is true.  However, in achieving this goal (or focusing too much attention on it), perhaps we have created a dualistic relationship with an important complementary aspect of being human, namely mystery.  Embracing mystery, and understanding that those more intricate aspects of our world are unknown (and, in some cases, unknowable) is achievable for the human being.  We have the consciousness to contemplate life beyond our own experiences and to wonder at the mysteries of the earth, the universe and even entities that may lie beyond the dimensions of this universe.

In every generation there are people who allow mystery, wonder, spirituality to sit comfortably alongside the accepted knowledge-base of their time.  These individuals are aware that such things give meaning to the human life when experienced in balance with the acquisition of information.  They welcome knowledge from the unconscious mind through dreams and meditation.  They allow animals, plants and the earth to impact their lives on a daily basis and expect to learn from these interactions.  And, they regularly find time for solitary stillness to focus their attention on unknowing, wonder and awe.  Some even discover they are not alone.

Life and Death

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I am continuing the series that discusses a selection of polar opposites and takes a look at whether there has to be a duality between them.  In this entry I want to look at Life and Death from a slightly different viewpoint.  I will admit up front that I am no expert on death, having had very few close people in my life die, other than a handful of elderly relatives for whom death seemed to be a natural progression of their existence, albeit a sad one for those who remained.  Still, I have a desire to know more about mortality, mine and others, and perhaps that is because I have not had to encounter it in its full power.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a walk, with a difference, to the top of a mountain. As we walked towards the summit of Mt. Disappointment, we went through a peculiarly fertile patch of forest.  It was on the weather side of the mountain and so perhaps received more rainfall than neighbouring areas, and it probably saw very little winter sun.  The ground was thick with the remains of thousands of years of falling leaves, bark and even tree trunks.  The decomposing mass of vegetation was being consumed by fungi, bacteria and insects.  Our feet were surrounded by the remains of so much death and decay and decomposition.

And yet this death was then the source of life for innumerable species of flora and fauna.  Fungi, ferns, flowers and trees had found life and made home in this rich and fertile environment.  Larger animals fed on the countless insects that had made home amongst the rich source of food.

So what was it?  Was it a cemetery or a maternity ward?  Of course the answer was that it was both.  Death had given way to life and it was impossible to tell where one stopped and the other began.  The Buddhists are familiar with this and teach on the cycle of rebirth.  We in the West have mixed views on death and its finality.  Some see it as a doorway to a better existence while others see it as the final step in our mortal journey.

Today I don’t want to touch on the subject of human death, but rather look at those minor “deaths” that we experience throughout our lives.  Of friendships, of opportunities, of our vocation. Like a few weeks ago, I don’t want to offer empty platitudes, because some of these experiences can be grievous.  But I do want to offer the idea that the death of a previous known experience can, like the forest, become fertile ground for new beginnings.

Perhaps that is what sets us apart from the animals –  our ability to look beyond our immediate circumstances and glimpse a new future.

 

Darkness and Light

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Last time we looked at Night and Day as a metaphor for our spiritual journey and now I want to talk about a similar theme: Darkness and Light.  The reason for this is that I had a minor realisation a few weeks ago and wanted to explore it further.

I have always known in the physical world that there is no duality between light and darkness, that darkness is just the absence of light. Light comes from photons given off by excited atoms or by chemical and nuclear reactions, but darkness has no particle to transport it around.  And yet in some of the world’s religions there is seen to be a force of darkness that opposes the force of light (perhaps God, Love or The Universe).  Is there any parallel there at all?

My realisation was to consider the world from the viewpoint of a source of light.  From this view there will be colour and contrast, shades of grey and varied tones.  But there won’t be a beam of darkness into the world creating “shadows” of its own.  This then made me wonder why we are so intent on binary dualism.  Why, if someone has one view, someone else has to have an opposing view?

The problem is that we like binary dualism.  We like to pit one extreme against another extreme.  It makes for better politics and media reporting.  So we jump into opposing camps in all sorts of imaginary arguments and are apparently forced to be fully attached to one or the other.  Sometimes we may not wish to be so committed to one side or the other, and sometimes there is no “opposite” argument or stance, really just a differing of views.  It is a bit like saying what is the opposite of walking – is it running or sitting?

In the same way in our spirituality, we can be tempted to classify everything into the opposing camps of good and evil.  Instead we could look at people as at various stages of enlightenment, seeing the journey from different angles, called to travel different paths.  This frees us up from deciding if others are “good” or “evil”, and allows us to only compare ourselves with the One.

I am not 100% sure of the parallels between my revelation about the nature of light and its application to the spiritual powers but it did make me aware of avoiding getting sucked in to the perils of binary dualism.

Let there be light!

Night and Day

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You may have seen an image representing the Earth with the Sun’s rays illuminating half and the other half in darkness.  It is designed to show us how day and night move across the globe as a result of the Earth’s rotation, and how the effect changes with our position in our orbit around the Sun. Here is one example:

At any one moment, there are people in darkness and people in light, people moving from light to darkness and people moving from darkness to light.  And, if you wait for the seasons to change, you will see places that are covered with light, seemingly endlessly, and other places experiencing enduring darkness.  Of course, as we continue our orbit, we then move back to a position of more equality and then beyond to a more extreme situation again.

Stepping outside of our very local view of night and day allows us to gain a different perspective on our own journey and orbit.  There are times when we experience light and are able to sense things clearly, and other times when we feel covered in darkness.  Then there are times when we move from one into the other.

It seems to be a natural part of the human condition that we experience a range of situations and environments, that we move through moods and feelings.  It has been this way for all of recorded history.  We know in the plant kingdom that such changes (which we call the seasons) promote growth and allow for fruit to develop and new generations of plants to be created.  In our human world it is probably the same, although we often baulk at the “winters” and “frosty nights” of our own journey.

I am not sure where to take these thoughts.  I do not like simplistic platitudes, nor do I want to give vague and general encouragements that do not allow for the complexities of our lived experiences.  Strangely, I just want to share one line from a John Denver song and I hope that it finds a home with someone reading this:

“Some days are diamonds, some days are stone”

As you view the sun’s passage across the sky today, I hope you find perspective for where you are in your own orbit.

misty mountains

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Land of Misty Mountains

monsoonal rains

infinity of water

in sea, from sky

mist, rain, rivers

on bodies, sweat

then rain, then sweat.

 

Land of constant change

menopausal woman

passion, opinion, change

search for balance

search for meaning

search for truth

enlightenment.

 

Land of acceptance

contentment maybe

or resignation

old and new dance

time-rich culture

some poor; quite

but poverty?

 

Land of kindness

hands on flesh

man/woman equal

children smile

respect for the old

‘sawatdee’

welcome stranger.

 

Land of Misty Mountains

find the truth

and be free;

enlightenment

and be loved

‘khob khan’

thank you

 

(Dedicated to Thailand, after a recent visit)