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The weather is mocking me: After three days of rain, only the most tentative flicker of sunshine. It’s enough to make a person lose hope. And I have lost it, especially of late. I’ve lost hope in the Sisterhood (you know, that wild idea that women might work together for our own good), in men, in the Church, and in the bright, shiny promise of Democracy. I’ve lost hope that somehow we’re going to pull it together before the effects of global warming smack us in the face with a cataclysmic shout of “too late!”

But it’s okay. Because at the bottom of my Pandora’s box remains one thing — faith in God. And because of this, I can’t lose hope entirely. I have to still believe in the Sisterhood, in men, in the Church, in the bright, shiny promise of Democracy. I even have to believe that maybe we’ll save the planet before it’s too late. But only because I believe in God.

I don’t have to believe that human beings are capable of being fair or loving or vigilant, because God demonstrates over and over that God can work a miracle through the unlikeliest of people. Most saints are saints despite themselves. They are saints because God worked through them. And God can work through any of us.

So while I might be experiencing a dark night of the soul, there’s still some sunlight left in my inventory. And that is the idea of God’s infinite possibility. If you can believe in that, you can never lose hope. Good thing, too, because a life without hope is no life at all.

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I’ve always been both fascinated and horrified by the story of Lot’s wife.  For those of you who don’t remember the story (Genesis 19), God allows Lot and his family to flee the city of Sodom before it is destroyed, but they are warned not to look back.  Lot’s wife looks back, someone had to do it, and she’s turned into a pillar of salt.

Wow.

As a kid, this story really freaked me out. One mistake.  No second chances.  No grace.  Pillar of salt.

As an adult, I’ve come to suspect that Lot’s wife did it to herself. Things had been going downhill in Sodom for a long time.  It was not a nice place and the destruction was coming, but God gave her a chance to escape.  He gave her an opportunity for a new beginning. Instead of moving boldly toward, she looked back.

It doesn’t say so, but I suspect this wasn’t a simple glance.  This was someone whose focus was on the ‘then’ vs the ‘now.’

How often do we do this to ourselves? Whether the problem is flagging membership in the contemporary church, the effectiveness of our schools, or gun violence, we go on and on about how things used to be.

I didn’t realize how debilitating this could be until my son said something the other day.  “When people go on about how bad the schools are, and they’re talking about my school, or how pathetic the church is, and this is the church I go to, they make me feel awful. I’m there. I’m doing my best, but somehow I’m not good enough. I’m not giving up on them but they’re pissing me off.”

He wasn’t talking about people who aren’t part of the school or part of the church.  He was talking about people on the inside. Instead of looking for a way to blossom and grow, like Lot’s wife, we look back. Do it too long and we’ll be stuck that way.

It isn’t an easy habit to break, but it helps that I live with a teenager.  With some serious eye rolling on his part, I manage to get myself turned around and looking for the Path that will lead me to where God would have me go, the path to a new tomorrow.

–SueBE

It’s like this:

You are 1,000 feet up
in the rarefied air
and you step on a cloud
knowing
it will spring up under your feet
like new grass in summer
and bear your weight.

and if not,

Falling, you will reach out
and grasp a branch
of a nearby tree,
and it will stay your plummet.

and if not,

You will find a parachute
on your back
that you did not know you had
and certainly never packed.

and if not,

There will be water beneath you,
a sky-blue invitation,
and you will dive, then rise,
arcing from the waves like a dolphin.

and if not,

You will land lightly as a leaf
in autumn, surprised at the softness of the ground,
and stand, creaky of joint,
but no worse for wear.

and if not,

When the ground is hard,
and your neck snaps like the branch
you could not grab,
even as darkness descends,
your blind eyes will see:
There is a door.
And it will open to you.
 

(First printed in Spiritual Uprising Magazine)

Prayer is a choice. For us to pray to give thanks, or to voice our questions and doubts shows that we are choosing to leave an opening in our spirits. Without this opening, there is no vessel, no place into which God can breathe.
Joanna Laufer

I’ve often wondered if expressing doubt to God in prayer is an oxymoron.  Or even sacrilege.  The whole premise behind praying is that God exists and that He is sovereign. Who am I to throw pebbles at Him and question his ways?

A month ago, I had an exacerbation of MS and came home from the hospital ready to heal. Then last week, I fell down in the hallway and had a setback. I was frustrated, distraught, even hopeless.

As I look back over my life, this is, unfortunately, the way I’ve lived my faith-walk at times as well.

It’s as if I see each challenge as the end of the road.  That’s it!  I’ve had it.  As we say in Jersey, I’m too through. I mean, how can I possibly contribute anything to the world lying here in bed, feet wrapped in Ace bandages, barely able to hobble on crutches?  Even writing a blog post takes forever for me now due to dexterity and visual issues.

The reality is that these are speed bumps.  I’m not able to drive right now, but I’ll drive again at some point.  When I was driving, I wouldn’t throw up my hands in disgust if I had to stop for a red light.  I’d know the light would turn green again. It’s just a matter of time.

Some of the most important discoveries in history came from people who questioned the status quo. The world is flat?  Somebody said, “Doubtful.”  The earth is the center of the universe?  Somebody said, “Are you sure about that?”

Lori is active in the Catholic church, and she’s written about voicing dissent within her faith community. In the news today, Catholic nuns are speaking up, even if the hierarchy doesn’t always listen.

During an intense time a few years ago, I wrote about coming to terms with doubt. I decided that it doesn’t negate my faith in God if I express confusion or doubt.  In the end, it strengthens it, reminding me exactly what I believe and why. Once I’ve worked it out in prayer and in my mind, I can move forward with a measure of peace that I didn’t have when my doubts were unexpressed.

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27

It also helps to know that we’re part of a faith community, and that we hold each other up in prayer, as SueBE said in her moving post last week.  “Simply knowing that people are praying for us is a weight off my shoulders.  I’m not going it alone.”

And that – no doubt –  is the gospel truth.

Center me, Lord,
as I bob and weave,
thrust and parry.

If I just stop these motions of conflict,
I might find the war is already over.

Calm me, Lord,
as I hold onto hurts
and antique grudges.

If I put the past behind me and stay in today,
I might just find the present really is a gift.

Craft me, Lord,
as I haggle with You
to remain where I am.

If I put my life in Your Hands,
I might just find I’m becoming more
than I ever imagined I could be.

I am:

Proud of my confusion.
It makes me a better person.
It forces me to think things through
before I run them by God.

Blessed by my doubts.
They make me widen my world
and not just circle the wagons
immersed in my own little dogma.

Grateful for fits of rage.
It reminds me there are things to stand against
and things worth fighting for.

Pleased to be saddled with the burden of choices.
It means I’m creating my own life,
eyes open, head up, hands clasped, soul first.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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