“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Belief and faith are words that tend to be used interchangeably in many religious circles, but I think of them differently. Belief is the holding of a mental proposition to be true. Faith is trusting in something or someone even without proof.
For me, belief comes from the head. Faith comes from the heart.
My work group recently began reading some of the scripture passages from the Daily Office Lectionary each morning as part of a group prayer time. Even though we do not follow the Morning Prayer service (we just do the scripture readings and offer prayer for those in our lives who are in need), this practice gradually led to me resuming the practice of doing the Evening Prayer service on my own each night and now to doing full Morning Prayer on weekend mornings.
As I’ve begun this latest journey through the dark lands, I’ve been struck by how often the liturgy of the Evening Prayer service talks about light and darkness. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising since it is intended to be read during the hours when day shifts into night, but I had not really noticed this language before now.
I’m having computer difficulties tonight that are preventing me from writing a full blog post, so I’m not even sure that this will go through. Just in case I am able to get something out, I am posting a quote that I recently came across that expresses well my own experience and thoughts. I hope you find it as comforting and inspiring as I do.
I’ve spent the weekend reading theology books of various kinds. Some were academically oriented books that went right over my head. Others were written for the rest of us (without formal theological training) that I could understand.
Some of what I read I found myself agreeing with. Some made me uncomfortable because it stretched me in areas where I’d rather stay within in my comfort zone. Some (not much) I just flat-out disagreed with. And some I couldn’t even pretend to understand.
I love stories. In a world that values bulleted lists of quick tips, 5 steps to whatever goal you want, and easily digestible summaries of clearly stated “truth,” I find my eyes glazing over, and I go searching for stories. Stories, for me, are where the richness lies.
Truth doesn’t live (for me) in easily absorbed sound bites. It’s always found hidden in the complexities, the messiness, the paradoxes, the mysteries inherent in people’s stories. And that’s why those places draw me again and again like a magnet.
One rich source I’ve found for stories, particularly those that explore faith in the context of real life that filled with doubts and struggles and questions, is a site called A Deeper Story. It’s now divided into three sections of stories: A Deeper Story, A Deeper Family, and A Deeper Church. I chosen four posts from this site that have really captured my attention in recent months to share them with you. If you are also a lover of faith stories, you just might find this site to be a treasure trove!
Now that I’ve heard and accepted my body‘s message, the challenge is finding a way to live into that decision in a way that is respectful to everyone involved, including those who are depending on me. As I think about ways to do this, I keep finding myself pondering an age-old (for me) question about handling seemingly impossible situations: Is it appropriate to just “turn it over to God” (as is so often urged) and wait for God to create a miraculous solution, or is it more appropriate to move into action searching for possible solutions and pray that God works a miracle in the doing?
Those who would urge the former would suggest that it is in the waiting that we demonstrate our trust and that our attempts to take action on our own constitute a lack of trust in God’s ability to act. Those who would urge the latter would suggest that it is in taking action that we put ourselves in the path of God’s movement making ourselves available for whatever plans God may have. And besides, it seems incredibly lazy for me to sit back and do absolutely nothing to attempt to solve a problem that I created and expect someone else to fix it for me.
I happened across an Epiphany blog post today from Dick Staub, which went by the rather amazing title of Epiphany: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Use words only if necessary. Not only am I late in finding this post for this Epiphany (which was last Sunday), this post was actually from last year’s Epiphany! But given the fact that I recognized a couple of my favorite quotes in that delicious title, I just had to take the time to read it.
I’m really glad I did, and I suspect you will, too. It’s really good well-written. (And full of quotes from some of my favorite authors!)
I’ve spent much of the day reading Phyllis Tickle’s latest book, Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters, in preparation for a book discussion that I plan to attend later this week. Although I’ve heard the term, this is my first real introduction to Emergence Christianity, and Tickle does a beautiful job of explaining the cultural and historical forces that led to this form of Christianity, the characteristics that belong to this group, and the variations that can be seen within the movement—and it’s all done in easy-to-read, nontechnical language.
It’s a great book, and I’m learning a lot. But reading it has also been an uncanny experience.
When I was younger, I used to believe that God had a perfect plan for our lives. Our job was figure out what this plan was and get with the program.
I believed that there was one perfect spouse for each of us, one perfect career path, one place we were to live, one church we were to attend, one choice in every situation that was right. All other choices were wrong and disobedient. This put an awful lot of pressure on every decision to make sure it was the one perfect one.
It used to really frustrate me to think that God had laid out this perfect plan that I was supposed to follow, but that I wasn’t given a copy of the checklist for ever decision I faced so I’d know which one was right. It seemed so unfair. To top it off, I often heard it said that God would call you to whatever you were least suited (in skills and personality) to do, so if you were actually good at what you were doing or you enjoyed it, it was a sure sign that you were on the wrong path.
On the last day of my Introduction to Hebrew Bible/Old Testament class before the final exam, we had a class discussion about what it means to us to say that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Given the wide range of denominational and theological backgrounds that students bring to class, it was not surprising that our opinions differed on this topic.
It’s probably also not surprising that I was the outlier in urging caution about placing too much reverence in the Bible. It’s not that I don’t value the Bible—in fact, I do very much, and this course I just finished helped me to value it even more—it’s that I believe that it is a text that provides its greatest benefit to us when we are able to wrestle with it and question it. Much like the Zen Buddhist saying that cautions not mistaking the finger pointing at the moon for the moon, I believe that the Bible should point us toward a relationship with God and not become the object of our worship itself.
I’ve seen too many cases where the Bible (or one’s interpretation of it) has become such an object of worship in itself that it leads to the text being used a weapon against others or can lead to driving others away from Christianity altogether because of the misuse of the text. Today, I’ve collected a few links from people who express similar concerns with how we treat the Bible.