Sunday, December 21, 2008
Thoughts on Faith
This is something I rarely blog about and even more rarely do I talk about it publicly. But.. I have had an interesting year and I want to take the plunge... I want to put it down in words, if I can.
First, we have a new pastor at our church who is challenging us to Walk the Talk (I am a life-long United Methodist). We have badly needed this little burr under our saddle. As a church we are working hard at finding out about ourselves and finding what will work for us as service projects in our community and our world. We've changed a lot and are continuing to work on changing even more. It's hard but exciting!
Second, I went on a life-changing mission trip to Rosebud Reservation in August. How was it life-changing? I simply went to a run-down area and did a few days' worth of physical labor and meeting people. It touched my heart in a BIG way, and I really can't even describe how or why. It was a wonderful combination of seeing people from all walks of life working together, contributing to some tasks that *really* needed to be done, and being 100% welcomed and invited to participate in their community. Also, I got the joy of making new friends from within my own church. We bonded!
Third, I have joined a book club at church. It has been a blessing to be part of this group of women. We're not fanatics about sticking to the book topic, so we spend a lot of time just sharing about our own lives, our joys, struggles, and dreams. We help and support each other. And we read and discuss good books! What a joy!
Fourth, I'm just more reflective now in my middle years, and am learning to cultivate the education and life experiences of my early years.
All four of these things in my life have strengthened my faith and given me JOY that I did not have before. It's like God has touched my heart and made me so glad to be alive. And I yearn for more ways to get involved and to help and to touch the world with what I have experienced.
No, I don't want to proselytize. I just want to be a good person and live my faith, every moment of every day, carrying that Joy with me at all times.. I know I trip up so many times. I blurt out things that hurt people, I forget to be *present* in my moments and to cherish them. I take people for granted. I even sometimes gossip or criticize others. So I in no way mean to say that having stronger faith has made me a perfect person. Instead my faith is challenging me to TRY more often, to THINK about what I'm saying and doing, to HELP people, and to CELEBRATE every minute of my life on this wonderful earth.
I believe that a person who lives a life following Jesus's example is doing what is right and good -- we are all equal and deserving of the same life blessings no matter what faith we are. I believe that all religions strive for the same things: equality, justice, happiness, peace, kindness, helpfulness, shared prosperity, love, brotherhood and sisterhood, and that we worship the same God. One doesn't have to proclaim themselves a Christian in order to strive for all those good things and to make it into Heaven, whatever we believe Heaven to be. I just can't believe in a God who would exclude 2/3 of the world simply because they haven't become Christians (many of them have not even heard of Jesus or have never learned about Christianity - or what they have learned has been completely negative through bad practices of the church). Christianity is what works for me, and Jesus is my teacher and guide in how to live, think, and be. But others can learn to live, think, and be through their own religions, and their lives can be just as "Jesus-like" as anyone else's. The important thing is to keep striving!
As for the un-churched, I feel sad. My own adult children seem to have rejected the church. My son, especially, claims to be an unbeliever. He says instead that he follows a "religion of morality." This just cannot be a bad thing! He is a VERY smart person. I know he has done a lot of deep thinking about God, religion, how one should live one's life. He puts his beliefs into practice, which I truly admire. He believes, for example, that we need to be MUCH better at preserving our earth and being good stewards of our resources. He is a practicing vegan because of some of the land-use and animal rights issues he has learned about. He is a very kind and gentle person. He wouldn't hurt a flea.
So why am I sad when I think about how he has rejected the church? In many ways he is doing a better job of Walking the Talk than I am! I guess it's because I don't know if he has been touched with the JOY that I have found in recent years. And.. it has been the community of the church that has nurtured this in me. It has challenged me. It has offered myriad opportunities to serve humanity in ways I could never have done on my own. It allows me to learn, study, grow, strive... without those opportunities I wonder if I would tend to be a little selfish, too inward looking. I want my children to find the Joy I have found, and to find the community in which it is nurtured. I didn't have it yet at their ages, either. So there is hope. I hope they continue to learn and grow and find the warm JOY in their hearts (God).
I found a fun blog written by a Methodist woman in her 80's. She lives in the UK. She posted this letter to a friend, and I think I'll share it with you all. I know this is a LONG post. If you have stuck with me and read this far, I thank you for listening. These have just been my thoughts as I am at this current stage of my life: age 56 and 3 months, happily married, blessed to have an easy and full life, mother of two exceptionally good and kind people. I know I will continue to learn and grow. Throughout, I hope I can constantly feel the JOY that I feel today.
Now for the Letter to a Friend:
Letter to a Friend
Yesterday, I saw you walking and laughing with your friends; I hoped that soon you would want Me to walk along with you too.
So I painted you a sunset to close your day and whispered a cool breeze to refresh you. I waited - you never called - I just kept on loving you.
As I watched you fall asleep last night, I wanted so much to touch you,
I spilled moonlight onto your face - trickling down your cheeks as so many tears have. You didn't even think of Me;
I wanted so much to comfort you.
The next day I exploded a brilliant sunrise into glorious morning for you.
But you woke up late and rushed off to work - you didn't even notice.
My sky became cloudy and My tears were in the rain. I love you.
Oh, if only you would listen. I really love you.
I try to say it in the quiet of the green meadow and in the blue sky.
The wind whispers My love throughout the treetops and spills it into the vibrant colours of all the flowers.
I shout it to you in the thunder of the great waterfalls and compose love songs for birds to sing to you.
I warm you with the clothing of My warm sunshine and perfume the air with nature's sweet scent.
My love for you is deeper than any ocean and greater than any need in your heart. If only you'd realise how I care.
My Dad sends His love. I want you to meet Him - He cares, too.
Fathers are just that way. So, please call Me soon.
No matter how long it takes. I'll wait - because I love you.
Your friend, Jesus.