Modern Faith is Finding Peace With One’s Self

I spent the first half of my life in pursuit of an imagined horizon. My carefree spirit some sign of freedom, but when the soul is tethered the journey is but a few leagues forward and several leagues back.

My pursuits were pleasing and the end resulted in a shadow of what might have been. My faith was shallow as was my spirit. I reached for a shore that did not exist, a mirage composed of anger, regret, and jealousy. I found no solace because I was not honest with myself or with others, closing myself from the love being offered.

My faith is now stronger in both God and in myself. I realize that faith should result in a peace with one’s self. Gone is a need to please, to possess, or to achieve and in its place lies a deep ocean of eternal possibilities.

My 47th year started with a stroke – an awakening – and the year’s journey, not perfect, but smooth and gentle. I am only ever promised one day and the only request of my faith is to love and to be kind, making the next 48 years or four days (whichever) richer and more fuller.

“Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.” ~ Meister Eckhart

Modern Faith is Being Responsible for Believing​

Listening to an interview with Daniel Kahneman, Nobel prize winner in Economics, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, and a psychologist/founder of Behavioral Economics, has a wonderfully lucid and profound take on our rational, or lack thereof, and our ability to ask easy questions whose answer requires little energy.

Struck by one such question: “Is there a God?” Kahneman says it is not a very interesting question, but, “Why I believe in God?” is.

Wanting to respond and finding that the latter question requires something more than a reflexive response, I went back in time, which Kahneman says we do unconsciously, and found my initial belief half-chosen by me, half by the church, and still another half being influenced when the question was asked.

  • He forgave.
  • He loves.
  • He saves.
  • He gave.
  • He healed.

My attention is drawn to the passivity of the answers that hold God accountable for my belief in Him. These responses rely on God’s to keep me safe, well, and filled with abundance. If my expectations are not met then my answer to the former questions is ‘no’ (as previously illustrated).

I believe in God because he is my anchor. When I turned my back on God I drifted from pleasure to pleasure, unapologetic for the darkness I caused or witnessed. My soul had no source from which to find guidance, sustenance, or hope.

Modern faith requires a union with God, not as an unquestioning, wanting child, but as an active seeker using belief to form a spiritual identity to be of service in God’s world. It is through my choices and my behaviors with others that I prove and sustain my belief. It is not God’s responsibility to keep me a believer and in that my anchor holds.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Heb 6:19

 

 

Modern Faith is an Active and Welcoming Community

When I left the church I was overwhelmed by messages of shame and guilt because of desires that I scarcely understood and could not eradicate; a homosexual outcast no longer a recipient of God’s grace or love, a fugitive eliminated by laws and walls. I left God and the church because, at that time, they were one and the same and neither wanted me.

Woods along Columbia River Gorge, Portland, OR.

I no longer knew who I was. I surrendered to preach when I was 15 and dedicated myself to pursue God’s calling. “Why did God make me a homosexual?”  No answer came and there was no refuge. So time rooted my soul in anger and hate, which was only resolved through a lonely struggle to forge an understanding of a God of love.

Finding a community of faith has been a greater challenge. I am not the only one to feel left out of the church. Exclusion, hate, and indictment remain common as  ‘Evangelicals’ and ‘Christians’  weaponize faith, scavaging the Bible for power and justification with little reason used to filter or recognize the greatest commandment – love your neighbor – love God.

The modern church is a living, active example of love and service manifest in the examples of Christ, who never met a whore, leaper, or any other type of sinner he did not seek to understand, forgive, and love.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation always be full of grace; seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Col. 4:5-6

Church walls, those of brick and those of Bible are not meant to keep others out. Modern faith actively seeks those in need and provides them with kindness, generosity, and love.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Gal 5:14-15

Be patient in your search because you will find your community.

 

 

Modern Faith is Seeing the World from God’s Perspective

I struggle with the world; the elections galvanized a world teeming with anger,

Mountains of BC outside Vancouver.

mistrust, and judgment. I chose to isolate, probably hide, from the overwhelming negativity.

I continually asked myself, “How do I respond to what I see and what hear and not judge, and not hate, and not give up?”

My answer came from Henri Nouwen and his book titled Discernment, Reading the Signs of Daily Life. As Christians, we have the opportunity to see, to appreciate events and actions from the perspective of God. This concept frightened me because I am not God, how do I know how He/She perceives the world. How do employee this idea?

My answer was found reading chapter 6 in the book of Luke (NIV), the Sermon on the Mount provides filters for our actions in this modern world.

  1. Poor/kingdom – Not the amount of money you may or may not have, but how we let (money/power) separate us from God’s spirit and compassion for others.
  2. Hunger/satisfied – As stated, the result of  “hunger”  is not ‘feed’ but ‘satisfied.’  The state of our world should drive us towards faith, to be filled with light and not starving because of revenge or malice, which is never satisfied.
  3. Weep/laugh – Anger is a reaction, and it can be powerful when acted upon in the right spirit.  Sadness and empathy can shape a response that sees and honors the need for everyone and possibly causes less stress for self.
  4. Hate vs. love – Hate separates us from the spirit of God. Determine if the action or message is one of light or one of darkness.

It is a long sermon and there is more to be found, but this is a beginning and when reading the news or observing the actions of others, I feel I can begin to see as God might see. not from a place of power or winning, but from a need to understand; to see if the action or message brings me closer to God or separates me.

Luke 6:45 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Modern Faith is Living God’s Purpose

Crossing

When I left Nike, I sought peace and reflection expecting no burning bushes or thunderous voice, but time to renew a mind, a body, and a soul weary from selfishness and isolation. Seeking implies I knew what I was looking for: I did not, rather I recognized that my purpose had that sticky, filmy residue of time that makes it so difficult to see.

The change I needed required more than cosmetics, but a commitment to listening and connecting with God, not only in theory or some spiritual hoodoo but an earnest repentance cleaning the wax from my ears and the film from my eyes. Only then could I discern a direction.

I spent a great deal of time reflecting and listening, recording my conversations with God, the community of faithful at a monastery, and friends and family. My walk is alone only if I choose to make it so. With love from all sides, I let go of my sins/faults/choices and graciously acknowledge that these had to occur in order to serve God and man in full.

To have God central is to let go of ego and pride, which held on to the very end.  The fears that plagued me removed and the breath of new beginnings arousing my steps forward. I emerge with fresh eyes and a willing heart patient to know what comes next.

“Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, And rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19 (NKJV)