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Showing posts with label faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label faith. Show all posts

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Trusting His Plan: Thoughts on God and Why Bad Things Happen.

It's nearly Christmastime again maybe appropriately, I watched a movie which made me consider my faith a little bit differently.  It did not really change the core of my faith at all.  However, it gave me/reminded me an answer to the question that I've thought and I've heard many express:

How could a loving God allow bad things to happen?

I believe this can be a tough question for even the most devout people of faith.  Never-mind, those who are highly skeptical of Christianity, Catholicism and the like. God rest his soul, my Dad always would say, if there was really a God...and spout out a grievances in his life.  I would like to think he came to terms with God as his life was winding down, but that's beyond my control at this point. In a way, this is an example of  having to "Trust His Plan".   Anyway, I've heard other people along the way say show similar skepticism.  Either they questions whether God exists--how could there be a God..., questioned His nature or just outright question if He really takes a personal interest in His creation.  I am a man of faith, but even I've had my moments with this very question.

The movie I watched was called The Imitation Game.  To those unfamiliar with the plot, it was based on a true story of Alan Turing and his team's successful efforts to decipher Nazi messages encoded and sent by machines known as Enigma machines.  That is to say, break the code and be able to follow messages revealing information such as German troop and ship locations and movements.  Taking Turing's lead, they eventually were able to build a machine which could quickly decipher Enigma messages.  Given that the settings of the Enigma machines were changed daily, being able to decipher quickly was of paramount important.

Eventually, they were able to 'break the code' as it were.  That is, they were able to decipher the Enigma messages quickly before Enigma setting were changed daily.  In a scene that no doubt took liberties on historical facts, as soon as Turing's machine broke the code for the first time, it revealed the location of the German U-boats.  They were heading for a convey of ships meant to delivery supplies to the British.  One of Turing's team members had a brother in that convoy and he would likely be killed if the Germans U-boats were allowed to proceed unimpeded.  However, as Turing indicated, if the allies suddenly changed course and destroyed the German boats, it would be obvious to the Germans that their Enigma machine was compromised.  They'd then make adjustments which would effectively render the allies efforts ineffective.  Therefore, it was clear then that they could not and should not act on all the messages they'd deciphered.  They statistically determined  how much of the intelligence gleaned from Enigma that they could act upon without giving it away that they broke the code.  Also, they needed to make sure they'd be able to 'leak' a plausible cover story for how they got that intelligence that they acted on.

Given that they couldn't act upon all the information they had, it meant that some people that they could have saved would be allowed to die.  If the public had found out about they were not acting on all the intelligence they had, but didn't know the underlying reason, to them it would have seemed cruel and cold-hearted.  They would ask, how could a responsible government let citizens and allies perish if they had good intelligence on upcoming German attacks.  Effectively, the limited number of people who knew the 'The Plan', would appreciate why they didn't act on all the intelligence they had.  I suspect that even for some of those people, they probably cringed at how cruel it seemed.


My 'weak' understanding of "why bad things happen to good people' such as health issues and tragedies that befall them and sometimes their nations aren't necessarily a result of what they'd all had done or done recently.  Instead, some of it may have been a generational sin.  For example, in our own nation, we've come a long way towards recognizing the equality of people. Discrimination such as with Jim Crowe laws is not legally condoned anymore.  Yet we still have problems in this nation to this day.  My thought was that while I did not participate in the sin of slavery or Jim Crowe, problems and residual distrust that result from the sins of many generations, unfortunately do not just disappear overnight.  In other words, while I might have not participated in the sin, I can't escape the results of it. While I think this answer is sound, I don't necessarily think it can adequately cover 'why bad things happen to good people'.

I remembered in Biblical days, it was common to blame illnesses and problems on the sins of the family.  In John 9:2, Jesus' disciples took their understanding to Him:

John 9:2
His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Jesus knew that that was their understanding was flawed and said in John 9:3.  He knew that he man was 'allowed' to be born blind for a purpose:

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

The Imitation Game and Biblical stories like above really helped me to put it together I think.  In the case above, God's plan was that through the man's blindness, Jesus' healing power could be revealed.  I am not aware of this man's family and their faith, but I can imagine they might have to lean on 'Trusting His Plan" for why their son was born blind.   Similarly, in the movie, the populace had to 'Trust the Plan" for how their nation(s) fought WWII.  In other words, have a strong level of faith that leadership knew what they were doing, even when it might not always appear so.  Leadership could not always reveal the insight they had and why they made the choices they did.  Similarly, as in the movie and the Biblical story, God is aware that He should not reveal everything. It doesn't mean that God is cruel, that He doesn't care, or that He is okay when bad things happen.  On the contrary, by sending His Son to die for our sins, He showed how profoundly He cares for us.  What it may mean though is that there is a reason that we are not aware of why He allows bad things to happen.  In the The Imitation Game, the public was necessarily not aware of horrible choices that had to made to help shortened the war.  As indicated earlier, there was a reason for that.   Perhaps, in our own lives when tragedy befalls us or those close to us, God is aware of the big picture and realizes that for whatever reasons--our inability to comprehend, our unwillingness to accept, the need to defeating evil forces. etc--He cannot reveal His Plan for the big picture.

I guess ultimately for a person of faith the answer has to be to accept that:

  • God loves us and proved it with Jesus on the cross.
  • God hurts with us too.
  • Things may seem cruel or unfair, but as the movie and the Bible story illustrated, there really is a reason or "Plan" behind why things happen, even bad things.  It just is not always for us to know His will in our time.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Faith-based expectations: Hope meets Entitlement

I was talking to a friend today about faith and expectations we have for our lives.  His thoughts were that in approaching our faith and our Higher Power (God), we should be modest in our expectations but be prayerful for what we'd like.  As I thought about for a minute it and occurred to me what he meant:  Entitlement vs. Hope.  That is to say, we should be modest and not be demanding or feel 'deserving' of an excessive amount from our Higher Power--entitlement.  However, it is reasonable for us to hope that we are blessed with good fortune in our lives.  Without even thinking about it, I believe we can take some of the following as entitlements to expect of our higher power:

  • Good or excellent health.
  • Good or problem-free childhood/adulthood.
  • Good job.
  • Good transportation.
  • Good friends/relationships.
  • Good entertainment/times.
  • Good place to live.
  • Good things.

I could summarize all of these things into one phrase: A good life.  Now, in most cases, there is nothing wrong with wanting these things.  That is provided that they DON'T get in the way of our faith (as we understand it) and our civil and moral responsibilities.  In fact, is quite reasonable to want each of these.  Anyway, my friend was saying, inherently there is nothing necessarily wrong with wanting, wishing for, or praying for things we'd like or want or want to happen.  However, we should be careful to avoid slipping into an attitude of 'entitlement'.  When we slip into that attitude we risk the following:
  • Loss of motivation (laziness)
    • If we are feel like we are entitled, I believe we are less likely to put in the work for that which we feel entitled to.
    • This speaks to the old saying that "God helps those who help themselves".
  • Loss of faith
    • If we feel entitled to some or all of the above list just by virtue of being, when we don't get them to the extent that we feel we should, we will tend to feel our faith drained.  In other words, we will tend feel like "He doesn't care" or "He let us down".
      • In a sense we are playing the role of 'God'.  That is to say, behaving as if we know more than our Creator what is best for us or care more than he does.
    • Unfortunately, when our life doesn't go the way we think it should, i.e., "He hasn't provided", we are more likely to decide that we can't count on Him.  
      • This creates a vicious cycle were we tend to exclude our Higher Power and "Lean on our own understanding", resulting typically in less good fortune.  This tends to cause us to blame Him and further exclude Him and the negative cycle continues.
  • (Unhealthy or improper) anger
    • When things don't go the way, we may ask "why He failed us", instead of realizing that we--humanity-have played a role in our own individual and societal failings.  
    • These feelings can lead to poisonous resentment and anger.
    • We need to realize, not everything is going to go 'according to script', but that He usually helps us get what we need.  
    • We need to realize that there are many much less fortunate.

Now let's talk about Hope.  What exactly is hope as I see it.

  • Is usually a health attitude.  
  • Is typically an understanding that we won't always get what we want, but that we will likely get what we need.  
  • Is something that when exercised right is followed by proactive steps in working towards what we want or need.  
  • Is an understanding that both we and our Higher Power play a role in working towards what we want or need.  
  • Is a something that when exercised right is a sense that we aren't 'owed' things, but instead 'blessed' with things.

Ultimately, I guess my takeaway from our conversation was that we need to focus less on what we think we should have, more on what we do have and understand He will provide what we need.  That is to realize that it is not our role to 'expect' or 'demand' of our Higher Power, but instead work along side Him with His guidance to help us meet our needs.  Unfortunately, as I write this, I realize it, like most good advice in life, is easier given than followed.  But, nonetheless...

--  Rich

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Motivated to write thoughts on motivations

I am political by nature, but I normally attempt to refrain from politics in my blogs.  To me, when you are trying to reach out and share what you think are helpful 'self-help', 'introspections', 'observations', etc., the worse thing you can do is antagonize those who might be in your audience. In that vein, I've noticed a number of years ago that people will double down on views that are at best dubious if they perceive you are attacking them personally vs. sharing a different perspective.

I mention all this because I think this blog & the follow-up one because it includes the idea of political correctness.  This blog post will be the first of two, the second one will be about biases called: Biased about biases.

All that aside, I have pondered motivations.  What motivates us to do or not things and/or exhibit certain behaviors?  From my perspective, it usually falls in one of these categories (which I don't think are necessarily completely separate from each other).
  • Fear
  • Face
  • Faith
  • Full of self
  • Feeling good about self

FEAR as a motivator, is pretty obvious.  When your back is up against the wall & when you are afraid of the consequences of your actions or inactions, it can be a powerful motivation.  Some examples.
  • Studying for a test because you are afraid of failing it.
  • Avoiding someone who threatens you or who is threatening to you.  That is fear of getting bullied.

FACE can be a powerful motivator, especially within certain communities.  Sometimes people bravely say things like I don't care what others think, but their actions put lie to the words.  Anyway, trying to 'keep face' is actually based on a specific type of fear.  That is the fear of ridicule, humiliation or being shunned.  Some example:
  • A family to trying to hide a 'family issue', like a spouse's drinking.
  • Parent(s) threatening to cut off their children if they get involved with someone whom they don't approve of.  Especially, if it causes 'shame' in the parent(s) circle or community.

FAITH to me is doing the right thing, even when it is not the easiest or popular choice to make.  It can be tied to a certain 'religion' it is an acquired sense that a certain set of choices are the right thing to do.  In a sense it is adherence to doing the 'right' or 'honorable' thing to do AKA the golden rule.  Some examples:
  • Helping a person stranded on the side of the road change a tire or helping a stranger jump their car even when we are tired and want to be somewhere else.
  • Standing up for an unpopular kid at school.

FULL OF SELF to me means you're motivation is to do what you want because you think you deserve it or are owed it.  Essentially it is a narcissist's motivation.  I don't believe that trying to save face is narcissistic, but I believe that it can be a characteristic of someone who is one.  Some examples:
  • Being demanding due to your status because you believe you are entitled to it.  We've all heard of stories of famous athletes, actors, singers, politicians, authors, etc. treating people around them poorly because they believe that due to their importance, they shouldn't have to be bothered in any way and should be catered to.
  • Shutting others down and showing an unwillingness to entertain another point of view because your so smart or so important that the point of view of others doesn't inherently matter.

FEELING GOOD ABOUT SELF as a motivation can have overlap with faith.  If you are acting on your faith, you will likely feel good about yourself.  That being said, I am talking about political correctness (left or right) and the desire to present or see yourself as a 'good person' because you are thoughtful enough.  As a disclaimer, I think just because something is deemed 'politically correct' doesn't mean that it is wrong.  I just may mean the motivation for it might be off.  Some examples:
  • Pushing what can sell to yourself  is 'thoughtful' agenda to prove you are a thoughtful person.  
    • The agenda itself might be appropriate, but the desire to prove yourself as being the more thoughtful person could be too self-centered.   
    • It could be on the left trying to show how 'tolerant' you are (as compared to others).
    • It could be on the right trying to show how 'patriotic' you are (as compared to others).
  • Pushing extreme tolerance or extreme righteousness to overcompensate for your failings/feelings when the best thing to do would just be to work on yourself or come to terms.
    • This could look like pushing tolerance to the extreme to overcome your discomfort with yourself.  In other words, if I push to make everything acceptable, then I can 'normalize' to myself what I'm uncomfortable about.
    • This could look like pushing extreme religious piety to compensate for your hidden failings.

There are a number of black and whites in life, but there are also many shades of grey with regard to motivation.  To wit: one's motivation(s) may be off, but their actions (or inactions) might be appropriate.  In politics, that can lead to what we call strange bedfellows or people who arrive at the same point coming from a different motivation.  Similarly, people often have mixed motivations that is to say, they may have a more altruist motive for an action, but they also may have a selfish motivation for the same action.  For example, setting up a play date for your kid with a neighborhood kid.  On the one hand, you are giving him or her a great opportunity to socialize.  On the other hand, it can free you up to catch up on your sleep or run an errand just for yourself.


I guess my takeaway from this whole post would be:
  • For people to make sure their motivations are healthy.
  • For people to be honest--especially to themselves--about their motivations.  
  • For people to accept that selfish motivations can be okay from time to time, especially if it doesn't infringe on others and/or if there is a non-selfish motivation tied to their actions as well.
  • For people to not let their hangups guide their motivations, especially if their motivations impose their one-sided view on others.
  • For people to understand that it's okay to have mixed motivations such as trying to help others while feeling good about yourself in the process.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Losing everything else, but keeping ourselves

In a previous blog entry, The Fine Line: Failure takes no effort, success takes a lot of work, I observed that failure is a essentially a default position.  That is to say, failure comes 'naturally' by effectively doing nothing.  Success typically takes a lot of effort.

It occurs to me that a corollary of that point is in this life, if we live long enough, we face profound loss.  Loss is hard to avoid.  Also, even when we gain, it is usually temporary.  Even the 'permanent' gains can lose some of their edge.  In other words, there is always a degree of loss, even profound loss.  However, we don't have to be lost.

I will go over my concept--losing everything else, but keeping ourselves--and give what I see as a backstop to looking at life as hopeless.  First, losing.  On our travels through life many things pass. These are just a few of them:
  • Most people when they are born, spend a lot of time around one or both parents.  We get the attention and love, warmth, the security, the attention of them.  In time, as kids get older, their parents realize that they can't just hold onto their 'little one' forever.  They must allow their little angel to fly.  From the perspective of a kid, it is gaining their freedom.  From the perspective of a parent it is the loss of sharing joy and love with their child.
  • People come and go in our lives.  It is hard to lose someone we thought was our friend.  Sometimes, it is in a dramatic destructive fashion. Sometimes, people just drift apart. Other times, they just stop reaching out or back to us and we don't know why.  Even when it is not a dramatic exit, it the sense of loss is still present when friends just move away or fade out.
  • Loved ones pass away.  It can be the loss of those very close such as close family or friends.  It could be a friendly familiar face.  It could be a beloved fixture in the background we never got to meet such as Carrie Fisher.  Regardless, a passing still has a sting to it.
  • Our youth, our energy, our health fades.  The carefree nature of youth is lost to adult problems to where we miss the romanticized version of our youth.
These things, if we let them, can make our glass seem half-full or less.  These things can make us seem like we've lost more than we've gained or have.  But, I have learned in a much less dramatic fashion than Job, Anne Frank, or MLK that there is one thing that we can only lose--and therefore feel lost--if we choose to give it away or let it go.  That one thing is OURSELVES.

We can lose a lot in our lives, but we won't lose ourselves and be lost if:
  • We keep our self-respect and dignity.
  • We keep our honor.
  • We keep our basic sense of fairness and decency.
  • We keep our sense of who we are (our roles).
  • We keep our faith and purpose.
  • But most of all we keep our relationship between us and God (our Higher Power). All else flows from this.
So, let this world and this life try to keep us down.  Let this world and this life try and defeat us. We can lose everything, but we are only truly defeated and lost if we lose ourselves.  

* If you like this blog post, I think you'll like:
Always darkest before the dawn: Cleaning requires a bigger mess first

In the spirit of a man who lost everything (his life), but did not lose it all.  MLK kept his pride...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Some journeys are meant to be traveled alone, but with faith they aren't truly alone

I was talking to my fiance last night and she expressed concern for a family member's well-being.  Those who know what I am talking about will know what I mean.  But, to those who don't just say a prayer.

Anyway, unfortunately, life was humming along until 2009.   I'm not saying it was humming along great or that it was problem free--in some ways the problems were hidden.  Anyway, if you'd have told me that next 6 years would be a complete shakeup, yet I'd survive, I'd have thought you were nuts.  But that's just what happened.

It's hard seeing a loved one hurting, especially when it is a situation beyond their control.  Sometimes, we just want to reach in and help them out or point them to an easy solution.  But, sometimes there isn't an easy solution. Sometimes, we just want to find the right words to say, but sometimes there aren't the right words to say.   That's the perspective of the witness to the loved one who is hurting.   It's a helpless feeling...

When we are hurting--whether it is heath issues, the loss of a loved one, the destruction of a marriage, the loss of full-time custody, the loss of our beloved residence, etc--we sometimes wonder when the good times will come back (or if they ever will). Sometimes, like Christ we have to bear our cross and often we have to bear it alone.  We should remember that He bore the weight of world on his shoulders.  He suffered temptations, He suffered pain, He suffered heartache, He suffered a death of the flesh and he at the moment of His greatest suffering, He suffered separation from the Father.  Yet, despite it all, He lives!  

This is not to diminish and say our present suffering is nothing comparatively, but rather to give us hope if the Son endured and came out triumphant, perhaps with the Father's help, we can too.

At the moment of His greatest anguish, His disciples could not be there for Him.  They were weak in the flesh.  They could not stay awake for Him and they were frightened to identify with Him.  In a way, they didn't have what it took to be there for Him.  Often we have those moments too.  We feel alone and we feel that no one in our circle can understand our present suffering.  Perhaps that is true, but knowing, just as there was tomorrow with Jesus during his present suffering, we can rest assured that better days are ahead if we endure.

We may feel like the song below, especially when there is no one there who can truly understand, but if we put our faith in God, He will hope us through the tough times.  It hurts to travel alone, but sometimes it is a necessary self discovery step and if we rely on the Father, we are never really truly alone.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Wanting to be somewhere else in our lives and the role of faith.

One time when I was talking with my daughter, it occurred to me that we spend a lot time throughout our life, wishing we were at a different point of our life.  In other words, the grass will be or was greener at a different point. Now, descriptions of each stage and the longings at each stage, doesn't apply to everyone and experiences differ, but I believe on onto something.  So, without further ado, i bring you the stages in our lives and how we could wish for them to be different.
  • When we are real little kids we look up the elementary school kids and wish we were one of the 'bigger kids'.  We want to be able to ride on this ride or do this activity, be stronger or faster, etc.  
  • When we are young kids, we look to the teenagers and see that they can drive, they can go to more grown up movies, they can stay at home by themselves, they can date, etc.  We see the freedoms they have and wish we could be a big kid.  We won't necessarily see the responsibility that goes with being an older kid.
  • When we are teens we wish an adult so we can live on our own, be able to work full-time or go away to school, etc.  In other words, we are striving for the adult level perks.  We like the perks, but may not be thrilled with the responsibility that comes with them.
  • When we are a young adult under 21, many look forward to 21 as a right of initiation.  We look to be able to go just about to any club or any place we want.  In some cases, we look at those in high school as 'kids' and we are glad we are grown up.  We yearn to be taken seriously as grown-ups, but are not always at this point, especially if we still have parental dependence. 
  • There is a period starting in our  early to middle 20s, especially if we have our first job out of college or have been working for a while when we really start to feel our oats.  For many, it is being able to do just about whatever we want and not having to answer to many people, except maybe an occasional parent or peer group concern.  But, relatively speaking, we have our freedom and a paycheck and can do what we want.  While some have already worked on finding that 'lifelong' relationship, for others it is the time in which we have started to move away from fun dating and have started really started to want to find that lasting grown-up relationship.  From what I see, this period has the potential to be the happiest. However, for some they have lifelong career ambitions that can usually only be achieved with time.  For them, there is impatience to be a little older.
  • Then we hit our 30s.  For some this is a good thing as we are able to really start hitting some of our career ambitions.  For others, it is an 'oh crap' moment in which we realize that we aren't so 'youngish' anymore.  By this time, many are married and have started families.   Now we have to be responsible.  The carefree days of childhood and still free days of young adulthood have yielded to the realities of having to be a responsible spouse/parent.  In some ways, while thirtysomethings may be happy in their marriage/family, there is sometimes a wish for the freedom/carefree nature of our younger years.  In other words, there is some yearning to be a little younger.
  • For me at 36 I realized that I was on the wrong side of the 30s.  In my early to mid 30s, I felt I was close enough to my 20s that I could consider myself close to a 20 something.   To a high schooler, I would start to seriously look like Dad this point and less like the cool older brother.  By 36, the delusion was over.   I wasn't anywhere near old, but I wasn't exactly close enough to my young adulthood to be part of the 'cool crowd'.  To a teen, I'd be starting to look old though.  To myself, I'd realized that I am closer to 40s than to 20s.
  • For me hitting the 40s was like oh well.  I mean what's the difference between 39 and 40.  From what I see, not much.  I was the age that I thought was old when I was a teen.  I still could hold onto the delusion that I wasn't starting to get old.  That delusion's end comes later.  For some in the 20s and 30s, our body starts saying, "Hello, I have issues".  But, in the 40s our bodies tend to kick this to a higher gear.  Recovery time is longer, we just don't have the flexibility that our kids have.  While they are playing and running, while we are looking for the bench to sit on and watch.  Still, relatively speaking we are not old. Many are established in their career, but we still wish we had the stamina and spunk of younger years.
  • Later 40s.  The 40s have been said to be the new 30s with advancements in healthcare.  But, we are realizing now that the delusion of being the new 30s will end soon anyway.  We are seriously edging closer and closer to being able to receive AARP benefits.  In other words, society has in way started to let us know that soon we will be welcomed to the old person's club.  We start to really reflect on how far away we are from high school/college.  Our parent's health often seriously starts to deteriorate then and in some cases, they have died by this point--leaving us to feel like oh wow, we are the family elder(s).   We start really missing the younger years.
  • In our 50s, we are telling ourselves, well at least I'm not a senior citizen.  But, to the youth culture, we are looking  like or being seen as "grandma/grandpa".   In many cases, we start really recalling the 'old days'. To younger people, before your time, is unfortunately a saying we are uttering more and more.  We in some cases, wish we had the wisdom of now with the body of a younger person.  For some, we are 'old', for others we don't want to give up the delusion.  Our kids, whom in some cases have already started leaving before this, are growing up in droves by now.  Our parents start leaving us behind in droves, leaving us to realize we are the family leader generation coming of age.  Once again, we miss more and more younger years.
  • Our 60s - literally now we are senior citizens and by this time most people, if they are to be grandparents are that by now.  We like the grandkids, but we enjoy that we don't have to watch them at the end of the day in most cases.  As our kids have become well established in their own life, we really really sometimes long for the younger years.  Friend of ours, who in some cases have died before this, are dying more often now.   Some still have parent alive, but most or many of our parents have passed on, leaving us as the older generation.   In any case, we start to really strongly consider our own mortality, assuming we aren't in denial.   We see our younger years as a distant memory by now.
  • 70s and beyond - We start to look at 50s and even some in 60s as 'young'.  If we are 'lucky' to have made it here, we have lost a lot of people.  We realize that in many cases, we are nearing the end and reflections/regrets that might have really evidencing themselves in our mid to late 50s and 60s just become more and more common now, presuming we still are mentally with it.  Clearly a younger version of ourselves with the knowledge we've gained would be desirable at this point.
Anyway, the conclusion, I have come up with after assessing the different points in our lives is that for much our life, unless we have faith and the hope that goes with it, seems to be a struggle.  We long to be a different age then we are much or most of the time.  There are struggles/frets at each stage.  There may only really a short window at best in which we are 'truly happy' with our age.  FAITH is a tool by which can hold on through the rough periods and realize happiness in every period and have hope for the future.  

If we look through a glass half full perspective, there is always something we have to do or are not allowed to do at the various stages of our lives.  It is easy to overlook the responsibilities we are exempt from due to age--working for a living, paying bills, etc. It is also easy to overlook the things we can do at our age, that we can't necessarily do at other ages. Things such as riding kids ride, easily climbing and jumping and running as kid.

For me, my Christian faith has helped me to accept the stages and roles of my life, though not perfectly.  For example, I'm in my late 40s and instead of seeing managing the affairs and expenses of the passing of my parents as a burden, I can see it as an honor that they trusted me.  In my younger years, it helped me see that I have the freedom to do things without the burden of responsibility that comes with adulthood such as how will I pay for my needs.

It is inevitable that from time to time and at different points in our lives that we wish we were at a different stages.  It is also inevitable that at times, we look forward to stages in our lives idealistically or back on stages in our lives selectively.  However, what is not inevitable that we stay in the past or impatiently wish for the future.  With faith and hope, we can learn to appreciate the moment and stay in it most of the time as needed.

Just some thoughts....

Sunday, March 1, 2015

How we come to our faith

I made an earlier post about accepting people where they are.  I believe a corollary to that one is how we come to our faith. It is Sunday morning and my church called off services this morning.  So, I think I will take the opportunity to give attention to my faith and show praise by blogging about faith.   (originally blogged on 3/1/15)

People have different paths to and different speeds at which they come to their faith.  I will share a little about my path and then express how I see the faith of others developing and growing.

My path:

  • Early years-when I was born my mom and dad were going to a Catholic church (St. Sabina).  I don't ever remember going to church there, but I was of course just baby.  At some point they stopped going, but it apparently wasn't until I was at least 2.  I had Guillian-Barre Syndrome at that age and my parents did not know if I was going to make it or not.  I obviously did make it, :), but in the process of preparing for the possibility that I didn't, they had me baptized Catholic.
  • Fast forward a few years later maybe.  My dad didn't go to church and my mom didn't know how to drive.  She went to a church around the corner from our house.  It was a hellfire and damnation church, where you'd go to h*ll for breathing the wrong way.  Literally, I was taught the FEAR OF GOD.  I remember hearing from the minister's family that Escape to Witch Mountain was devil driven.  I call that "uptight religious".  I don't remember enough about the movie so I won't comment too much except to say that perhaps it wasn't 100% consistent with Christian beliefs??  However, I really have a hard time believing a Disney Kid's family fantasy movie is trying to undermine the basis of the Christian faith.  But, I digress.  So, I had my Christian faith "shocked into me" at around 6.  I would figure later that that's what I needed.
  • This below is why I needed that "shock," I didn't have the most healthy environment growing up and I won't go into that as I have previously, but let's just say among other things, from the age of about 8-12 (to my best estimate) I was sexually molested by a man whom my older siblings met at church camp.  He was a "church camp counselor" and became a friend of the family.  So, along with the other dysfunction that had a destructive effect in my life.  I'm setting this up for my later in my story. 
  • At some point my mom stopped going to the church and started going to First Christian Church of Florissant.  I don't remember the transition.  Anyway, my brother Bill and I in the meantime  grew up to become runners in high school.  Both the boy's and girl's cross country coaches were Believers and they ran a chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  The coaches let us know about it and an older teammate invited us to come.  So, eventually we did.  They genuinely cared about the spiritual well-being of their athletes and were there as mentors.  Sometimes, just being yourself you can affect the lives of others for generations to come without really appreciating it, but I digress. Anyway, ultimately this lead to my brother Bill and I going to church with my mom, accepting Jesus and being baptized in our Sophomore and Freshman year of high school, respectively.
  • As you might imagine, life didn't suddenly become easy and problem free at this point.  As a new Christian, I was disappointed that other Christian teens weren't always so accepting and warm towards me. But, at the time, I saw them as non-caring.  Even at times, I saw some people act a certain way on Sunday, but on Monday-Saturday, a different way.  Around that time my dad filed for divorce from my mom.
    • People, especially young, go through their own battles, teen angst, and their own pace of growth and maturity in their faith.  At the time, that wasn't so clear.  I was looking for acceptance among whom I thought were my Christian peers and was 'let down'.  However, there were a couple people that were there, but in my teen mind, it wasn't near the degree of acceptance or fitting in that I needed, especially given turbulence on the homefront.
    • I tend to be very intellectual.  But, at the same time, I have an emotional/passionate side.  So, the disconnect, between behavior and deeds got to me.  I don't know how, but I think God blessed me with a certain understanding.  1 + 1 = 2.  It doesn't matter if everyone around me acts like, 1 + 1 = 3 in their daily lives, the fact is that 1 + 1 will still equal to 2.  In other words, God is God and the truth is the truth REGARDLESS of if others don't live up to their professed faith of it.  What I have come to realize is that if you live a life very inconsistent with your professed faith, it doesn't discredit your faith, but it will make you compromised spokesperson for it.
    • No one can live a perfect life, which I felt awful when I failed, almost hopeless about my faith.  What I came to realize is that forgiveness doesn't end when you take up your faith, it is an ongoing process of trying to be a more Godly person while asking forgiveness when you fail.
  • I transferred to UMR (Missouri School of Science and Technology) and stopped going to church and fell away.  It is easy when you are around those who you know from church and those who might keep you accountable, meaning they'll point out when you are not at church.  But, what happens when you leave that environment?  My faith wasn't strong enough at that point to stay active in the or a Christian church.  
  • Fast forward, I was not happy in my job/life.  Not exactly at a high point.  A Christian coworker, shared his faith with me, I was polite but in my mind, I was like, "leave me alone".   Not that day or not that week, but eventually his words did get my attention.  I was about 26/27 and started going back to church and more actively practicing my faith.  It was it this time, I gave my second major push for understanding why I believed what I believe.  I did extensive bible reading and got a number of books on the foundation, basis, evidence, and rationale for why to believe Christianity.  This was an important push as my point below as will be evident later.
  • Shortly, after going back to church, I had started dating seriously with the intent of eventually finding a mate.  After many disappointments, which I may recount elsewhere one day, I stopped going to my church and went to a girlfriend's church.  Eventually, when we broke up and I felt homeless with regard to a church and I drifted again.  I met my now ex and she not only didn't share my faith, but she didn't seem like she was not open to it as for reasons, I never fully found out.  I'm not one to judge a person's faith walk.  I feel that is up to God, not me, but as it affected me, we were not even in the same zip code in terms of faith and it appeared that there was no path towards sharing a faith.   
  • We moved in together, then got married a couple years later.   This, in hindsight was a HUGE mistake.  I should have waited until I got married to move in.  But, that's a whole different blog on why I think felt like that was a bad idea.   Anyway, so without going into detail, we had a lot of problems in our marriage,  I had not yet got counseling for the hurt, dysfunction and the pain of my childhood.  I didn't practice my faith like I should have.  We were too different to make it in our marriage, but I do have a daughter out of the marriage, so I don't regret the role marriage played in my life.  It was a chapter with good points and bad points, but as a friend said it was a chapter and chapters eventually end.  I strive the next time for a continuing story rather than a chapter, but I digress.
  • Near the end of our marriage, I realized how lost I was in my faith and how I wasn't giving my daughter a chance to learn, understand, appreciate and accept my faith.  So, I asked one of my childhood friends which church he went to.  Eventually that led me to Harvester Church of the Nazarene where I practice my faith today.  Currently, I'm working on sharing my faith with Olivia and hope one day she comes to embraces it in the way that she is meant to.  Anyway, the previous push I made for understanding the basis for my faith was important here as I am better able to reconnect with it and answer questions my daughter has on Christianity.
  • In my life, it was important to have the shock treatment of faith given to me early so that my faith would survive the early turmoil and turmoil over the years.

So, that is my path to my faith.  It is a long and winding one with high peaks and steep valleys, but in the end, I am working my way to being where I know I need to be.

As with the previous blog about accepting people where they are, people are in different places in their faith or Christian (Catholic) walk.  I believe in God's eyes we are all His children and He is a loving Father.  I am of the belief that He loves all his children and doesn't think one is more important than the other, we just play different roles.  So, I am not here to judge, but I will let that be His role.

I'm probably missing some paths, but this is my initial assessment on paths to our faith  of our adultlhood:
  • Some people grow up in a two parent household in which both parents are serious in their faith and show it in their everyday life.  The kids have a certain luxury of being able to follow their parents initially and the jump to a strong Christian/Catholic faith of their understanding as they get a little older.
  • Some people grow up in a two parent household in which there are deep inconsistencies such as the following or they grown up in a broken home in which both parents practice their faith. They have some appreciation for Christian/Catholic faith but their are obstacles:
    • One parent goes to church another doesn't.
    • One parent strongly practices his/her faith, while the other doesn't.
    • Both parents go to church for apparent show, but during the week they don't seem to live their professed faith.
    • The divorce/separation of the parents is inconsistent with the concept of a strong/loving/united Christian household
  • Some people grow up in broken households or single parenthood in which 'going to church'/Christianity is practiced actively by one, but not by the other (if the other is even present).
    • Child takes the faith of the active one, but there is a disconnect with the missing parent or parent who is in not active in the faith.  This can cause obstacles.
  • Some people grown up in households (single/two parent) in which a Christian/Catholic faith is rarely if at all practiced.
    • There is little spiritual basis in the immediate family for the child to grow up with a strong faith.  
Ultimately, some have it 'easy' to finding their faith, some have it more challenging and some have it extremely difficult.   This also relates to not just having a Christian/Catholic faith, but rather how strong their faith is.  


Ultimately, it is not up to us to judge where others are, it is God's role. If relating your faith to another is important,  be aware that not everyone is in the same place, nor will they have the same set of beliefs, and everyone has different routes to their faith.  It is important to respect our where each other is and the routes/obstacles each of us has had along the way.