Tag Archives: Faith

“Fear is a natural reaction to fear” – Truth explored

It’s been nearly 2 years since I last wrote. Much has transpired in that time, and trust me when I tell you it’s been an unsettling but awesome journey. New friendships, a huge career shift, it’s been a roller coaster, but it’s been wonderfully transformative and I’m in a better place as a result of it all.

I’ve actually felt a little… it’s hard to describe, but like I should have been writing during that time; though I didn’t feel fully compelled or motivated. I have several topics I’ve wanted to write about in that time, but the timing or words simply didn’t seem right.

That said, over the years, I’ve been asked many times to write a book, and it looks as though I may just do that. I’ll keep you posted, but I finally have a title, vision and theme in mind which is more than I’ve ever had before. It’s still coming together, but at least there’s theme and structure now and for that I’m grateful.

In part, this post may well become part of a chapter in the book.

This morning, a friend shared something with me which made me stop and carefully think. Considering my prologue, you might say I’ve not done that for two years.  While I’ve come close to writing more than a few times during that period, today I felt the full weight of motivation and inspiration… so here I go.

My friend sent this text:

“Good Quote… Fear is a natural reaction to fear”, to which I replied, “I’ll have to consider that quote.”

“…. Oops”, was their reply so I responded with, That’s a good thing… It’s the sort of thing that inspires me to write.”

The next text was, “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth”, which fully fueled and inspired me to provide my response in this post.

Almost exactly four years ago, and just prior to my moving to my new home, I wrote about my then thoughts and experience surrounding fear:

“Life lies beyond our fears”https://wordpress.com/post/camerahiker.wordpress.com/187

The fear I wrote about was more about the call to step outside our comfort zone among other things. In this context however, my thoughts and understanding follow a related but different line of thought.

“Fear is a natural reaction to fear.” I suppose it can be. I might be fearful of something simply because I’m influenced by someone else’s fear; but I think for the most part, fear is acknowledgement of our uncertainty or perception of the unknown rather than a reaction to fear itself.  Fear can also be a healthy way of us becoming aware that something is wrong.  Whatever the case, It is always wise to examine or at least consider our fear.

I’ve heard it said many times that fear is an unhealthy thing. I believe it can be both healthy and unhealthy depending on the circumstance. If you’re afraid of stepping too close to the edge of a cliff or a tall building because there’s no guard railing and strong wind gusts are blowing, your fear seems pretty reasonable.  If you’re fearful of trying skydiving because you have no experience with it and are unsure about what might happen, that’s still a reasonable fear because you don’t know what you don’t know. If however, your fear of heights or falling keeps you from investigating your curiosity and experiencing life (unless it is wise or common sense to do so), well, that seems limiting to me. Fear is an unhealthy thing when it controls our behaviour to an extent where we remain limited, ignorant, don’t explore, learn or we keep ourselves from growth.

If you’re afraid to round a corner because you hear a low, rumbling growl and you happen to be hiking in a forest, your fear is probably serving you well and exploring further may find you as the lunch of a large animal. If your fear keeps you from finding the truth of a situation however… the possible loss of employment, a health matter, a troubled or strained relationship; then fear in that circumstance is definitely unhealthy.

Truth is nothing to be feared, which is in part my response to “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” Personally, I feel that as we move closer to the truth, we experience freedom, though we may still fear what we might hear or learn as we become more aware of the circumstance, situation or reality. We may fear what the truth might be which is a state of living in illusion, but the truth will simply be the truth and no matter our fear, nothing can change it. Living in fear of the truth is a crippling experience and serves only to keep us bound in uncertainty. I’d rather someone tell me what I need to hear than tell me what I want to hear.  I especially don’t want anyone in my life to fear (kindly) sharing truth with me.   When sharing truth with those in our lives however, remember that it’s likely to be your “perspective” of the truth, so do so with kindness, humility and respect.

As we move closer toward truth and learn the truth of our reality, there is a freedom that we are given. Sure, the circumstance we’re learning about may be difficult to face, but facing the truth allows us to move quickly toward a healthier place. Unchallenged, fear may and likely will keep us from moving forward; but worse, it will cripple our growth and relationships. Even if we’re told a relationship is going to end (or worse), the truth gives us the opportunity to accept the situation and move forward toward new opportunity.

To get specific, a good friend of mine died from pancreatic cancer two years ago. He was one of the most courageous men I’ve ever known. At first, he was fearful, but he quickly moved past his fear, embraced the truth and accepted his new reality. From that point forward, he maximized every single moment, savouring each with joy and delight. In his life before his diagnosis, he was a fairly quiet and reserved man (though he definitely had his moments). During the last 5 months of his life however, I saw him live with vitality, freedom, elegance and courage. I know from time to time, he had fears, but he faced those fears and even allowed me to be a part of and face some of them with him. He faced those moments leaning into the truth, accepting what came which allowed him to experience the richness of the time he had remaining. I really miss my friend, but during those five months, he taught me that fearing the truth is the last thing I ever want to do. He taught me that fear was not a reaction to moving closer to the truth, but instead, it is an indication that we may be living in an illusion and need to seek truth.

In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Those are brilliant words but for me, not quite complete. The long and short of FDR’s message though is that truth and reality is nothing to be feared and that living in illusion or supposition serves only to keep us paralyzed. In fact, truth should be sought and embraced at every opportunity.

Fear of the unknown can be healthy, because I think it naturally DRAWS is toward the truth if we’re seeking it. If that’s what was meant by “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth”, I’m in full agreement, but I might say instead, “Fear is a natural way of knowing we have yet to learn the truth”.  However it’s said, lean into the truth and accept it for what it is… because it’s simply the truth!

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 Where is God when you need Him?

I love my friends!  I’m blessed and very fortunate to say that I have many.   Not just acquaintances or people I merely like, but many genuine and good friends.  My friends are diverse and come from every walk of life.  They’re a melting pot of humanity and experience.  I love them all! (I love each of you dearly).

I learn from each of my friends and sometimes, I learn from their interactions with each other.  Occasionally, those interactions strike a chord within me and compel me to reflect on what they’re saying and what it causes me to think.  The outcome, is the result of how I understand their dialog and what it has caused me to reflect upon based upon my own understanding and experience.

One such occurrence happened recently between two of my friends. Let’s call them… Thelma and Louise.   Thelma made an initial post on Facebook which almost made it past me (almost).  It was within the context of the following dialog with Louise which challenged me to consider how I felt during the unfolding of their discussion:

Thelma: “Perhaps, God is with us all the more in the worst of times.”

Louise: “I’d have to disagree. That would make his presence dependent upon our emotional condition. That is no God at all.”

Thelma: “You’re right. But my point was that if it is in the worst of times that we feel alone and without God, HE IS THERE. It is just hard to see him… If that makes sense. It’s easy to see God in the good, harder in the bad… That’s what I’m trying to say.”

I wanted to write to both, but specifically to Thelma.  While writing my reply to her, I was really challenged to understand what this question looked like in my own life experience.   The result is this blog post.

As I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve come to find and sense God throughout my day(s).  In some ways, it seems odd for me to say that, because sometimes… I doubt!  I’ve been witness to miracles and yet… I still, sometimes experience doubt.  When I thought about this question in the context of my doubt, I realize that my doubt is rooted in my frailty and need, not in the lack of God’s presence in my life… He’s there, but my emotion and need crowds Him out at times.  This is especially ironic since I’m the one calling out to Him in my moments of need and vulnerability.

I have felt as Thelma describes, but as I’ve grown to know God, I realize, as Thelma and Louise both say, He IS there.  It’s in my times of sadness or despair however that I sometimes still feel alone.  Being on my own for the past number of years, you can imagine I’ve had opportunity to experience this feeling more than once or twice.  Moving away from my home of 42 years was particularly challenging because I was moving to a place where I really knew only two people.  Of course, there were more than that, but local to me, there were only two.  I felt very alone and isolated.  Bless those two friends for their seemingly infinite patience.  They’ve helped me forge some great new friendships as did the Pastor of my new Church family.  I was welcomed from the moment moved to my new community and when I walked through the front doors of my new Church (Bless you YAC).

So… need!  Yep, we all have them and that’s not a bad thing.  In fact, knowing and understanding our needs is very healthy for us as they will guide us in our relationships and their definition.

Occasionally though, our needs can get in our way.  Knowing who we are and what makes us tick, understanding the things that motivate us and define who we are is essential; but letting those needs overwhelm who we are is where we can get off track.  Sometimes, we may need so much that the need in itself becomes fear… and who wants to live in fear?

So, to get back to Thelma’s question, is God more prevalent or present in the worst of times?  Well, if you sense God more in the worst of times, Bless you because at least you know you’re not alone, but as Louise states, He’s always there!  I think it’s a matter of us needing God more when times get tough.  When things are going well, most of us (if we’re honest) will say “thank you God” and move on with our day.  Sometimes, we’ll offer praise and thanks, but good times are easy to let happen, even take for granted.  It’s in our times of great need or even fear, that we’re compelled to cry out!  It’s in those moments that we more acutely need to feel God’s presence and so, we pray, weep, get angry or whatever we feel we need to do in the moment.  Notice a thread here?  Who’s doing the changing?  God’s is constant and consistent, but WE change with our need.  During good times, we need less or maybe, are less dependent, than we are during times of trial or desperation.

I think the healthy path here is to try to walk with God ALL of the time.   It is a friendship… a relationship.  When you value someone, you make time for them.  You go out of your way for them, because the relationship is important to you.  That can become difficult at times, because we can become focused on our lives.  We tend to focus on what’s in front of us.  It takes effort to maintain a relationship.  If it’s a healthy relationship, that effort may appear “effortless”, but make no mistake, you’re still making a choice.  The same holds true in our relationship with God.   We need to make time to acknowledge and spend time with God!  That effort may be through prayer, reading scripture or going for a walk and simply talking to God.

I try to include God in my day, wherever I am or go.  I have grown to a point in my faith that God simply IS!  He’s a part of me and I walk with Him through all things, good and bad.    That doesn’t make it easy or easier, I just permit myself to allow God and His wisdom into my life, no matter where I am.    While that hasn’t always been the case, I’m grateful to say that I think my relationship with God is for the most part, fairly balanced.   What I mean to say is that I believe I have a reasonably healthy relationship with God.  Sometimes, I have to remember to let him have a part in my walk, but that doesn’t happen as often now.   With that said however, I find that I will cry out more when my need or dependence is greater, though I think that’s true in most any relationship.  It’s OK to ask for help and in fact, it’s healthy as long as you also appreciate that when we ask for help, we must do our part too and accept that help.  Sometimes, the help may not be what “we” want to hear or see, but if we’re going to learn or grow in the situation from the help we receive, we need to put our ego down and reflect!

Where is God when we need him?   I can’t answer that for you, but I can tell you that in my experience, He’s always been with me.  On one occasion, I even demanded he show up!  I was feeling very alone and vulnerable!  I very much needed to feel his presence in my life!  I was on my knees sobbing and utterly vulnerable.  My understanding of His presence in my life wasn’t enough… I really needed to “feel” God’s presence and in that moment He came through for me!  It was personal, but I was touched and assured of His love, compassion and presence.  I’m truly grateful for God’s love in that moment, but I had to do my part too.  I had to ask!  I had to be willing to be vulnerable and ask!

Your relationship with God is between you and God.  Some might say that it seems one sided.  I’ve even felt that way in the past, but I realized I was being selfish.  I realized that God is with me everywhere I go, all of the time!  I realized that because faith is a part of my relationship with God and that since He’s always there long before I need him, I have to do my part to ask for help, look for or listen to Him.

Is God more prevalent during our darkest hours, our times of trial or deeper need?  No,  It’s just happens that in those times, we’re more dependent and in need of consolation or reassurance.  If you feel I’m wrong, then ask yourself this… when you’re in a troubling situation, do you phone a friend, reach out to your Mom or Dad or someone you trust, simply because you don’t want to be alone?  We’re wired for relationship and need more when times get tough and that’s OK, because the alternative… well… that’s another post!

Religion and barf bags…

It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything truly thought provoking and then… I came across an article, written by a guy named Chris Kratzer, entitled:

“Why modern Christianity makes people vomit”.

http://chriskratzer.com/why-modern-christianity-makes-people-vomit-2/

I knew I wanted to read the article, but I waited until this morning because I wanted to give myself time to honestly evaluate whether it offered anything of value or challenged me in any way.  I guess I found it engaging because I’ve written something of a response to it.  One of the things I found most notable about the article were the comments.  One person “Matthew” offered his very “real” and direct life experience at the hands of what this article calls out.  (Matthew’s comment is below)

http://chriskratzer.com/why-modern-christianity-makes-people-vomit-2/#comment-129199

I found both very thought provoking to say the least.  I’ve been where Chris describes a number of times and I’ve also been surrounded by a “grace first” church congregation (and still am).  I’ve also spent a good deal of time during the last 4 years of my life as a single man hoping to find a relationship with someone who shares my faith.  During my search, I encountered in the online “Christian” world  much of what Chris describes in his article.

I was raised by two very loving and kind parents (unlike Matthew) who were heavily indentured into “religion”.  That’s not to say they both didn’t love Jesus… but it is to say that they allowed ritualism to blend into their faith, which then they tried to “have” me follow in too.

Long ago, I decided for myself that religion itself can be truly manipulative in nature (this is not restricted to Christianity alone), but in the same statement, I also acknowledge that’s not what Jesus came to teach or model, nor is it what many people of faith view as the basis for their life in faith.  That said, this was not my take away from the article.

You see (and I agree with a lot of things Matthew mentions in his comments), the one thing the article does not speak to is self-reflection and personal accountability.  The article goes a long way in exposing the underbelly of religious Christianity.  How it is rife with legalism and judgementalism, but it does not directly talk about the root of both of those labels which is based in a lack of choice and personal accountability.  “Matthew” in his comments, appears to have taken a very sober inventory of his life and has made a decision based on what he’s learned in the face of what he’s been taught and seen demonstrated in his life (sadly… he had, what by his account seems like an awful example and teaching).  Matthew’s taken the time to reflect on himself and his experience instead of blaming others as his mother modeled.  Some would call her actions “blind faith”.  I call it deliberate ignorance because it requires no personal accountability or action, just blind, unconfirmed or acknowledged obedience.  A very good friend (who also happens to be a pastor) once said to me “if you don’t question your faith, your faith is questionable”.  Damn straight!  Why do you believe what you believe and what do you stand for?

Unfortunately, there is much of modern Christianity that appears to the world as Chris’s article describes… it’s easier to label someone as horrible or sinful (insert your descriptor of choice here) to make yourself feel better about your own crap!  It’s easier to point a finger than it is to look at yourself.  The sad part though is that this behaviour is not held exclusive to religious behaviour, though the hypocrisy is far more common and prevalent.

Chris (the author), seemingly in frustration, appears to label the people he alludes to rather than simply handing them a mirror.  What they choose to do with that mirror is up to them, just as it was Matthew’s choice to turn away from God (my words), or deny His existence altogether.   Matthew evaluated for himself and made a choice.

It’s no secret that religion has been used as a tool or weapon of manipulation throughout history and my words or the words in Chris’s article are not likely to change that.

Jesus died for us to bring us freedom and yet, we still cling to and deal with chains!   I know that Christ was one tough Hombre when he needed to be, but in all things He taught and lived, He simply presented and modeled truth.  The rest is up to us to weigh and decide.   God leaves the choice to us.

Sadly, there are many who hide behind or twist God’s message to us to make their own crap seem more justifiable by manipulating or quoting scripture out of context to suit their means or worse… to whip and torture people with guilt and shame.  In the end though, they’re rationalizations and nothing more.    The result however, is that children and people who just need someone to be human and walk with them are judged as sinful and are scorned for their vulnerability and honesty.  They wind up being chastised for being honest and reaching out for help.  I suppose you could say that they too are being handed a mirror, but that mirror comes with a context of disdain and judgment rather than being offered in humility and love.

I have no idea of what it was like for “Matthew” to live what he has, but I do know what it was like to live what I have and that’s what I can own and more importantly, reflect and share.  I can offer to sit with someone like Matthew and reflect what I see when I look in my own mirror in the face of my life experience.  Hopefully, I will be honest with myself about what I see and Matthew will see the sincerity and integrity in my account, through my humility and humanity.

Chris’s article mentions (please read the article to get the whole context):

“Nothing enflames the passion of your cause more than to discover a new enemy. If you can’t find a real one, you simply string one together—homosexuality, liberality, wars against Christianity, prayer in schools, transgender equality—always some ax to grind. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails than to be absent of sin-targets for which to take your self-righteous aim— those who sin differently than you, your favorite sitting duck.”

While this seems an accurate account, it doesn’t mention the downside of identifying this without offering some personal experience or testimony.  It winds up achieving  the very thing you’re upset about.  To be honest… I agree with nearly everything Chris writes in his article, but the article only identifies the behaviour so many have come to suffer from or revile.  It doesn’t challenge the reader or the subject of his text (religious, judgemental people) to take a look at themselves before looking for something or someone else to blame so their living is easier to bear or justify.

As someone who leads in worship, I was a little startled by these words:

“Where are the choruses, “My life sucks right now, and so does God?” I know, that would be too raw and real to where many are truly at I guess— doesn’t fit a starch-ironed, pleated theology, or look good on LED-shaded projection screens.”

Worship is a lot more than lights and music… it’s a willingness to sit with someone or welcome them in their pain or joy and share your shoulder and honest experience too.  It’s also about being vulnerable when singing “Lord, I need you, Oh, how I need you”, because you honestly find yourself doing that whether you’re crying in a pew, singing from the stage or all alone in your bedroom at night.  Gratefully, I “live” in a church where humanity, humility and grace come first.  Where everyone is aware that someone walking through the doors may have used what seems like their last bit of strength to be there and the last thing they need is to have their ass kicked by “religion”.   I also want to add… not all songs sung in church are about feel good praise and worship.   Many dig deep and say… life hurts, but there is a flip side…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGUKWiw7Wk

Thanks J.J. … this is a personal favourite… and then there’s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEn74zP1glQ

Which has seen me wondering this on more than one occasion.

Modern Christianity itself doesn’t make people vomit, it’s some of the people practicing it that makes them ill!  When people find out that I’m a “Jesus follower”, they immediately say “oh, you’re religious”, to which I reply… “No, my faith is in Christ because He meets me where I live!  My life isn’t about rules, it’s about choice.”  The article misses something very important.  The “Christians” it mentions are using the Bible as a hammer, rather than a mirror.

I used to get “sick” myself and on some occasions, I even allowed myself to be hurt or angered by much of the rhetoric and judgmental garbage the article identifies.  Then I realized that the very people who are pointing their fingers and looking down their noses are also in pain.  They too need grace and forgiveness… they just don’t realize it because they’ve been taught to and find it easier, even convenient to judge, hate and fear rather than be humble, vulnerable and self-reflective  enough to ask for help and receive love.

I apologize for the long winded response, but if there’s a part 2 to the article, I think it’s what I mentioned in my response to “Joe” who asks about a “next steps” proposition.

The next steps are simple… take an honest inventory of your life and be prepared to be completely honest with yourself about what you see.  Be honest with yourself about the good and the bad and then, be willing to own it.  The rest may be hard because, if you don’t like what you honestly see, it probably requires action and accountability.  The steps are simple, I didn’t say the work would be.   It isn’t for me!

This article itself points a finger, but doesn’t propose a solution (though I think it’s implied).   The solution is to ask yourself with no one else around… Who are you really?  What do you honestly believe if there’s no one there to judge you?  Do you like who you are, your convictions and how you’re living?   Do you like the choices you make for yourself?

Now, with that in mind, act based on your answers about yourself and if that seems overwhelming… ask for help and be prepared to be honest and vulnerable.  Hopefully you’ll find someone just as flawed as you are to help and encourage you… just like I did.

A good friend of mine sent this to me yesterday… the timing seems a little uncanny, but maybe this will help you when it comes time to finding that honest someone…

Character and words

Life, choice and attitude!

Well… Here I am, almost six months on in my new home and community and I have to say, it’s not been an easy transition!  After the furor of packing (thanks Liz and Bryanna), moving and the newness of a new home and community have worn off, I was left with what I thought was just me.  While in part, that was true, there was a bit more to the story; or so at least, that I’ve recently discovered.

Self-pity… it’s not something I’ve fallen into the clutches of for the majority of my adult life, but it has happened from time to time.  Very recently too which is why I’m writing this today.

A friend of mine recently tweeted “Don’t let self pity get the upper hand… Instead of sinking into doom and gloom, encourage urself!”  Fortunately, my attitude about life has over the past month, found me in a much healthier and happier state of mind.  The statement in this tweet however, reminded me of where I was a just a short while ago and what my attitude toward life was like.

If we have the privilege of knowing each other personally, you know… we’ve hung out, you’ve probably come to know that there are a few things that motivate me.  I’ve discovered that one of my greatest motivators and sources of value is service.  I always thought it was being around people, but I’ve come to learn that isn’t the case.  Of course, people are a part of that process, as is the feedback I receive from them, but that’s not what fries my bacon!  Service is!  Giving and enjoying the journey while making an effort or serving, is a huge part of what fuels my human fire.  I came to realize though, that I somehow managed to remove myself from that process.  Many friends said… you’re uprooting your whole life… give yourself a break… your path will come in time and you will find your way.  I guess I figured to a degree, that gave me an excuse of sorts in that I needed time to acclimate and connect with my new community.  Instead, I found that I had taken myself further away from any connection or opportunity for service.  I had begun the process of wallowing.   I just didn’t realize it because I started in the shallow end and slowly let myself get comfortable swimming in the cold water!

Sometimes, we need “down time”.  We need a period of rest and time alone, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of our community and service or whatever our life drivers or motivators are.  Of course, I needed the opportunity to see where I can be a part of service in and to my community, but I also discovered something else that is very important.  I discovered that I needed to serve myself to a degree.  I thought that meant making a home, resting and taking time for me, but what a very good friend of mine reminded me of was key in turning my cycle of self-pity around.

As I said… service is a big value component in my life, but something that goes alongside it for me is gratitude!  I have so very much to be grateful for and I’m not talking just about the big stuff like an incredible home, living 200 meters away from mountains (which also happen to be my backdrop).  I’m talking about simple things like having plenty of food!  A great career!  Wonderful and giving family and friends.  The ability to hear and see the Canada Geese as they fly overhead while I write this to you.  The smell of fresh air!  I am truly blessed!  There are people who lay suffering in whatever circumstance life has brought them to and who would love to say… “I can sit outside, smell the fresh air, sip on my coffee and listen to the birds!”  The ironic part is that I’ve seen many of those same people expressing their gratitude for what they have in their less than ideal circumstance!  Gratitude is a choice of attitude!

Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves that there is so much more to life than what is happening around us and to us!  I have nothing to complain about and yet, I do and I know I will continue to, but there’s a big difference for me now.  I’m reminded!  I’m reminded because I have chosen to make myself aware.

I lost touch with my gratitude somewhere along the way.  For years, I used to always talk about how blessed I am and how fortunate I am that I get to live the life I do!  What a revelation it was that in the unfolding of the choices I’ve deliberately made to start this new part of my life… choices that have brought me to a beautiful new home, new friendships, a new community and affirmation of the friendships I’ve been blessed with for many years; I’d lost touch with the simple pleasures in life and the gratitude for them that I should have been acknowledging.  I’m right now, sitting on my deck with the sun just peeking around a tree and the mountain scape it overlooks and I’m reminded of what I have!  I have plenty!  I have the love and acceptance of great and loving family and friends and I more than anything else, I have the Love and acceptance of God!

Gratitude is a choice of attitude!  Damn straight it is!  So… in that knowledge, I want to say thank you to my friends and family who have been so patient with me during this new part of my life.  Sometimes, we need to bump along the hallways of life to find our way… and sometimes, we need someone to turn on a small light!

I wish you were here with me right now… the air smells like I’m camping by a stream in the pine forests of British Columbia… what’s wild is… that’s where I currently live.  Now, I’m just going to give myself the opportunity to enjoy what I have and more importantly, to be grateful for it!  So in that spirit… rather than just looking at the mountain I call beautiful, I decided to get off of my ass and climb it!

Thank you, for being willing to hang out with me and for flipping the light switch from time to time!

I’m giving the last words to a very wise man who wrote some things which have long been on my Facebook page… I’m glad I finally came to my senses and started to live them again!

“I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. When my attitudes are right, there is no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me.”

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”

-Chuck Swindoll

Expand on your faith???

Recently, someone called me out on a statement I’ve been known to make from time to time.  I’ve been quoted as saying that I’m “Christian, but not religious”.  That person really called me to task and asked me to expand on what that means to me exactly.  I think I’ve always had a comfortable understanding what that means to me, but I’ve never had to paint that picture or define what I truly mean when I make that statement.  Going through a period in my life where Faith is truly all I have to lean on, I was challenged to discern my feelings, situation, experience, challenges, triumphs and relationships to arrive at a response that is not just “off the cuff”.

Having recently moved to a new community and beginning the process of making new connections can make for a lot fun and excitement, but there are significant periods of time where, it’s just me (of course, God is there too).  It’s during those times where my faith and my relationship with God really gets put to the test.

When writing my response, I didn’t have to hesitate, I just had to try to define what my walk looks like.

Here’s the result….

“Expand on my faith… hmmm… that I can do. It’s odd you should ask me this… today especially. I was recently in the office of the pastor of my Church. We’re in the process of getting to know each other and becoming friends. I was telling him about my faith and what it’s based on.  Beyond what we were talking about (though some of this was a part of the discussion), It’s not based on my showing up in Church on Sunday, singing on a worship team or serving people in some way in the hope that I’m doing something good or of value.

Faith is about trust, respect, and integrity. It’s knowing that while Christ was here, he was not here to tell people how to live their lives, but rather, to show us.  He did not want to force us, but to give us an alternative, an example. Mostly though, I believe Christ was here to love us. This is not some fantasy I believe. Far from it. I truly believe Christ was here, I believe he lives on and I truly believe that one day (which no one will know until it happens) He will come again.

Faith is not something you talk about, or some expressions you make, it’s something you live. Just because I talk about Jesus with confidence doesn’t make me faithful. Trusting in Him, in what He’s teaching me and acting on that understanding reveals my faith.  Trusting that He’s here with me and walking with me, even when it would be easier to depend on what I know or what I can see is an example of my faith.  For me, faith is trusting what Christ is trying to show me in order to choose to truly live the life He’s created for me.

If you’ve chosen to read this far, I’ll share with you that I don’t use God or Jesus 10 times in each sentence. I don’t say “praise God” or “Hallelujah” every other sentence.  Words don’t make me faithful or reveal my faith.  I’m just a regular person like everyone else. My life is not perfect and I suffer the same trials as everyone else. Choosing to follow my life in faith does not guarantee that it will be perfect or that I am perfect. I’m just as flawed as anyone living on Earth. To be honest, there are many “people of faith” who do more to steer folks away from a possible relationship with God because of their “religious” views, expressions and actions than there are who lead others to him because of how they choose to demonstrate their “belief”.  It’s much harder to love someone you don’t agree with, whose viewpoint you don’t share and whose lifestyle choices clash with your own than it is to point a finger at them and tell them you don’t agree with them or that they’re wrong.  Don’t misunderstand, sometimes we need to share the kind truth with each other, but we must be careful to ensure it’s more about truth than our comfortable perspective.

I don’t live my life following Christ because there’s a set of rules I must adhere to. I do not live in fear, but rather, I live my life with a healthy love and respect for God. I want to understand why God shares a path for us in the way that He does. He doesn’t ask us to follow Him because he’s a control freak. He’s God. He doesn’t need to. Instead, I truly believe that he has our best interests at heart and wants us to learn why he provided the wisdom and path that he has. This is not blind obedience we’re called to. It’s really no different than the love a parent would show and guide a child with. God’s word to us is for our benefit and it is shared out of love and a desire to see us thrive.

I could go on but I’m pretty sure you get the picture. So… if you would like to have an honest and open discussion about it sometime, I’d be more than happy to share time with you. If not, I completely understand, but this is who I am. God put within me a heart of love, though it’s taken me years to finally come to the point where I may be humble enough to share it with someone. Time will tell that tale.

Cheers,
Tim”

We never did share that conversation, though I did receive a reply which let me know what I shared was understood and appreciated.

We don’t need to agree to live and love together, but we do need to be respectful and that…. sometimes, takes faith.

Have a great weekend and remember while you’re following your nose, there is much you can lean on because you’re loved and valued.  In that, you can have faith.