Faith defined simply 

Faith isn’t something you either have or don’t have, but something that ebbs and flows in the life and soul of every individual.  Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith.  It’s an element of faith.  Where there is absolute certainty, there can be no room for faith.

A Gospel Message Reflection

Today’s Gospel reading was John 21:1-14.

Consider the impact of what was being asked of the disciple fishermen Jesus spoke to.

Also consider that Jesus had established a message of Good News that the Kingdom of God was at hand… Right then…  Right there… And he challenged his followers with a message of transformation from a life framed by a culture of oppression, greed, and violence to one of compassion, inclusion, love, mercy, forgiveness, and social justice.

Ancient fishing boats of that day we’re all built in a common fashion that included a steering mechanism or rudder arm that was mounted on the RIGHT side of the boat.  In fact, the term for the right side of a vessel was starboard, a term that had in its origins the term for “steering”.  Steering was done from the right side of the boat.  This meant that the boat would pull to shore or the port and dock on the left side of the boat. Thus the left side became known as the port side.

Why is this relevant?

Because Jesus told these experienced fisherman to ignore all that they knew and to have faith in him.  To ignore the problems and impracticality of his suggestion and cast their nets on the right side of the boat.

Jesus was asking his followers to do what was not intuitive… What was contrary to common sense… Contrary to what they had always done.

When the disciples did as Jesus suggested they found their experience transformed and all were satisfied and pleased with the outcome.

This is what we are called to do today.  While we think we know that our way is right Jesus is telling us that we need to follow him and to something different… Something that is not intuitive and may not make common sense.  But we are being called to follow his way and experience the transformative change that will come to us and God’s kingdom on earth if we will only walk forward in faith!

A transformative experience 

I’ve often read or listened to the passionate telling of a transformative spiritual experience.  The “mountaintop” experience, near death experience, or battle with a potentially terminal illness that leaves one changed.  

Transformed.

Forever different, with a new found certainty in their faith or particular belief system.

If I’m to be honest I have to admit that I’ve been envious of those who have had a transformative experience.

I’ve sat silent in group after group listening while various individuals recount the moment when they “accepted Christ” into their life, or “found their faith”, or were “born again”.

I didn’t used to sit silently.  But over time I began to feel that there must be something fundamentally wrong with me…  My soul… My being…  

There must be something wrong with me because I’ve clearly been on a spiritual quest for a very long time.  And while I may have learned a lot, I’ve somehow managed to miss the “Ah ha” transformative moment.

However…

Maybe I missed it because I was looking in the wrong places for the wrong things.

Maybe I missed the forest because I was looking for specific trees.

I now understand that MY transformative experience has been and remains the journey itself.  MY mountaintop experience doesn’t have to be a single defining moment.  It can instead be a single defining life.

I’ve felt a call to share my journey with others.  I’ve felt that this was the way that I could contribute most significantly to the human spirit and help to realize what Jesus meant when he spoke of the Kingdom of God being among us then – and now.

I now see that one way to share my journey is to begin by sharing my vision of my destination.  After all, is it not the allure of the glory of the destination that motivates us to take the journey?

Understanding “Truth”

Like every human being, I’ve tried to make sense of things.  I’m not sure I succeeded.  I’m not sure anyone can.

Isaac Newton thought the universe functioned like clockwork, a well-oiled machine.  That’s a comforting vision — neat, orderly, predictable.  Unfortunately, it’s a vision that’s pretty much been shot to pieces by relativity, quantum mechanics, and the other bugaboos of twentieth century physics.

The universe is weird!  We break our teeth developing theories, equations, systems.  And where does it all leave us?  “A system is like the tail of truth, but truth is like a lizard.  It leaves its tail in your fingers and runs away, knowing full well that it will grow a new one in a twinkling.”*

* Chunovic, Chris-In-The-Morning

— Chris Stevens, CBS Television Show Northern Lights

Practical Faith

I would love to be someone who has the capacity to practice wild and uninhibited faith.  I envy those who declare that their faith is so strong that they “know” God will hear their prayers and intercede where requested.

I don’t have that kind of faith.

I do have faith though.  I have a faith that at a very high level exists with a complete absence of doubt.

But –

When it comes to praying for intercession in our day to day lives I struggle.

Yet I do it.  I do it despite my struggles.  I do it because of my struggles.

I do it because I believe that prayer is not only productive, valuable and important – but vital!

I just don’t do it often enough.  I certainly don’t do it publicly often enough.

Why is that?

I think that oftentimes I get hung up with expectations.  I don’t feel that it’s right for me to have any expectations regarding the outcome of prayer.  It’s hard because I also believe that it’s necessary to be specific in praying for outcomes.

There is of course some paradox there.  Pray for what you want but don’t expect anything specific as an outcome.  Really?  That doesn’t seem logical.  If I don’t expect to see the specific outcome, why pray for it?

I think I’m beginning to figure out the why.

Identifying the expected outcome is an expression of hope.  Expressing my hope – especially in some kind of public forum – exposes my vulnerability.  Exposing my vulnerability is a form of confession.  Confession removes my arrogance from the picture and opens my soul to spiritual relationship.

Spiritual relationship with God.

Spiritual relationship with other souls.

When I confess my vulnerability, and acknowledge that I want and need the spiritual relationship and love of others through their prayer on my behalf, I complete the circuit that allows the outcome to be possible.

Embracing my vulnerability helps me to find balance in my spirit life.  It helps me to see through spirit first.  When I have balance and I’m seeing life through spirit I begin to see with new eyes and I’m suddenly able to see the many various and wonderful ways that spiritual connection with God and with others is possible.

I thank all of you who read and responded to yesterday’s post.  The merging of our collective conscious energy (prayer) resulted in immediate and significant relief.  When we do this act of prayer together, with intention and purpose, humbling ourselves while at the same time acknowledging the source of God’s unending power, anything is possible!