Category Archives: good faith

Good Friday thoughts: Church attendance prevents depression

If you describe yourself as “spiritual but not religious” you might not be doing yourself any favours.

According to a study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, people who attend a religious service at least one a month have a lower risk of depression. People who simply identified as spiritual but didn’t participate in the life of a faith community didn’t enjoy the same benefits.

The study suggests, and I agree, that regular deep connection with people in a way that goes beyond the surface social interactions of, say, a book club or a spin class keeps our spirits up. Many people say they can just as easily feed their spirit during a a walk in the woods, or while painting, or while singing or dancing, and this is true. What you don’t find during those same activities is challenge and growth, and without challenge and growth the spirit connection quickly grows tenuous, and a tenuous spirit connection leaves plenty of room for the dark stuff to creep in.

The Easter story is a challenging one for lots of people. I get that. Many people struggle with the concept of resurrection, so it’s a difficult time to suggest to the “spiritual but not religious” crowd that participation in a faith community might be a good idea. But faith communities need people like that to challenge them and to help them grow. They need people who seek spirit but who choke on the many things that religious groups do wrong to walk in the door and say, “You know what? I like this, this and this, but this, no that’s just not acceptable.”

That way the relationship becomes reciprocal. Faith communities take on the challenge and grow, and the spiritual find the community they need to maintain and grow a strong spiritual connection. If that happens, maybe someday all faith groups will treat women as equals. If that happens, maybe someday all faith groups will honour all love-based marriages. If that happens, maybe someday all faith groups will value questions and doubts as seeds of growth.

Maybe someday.

In fact, maybe the best time to start might be Easter weekend, in memory of a man who was an outstanding example of a religious doubter and questioner.

Jesus dramatically turned the tables on the unacceptable religious practices of his day. Maybe we can, too.

 __________________

Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. http://publications.cpa-apc.org/media.php?mid=1499

 

Thermostat or thermometer: Martin Luther King III

The 16,000 enthusiastic kids at National We Day saw video excerpts from the famous “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. The speech is moving anytime, anywhere, but on a big screen in a big venue with big sound and a big audience, well, it was hair-raisingly powerful.

His son, Martin Luther King III, then took the stage to share lessons learned from his father. One lesson was: Do you want to be a thermostat or a thermometer?

Do you want to report on conditions around you, or do you want to regulate what happens? Do you want to do nothing more than sit back and observe, or do you want to take action to make things more comfortable for everyone?

Good questions.

________________

 

National We Day: http://www.weday.com/2014/04/national-we-day-rocked/

 

 

No “can’t’; No “won’t”; Only “how”: Spencer West

I’ll be volunteering at National We Day here in Ottawa, Canada tomorrow. We Day, an event affiliated with Free The Children and Me to We, is a music and inspiration-filled concert that energizes kids and inspires them to shift their view of the world from “me” to “‘we.” Craig and Marc Kielburger, founders of Free the Children, want to free children locally and internationally from poverty and oppression, and they want to free children from the belief that they are powerless to effect change.

I attended a training session last night along with hundreds of other volunteers. If we held any lingering doubts about our abilities to handle our assigned tasks, out guest speaker put those doubts to rest.

Spencer West climbed the stairs to speak to us. That one simple act inspired us, for Spencer West has no legs. But no matter. He has done outreach work in Africa, he has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and he travels the world speaking and encouraging people to effect change. One of speaking topics is: No Can’t, No Won’t, Only How: Overcoming Obstacles to Make a Difference.

It’s easy to imagine that Spencer West heard the words “can’t” or “won’t” many times in his life. His ability to climb over those words to get to the word “how” inspires the rest of us to climb over our own surmountable obstacles.

The kids attending the concert tomorrow couldn’t buy a ticket to attend; they had to earn it. Schools and groups commit to taking one local and one global action to earn their way.

Perhaps we can take a cue from them: one local and one global action. If “can’t” or “won’t” pop into your head, brush those words aside and look for “how.” It’s easy. Certainly easier than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro without legs.

Harold and the Purple Crayon: How we create our own world

9780062086525

Parenthood provides the opportunity for fully grown adults to re-capture childhood joys. When my children were younger, I re-captured some childhood joy when I came across the book Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.

As a child I loved the simple sketches and fun story, but as an adult I appreciate the profound spiritual truths that lie at its heart.

My friend Harold begins his story in chaos, with his purple crayon scribbling all over. Then he decides he needs a moon to light his way and solid ground on which to walk. With these two necessities in place, he begins his journey.

harold-chaos

At first, not wanting to get lost, he creates a straight path for himself.

harold-straight-path

The straight path soon loses his interest, so he decides he needs a tree, and that the tree needs some apples. Wouldn’t they be delicious?

harold-apples

As soon as he has apples though, he worries that someone might steal them. He creates a frightening dragon to defend his treasure. The dragon is so frightening, it scares even Harold, so he falls backwards into the wavy ocean that his trembling hand squiggles out for him.

harold-dragon

Soon Harold is in way over his head.

harold-over-his-head

To save himself, he creates a boat, and then a sail, and then a shore upon which to land.

harold-ashore

Harold takes himself on an adventurous journey complete with delicious pies, friends, hot air balloon rides, large cities and helpful guides. The moon accompanies him on every page.

harold-guide

Eventually he grows so tired he wants to go home to bed. He remembers that his bedroom window is always right around the moon, so he draws himself his bedroom window and his big comfy bed. He crawls in and goes to sleep.

harold-at-home

This beautiful story shows spirit (the moon) and our physical world (the solid ground) created out of chaos. With the moon shining on him always and the ground solid underneath, Harold uses the purple crayon (free will, the Source, Universal Mind, whatever you choose to call it) to shape his life. He creates fun times, hard times, dangers and solutions to his problems.

I keep a copy of this book on the shelf beside my desk. When I look at the cover, it returns me to a quiet centre. It makes me ask questions: Which fearful events and situations have I created for myself? What solution can I create, or draw, to solve those problems? What positive and fun things can I draw next?

It reminds me that spirit is always shining down on me and that the ground is solid beneath my feet. It reminds me that the path my life takes lies in my own hand.

And it humbles me, because at the root of everything lies the unanswerable question: Where does the purple crayon come from?

Fred Phelps, St. Patrick’s Day and Any Known Blood: Tired discrimination

http://i1.wp.com/topekasnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/kansas-religious-freedom-bill-ridiculous1.jpg?resize=300%2C536

Photo from TopekasNews

The state of Kansas, U.S.A. recently made headlines for proposed laws that would allow restaurants and businesses to ban gay patrons from their establishments. A sign reading “Service refused to gay couples” appeared in at least one restaurant. 

These headlines preceded the death of Fred Phelps (I won’t call him reverend) by about a month. During his lifetime, Phelps loved to make headlines—his even more hate-filled. His “God Hates Fags” tagline summed up his sorry life.

When I saw the picture here, and when I read Fred Phelps’ views on issues, I thought, “Really? Did they learn nothing from history?”

But I take comfort in seeing that their actions, intended to promote discrimination and hate, ended up encouraging more openness and love. Shocking hate prompts us to act with active love.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I remembered that signs reading “No Irish” used to appear in the windows of early New York City establishments. I’m part Irish, so this one piece of knowledge keeps me celebrating the occasion every year.

I re-read Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill this week, too. At the beginning of the book he cites this passage from An American Dilemma Vol. I, 1944:

Everybody having a known trace of Negro Blood in his veins—no matter how far back it was acquired—is classified as a Negro. No amount of white ancestry, except one hundred per cent, will permit entrance to the white race.

Good heavens, they were really covering all the bases, weren’t they? My father was adopted, so I have “unknown” blood in me. I guess I wouldn’t qualify.

No gays, no Irish, no blacks, no Indians, no Jews, no Japanese, no Mexicans, no women, no men . . . in the course of history, is there any group that hasn’t at one point or another been barred from something?

It makes me tired. Enough already, people.

If you ever feel inspired to put a sign reading “No . . . (anything)” in your window, think again. Such signs say a whole lot more about you than they do about the group of people you’re aiming to keep out.

 

Eating the Sun Meditation

I am on a March Break vacation, “eating the sun” as much as I can. I thought I would share this beautiful meditation from the Cauldrons and Cupcakes blog. If you live in the northern hemisphere, as I do, you will be craving the sunshine after a long winter. Click on the link below to visit her page:

Eating the Sun Meditation.

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