Category Archives: religion

Faith and fear, a la Joel Osteen

“Faith and fear have something in common. They both ask us to believe something will happen that we cannot see.” —Joel Osteen

Why is it so easy to accept fear-based dire predictions, but so difficult to believe in faith-based hope?

Why is there such societal pressure to go with fear instead of faith? Why are we so resistant to the idea of looking like a hopeful fool?

Joel Osteen has a point. Maybe the odds are 50/50 in any given situation? Maybe we should run with the faith option instead of succumbing to the grip of fear?

Why not?

Maybe we’ll end up saying “I had faith that would happen,” instead of “I was afraid that would happen.” 

Photo by Donald L. Smith © 2014

“Onward” by Donald Smith © 2014

 

3 messages from heaven

In Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the AfterlifeDr. Eben Alexander describes the near-death experience (NDE) that granted him a glimpse of heaven. The circumstances of his brush with death differ from those of other people who reported NDE visions of heaven. In most cases, the patients’ hearts stop, or they stop breathing, but the part of their brains capable of creating visions remains functional. In Dr. Alexander’s case, bacterial meningitis shut down that vital visioning part of his brain.

Before his rare and serious illness, Dr. Alexander relied on a purely scientific view of the world. He did not give credence to near-death visions of heaven, because he credited the brain with, somehow or other, sparking the realistic images.

Then this man of science lost brain function and found an expanded view of life. After he made his unprecedented and unexpected complete recovery, he wrote about the spectacular experience.

Many aspects of his story warrant attention, but I particularly liked the phrases of reassurance he received from a beautiful heavenly girl:

“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.
You have nothing to fear.
There is nothing you can do wrong.”

No matter what any of us think of heaven—whether we think of it as a place, or a vibration, or a state of mind, or a figment of the imagination, or a threat wielded by organized religion to scare people into being “good”—no matter what any of us think, we can still choose to settle those phrases into our hearts as truths.

That one simple act would make the world a happier place, I think.

p10176

_______________

“In my past view, spiritual wasn’t a word that I would have employed during a scientific conversation. Now I believe it is a word that we cannot afford to leave out.”

—Eben Alexander, M.D.

A good time of year to dance: Hafiz

At this time of year, many people for many different reasons contemplate God or the God-ness in our world. These two poems by Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky in The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Masterreminded my that, more than anything, for whatever reason, this time of year is good for dancing. And better dancing than fussing about details or interpretations.

The God Who Only Knows Four Words

Every

Child

Has known God.

Not the God of names,

Not the God of don’ts,

Not the God who ever does

Anything weird,

But the God who only knows four words

And keeps repeating them, saying:

“Come dance with Me.”

Come

Dance.

_________

What Should We Do About That Moon?

A wine bottle fell from a wagon
And broke open in a field.

That night one hundred beetles and all their cousins
Gathered

And did some serious binge drinking.

They even found some seed husks nearby
And began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.

Then the “night candle” rose into the sky
And one drunk creature, laying down his instrument,
Said to his friend—for no apparent
Reason,

“What should we do about that moon?”

Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music

Tackling such profoundly useless
Questions.

________

Arlene, dancing like nobody is watching.

Arlene, dancing.

In praise of church bazaars: No unhappy people there

I have never seen an unhappy person at a church bazaar. They just make people smile, and that’s something to think about.

When I finish writing this post, I will wrap up the shortbread cookies I baked this week, put some used books in a box, filter through some of the jewelry I don’t wear any more, and I will head over to help set up for tomorrow’s church bazaar.

Last weekend I spent Saturday morning walking from church to church on a long street in my neighbourhood where the United, Anglican and Catholic churches all hold their bazaars on the same day. They’ve been doing this for years, so “Bazaar Day” is a community event and a much bigger financial success for all three.

Churches hold bazaars as fundraisers, of course, but the annual events offer much more than money to the congregation. They are community-building events and a chance for everyone to smile and get into the holiday spirit.

Bazaars are joyful for many reasons. They offer:

  • a chance to meet and greet people from the neighbourhood they don’t see at other times of the year,
  • homemade strawberry jam,
  • the possibility that you will find the spoon to replace the missing one from your cutlery or a glass to replace the broken one from your favourite wine set,
  • an opportunity to refresh holiday decor with the affordable crafts prepared by the talented contributors to bazaars,
  • a mixing of generations, old and young,
  • the blessing of eating other people’s baking,
  • books, (!)
  • and a delicious lunch, that includes homemade pie.

If you need a smile, look up your local church bazaars and give yourself the gift of a smiley day.

ChristmasBazaar2014_Poster_final_web

Daring Greatly by being vulnerable: Brené Brown

“Researcher storyteller” Brené Brown touches on some of my favourite topics in the TED talk link below.

Like many people still learning to feel comfortable with the idea that Darwin and the divine are not mutually exclusive, she had to dismantle her “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist” philosophy. When she wasn’t able to beat back vulnerability and uncertainty with her measuring stick, she had a breakdown/spiritual awakening. (Funny how often those two go together.)

Her research with people who lived wholeheartedly showed four common traits:

  • Courage to be imperfect.
  • Compassion for others and themselves
  • Connections with others made possible because they did not try to be what they thought they should be but lived authentically
  • Vulnerability and a willingness to do something with no guarantees even when it was uncomfortable.

When people did not live wholeheartedly, they numbed vulnerability through shopping, food, or addiction. They tried to make the uncertain certain.

She mentions religion. At their best, religious communities show courage, compassion, connection and vulnerability. At less than their best, they try to make the uncertainties of faith and mystery certain.

If you’ve never seen her talk before, I think you’ll find it inspirational. If you have seen it before, watch it again. I think you’ll find it inspirational.

“. . . never wait for science to give us permission to do the uncommon.” ~Dr. Joe Dispenza

God-incidences: What is going to surprise you today?

My friend, Étienne, and I learned—again—last week to open ourselves up to surprises and to look for the magic. 

He has spent the last few years studying and working to become a minister with the United Church of Canada. I have shared this spiritual journey with him as part of his discernment team.

Last week, when we arrived for a scheduled meeting with the committee that supports him through this process, we greeted with surprise and delight the other ministry student from our church, Mark, and his support person, Derek. We did not know they would be there. After joyful hugs we decided that lunch was in order, when all the meetings concluded.

Before lunch, the four of us agreed that our lunch would improve greatly with the added presence of our minister, Ellie. When Mark and Derek dropped by the church to invite her to join us, the staff told them they had just missed her; she had stepped out for an appointment. Disappointed but undaunted, we proceeded to the restaurant and ordered lunch.

Meanwhile, Ellie arrived at the place of her appointment a half hour or so ahead of her appointment time; she allowed herself extra time to eat the salad she had packed that morning. She parked in the lot and took out the salad: No fork. She surveyed her surroundings, seeking a place to grab a quick bite. She noticed a small restaurant. As she walked up to the door, she saw through the window the four of us waving at her.

We all laughed at the surprises the day brought: the unexpected meeting of the four of us, the happy opportunity to share lunch together, the unfortunate/fortunate missing fork, the God-incidence of the proximity of the restaurant to the place of the appointment.

“Be open to surprises and look for the magic,” we said.  

Amen to that.

It is Étienne’s birthday today. Happy birthday, my inspired friend.

Photo courtesy of Étienne LeSage

Photo courtesy of Étienne LeSage

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