Category Archives: religion

The pixels, the picture and the story: A faith mosaic

canadian mosaic july 7th smallSince 2008, photographer Tim Van Horn has been travelling across Canada to photograph Canadians, and he will continue to do so into 2017. Each one of his photographs will become a pixel in a giant Canadian flag mosaic portrait to be completed in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. The portrait will tell the story of “the collective history and energy of 40,000 of Canadians from across the land . . . weaving together a colourful, diverse, true life look at the Canadian cultural tapestry.”

Van Horn’s Canadian Mosaic Project takes the faces of Canadians and creates a picture. The picture in turn tells a bigger story of a culturally diverse country.

Life is in the details, and life is in the big picture.

To really appreciate his masterpiece, we need to know about and consider the 40,000 unique citizens at the heart of it—the people pixels. But if we were to spend all our time microscopically dissecting the pixels without stepping away to appreciate they way they blend together, we would miss the big picture. We don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that the pixels are the only thing. Sure, we need to study the details, but we also need to enjoy the big picture and, more importantly, ponder what greater story they work together to tell.

Faith is like that.

We can study the bible. We can closely examine the many intricate details therein. But we don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that those details are what faith is all about. We need to step back and look at the bigger picture. And, more importantly, we need to ponder the greater story they work together to tell.

The faith story for me is:

  • All people are of equal value. Each unique face forms a vital part of the whole. All are one.
  • The collective history and energy of billions of people of different faiths weave together to form a colourful, diverse, true life tapestry.

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Find out more about The Canadian Mosaic Project on Facebook.

 

 

 

The laying on of hands: A touch of love, power, blessing

“Every moment is a starting point.” —Etienne LeSage

On the weekend, I attended the ordination and commissioning of two friends of mine into the United Church of Canada. The ceremony touched me deeply, and since then I’ve pondered what to write about it.

So many aspects of the event filled our emotional wells to overflowing. We cried happy tears.

The two people involved are both joyful givers; they embrace all people, work for justice, don’t sit in judgment of others, and allow and encourage questions. Love envelopes them; their parents, spouses, siblings, friends, children and other supporters glowed with it. The two people possess the perseverance and the indefinable “something more” that propels them into the challenging work of ministry.

Photo courtesy of Shaun Dunmall https://www.flickr.com/photos/llamnuds/

Photo courtesy of Shaun Dunmall
https://www.flickr.com/photos/llamnuds/

In the end, though, I kept coming back to the laying on of hands.

Those unfamiliar with the practice, or those who have never been on the receiving end of it, might see it as an empty ritual, or even as a showy bit of hocus-pocus. But the ancient tradition of laying on hands is a powerful experience for both giver and receiver. It recognizes the potency of human touch. Like a comforting squeeze on the shoulder of someone bent over in grief, like a cool touch to hot brow, like a gentle nudge to the back of someone who hesitates—hands have the potential to soothe, heal or empower.

After the ceremony, one of the two people, Mark, told me that he felt the love flowing to him from hands placed on him by his parents, spouse, family and friends. But when he felt the touch of his daughter and his toddler son, his heart burst—the power of children blessing a father.

I lay hands on my friend, Etienne, as he was blessed and ordained. I was a member of his discernment committee, and I walked with him—metaphorically speaking—on his path to ministry. When I lay my hands on him, it was a conduction of love, power and blessing.

I sent him love, because the tremendous amount of love I had for him grew even stronger during the psyche-testing process of discernment.

I sent him power for his journey, because the path he has chosen (or that was chosen for him?) is not an easy one. He begins ministry in the face of assumptions about Christianity that just don’t apply to him. He’s funny and open, not sombre and judgemental. He knows that love is the foundation of a strong and healthy marriage, not gender. He sees the soul in people, no matter what race, ethnicity, religion or shape the body that carries it around, so he excludes no one.

I sent him my blessing of courage and compassion to face it with strength for the highest good of all.

Both people, in their individual ways, had to overcome big difficulties to arrive at the day. They both chose to take the road less travelled, and it is one that is fraught with challenges.

They both know that their lives, in so many ways, would be so much easier if they were taking the well-trodden path. Now that they have been sent forth with the love, power and blessing of the touch of those who love them, they might just make it.

One corner left open to represent open minds.

The Trinity United Church cross, designed by Rev. Dr. Glen Stoudt. One corner left open to represent open minds. http://www.trinityunitedottawa.ca/

 

 

 

Large Hadron Collider and Easter: Hail fellows well-met

On Sunday, many of us munched hot cross buns or searched for chocolate eggs while we pondered the mysteries of the day. Easter is a time for minds open to new possibilities. On the same day, scientists at CERN restarted the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and sent protons hurtling both directions around 27 kilometer-long parallel pipes while they pondered the mysteries of the day. Such an event is a time for minds open to new possibilities.

Physicists wait with impatient attentiveness to see what happens when the particles collide. They hope the LHC provides experimental evidence to support theories to explain some of our universe’s unknowns and puzzles. The Standard Model of particle physics—“the current best description there is of the subatomic world”— explains only about 5% of the universe.

People ponder the complexities of Easter with impatient attentiveness. We must rely on contradictory Bible stories as our best evidence, and they are unscientific and insufficient, at best. Do they explain even 5% of what Easter is all about?

I enjoy the association between the LHC and Easter. For minds open to new possibilities, they are hail fellows well-met.

______________

Read more:

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31162725

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-32160755

The Standard Model

The Standard Model explains how the basic building blocks of matter interact, governed by four fundamental forces

http://home.web.cern.ch/about/physics/standard-model

 

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked”

It is a Good Friday to remember that sorrow is joy’s twin.


“On Joy and Sorrow” from The Prophet —Khalil Gibran

Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

el-cristo-de-la-concordia

El Cristo de la Concordia, Cochabamba, Bolivia

 

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.

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