Over the past few months, I have explored the different ways guest contributors and I experience faith. In one post, I talked about the ability to “wait for it.” A friend recently shared how her efforts to grow in patience have led her to see patience as the practice of empathy. Since patience is not a strength of mine, her comment got my attention. I was reminded of how my impatience often comes from a belief I know better or best in most situations and an accompanying unwillingness to wait for or respect someone else’s approach. I now see that a corrective act of faith is to believe everyone is entitled to a personal point of view. In this more open response to alternative approaches, I know I don’t have to accept unacceptable situations. Rather I believe that I can make a choice in a way that is empathic and respectful without attacking what is different.
Last week I shared a post by guest contributor Eileen Doud where she shared her faith in Jesus. Oddly to some, this was the first time my exploration of faith directly mentioned Jesus. I say “oddly” because I was raised as a Catholic, studied for a while to be a Catholic priest and continue to be a practicing Catholic. I do believe in Jesus and, at the same time, believe there are many names and ways of conceiving of a power greater than me, the divine, the Big Spirit or God.
Second day of fall, the rain has pelted my hometown. I had an appointment with the auto repair shop and, since it was raining furiously, I wore a waterproof Helly Hansen jacket; and brought along a waterproof backpack, courtesy of Eddie Bauer. Neither helped. Drenched to the bone, I reluctantly left my car at the shop and walked to the aquatic center to swim! Clearly, this was a morning of “iffy” decisions!
The posts for the past several months have focused on the many ways that faith is experienced and guides lives. Focusing on faith has led me to revisit some of my own beliefs and to look more deeply at others’ beliefs.
A friend of mine lost his wife recently after a three-year battle with cancer. Anytime we saw Bill and Margaret together, their total and deep love for each other was obvious. Talking with him and hearing his devotion and connection to her was inspiring. Now as he grieves his loss, he is alone in the same home, taking the same walks, eating meals at about the same time. And yet it is all different. And profoundly sad.
Twenty years ago, I left an executive position in a faith-based nonprofit (I was dean of the Presbyterian college at the University of British Columbia and taught organizational development and leadership at Vancouver School of Theology) to launch a consulting firm that sought to provoke greater institutional flourishing in the sector. I needed a catchy angle to attract attention and found it in jazz. Thus, Jazzthink Consulting was born. Little did I imagine the lessons I would learn as I collaborated with others in imaging new ways of cultivating the common good. My faith was reformulated one conversation after another with people in both the visible and the invisible church.
I recently attended a memorial service for my older cousin, Paul, back in the community where I grew up. While I have not always considered it so, I increasingly appreciate the blessings of being born into a large family. My Mom came from a large, farm family of Irish Catholics. She had two brothers and three sisters – all of whom married and had four to eight children. It’s a challenge sometimes to remember all my cousin’s names, never mind the next generations of their children and grandchildren. In contrast, my Dad had only one sister but my three siblings and I share two wonderful cousins from that side of the family.
Last night I was up late. It could have been the cortado I’d had in the afternoon, but the recent headlines about Haiti, Afghanistan, relentless fires in California, the Delta variant, and all the forgotten ills still afflicting our human family abroad and at home could have also been contributing factors. It was two in the morning. I played song after song on the piano until eventually, melodies I had not played before began to fill the room. This is amazing, I thought. I imagined people who had passed on as inspiring the prayers my fingers were sending into the world from that out-of-tune instrument. And, like anyone would do at three in the morning, I began to wonder if there wasn’t some mystical meaning to the name “YAMAHA” in front of me. My exhaustion eventually pushed me off the bench and onto the couch.
Being Religion Editor for Reuters, one of the world’s largest news agencies, was so interesting that I often called it “the best-ever continuing graduate course in world religions.” I didn’t just read the Scriptures or learn the histories of the major faiths. My job was to go report on these beliefs at first hand, experiencing believers — wherever they were — as they practiced their faith or brought it into their daily lives. It was a wonderful experience.
A few recent experiences reinforced my restlessness about how all of us face the destructive power of addiction in our lives and communities. I’d like to connect this topic to the current series exploring different ways faith develops in different lives and communities.