Understanding the word faith

Bird Droppings October 12, 2009

Understanding the word faith


“Your daily life is your temple and your religion.”  Kahlil Gibran


Maybe a bit of rewording and Gibran has a very powerful statement, not that it is not already. Your daily life is your window to your faith. I was thinking back to a student whose mother had passed away. I had observed numerous times the faith of this student. I can be quite a pain when questioning and asking deep focusing questions to make students think. She never flinched as so many lesser mortals do. She knew where of and what of she spoke. As I spoke with a teacher who has worked with her that teacher commented, that she had never met anyone with a faith that strong.


“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.” John Wooden


John Wooden is the NCAA’s all-time winningest basketball coach with more national championships than any other coach ever. When he is talked about by his former players it is his faith and his way of life they remember not how he taught basketball skills. Though his faith is interwoven through all that he did it is what his players saw that they remembered. An interesting note in all of his years at UCLA and National championships he never asked for a raise.

Yesterday as I do I was talking with a good friend up at our corner store, he is the assistant manager, and is from India and a devout Muslim. He was showing me a track from a Jehovah’s Witness that had been there only a few minutes before I arrived. My friend at the store is a very well educated and knowledgeable person. Always questioning why people do this or that. He and I got into discussion over the many “redneck” teenagers who seeing the Time magazine cover of Barrack Obama, our president elect would spout out “someone should kill him”. We talked about ignorance and we went into the issue of faith.

As we talked it came up that many of those same teenagers who spouted on about Obama would on Sundays be at local Christian churches sitting in pews singing songs about a faith that is the exact opposite of their daily actions. My friend was amazed at the paradox. We eventually slipped into faith and he went back to his visitor earlier and the track and how he stumped the man not deliberately but by being so knowledgeable about Christianity as well as his own faith. I always enjoy a good discussion before I start the day.

Many semesters back I finished up a program of study with a presentation and one of my comments was on how we have become more visually oriented in our learning. It is becoming about what we see.


“If faith produces no works, I see that faith is not a living tree. Thus faith and works together grow, No separate life they never can know.” Hannah Moore


“Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further.” Soren Kierkegard


Several days ago I made a comment and the student said they had never heard of Kierkegaard. So I had to dig up a few quotes. Faith separates us from lower life forms as Kierkegaard states.


“All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light…” James Joyce


“Our faith comes in moments… yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


As I sit here in my upstairs writing room preparing for a long day of teaching, researching, catching up on paperwork, reading and more writing I think back on days and times when faith was significant as I journeyed. I tried to pinpoint days and found separating out moments was difficult. Faith has been more of a constant, not a moment here or there.


“To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty… this knowledge; this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.” Albert Einstein


So often thought of as a man of little faith or no faith when you look in his writings faith is a centerpiece for much of what he wrote on and thought about. Interspersed through his physics are constant inquiries and questions and thoughts on faith. Einstein had a deep faith and while what he saw and thought were different than many his thoughts are as profound on faith as his theories are to physics.


“I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind.” St. Bernard


Recently as I walked through the school while on my planning period, a student was writing favorite bible verses on note cards for a friend who was going on a mission trip. I interrupted curious to see what verses were used. I asked about her little exercise and was told it was just to have a contact daily with friends, more than anything a reminder for her friend. How many of us need daily reminders note cards from friends, thoughts, ideas to keep us going in difficult times?


“Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand.” Saint Thomas Aquinas


“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr  


I remember in one of my favorite all time a movie of all time and of all movies to ever be made this quote was used. Most of you have probably have never seen the movie Billy Jack by Tom Laughlin. A young Native American man pulls a slip of paper from his pocket and reads this quote to a girl he is interested in. He attributes the quote to St. Francis and for many years I searched looking for the entire text.

Dr. Niebuhr was a theologian and writer back in the day and in looking up various quotes and writings I found he used this as a prayer in a sermon in the late 1950’s.  It was part of a longer prayer used in his sermon. My point is whether from Niebuhr, St. Francis or Billy Jack it is a powerful statement of faith and of life. We cannot control all, no matter what we do or try faith is the binding force that allows us to be who we are and why we are. A Humanist writer and author I have enjoyed over the past years, William Edelen calls it the great mystery and writes about it in his book, In the search for the mystery.

Today as you journey out keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart and remember those who have had other ways difficulties sent their way. I chatted online with a dear friend for some time last night seems it has been years since we last talked or chatted. Years ago we would walk in the mornings discussing philosophy religion and most anything that would come to mind. That period of time solidified many ideas I hold today. I closed our few moments of online chatting with the words peace be with you and he responded and also with you. As I close this morning be at peace and seek peace as you journey. While we may not see peace on a world wide basis in our lifetimes we can try and find peace within our own hearts with ourselves and with our environment.



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