Pondering on mothers day about faith

Bird Droppings May 8, 2011
Pondering on mothers day about faith

For so many a Sunday morning brings dressing up and heading to a place of worship. Worship for most is a community event a gathering of like believers who sit and go through ritualistic undertakings in a prescribed manner and at the prescribed time head home or to a restaurant for lunch and then right back to their lives. My question is always does this entail faith or simply tradition and ritual. A routine followed from childhood and continued into adulthood and passed on to offspring similar to tool making and other basic functions. Perhaps this is where I draw a differentiation between faith and religion. For me religion is the traditions and rituals and then faith is something else.

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

“In faith and hope the world will disagree, but all mankind’s concern is charity.” Alexander the Great

Within man there is a driving force, a desire to understand, a need to know and perhaps be known. Often we hope, we believe, so that we can share. Early writers chose a word to define this idea of sharing. In Greek several words were used to define what mankind considered love, Eros, Philos and Agape. Eros is that sexual passionate love, Philos that love that can be deemed brotherly love, and Agape. Agape in 1613 was defined as the word charity by translators for King James. As I was researching earlier I found Alexander the Great used charity, perhaps in a similar fashion.

“Faith is a continuation of reason.” William Adams

“Faith is a higher faculty than reason.” Henry Christopher Bailey

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

I have introduce the word love into my discussion of faith as well as so often it intertwines between the operations and delineations of what is defined by many as faith. A simple word faith, much of the world’s history has evolved around our understanding of this word and our acceptance or rejection of various aspects of that word.

“I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in the kindness of human beings. I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels.” Pearl S. Buck

“To us also, through every star, through every blade of grass, is not God made visible if we will open our minds and our eyes.” Thomas Carlyle

Several years ago I researched the word faith in an education class, and found that Dr. James Fowler of Emory University wrote a book on the development of faith. In his book he was comparing faith in stages much as Erickson and Piaget looked at children’s development.

“Do you know how to digest your food? Do you know how to fill your lungs with air? Do you know how to establish, regulate and direct the metabolism of your body — the assimilation of foodstuff so that it builds muscles, bones and flesh? No, you don’t know how consciously, but there is a wisdom within you that does know.” Donald Curtis

“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

As I researched the word and its applications to people and especially to children I found an interesting correlation and parallel. The word trust and faith are synonymous.

“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

“A faith to live by, a self to live with, and a purpose to live for.” Bob Harrington

“All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light, but though I seem to be driven out of my country as a misbeliever I have found no man yet with a faith like mine.” James Joyce

Could it be that faith is an evolutionary thing, it grows, alters, changes and develops much as visual acuity changes and mental cognitive aspects of our nature change. As I looked deeper and saw correlations to the word trust, I could see trust in children evolve and grow and simultaneously faith.

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

“That’s the thing about faith. If you don’t have it you can’t understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary” Major Kira Nerys

There is a dark side as I watch children who have little trust in their lives for what ever reason. It is here we see that vacuum, a hollow void a space where faith is vacant. If faith and trust is void then as so many great thinkers have said hope is lost and charity is non existent. I watch students who have little trust in anything and for them only self matters. Over the years I have seen philosophy and theology often interconnect at times one trying to explain the other.

“Life is a battle between faith and reason in which each feeds upon the other, drawing sustenance from it and destroying it.” Reinhold Niebuhr

“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

Two great men in their respective fields Niebuhr a theologian and Wooden one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time with a similar idea. Going at life and in my own case in teaching it is finding a way to build trust in children who have none. Many times more often than not when trust can be developed then so can faith. Hope soon follows, and charity sort of finds it way along. Many years ago I watched a film one of my favorites, Billy Jack. In one scene a young Native American offers a slip of paper to a young lady in the film containing a passage he attributes to St. Francis of Assisi.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

Niebuhr used this statement in a much longer prayer often referred to as the serenity prayer during a sermon in the late 1950’s. As I worked through literature and my own thoughts piecing together bits and shards, I found there was a need within people for faith, and for trust. In reality it is not much different than so many other areas of human development. The capacity and direction of that faith and trust may vary greatly in traditions and in perceptions but it is there. Walking out into the mornings often reminds me, as I look upon a clear sky a moon tilted slightly smiling, stars and a few clouds creating an image of calm. We each piece together our own life’s puzzle one piece at a time often never seeing the completed version only having faith that it is there, somewhere. Please as the week draws to an end, keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts and a most happiest of mothers days.

We are where we need to be NOW

Bird Droppings February 5, 2011
We are where we need to be NOW

“St. Therese’s Prayer:
May today there be peace within. May you trust your highest power that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let his presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of you.” St. Therese of Lisieux

I woke up this morning and went outside to sit and think and my thoughts were so jumbled from a severe sinus headache but the stillness of the morning and clean feeling of the cool air seemed to help as I meditated for a few moments while I took our dog out. I should have wrapped in my blanket and put my shoes on as I was sitting looking at the little dipper I was having a hard time thinking of what to write about and came inside and fell asleep sitting in a recliner trying to clear my head. I knew I would have a thought after I could think again.
Yesterday I rode with my oldest son as moral support on his way to his interview session at Piedmont College. I sat waiting in the lobby while he discussed with various professors his views on education and teaching. As I sat there I got into a discussion with a fellow who by virtue of his name tag worked at Piedmont. Turns out he is a maintenance manager and as we talked found out he too was a Pennsylvania native and West Chester State former student back in the day. Actually we were both there at the same time. Synchronistic as Carl G. Jung would say. We talked about organic gardening, our old stomping grounds over lapped as he too was a fan of Ocean City on the Jersey Shore. The time went quickly and on the way home my son mentioned he had been asked why he had chosen the teaching field. I told him many will say they are called to teaching. Myself it just seems to be where I need to be at the time.
I came to school as I do many Sundays and had an email one of those sort of chain letters forwarded by an acquaintance and then you are to send to nine people. As I looked at the email so often I delete casual forwards immediately many times without even opening I get quite a few random ones from students. I always like the ones that start you will die tonight if you break this chain sort of thing. Once in a blue moon I respond and add a line “if you break this chain many people will thank you”. This passage from St. Theresa happened to be in the forwarded message.

“May today there be peace within.”

A simple line yet so often I just left the hall where a student was “so pissed” to borrow from the teen vernacular that the feeling will carry for a few moments maybe all day. What if we could find peace within and carry that all day this is a powerful thought.

“May you trust your highest power that you are exactly where you are meant to be.”
I have often said I am where I am meant to be right at this moment. We can all come up with the whys and how’s but for whatever reason I am here doing something that brings fulfillment and joy to me and hopefully to those whose lives I touch.

“May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.”

So often faith is construed as religion and in this context I really think a synonym is appropriate “trust” do not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of trust. I work daily with students I can not trust but I have to do something with them. In order to move in any direction it requires trust at some point and trust in one self as well. A powerful word is trust.

“May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.”

So often or I should say far too often people sit and seek help never utilizing what they could do for them selves. We live in a world where it is far too easy to ask for help and get it never really trying to survive on our own. Maybe this is why I really do not like the reality shows and survivor shows on TV. Give them a match and a Swiss army knife and drop on a deserted island and come back in a month that is real survival. But the second part is crucial, pass on the love that has been given too you. In today’s day and age so often we hoard love. We expect it but do not pass it on. It struck me as I read these simple yet powerful words. As I do so often I researched St. Therese and this wonderful person was a nun in France in the late 1800’s. She had devoted her life to prayer and understanding prayer. After she was gone books were written about her devotion to the power of prayer.

“Grace walks in simplicity” Thomas a Kempis

I recalled several books I have read in the past few years written by a new age sort of guru of prayer Dr. Larry Dossey. He has authored numerous books on prayer from a medical standpoint as a physician. Healing Words was one of his first books as he has sought alternatives in his medicine for many years and lectures now through the world on alternative medicine. I have a small book I have used several times in my morning writings written by an Native American physician who uses bits and pieces of his past to heal those in need. Yesterday I received an email from a former student and I will end today with a few words from her note. She went into my idea of life being a puzzle and mentioned how it is finally making sense to her as her life falls into place. She mentioned her new friend Kous, a two and a half year old red-tailed hawk that that her new boyfriend who happens to be a falconer is training. But as I read her note for the first time in many years a peace was with her and now the puzzle pieces are falling into place. Simplicity may we all try and attain peace within ourselves and then spread it around and as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Working on a wedding

Bird Droppings August 17, 2010
Working on a wedding

Nearly two years ago I performed a wedding service for one of my sons close friends. As I was pulling together material for a short sermon and discussion I found several pieces from many years ago. As I thought this morning and walked out just before heading to school perhaps today was a good day to share with others some of those thoughts as I am preparing for another wedding my youngest sons.
I first met my son’s friend when he was in elementary school as he and my son became friends. All through the school years and various projects, field trips, movies and band there was a group of fellows who came to know each other very well. I am impressed as they have graduated from high school and now college and still all are dear and close friends. I by chance had some old videos on my laptop I told my sons friend fiancée I would save for her and I am assuming she was not embarrassed by his antics since they did go through with the wedding.
I had the privilege of meeting his fiancée a few months after being called and asked if I could perform their service. I was impressed by the commitment and care these two had for each other. One thing she mentioned that drew her to him was his humor. She said that whenever he is around people those people seem happier. I sensed a growing a powerful love as I talked with the two of them over several meetings. Friendship and love are critical elements for a marriage to succeed. She offered how they were best friends before they fell in love. As I listened to her express how she feels about him I came to know her in our brief meetings. Never once was she not smiling or offering bits and pieces of how their love has grown over the years.
As I looked for thoughts to share at this very special occasion one that has been important to me for some time to me from a newspaper columnist back in the day as my youngest son would say. Funny how recently my wife made comments similar watching my youngest son and his fiancée as the talked and laughed.

“Love, for example, is difficult to sustain not because it is a positive emotion, but because it is a complex one. Love might be compared to the building of a tall and elaborate sandcastle, taking many hours of painstaking effort, cooperation, balance, and persistence” Strictly Personal Columns of Sydney J. Harris

As I listened to them I could see their sandcastle being built each minute detail and built with a strength that can withstand any circumstance to come their way. I would like to share with them a poem from a poet I am always moved by and recommend nearly every day.

To love and not to possess
by James Kavanaugh

To love is not to possess
To know or imprison
Nor to lose ones self in another
It is to join and separate
To walk alone and together
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence
It is perfectly one’s self
And perfectly joined in termagant commitment
To another – and to one’s self
Love dies when private lives are smothered
When solitude and privacy
Are not allowed
In a sacred union that links two together
For life and perhaps forever
Without binding wings or cleaving lips

Love only endures when it moves like waves
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moons own predictable harmony
Because finally despite a child’s scars
Or an adults deepest wounds
They are openly free to be
Who they really are – and always secretly were
In the core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide

As I thought about the place where the service will be held, an ancient oak tree near the beach in the pan handle of Florida I was inspired. I was intrigued by its history. Within this special location I would say and considerate a sacred place. So many families and traditions, love, faith, prayers, hopes and lives have drifted through all collected there. That is how I interpret sacred. Marriage is a sacred trust a promise and commitment of two people before their friends and families. What has been special to these two people is now being expressed openly for all to see. A marriage is a time to share with family and friends their love a chance to reveal their care and concern that they have for each other.
Thinking back to my son friends they had asked me to view a video that meant a lot to them. “When Harry met Sally” I think I was supposed to have a hoagie and ice cream when I watched it as they recalled their first time seeing the movie. There is a line or two of significance to them that is how they found each other and fell in love.

I love that you get cold when it is 71 degrees outside
I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich
I love that little crinkle above your nose when you are looking at me like I am nuts
I love after I spend the day with you I can smell your perfume on my clothes
And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night
And it is not because I am lonely and its is not because it is New Years Eve
I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible

As I thought about a statement of purpose, I realized that there is a moving beyond a promise greater than just friendship to a sacred trust a vow of marriage, a life long bond between two people before their families and friends. For me the circle holds a special place it that it is finite yet infinite. All through mans history the circle has been revered and considered an integral aspect of life. We are born and live our lives and die and return to the ground in what many call the circle of life. Theologians and holy men and women allude to a continuation around the circle a never ending cycle. Does a circle have a beginning and or an end? Many of the philosophies of life use comparisons to circles as a visual tool to simplify what is being said. Native American truth is often found centered and focused on a circle. Black Elk an Oglala Sioux Holy Man nearly seventy years ago said this

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.”

It is strange how we respond as we consider all events all happenings and see that truly life is a circle a simple circle. No beginning and no end as we journey thorough it. We get to participate along the way interconnecting with and meeting other people. We gain understanding and wisdom as we travel this circle and for some, most I would say the transitional points are painful and yet for others wondrous moments and new understanding and illumination to their journeys. Soon my son and his fiancée will continue their journey and with the exchange of their rings seal their promises to each other.
As I thought about world issues and all the drama existing in our time I kept being drawn back to two human beings who are deeply in love and ready to commit to each other and their families and I can see how we are in a circle of life. There is trauma and horrendous happenings around the world but there are also places where there is peace. There are places and corners where love and community abound. I mentioned in a post for a graduate class that I wish this were contagious and could spread. It takes effort as Sydney J. Harris states so eloquently and is worth repeating.

“Love, for example, is difficult to sustain not because it is a positive emotion, but because it is a complex one. Love might be compared to the building of a tall and elaborate sandcastle, taking many hours of painstaking effort, cooperation, balance, and persistence”

So for today as I do everyday please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.