Archive for the Religion Category

Survival Tip: How to Handle Failing Faith

Posted in Religion, Religion/History on July 15, 2014 by sophisticat

Recently, as a result of coursework, sermons and personal interactions, a great deal of my focus is on survival. My attention has been turn to the matters of testing and trial. After an unsettling conversation with a friend in which the only comfort I could provide her was to just be on the call, I followed up with my Co-Editor over at the ICU, Joshua “the Uppity Negro” Lazard and said this:

“Anyone that says that faith can waver but it mustn’t fail has not truly been tried by fire. There are times when faith must falter/fail in order to be rebuilt/restructured.” (K. Halford, Personal Text Message July 2014).

I realize that my words seem a little shaky but there is a destination to which I’m traveling if you stay with me. Throughout my life, especially within the last 15 years I have been not merely at the brink of losing faith but I have virtually lost it all on more that one occasion. I’ll confess, I have considered suicide on more than one occasion. Why? Because the circumstances of my discord, sorrow, disappointment, and unhappiness conflicted in drastic significance to my theological understanding and caused me to question the very foundations of my faith. Have you ever been in a place where your life has become so unrecognizable and your circumstances so seemingly unbearable that you no longer recognize yourself, your God, or anyone or anything else for that matter? Have you ever been in a place where all of that caused you to be wholly unrecognizable to others? I consider this because, quite frankly, biblically there is pretty much only one character with a story that could speak to the totality of this predicament in any holistic way his name is Job. While some say Job’s faith didn’t fail. Allow me this indulgence. Imagine faith as a building. A disaster (perhaps an earthquake) comes and does all but level the building. In fact, the quake decimated the foundations, the structural walls and even the façade of the building in such a way that the building is unrecognizable. Now imagine that the building is too valuable to completely destroy, rather it must be rebuilt and restructured and perhaps even reoriented in such a way that it can withstand a similar disaster in the future.

I am a student of language, paying attention to what is said as much as what is left unsaid but perhaps described. I simply must say that watching Job lament and curse the day he was born drives me into the place of remembrance. When you’re in that place of failing faith while you may not “charge God foolishly” you will make declarations like ” I wish I had never been born” or “I seem to only bring misery on the people I love I should just end it all”. If you’re not careful and if you’re not allowed the space to be able to honestly feel these feelings without judgment or condemnation your recovery time is going to take a while. The people who know me best know that one of my critiques of the family of faith aka the church is that we don’t make space for people to be honest. Perhaps peril, tribulation and sword are second only to the matters of initial belief to begin with. It is unsafe to admit that life has put you in a position that is so emotionally and spiritually complex that you question faith. That’s a difficult thing to admit. It is even more difficult when those who would attempt to be your confidantes and provide comfort insist that your feelings are hogwash.

So in my moment of having revelation about myself I have come to the place of wanting to share with you a tidbit that I’ve learned; sometimes faith crumbles in order to be rebuilt. Prior to Job’s experience the primary belief and therefore spiritual absolute was that bad things only happen when you have done wrong (retribution theology). It was not until Job’s experience taught him otherwise and therefore changed the parameters (rebuilt/restructured/reoriented) his faith that it became an established and immutable fact that sometimes bad things happen even when you’ve done everything right. In essence Job’s faith before his trial had to fail for it to be rebuilt strong enough to face whatever the future held. You see faith is beyond a mere belief in a transcendent God, it is also the practical application of what that belief means (to any faith system not just Christianity). Sometimes those practical applications change when knowledge and understanding of that God or of the meaning of the belief changes but before that change can happen what was gets disheveled and destroyed.

Be encouraged that you can grow and mature and regain a stronger faith from this!

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Significance

Posted in Religion on September 12, 2011 by sophisticat

The question: “What is my destiny and why am I here?” The struggle for significance, purpose and meaning that we all face.  We find ourselves searching and studying varying philosophies and ideologies in order to determine our significance.  There is perhaps no more prevalent realization of this question than perhaps the moment one realizes that he/she now is responsible of developing another while yet not be assured of his/her own.  Parents face the seemingly overwhelming responsibility of imparting meaning and purpose into their children while at times question their I own.  A truth I can personally attest to, my children struggle daily with knowing who they are and that they are both significant, both special and unique.  I assure you they know undoubtedly I love them, but when they look at the world around them and even their peer group they have difficult understanding their own significance. At times I find the same is true for myself.  I struggle to resolve my purpose.  Frequently, however, I have found that our issues and struggles with significance come from the misguided belief that purpose only involves something BIG when in fact it is the little things that mean the most.  It is the most trivial at times seemingly most “dishonorable” or least significant of assignments that bring the most meaning.  I find the words of the parable in Matthew 25:14-23 ring true.  In the end it does not matter how much the spotlight has shined on us or how much we as long as we have stewarding appropriately that which we have been given and thereby provider our investor with a respectable return.  What have a done that multiplies or even adds to what I have already been given, be it big or small and if it is small only because I don’t recognize how significant the work really has been. I also find that the tasks that we set our hands to that seem to be the least of all are frequently the ones that have the weight 1 Corinthians 12:23!  Don’t measure your significance by what others see rather know that what you have committed yourself to is significant as long as you do it wholeheartedly and with compassion and grace.

Give Us This Day

Posted in Religion on July 25, 2011 by sophisticat

Give us this day our daily bread.  The fourth sentence in what is lovingly called the Lord’s Prayer.  Why have I chosen it as my title?  I’ve come to realize that the reason so many of us are unsuccessful at living victoriously day-to-day is because we misunderstand this principle. You see we live not in the now but in the past and future.  We constantly pine over what we cannot change and fret about what we do not yet know.  In the gospel of Matthew, the first instance where we see this prayer recorded, it is in the midst of the wealth of teaching provided during the Sermon on the Mount.  In fact in verses preceding the Lord’s prayer we see the Beatitudes and the similitudes.  In verses after the Lord’s prayer we see instruction on anxiety with particular instruction concerning the future.  Mathew 6:34(KJV) “Take therefore no thought for the morrow for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”  Why is this of particular interest? because we find that worrying about what we know not only produces erratic behavior.  You see if I live in the moment and seek the Lord to provide me with all that I need to successfully tackle today, He will do it.  If I make this my practice He will consistently prove Himself faithful to supply me with my daily needs.  He sees the whole picture and is far more equipped to handle it than I will ever be.  As far as the past goes Philippians 3:12-14 .  There is nothing that I can do about what has already happened except acknowledge, learn and heal from it and keep moving forward. 

I especially selected this topic when thinking about how many of my brothers and sisters struggle with the sin addiction.  A good friend of mine told me once that people protect and guard what they love, that includes sin.  We plan for it.  Make provisions and excuses for it.  We even conceal it. Why?  Because we love it.  The reason it cannot be conquered is because we attempt to look at the span of time from beginning to end and we are not meant to see that far.  I can only see and handle the day before me.  I’m not equipped to focus on anything more.  Does that mean not to plan for the future, definitely not,  it does mean that what is most pressing is the moment at hand.  Success, won by a single decision at the right time.  If I make decisions today based upon my yesterday and my tomorrow I will fail ultimately with regard to all.  You win the war against your flesh one day at a time lived second by second, minute by minute, hour upon hour and no way else.  Seek to focus on today after all Jesus said it best Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.  You defeat tomorrow’s foe by successfully navigating today, today.  Ask God as I ask him, Give me this day all that I need to triumph in you!

Passive

Posted in Relationships, Religion on June 22, 2011 by sophisticat

When someone is crying out and you do nothing are you guilty of causing the hurt?  If you see a couple in a domestic dispute that turns violent and you do nothing are you to blame if something tragic happens?  When you read a poem by some teen you know and notice unsettling themes and images.  Images reflecting no hope or will to go on and you say nothing are you to blame when that young brother or sister travels down a self-destructive path of darkness?

In a society that is extremely self oriented.  Where the phrase “you do you” is a mantra.  I’m often left wondering when did humanity become so self consumed and cynical that we can’t see that the survival of civility at times rest on our ability to think outside of ourselves.  When Cain killed Abel and was then questioned by God about Abel’s location he arrogantly uttered the words “Am I my brother’s keeper?  ”  Ultimately we all have to make our own decisions we have to choose for ourselves which way to go and what compass we will use to chart the course of our lives.   Decision does not exempt us from our responsibility to each other.  Sometimes it only becomes clear when you choose for your family.  For those without children, it comes when you have to make some major life adjustment for the greater good.  It is the seemingly insignificant that often measures our character. I ask all of you who read this to consider the questions I asked at the beginning, privately, challenge yourself with the tough questions.  Do you know the position you hold and the responsibility it entails.  Let us not be passive but proactive.  One can chase a thousand and two ten thousand.   Imagine what God can do if we choose him and attack the enemy’s camp with prayer, fasting, and transparency that will win a generation bombarded daily with a propaganda campaign that seeks to steal their souls.

Committment

Posted in Religion on June 16, 2011 by sophisticat

Commitment is the act of pledging or engaging or the state of being pledged or engaged.  So when we commit our lives to Christ we are making a pledge of ourselves. We are declaring our engagement and connection to all manners concerning Him and affirming His relationship to us.  We are dedicating our totality to the mission that Christ, himself, ordains.  It is the realization that who I am is no longer determined by me that often causes difficulties in adjusting to the newness I have in Christ.  It is more difficult to allow someone else to have charge of or responsibility for my purpose and pursuits. During seasons of transition this truth is most difficult.  It is also in that time that we are most susceptible to poor decision-making.   I submit, however, that it is at these times when we have the distinct privilege of reaffirming our commitment to Christ by turning to him and boldly facing the turbulence.  I made a poor decision, once, during a time of transition and for a while I felt that the guilt of that decision and its implications I would never be able to grow past but alas I have discovered that the Lord is true to his word, indeed.  If you call upon the name of the Lord you shall be saved.  If you call unto him he will indeed answer.  If you confess your faults he is faithful to forgive and cleanse you of all unrighteousness.   As believers we must remember that God’s strength reigns perfect in our weakness.  It is in those times of transition, in our human uncertainty, that He can show himself  as healer, provider, peace, or whatever we need.  It is in times of difficulty, often when we feel furthest from him, that he draws us closer to him.  If you are in transition consider your commitment to Christ.  Understand that decision.  Allow yourself to feel the weight and depth of that committment. Then turn it over.  Afterall there is nothing too hard for God.

On the subject of Love

Posted in Love and Marriage, Relationships, Religion on June 15, 2011 by sophisticat

At times,love and its expression in relationships puzzles me.  I consider the questions, how does love act, what does it look like, how does it speak.  As my children are, occasionally, perplexed by the relationship between their father and me (happily divorced); I consider love, its purpose and meaning.  Why do we love?  Who do we love? How do we love?  Here is what I have discovered so far.

Why do we love?  It is our design to crave connection with the world around us and the others in it.  We love because it is in our psychological and emotional DNA.  At its core love is about relationship.  We find it difficult to love absolute strangers and find it easy to love close acquaintances.  I believe the very desire for intimacy compels us to love others.  It is our innate need for companion(s) that purposes love.  We love simply because that is what we were born to do.  We live to give and receive love.  Yet, this answer in itself is insufficient.  I submit there is more.

Who do we love?  In listening to conversations I find an infinite supply of answers to this question.  Simply put we love people, places, things, and ideas though not, necessarily, in that order.  For example, I love the smell of roses.  I love this killer pair of gold stilettos.  I love rain. I love my kids.  I love my hometown.  I love the month of June.  Most importantly, I love God.  The fact is love is not limited to merely who but also what.  That is the beauty.  Love extends with limitless boundaries to whosoever or whatsoever I choose.  Therein is the enigma, We choose love.  How then do we choose it?

How do we love? Love is as multifaceted as humanity is diverse.  Christians examine and consider the First Epistle of the Apostle Paul written to the Church at Corinth in exactly the 13th chapter.  Affectionately called the Love chapter.  In the fourth through the seventh verses of the aforementioned selection we are given a series of characteristics.  I believe these are not mere virtues and aspects but behaviors and decisions:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT)

Love when given to objects can never be fully realized for objects cannot make decisions.  Love when bestowed with regard to ideas results in great and at times, unrealistic passions and pursuits.  There is a balance that we must learn with regard to our ideas.  Love, however, when lavished upon God and others yields a satisfaction that is beyond compare.   For love, you see, is not based upon how I feel or what someone feels about me but upon how I choose to live.  Love with regard to people is the decision to live in a relationship of intimacy in all aspects of my being.  Love is the choice to pour kindness, patience, forgiveness, mercy, grace, praise, honesty, humility, sympathy, empathy, trust and the like into someone else not because of who he or she is or what they can do.  It is the choice to live with the endurance to see others succeed for their own sake but with the knowledge that they may  not do the same for you (a hard saying I know).  Just as God has loved us, because he chose to and we cannot change that, I love you, whoever and  you are because I choose to and you cannot do a thing about.  Is it easy, not in the least but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.  I am not saying that love will not hurt, quite the contrary, love endures notwithstanding of pain.  Love is more than an emotion in fact it tempers the emotions.  I look forward to growing more in this area and to watching you grow as well.  I know there are many stones left unturned and am sure to consider them in the future.   Enjoying the journey!

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