A Risky Business This Thing Called Faith

It I couldI recently saw this photo on Facebook. More than the child’s face, it was the words that caused my heart to sink.

Yes.  One of the risks of believing in God is when tragedy strikes, when a rape has not been stopped, we feel as though God was somehow absent…uninterested…or  powerless to stop such a heinous act.

Even Jesus questioned his faith and his God when he uttered these words, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” as he hung dying on a cross.

With the shocking and tragic bombing in Boston and horrible explosion in Texas this month, I know doubts have risen up.  Believers askWhy would God let these things happen? Why, God, do innocent people have to suffer or die?  Where were you, God?”

Meanwhile, others are saying,You foolish people. Where is your god now?”

And so my heart sinks.

When the only understanding of God is that of  some kind of superhero who is supposed to stop rapes, bombings, and explosions from happening, the transformational power of faith is missed.

When my own life takes a turn for the worst, I definitely ask “Why?” (with a few expletives thrown in, believe me). But I do not question, “Why me?”   I consider instead,  “Why now, God?”  And “What now?”  I do not believe that I suffer or struggle because God was absent in my life or knowingly allowed something to happen as a form of punishment.

Believing in God means instead that I am challenged to look beyond the suffering and to ask,What am I to learnHow am I to grow from this? Where do I go from hereWhat message of hope can I carry to others? How, with God’s help, will this darkness, this pain or this loss be transformed into Christ’s Light, Spirit’s comfort and God’s grace-filled joy?”

I make no assumptions that believing in God means that my life is going to be easy and without tragedy.  My faith is not that simplistic.  Violence happens. Accidents happen. Death and loss happen.

Which brings us back to the beginning.

Believing in God is risky.

Tragedy strikes and we question, with no simple answers to be found.  Instead we discover a long journey where doubt and anger, grief and pain await us.  We fall prey to the whispers of bystanders who claim we were alone all along and we wonder why God has forsaken us.

I meet many people in my hospice work who have gotten stuck at this part of the journey.  Their faith cannot bring them beyond their betrayal of the superhero God who should have been there in their time of need.

They are unable to move through the pain to experience God’s power of transformation.

This is why I am a person of faith.

In my own life and others, I have witnessed rage melt into serenity and bitterness evolve into forgiveness. I have watched the darkness of grief transform into brilliant joy.   I have seen people’s lives take on unexplainable changes for the better…because they took the risk to believe in a God who would  not leave them in a state of brokenness. I am blown away, time and time again, when I see these transformations.

It is a risky business this thing called faith.

But I encourage you to take the risk.  Go beyond a simplistic understanding of the Holy, release all the crap that is weighing you down (anger, fear, resentment, doubt, heartache, pain), give your brokenness over to God, and discover the beauty and grace of transformation.

On Being Powerless


My name is Rebecca and I admit that I am powerless over anxiety.

My life has been ruled by it for as long as I can remember.  It has negatively affected my relationships, my schooling, my job performance, and, without question, my health.  There are times when I am paralyzed by it, unable to make decisions, be efficient or sometimes even to physically move. It can be a crippling dis-order, throwing all aspects of my life out of whack and into disarray. As I constantly remind myself, however, admitting that I am powerless is my first step toward recovery.

People who resist using the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to find sobriety often immediately reject the first step, “We admitted we were powerless over alcoholism and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

What do you mean “powerless?”  I’m not weak or helpless! That’s ridiculous. I just need a stronger will power to overcome my addiction. Admitting powerlessness is like surrendering to defeat. How am I supposed to create a sober life with that attitude?  To hell with being powerless!

Yea…I get that. Claiming to be powerless is intimidating…scary…humbling. It may even cause one to feel more vulnerable. I know because often I get anxious (but, of course!) when thinking that  anxiety could possibly disrupt and screw up my life forever.

But being “powerless” for me doesn’t imply I’m weak or helpless.  It doesn’t mean I’m dis-empowered either.  Claiming powerlessness means I’m admitting that I cannot rely solely on myself.  I’ve not surrendered to defeat. Nor am I leaving it up to my willpower to help me just “get over” being anxious. When I admit that I am powerless my focus shifts away from a narcissistic self-reliance.  I am forced instead to reach out beyond myself for help.

Comfort and support often comes in the form of turning to my Higher Power for guidance and strength.  Seeking help means remembering the relief I get when I actually take the herb that eases my stress.   In claiming powerlessness, I am confessing I need to reach out to friends, maintain my spiritual disciplines and experience, once again, the peace and hope in living by the Serenity Prayer.

In essence,

I am EMPOWERED by admitting I am powerless. 

In surrendering, I gain FREEDOM.

So… what’s causing your life to be unmanageable?  What behavior or addiction needs to be purged from your life?  Are you addicted to alcohol, food, drugs, or shopping? Are you addicted to being needed?  Is your life driven or controlled by a destructive emotion like mine is?

I challenge you today to admit you need help.  Stop thinking you can do it on your own.

Be open to admitting you are powerless

and let that confession lead you

to a life of freedom, peace and joy.




Time and Perspective

Ever thought about your own take on religion or how your faith has developed?  Do you believe more compassion and less dogmatism is needed in the world?  That’s where my thoughts were this week.  Last Thursday I participated in an educational day for professional enrichment.  The program was called “Respecting Diverse Religious Traditions at End of Life”.  As we reviewed major world religions–Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Sikhism–and their approach to death and dying, I was taken back to my college days.

My freshman year at the University of Oregon, I enrolled in a year-long comparative religions course.  Although I found it interesting, the pessimist in me could only conclude one thing as our course ended.  Since the religions of the world had such different ideas about God, the Sacred, right and wrong, the after-life, etc., then clearly and logically they were all wrong.  God did not exist and religion was simply a tool for controlling the masses.  Religious beliefs and practices were for the weak who needed to depend on some form of hierarchy or rules for living to make it from day to day.  Religion seemed to bring more brokenness in the world than healing.   My resolve?  To abandon my Christian roots and deny any religious upbringing.  That lasted about 2 years.  By my junior year, I had become one of those so-called weak people. I was lost in the darkness of depression and could see no easy pathway out.  Unbeknownst to me, I was on the brink of embarking on an intentional spiritual journey.

My sojourn began at the 12-Step meetings where I admitted I was powerless and desired sanity in my life.  The pathway to wholeness became clearer at the Unitarian Church I attended where I was gently guided back into a religious life.  Every day my heart was opening back up to the Holy.  And with every Ah-ha I experienced, my depression lightened and faith grew.

There are many other landmarks along this spiritual journey of mine that have challenged and shaped me: my call to ministry, attending seminary, getting married, becoming involved with Kairos Outside Prison Ministry, having children, experiencing loss and struggling with health issues.  As my faith has deepened and become rooted in the Holy, I now see the beautiful similarities amidst the many world religions.  Instead of weakness, I now see the strength of individuals and cultures seeking through religion to make sense of this crazy thing called life. 

True.  Religions may not have the same interpretation of the mysteries of life.  Buddhism, for instance, can appear very different than Islam.  But there is an underlining goal of living a meaningful life that takes us beyond our small, self-absorbed realities.  We are called to ultimately shift our attention away from ourselves and direct it outwardly toward God (however that may be interpreted), Justice, Compassion—to name a few.

I am so grateful for all the spiritual growth I have experienced since my college days. Time and perspective have transformed my understanding of religion.  I now love my faith tradition and yes, depend on it.  I find salvation in the life and teachings of Jesus.  And I believe that I am called by my God to show compassion to all.  If you, too, believe you are required  by your religion or spiritual practice to live by the Golden Rule, I encourage you to check out this website:  www.charterforcompassion.org  Here you will find like minded people who want to push past dogmatism and remind us of the great need for compassion in a world that has become so divided.

May we all learn to appreciate the world religions

and strive to see our similarities above our differences.

May we make it a priority,

today and everyday,

to be compassionate towards one another.









Are you Spiritually Malnourished?

good foodI admit it. I am a fanatic for healthy living. I believe in eating organic, non-processed foods, exercising daily, taking vitamins, herbs and minerals, and going to an acupuncturist regularly. I am allergic to wheat and have a daughter who cannot eat artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and must avoid many natural foods that contain salicylates (almonds, berries, paprika, peaches–to name a few). So, eating out is a rare event and home cooked food has to be made from scratch.

Although not always easy, I am very happy with this way of living.  But when it comes to others, it is hard to convince them that they, too, would benefit from a change in life style. Try persuading a total stranger that her hyperactive child would be much better off without the processed, easy to serve meal or snack, the extremely colorful birthday cake from the local grocery store or even that innocent bowl of fresh fruit she serves him. (Believe me, I was one of those parents!)

It is difficult to get someone to believe that he or she would feel much better with daily exercise and a healthier diet.  Persuading that person that the effort is worth it is nearly impossible.  They don’t have a clue that they are hungry, that their bodies are craving and, in some cases, screaming out for healthy living.

I think it is the same for those who are spiritually hungry. We go about our daily lives never fully comprehending that there is something missing or that life could be more meaningful and balanced.  We live out our broken, dysfunctional lives unaware that there is any other way to live.  And, so, how does one realize that the soul is craving spiritual wellness?  How do we know that we are spiritually malnourished?

Admitting that I am “powerless” and especially that my life has become “unmanageable” is key for me (from Step One of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous). These signs–feeling trapped in the struggle of life (powerlessness) and having my life fall apart in the process (unmanageable)–are always my canary in the coal mine. A result of being spiritual malnourished is having a life that’s out of control.  This could be at any or all levels of our lives–in our finances, work, physical and mental health, relationships, physical environment or all of the above.

Another sign we need to tend to our soul could be when we experience a single emotion ruling our daily lives.  Do you have a tendency to rage? Obsessed with being over-the-top-nothing-is-wrong-in-my-life happy? Caught up in the downward spiral of depression?  Constantly suspicious and fear based?  Overwhelmed with stress?

My husband witnessed a man caught in traffic screaming, cursing and using choice hand and finger signals at anyone and anything that drove by.  I had been stuck in this same road construction days prior and although frustrating, it only lasted 10 minutes tops.  Can you imagine the strain his body, mind and spirit took reacting so strongly to a 10 minute delay?  And I cannot help but believe that if he had some form of spiritual practice to draw on, a way to move beyond that moment of rage and into a place of serenity–his ten minutes of waiting would have been a breeze and maybe even a blessing.

Spiritual malnourishment is evident in a life out of whack. It is not only about having one emotion dominate, it’s about skewed personal focus. If I am obsessed with Me–My accomplishments, My status and reputation, My needs, My upward mobility, My possessions–and cannot see the connectedness between self and others (God, people, the environment, animals) then I am out of balance.  If I have done the opposite and have forgotten myself and have traded my wellness to solely server others, then I am out of balance. For me, spirituality brings about this needed balance in our lives.

So.  When do you know that you are spiritually malnourished? What does that look like in your life? How do you tend to your soul?  What spiritual practices help you to find balance? How do you benefit from being spiritually grounded?

Share your insights and help inspire others to be spiritually nourished in an ever- increasing, crazy world.