A Faith in Fear Alone

Blog_Faith in Fear AloneFear is the thing holding humanity back from transforming the earth into a place centered around love. Fear is the most powerful force apart from love. In a world bombarded with fear it is easy to allow fear to run our daily lives without even recognizing we are doing so. “I put my faith in Jesus alone,” is a statement Christians often make and I think a large majority of them genuinely believe they do. Faith is not simply belief though. It is in waking up to the fact that if our life is driven by fear, no matter what we intellectually claim to believe, it will be insufficient as a means of moving forward towards something better.

From early on in our lives we begin to adopt fears that over time slowly change our behaviors so we can better avoid our fears. We are abused by a person who was supposed to love us…We fear being hurt again…We lose our ability to trust. We lose a loved one to death or divorce…We blame ourselves…We push people away. We fail…We fear not being good enough…We don’t dare to venture outside our comfort zone. This list arises because of people, events, and past memories and covers a small fraction of the things that could be on this list. There is another dimension to our fears though.

Society thrives off of fear. Without fear-based marketing, public relations campaigns, and advertising, corporations wouldn’t be the center of wealth and power in our culture; in fact, I would contend they likely wouldn’t exist at all. Day in and day out we are bombarded with messages that tell us over and over again, “You are not good enough.” Our bodies are lacking in every way imaginable. Our clothes are no longer in fashion. Our houses are too small. Our families are not ‘put together’ compared to the rest. Our marriages don’t involve constant sex, void of arguments or painful struggles. Our kids aren’t in the best school…aren’t involved in enough activities…or don’t measure up in their academics. Our jobs aren’t prestigious enough. Our neighborhoods aren’t safe. Our world is on the verge of an apocalyptic catastrophe. (Of course, the kind of catastrophe depends on what the media has chosen to splash over their 24-hour-a-day running fear-casts.)

Fear cannot be avoided. It is instilled in us at far too young an age and reaffirmed millions of times a day through media, entertainment, and corporate america. This unavoidable force is not—cannot be—the final answer. Fear will not be the ultimate victor, because its component crushes fear simply by showing up on the scene. The journey to conquer fear in love cannot be a passive one. Conscious strides to identify, call out, and push against the fears that bind us is of utmost necessity.

Looking back on my own life I can identify the very moment at which my greatest fear was realized. I was in my mid-20’s. I had battled drug addiction, a myriad of unhealthy and abusive relationships—which at the time I was still battling against. During this period in my life, I was fond of berating myself in front of a mirror. It felt more fulfilling, as if I could feel more deeply the punishment in which I was afflicting on myself. “No one will ever love you. You don’t deserve to be loved.” For whatever reason, on that day as I looked in the mirror, I was overcome by something I had never recognized before—the thing I had been perpetuating within me all these years was a lie. If it was only found in God alone, I was worthy of love–we are all worthy of love. God is never disappointed in us. God will never reject us. His love is all encompassing. His love is unconditional. And His love is this way, because He cannot be any other way, because HE IS LOVE.

And it is love—this agape love—which Jesus has given us the power in finishing what he began by eradicate fear once and for all.

Within each of us there is both a fear and a possible freedom from that fear. Maybe you can already name your fear/s. Maybe you need to ask yourself what is truly driving your daily actions and life. We must gain understanding about ourselves, in order to use that knowledge going forward. Identify the fear. Label it as a lie (no matter how difficult it may seem). Then start taking notice of when that feeling of fear rears its ugly head. Call it stupid, evil, and unwelcome. Replace it with the exact opposite thought, which can only be one of love. And then prepare yourself to lather, rinse, repeat this process on a daily basis (on some days an hourly basis), because until an agape-centered unity is established among humanity our battles with fear will continue. This is not reason to lose hope! It is the very best reason to stand strong on the side of victory and commit to living out a reality that displays a faith in love alone.

The remedy for fear is love …. Fear is a slow, solidified energy that needs to be unwound with love.” Michael Harrington 

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Everyone is an Evolutionist!

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There is a large number of the human race, myself included, who believe that the earth was not created in a literal seven days as depicted in the Bible. Instead, there are those who have chosen to adhere to a worldview that regards the creation of the universe as being part of a very long [and ongoing] process. This creation began long before human life came into existence and the process to get there is incomprehensibly long. Then there are other people who believe the world was created in a way that more closely reflects the creation narrative in Genesis 1-3. This group does not agree upon all the specifics of the way or nature this creation account took place, which also applies to those whose own scientific understanding of how the universe has evolved to this point. In my opinion, no matter which camp each of us finds ourselves should not be of importance. At their core, both those who call themselves evolutionists and those who call themselves creationists rely on the same means by which to understand the reality in which we exist. This concept is rooted in the notion of becoming. Both individually and corporately, we are aware of the truth that we have been something other than what we find ourselves to be in the present moment and recognize we are becoming something that will differ in the future.

From a scientific point of view this process of becoming is rooted in the physical universe. Those from the religious background regard the process of becoming within a spiritual nature. Evolutionists rely on facts, those things capable of being studied, and proven though experimentation. Those who believe in God (I would contend regardless of their understanding of creation) rely on their faith in the unseen conscious (or spiritual) self as becoming transformed. What if we focused on the areas we agree upon—if even for a moment? What if we agreed to temporarily let go of what we have been and together attempt to agree on where we are going? There is no one that can disagree that yesterday cannot be changed and likewise no one who can assert that tomorrow is decided. The past is gone. The future is yet to be.

“Forget the former things; 
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! 
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness 
and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

I believe besides agreeing in a future that looks different than today, there is another point of unity we can find between the religious and scientific communities. A place where all of humanity can find a general, although possibly somewhat ambiguous, coherence. I want to believe most of us could imagine or hope that there is a better way to live that humanity has not yet achieved. I will admit there are exceptions to this, but I think they are the minority. It is in regards to this idea that I want to request some of your time…Give yourself some time and space to imagine the world in its present state. Then begin to remove any and everything that you would if you could. Each time you restore something that is broken or rebuild the ruined or remember the forgotten—as you renew the earth begin to see it in your imagination in this new way. Begin to let that deep resonating longing of your heart to be set free. Don’t allow fear of any kind hold you back from dreaming up even those things that seem impossible. Stay conscious of the tendency to fall into negativity, and any time you sense it happening, gently but slowly bring your mind back. Think globally to divert selfish inclinations (something we all are naturally inclined to).

No hunger. No illness. No evil. No bullies. No suicide. No pollution. No depression. No hatred. No greed. No wars. No murder. No insecurities. No divisions. No violence. No sexual abuse. No disabilities. No exploitation. No anxiety. No fear. Then add more of the things that make life beautiful. More joy. More kindness. More grace. More scientific advancements. More intimacy. More creativity. More generosity. More beneficial communication. More growth. More freedom. More vitality. More trust. More healing. More energy. More forgiveness. More laughter. More love.

Try it. Imagine it. Visualize it. Hold onto it for dear life. Fall crazy in love with it. And when that crazy love roots itself inside you, I dare you to begin to hope for it. In fact, I am pleading with you—have hope.

I Have No Idea What I Am Doing!

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The hubby and I were lying in bed the other night. He was watching an episode of The Office and I was contemplating how I was going to write my next blog post on Pierre Teilhard Chardin—the topic of my last few posts. After a few minutes of staring at my screen, I let out a moan and said in defeat, “This is just too big. I have no idea what I am doing! How do I convey in plain language the beauty and possibility Chardin is offering?” For the most part, Teilhard’s ideas are not compiled in one place in a neat and tidy manner. Rather, they are made up of various articles, unpublished writings, and a few documented speeches. Besides the few books that he completed, his works are written from various areas of his expertise, written at different times throughout his life, and translated by different people. The translation piece is worth noting since Teilhard often spoke using a vocabulary that was essentially of his own making. Over time, as I have read and reread his works I began to see things in a new way. I felt a hope and an understanding of a new vision that made sense to the here and now. It was exhilarating. Almost from day one I knew God was asking me to share this hope with others. I am finally at a place in my life I can do just that and I’m at a complete loss as how to go about it. To simply try and summarize his theories and assertions won’t suffice. So I have decided to try it from another angle. I want to use the hopeful desire, which the Spirit has set aflame in me, and paint a picture of how I see it translating into our current world. I know what he is saying, but I have no idea how to say it-—so I will say it the way I can—through my own words, with my own vision, and spurred on by my own hope.

Part of the reason I initially held back from casting this vision from a personal standpoint was, sadly, due to fear. While I regard Chardin as a philosopher first, a scientist second, and a theologian third—a claim he is very forward about stating—part of what I feel called to do is integrate a theological orthodoxy to the foundation already laid. It is not that the biblical narrative doesn’t appear in his works, in fact it is pervasive, but it clearly was not written to be used as a work of theology. I think it can be. My fear in this regard is taking the leap to attempt such a feat. Attempting to create a theological worldview is not only I’ve never done before, but something I never thought I would feel capable or confident to undertake. The foundation from which I am going to build upon, however, is one shrouded in questions and doubts over whether it can hold up to orthodoxy, and furthermore, if it is even something that has the qualities intrinsic for any theological basis. This fear, along with the following one, are the two greatest struggles in Chardin’s life and something that he never obtain resolution to in his life. Part of the reason Chardin didn’t directly use Scripture as his only means of building his theories is because of his heart for all people and of all faith backgrounds. He wanted no one to feel as though the hope he was offering was something only for Christians. I admire and agree with his decision on this.

There is another fear I feel compelled to confess. This struggle is in regards to evolution being at the foundation of all Teilhard believed. This issue is just one of many un-Christ like divisions within Christianity. Divisions that I contend are abhorrent if they revolve around any issue apart from the truth of God’s nature as being love, which is revealed through Christ on the cross. The centrality of the cross should by the center of everything we adhere to. It is here and only here we are able to understand God as love. The most comprehensive definition I know for the love Christ displayed on the cross is as follows: a self-sacrificial, other-oriented love that ascribes unsurpassable worth to another at the cost of oneself. My opinion about the centrality of the cross being the only reason for church division doesn’t negate the fact there is one regarding the evolution vs. creationism issue. But there is simply no way around it. In fact, it would be impossible to remove evolution from the equation here. Teilhard’s experience in geological studies and evolutionary discoveries is what inspired a majority of his work.

My encouragement to those who have a different view of interpreting creation is not to back away from the conversation, but rather to engage in it. I want to leave open a door for us to consider new possibilities among a group of people who may see things differently over certain things. My intention is not to bring conflict or division, but hope and unity. There will be things that will be a challenge on both sides, this I am certain. My aim is to create an environment of openness and vulnerability—a place where questions are welcomed. Questions are vital to any growth process. Doubts are good. Wresting is healthy. The key is for each to be open to change and willing to agree to disagree.

This is where I am at right now and this is where I will be going from here on out. God is so good and so faithful. It is Him who I look to for my words and I never feel as though he doesn’t deliver. So I will now put my trust in the One in which I live and move and have my being. Standing firm on the truth that perfect love casts out fear.

In His Own Words: Teilhard on Hope Matters

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In a previous post I spoke about how too often Christians live a life of hope that tags on a “but” at the end of it. Here are some excerpts on this topic written by Teilhard in a book titled, Hymn of the Universe–an amazing compilation of some of his more poetic writings.

“‘“O ye of little faith,’ why fear the onward march of the world or become distant to it? Why foolishly multiply your prophecies of woe and your prohibitions: “Don’t venture there; don’t attempt that; everything is already known that can be known; the earth is grown old and stale and empty; there is nothing more for us to find. . .On the contrary, we must try everything for Christ; we must hope everything for Christ. Nihil intentatum (to leave nothing un-attempted) that is the true Christian attitude. Divinization means not destruction but super-creation. We can never know all that the Incarnation still asks of the world’s potentialities. We can never hope for too much from the growing unity of mankind.”

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Hope is a necessity if our joy is to be complete. … I want [hope] because I cannot help loving all that your constant help enables me each day to bring into being. A thought, a harmony, the achievement of a perfection in material things, some special nuance in human love, the exquisite complexity of a smile or a glance, every new embodiment of beauty appearing in me or around me on the human face of the earth: I cherish them all like children whose flesh I cannot believe destined to complete extinction. If I believed that these things were to perish forever, would I have given them life? The deeper I look into myself the more clearly I become aware of this psychological truth: that no mm would lift his little finger to attempt the smallest task unless he were spurred on by a more or less obscure conviction that in some infinitesimally tiny way he is contributing, at least indirectly, to the building up of something permanent—in other words, to your own work, Lord.

Teilhard, . C. P. (1965). Hymn of the universe. New York: Harper & Row. p. 114-115, 134-135

A Response to Jim Inhofe: Does God give us power to create change?

Pin_InhofeI have this terrible habit of becoming too accustomed to my own beliefs—I suppose we all do. We too often surround ourselves with like minded people, watch the news channel we deem as the most fair and balanced, and its rare that we willingly challenge our worldviews. The reason we do this is because having your worldview challenged isn’t easy. Changing our worldview is to change our whole of reality. It is scary, emotional, time-consuming, and requires intentionality. And why would anyone want to intentionally seek out new information so they can find out that which they thought was truth wasn’t such a black and white issue after all? I have found that most often people undergo a worldview shift during a traumatic life event (this was me after my late husband’s death), an environmental change (attending college or traveling the world), or by experiencing a revelation (be it religious or not). As difficult a task as it may seem, challenging what we have always believed to be true is what causes us to grow as people. To open our minds and hearts to the ideas and beliefs of those around us, we are in essence creating for ourselves a bigger world to take part in. Too many times in my life, I have been guilty of the same thing. We seek comfort, convenience, and the path of least resistance.

As I have begun to write over the last couple weeks about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin with my hopes set on challenging some views about our world to those reading, at times I begin to panic. I am so immersed in my own worldview—in what I believe, how I regard the world, and where I think that is taking humanity—I begin to think everyone is on the same wavelength as me. Things that have become natural to me start to transform into the things I believe are obvious to everyone. This is a dangerous place to put yourself. Not only will you inevitably end up hurting someone at some point with your assumptions, but you will also hold back from helping others to expand their worldviews and potentially see a new possibility (or vice versa). So it is a fine line … don’t assume others believe what you believe, but don’t hold back from engaging others because you think they already see the world the same way you do.

I have feared this is what I’ve been doing in this series. That those things I am desiring to write about are obsolete or obvious. There is no question in my heart that God is leading and directing me in this work, but my fears of stating the obvious are trying to silence me. Then I read about Senator James Inhofe. So much could be said. The environmental issues the world is facing will be a topic I intend to cover in this series, so I want to avoid it until I am able to lay some groundwork for my opinions. Even though I won’t be discussing Inhofe and the environment in particular, I do want to examine the most publicized of his noteworthy quotes from over the last few years that has recently resurfaced as he prepares for his new role in office. It was this quote that reminded me God does have a bigger world for all of us to open our eyes to and my fears of bringing forth a wealth of obsolete ideas couldn’t be further from the truth (and I feel assured that regardless, it is not my concern if I am following a call to do so).

While we all know Inhofe is clearly an extremist when it comes to his views on climate change, I’m afraid his biblical conclusions regarding God and humanities role in creation aren’t quite as uncommon among Christians. The following was taken from an interview Inhofe did in March 2012, he said;

My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

The underlying message Inhofe is conveying is sadly one I believe many Christians would agree with if they were to lay all their cards on the table. As Christians, we do that which we feel called or conditioned to do … for some this means to live as righteously as possible, follow laws, go to church, tithe; for others it means loving your neighbor, ushering in the Kingdom, feeding the poor; for others it means both …. BUT … regardless of what we are called to do, the message we give to the world is Christians do not—in fact, cannot—truly bring change to the kingdom of darkness now enveloping this earth. In my opinion this viewpoint opposes the message Jesus came to bring. The good news is better than do good, love lots, give generously … but don’t expect heaven to come crashing down when you do.

Believing this leads to the way you lead your life, convey the gospel to others, and worse puts the Incarnate Christ in a box! I think we have forgotten the power of the Holy Spirit left behind to help us. I think we have failed to recognize free will is more than just choosing to do one thing or another, it is choosing to create with God, bring about the Kingdom of God, and participate in His gift of giving us the opportunity to cause change! Pray for this, set your hope on it, and ask God to reveal the ways you see the world and your faith in too small of a way.

(Quote taken from: Tashman, Brian (8 March 2012), “James Inhofe Says the Bible Refutes Climate Change“, Right Wing Watch, retrieved on 2012-03-13)