Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “faith”

Gone Fishin’

The sacred writings of my people contain a story about a fisherman who spends all night trying to make a catch. He needs this. Fishing is his profession, his livelihood. This is how he feeds his family, how he makes the money he needs to care for them. The night has been a bust. Exhaustion and discouragement wash over him.

Then some guy ln the shore, a layman, not a professional, tells him to try again, but on the other side of the boat. The fisherman does. He drops his net in the water on the other side of his boat. This time the nets fills up so much he cannot bring his net in.

This is his first encounter with the incarnate God. What would have happened had he not dropped his net again?

For me the idea of trying again when things get difficult is, well difficult. I give up quite easily. I once was known for my perseverance. Not my hallmark any longer. But even at my best, I don’t think I would have fared well in this story.

There gets a point where it becomes obvious nothing is happening here; nothing is going to change. Repeating the process lacks appeal. The old saying surfaces: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Does perseverance equate to insanity? Is giving up really wisdom?

I struggle with this. Never give up shaped much of my life. Only losers surrender. Go down fighting. Don’t be a quitter.

Except, quitting my cola addiction would be a major success.

I have pushed on and fought for many a thing that wasn’t worth it. Some early girlfriends should have been left long before the final breakup. I should have moved on from some jobs before I finally did. But, instead, I stuck with it.

But when things get the level this fisherman dealt with, I would nave stopped. During my long wasteland of unemployment, it got to the point that I submitted resumes because it was the thing you do each day, like taking a shower or using the toilet. I held no hope that anything good would come from it. In fact, using the toilet had more value. This is the closest I can relate to doing what this dude did. There were so many days that I wouldn’t try again.

I know quite a few people who sell for a living. Everything is a bout the next call. So what if the last didn’t go well. Make the next call. They just keep putting the net back in the water, knowing it will payoff.

Is this faith? Is it trust in their product or service? In their ability to make a sale? In the knowledge that they will succeed only about ten percent of the time and trust that it will eventually average out?

Or is it insanity that works?

I’ve been told that you haven’t tried to publish if you haven’t been rejected 35 times. Why 35? why not 36? I don’t know. But for whatever reason that’s the magic number to define actually trying or not. Well, I tried. Over and over.

At what point is putting the net back in the water insanity? At what point is just trying one more sale knowing that I only need one to pay off?

Water drips onto and runs off a rock. The rock is immovable. The water flows off. By the definition of doing things over and over, this is insanity. But, erosion is a long, slow process. That water, given enough time, will change that rock, will wear it away.

Perhaps faith, hope and courage all fall in the crazy side of life. Perhaps quitting is the safest thing. Perhaps society wants us to just fall in line.

Putting my net back in the water feels pointless. Why try again? Why submit another manuscript? Why book another performance?

But what if pointlessness is the point? What if trying again, even if it won’t work, is the whole point. Maybe faith and hope and courage exist in those moments. Maybe they are slowly eroding my fear, my sloth, my depression, lack of life. Maybe a little life seeps back in with each try.

What if putting the net back in the water is the only way to embrace life. What if putting the net back in the water is the only way to engage an incarnate god.

Maybe it takes a little insanity to make life make sense, make it worth living. Maybe giving the finger to failure keeps it at bay.

Try to resuscitate that dream.

Connections

Church was a bit awkward today. I arrived to find the find the sanctuary set up for a meal. This happens on occasion as the church believes strongly in meals as a tool for growing community. They also use meals to entice people to stick around for members meetings. That was this morning’s purpose. Since I am not a member, it felt a bit awkward to sit down for the service and leave before the meeting, so I slipped out right away.

This is not the first time I have done this. The reality is that sitting at tables like that feels more awkward for me than most people. I suddenly have to converse with people I may not know. I have learned skills needed to survive these situations but it’s still hard. What proves harder is to pick a table to add myself to. Who do I know well enough that this feels safe? Or, worse, is taking an empty table and hoping someone will join me and that they will be someone I know enough to feel safe.

All the way around, it’s awkward.

The church I attend is friendly and I like the people that I’ve met there. I’m still struggling to remember names, but they are good people. I am not really close with any of them though. Which is what makes the table situation so hard.

A church I used to attend had similar issues. The most common stated need that anyone expressed is lack of connection. People often expect their church experience to be one of connection and community. And the language used in churches propagates that. Feeling part of something is an important human need and churches, theoretically are designed to help with that.

The previous church, despite our efforts to be welcoming never really succeeded at creating connection to make the sense of community to feel strung. People could be part of something bigger than themselves but often struggled to make the deeper relationships that make that community feel connected.

My current church is great at both connection and community, yet I find myself lacking in both there. I realize that a lot of this falls on me. Asking people out for coffee, finding someone to have lunch with after service, joining the Sunday school class or helping with a service or ministry event would help me connect more. I just need to work up the courage to do any of these. And that is one of my goals this year.

The last time I left rather than fight the social awkwardness of seating myself at a table, I struggled through the value of attending church at all. Do I really need church? Or is it just a thing I do. I enjoy it, but is that all it is?

I am certain that we cannot live out our faith in a vacuum. We have to be connected to others to grow in Christ. Scriptures seem to be pretty clear that our interactions with others are reflections of our interactions with God. We need other people.

I need other people merely to keep me from only buying into my own thinking. Scripture appeals to each of us in different ways. Everyone interacts with and experiences God in different ways. I need to learn form your experiences, from what you are learning to get a fuller understanding of who God is and who humanity is. Without that, I am left with a miniscule sample of life and interpreting all of the rest of the universe through that.

But do i need a church for that? I have lots of friends who discuss their faith with me all the time. I can get my connection through them. I can understand God in new ways through them. Do I need to show up someplace at a specific time to meet with a group of people in order to worship together?

Several years ago, I worked with a Hasidic Jewish gentleman. He told me of his idea to set up a community further form the city but he needed 9 other families to move with him to do so. For him, there had to be at least a group of ten adult males of his faith living together to have a healthy community and help guide each other in honest, connected understanding of God. In short his faith needed communal worship to be vibrant, healthy and alive.

I recalled that conversation while weighing my need for church. Sure I can accomplish a lot spiritually without it. But I would be missing something. There is something that can only be gained through communal worship. I don’t’ want to miss out on that.

Now, about getting over walking up to a group of people and asking if I can join them, that may take some time.

Goodbyes

It’s hard to say goodbye to people we love, even if we only see them on occasion. When they will be farther away, it means they will be farther away. The closeness that comes with proximity is severed.

I recently attended a party to say goodbye to some dear friends who plan to move out of state. I drove almost 60 miles to get there, because I practically live in another state myself. But this event was a big deal. We don’t see that group of friends very often because we live so far away, but not too far to get there for dinner. Their move though will take them too far away for that.

These people are the kind of friends that when you see them, it feels like you have never been apart. Conversations flow easily. We freely discuss the deeper places in our lives, things we might not share with others. Even though it may be years before we see them again, I trust that this dynamic will remain.

But then I wonder why years pass between seeing them. Why have I not made it to dinner with any of the other friends in that room I haven’t seen in years? Life happens. Sometimes schedules get in the way. And frankly sometimes it’s laziness. But these are people I love.

Some days, I want to book every possible moment to make sure I don’t miss my chance to see my friends. Some days, I want to travel to Michigan every weekend to try to connect with my brothers and sisters. Some days, I don’t want to go anywhere so I can just sit at home and enjoy my wife and my daughters. Love’s power builds us up and energizes us when we connect with those we love. But it also cuts deeply when we aren’t with them.

Life is too short not to spend with the people I love. Some days it feels too short to spend time with all the people I love. I know I am blessed to have so many awesome friends in my life. But loving people can be hard.

My Lord

I know many Christians that serve God because they know he is powerful and that he is going to win. They don’t seem to particularly like him. Their description of God makes it sound like he at best tolerates them. Love isn’t really part of the equation. They say he loves them but the practical application of their faith doesn’t demonstrate that. It seems like they are betting on what they think is the winning side with the expectation that things will go better for them if they do.

God gets portrayed as a taskmaster, or at least a mean boss. He will reward good work. Maybe. He definitely will punish shoddy work. It is almost as if the purpose of serving such a God is to avoid being fired. Or stuck by lightening. Fear is the driving force relationally, not love.

And if this truly is God, then perhaps there is logic in trying to be on the winning side. You’d hate to be punished by such a God. After all, the wrath incurred for failing to serve him well can’t be as bad as that for opposing him. Can it?

Obviously, I am exaggerating the extent to which people serve God like this, but when fear drives the relationship rather than love such an exaggeration is not that far away. It is the way a victim stays in an abusive relationship. As wrong as that is when it’s two humans, isn’t it worse when the abuser is supposed to be all-knowing, all-loving and divine?

The best picture I can think of to this approach to God comes from Harry Potter. This is the way Voldemort’s servants respond to him. They fear him. Often, they hate him but he is the most powerful being in their world. He is the one they expect to win. Best to side with him than oppose him. As vindictive as he is, the punishments he will one day dole out will be horrendous. When his evil reign ensues, his friends will be ill-treated but not as ill-treated as his enemies.

What a lousy platform for faith. I don’t want a Voldemort for my lord. Jesus speaks of God being a loving father. I sometimes struggle to understand what that metaphor means, but I much prefer it to the mean boss.

I have to think God would much prefer not to be treated as Voldemort as well. I wouldn’t want people to think that of me, no matter how much power I could derive from it. If God truly is the fullest manifestation of love, then this has to tick him off. Love wants to be freely received and freely returned. Fear driving a relationship can never get to this place. God wants us to know him as loving, to engage him as loving, to wallow in his love. That is the lord I desire.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 8

Paulo Coelho in his book The Alchemist expresses the belief that if you state your dreams out load and make them a goal, the universe will conspire with you to make them happen. A wonderful sentiment that I decided to try. My experience is that if you state a dream as a goal, the world will conspire to prevent it from happening.
It seems that everyone around you immediately tells you it can’t be done. Some will encourage but armies will discourage. But then, other interactions with the encouragers make clear that they are patronizing you. Of course there will be a few that really mean it and truly hope and maybe even pray that you succeed or that you at least try well and gain satisfaction from the effort.
Why are so many people against dreams? Is it because they have none? Or that they’ve given up on them? I’ve tried giving up on my dreams but life was too bleak. I can’t survive bleak. I can survive failure so I’d rather flounder in a morass of failure and maintain some sort of dream rather than embrace bleakness.
Because life needs something. Some kind of hope or aspiration to hang onto or it withers away and nothing is left. Why live then.
I hate mediocrity but I also can live with achieving my best even if it is merely mediocre. But it takes risk to even boldly pursue mediocrity. It takes risk to fail. Sure it takes risk to succeed but since I don’t have a lot of history with success, I’ll leave that to someone else to discuss.
But I’m trying to live life here and I can’t do it without my silly dreams. So onward I rush into the foolishness of my efforts. But they keep me alive. And I can live with the world against me if I can dream. So let them conspire against me. The stories are going to come.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 7

In the Vineyard (the denomination that I attend) they often bounce around this phrase: Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.  Actually taking some sort of a risk is promoted, typically in a realm where it puts our faith on the line and we have to expect God to do what scriptures say he’ll do.

My last post here I mentioned that I want to try to take more risks. So, as a good Vineyard boy, I should be doing churchy things to accomplish that. And in some ways, that is a good place to start.  The idea of praying for people and expecting God to make a difference always stretches me. Even if I’m comfortable with the concept, the environment and the person being prayed for, I still feel a little worried that it won’t turn out the way I want.  The way I want shouldn’t be the issue, but what God will do for the person we are lifting in prayer should matter, but I focus more on what I want. Like not looking stupid.

So, again, this is a decent springboard for me. If for nothing else, taking the risk of looking stupid in order to see if God will interact in someone’s life.  But I think some slightly bigger risks might be in order. Like accepting the opportunity to preach in two weeks.

I am one of those odd people who like to speak in public. I get nervous and I worry about what to say, but it’s fun to d while I’m doing it. I look forward to it. But there is always the fear boiling inside of me that I have nothing of significance to say. Or that even if I do that my audience will not understand it or care. In short I fear that my efforts, though fun, will be pointless.

But beyond that, and maybe this is one of those for the future things, is meeting people. Quite honestly, I’d rather speak in public than meet people. I hate meeting people. It is too personal. Speaking to a group is a bit removed and not as risky because of that. If they don’t like me it’s they. If I meet you and you don’t like me, that is a tangible real person; you are not they. So someday, as this “taking risks to develop the ability to take bigger risks to tell a better story grows out of me trying to get a life”, I will have to meet some people. I will have to man up and make some new friends. Or enemies. Or more likely, acquaintances.

So, baby steps. Risky baby steps aiming toward that eventual big leap. God, have mercy on me.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 6

Donald Miller decided that he needed to live a better story in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I agreed with him when I read that book. I wanted, and still want, a better story. Most of the story since then has been quite depressing and I would much rather portray it as montage and then move on with the time of growth and renewal on the other side.
But that would be a pretty lousy story. Delving into the full depth of the depression wouldn’t be that fun either, but there is story there and glimmers of hope. Eventually the darkness thinned and I fund myself walking in brighter times again.
I recently pondered my desire to live a better story and realized that I should have expected that though. Or something like that. The downside that is, the depression, the unemployment, the hard times. After all, any story worth telling has something go wrong pretty early on. Typically other stuff will continue to go wrong to aggravate the situation. Deliberately pursuing story is to pursue things going wrong. Which doesn’t seem so wise.
Where I want to get to though is those places in life where I can deliberate choose risk, to find things that take a little risk, a little faith and carries a chance of failure. Or things not turning out perfect. Because sometimes simply taking a risk provides enough of a story to tell. It might not be as good as the story of rising from destitution or a scrape with death, but taking a chance at something is being more alive than avoiding those situations all together.
So I am seeking out some small challenges and risks to try, things to get me used to being alive again. Some things that give me enough of a thrill of risk that I can remember how living like that used to feel. I need something to build my faith a little and get me hungry for being alive again.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 4

I recently heard a pastor make the case for fear being the greatest sin we can commit. His reasoning basically went this way. He felt that fear was the opposite of love, that it drives us away from others and from God, preventing us to take the risks of faith, hope and loving others. Therefore, since loving God and loving others are the two greatest commandments, then the thing that prevented that the most proved the worst sin.
I don’t know that I agree with him fully, but I agree with it enough to comment on it here and let it shape my quest to live. When I look at my kids, the thing that bothers me the most is when I see them act out of fear. I hate when they do that. I don’t want them to create a pattern of letting fear make the decisions in their lives. Sometimes they are scared by something that should scare them, something that is threatening or surprising. Those things are easy to recover from. A car racing by too close to the curb is a real threat and elicits real fear. But some comfort and reassurances that they are ok allows them to move on. But the moments when they pull back from trying something because they fear that they might fail or what others might think of them – that’s the stuff that drives me nuts.
I want them to know that can fail as freely and as frequently as they want and that I’ll still love them. I may get frustrated if they don’t learn how to adapt and overcome, but I’ll not stop loving them. And I’d rather have them try and fail than never try at all. I want them to know freedom. I want them to be capable of taking big risks.
I know, somewhere in my heart that God feels that way about me. He wants me to live and to love and to be free. He wants me to taste life and enjoy it. He wants me to be bold and not worry about what others think. He wants me to be myself as fully as I can. And every time that I let fear kick me in the balls and abdicate my freedom, God gets pissed. Not a hate me and will never talk to me again pissed, but I’m sure there is a deep growl in the back of his throat. I can here they thought of “don’t let fear do that to you.”
I’m pretty sure God wants us to turn the tables and kick fear in the balls.

Brad Bellmore Get’s a Life – 2

Donald Miller is one of my favorite authors and with the soon to be released movie of Blue Like Jazz, I have been pondering his influence on my life. That book made me rethink many of my perceptions on Christianity. He made me consider what am I really believing in and find a way to connect my faith to my life.
To Own a Dragon, his take growing up without a father. To him, a father was as mythical a creature as a dragon. This book connected with a lot of my thoughts and feelings of growing up without a father, some of which I did not even know I had until I had kids.
Another challenge to my faith and why I believe what I believe was Searching for God Knows What. It even challenged me to think about how I express what I believe.
But, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years pushed me farther than any of the others. The basic idea of this book revolves around Don realizing that he wants to write a better story for his life. This is actually spawned by the process of creating the movie mentioned above. Anyway, it resonated with me when I read it given that my life is rather a rambling mess than a cohesive story. I felt inspired at the time to make some changes. That was short lived, mostly because the various waves of depression stemming from unemployment plowed that inspiration deep into the dirt.
But now, as I ponder how I learn to live, to truly be alive for whatever is left of my life, the movie surfaces and stokes again the fires of creating a better story. Which is what I hope to do here, both explore the process and tell the story.
And so, I set forth in quest for a life worth living and a story worth telling.

Further Defining Faith

I got some comments that defined faith more as an overall belief in something spiritual, whatever anyone’s favorite flavor of that might be. I appreciate those comments as they made me think a bit about why I chose the faith that I did. At some point in this discussion, I plan to delve more into that. But I want to dig deeper than just a belief system. How does that belief system become part of our lives? Can it become something that matters, not just a label that helps define my world view to someone else?
Perhaps I need to start by defining what I’m not doing here. I am not propagating a prosperity gospel. I have seen the health and wealth, name it claim it stuff up close and it makes me sick. I have a hard time reconciling that theology with my understanding of Christian scriptures and specifically Jesus’ teachings. So as I purse trying to understand faith, it is not this kind of faith that says that if we simply believe hard enough Jesus will grant all my wishes.
That said, what can faith really do? Jesus promised mountains moving if we have the faith. I have a hard time picturing that, even with metaphoric mountains. So, how can I close that gap between what I say I believe and what I believe in reality? How can I learn to expect mountains to move? Or should I let that go?

Post Navigation