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Belief – A Reflection

February 3, 2020

This past weekend Denise and I were assisting our friend Nadine with some logistics for the Songwriter’s Retreat she was hosting. Saturday in the late afternoon we picked up and then delivered the food which had been ordered. After dinner and the songwriter’s circle, we prepared to go to the concert which was being put on by the three weekend instructors.

As Clay (one of the instructors) and I walked outside, we both looked up and were blown away by the sunset! In his song, “Rocky Mountain High,” John Denver sings about seeing it raining fire in the sky. It doesn’t always happen but when it does… wow! Clay looked up and said to me, “How can anyone look up at such beauty and not believe in God!” It was indeed one of those divine ah-ha moments.

I have been thinking about that conversation and about beliefs ever since our conversation on Saturday. What actually defines “beliefs” and how do we express them is a question to ponder. On the one extreme is the concept of rigid doctrine being the core of one’s belief system. I once heard a pastor in a funeral service tell the grieving widow and all of us who had gathered at the base chapel that “Bible Doctrine will bring you comfort.” Needless to say, I was speechless. I had been the chaplain on the notification team who had to break the news of the young Captain’s death overseas in a war zone to his wife with three small children. The anger and the sorrow she expressed at that moment wasn’t going to be comforted by doctrine.

On the other hand, I have talked with far too many people who have been beaten by doctrine and shoved out of a community of faith by the rigid “doctrine police!” The protectors of “right doctrine” (whatever that may be) end up doing more damage in the name of religion, faith, and belief than they do any good.

Pondering these things, I came across this quote from Thomas Merton in his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. It put to words some of what I had been thinking this weekend. We believe, not because we want to know, but because we want to be. And supernatural faith responds to the mystery of that natural faith which is the core and center of our personal being, the will to be ourselves that is at the heart of our natural identity. (p. 11)

This is the movement of faith and belief from the head to the heart which Howard Thurman talked about in one of his audio lectures. Interestingly enough, his autobiography is titled: With Head and Heart. Here is the quote: Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

When our faith moves from our head to our heart, then the true work of the Spirit truly takes root and begins to transform lives. The brilliant sunset then becomes a magnificent work of divine artistry which inspires us to simply be still in the presence of God’s awe and wonder.

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