Tag Archives: faith walk

Fire and Pain

Now how’s that for a provocative headline, eh? Probably going to talk about hell and damnation today, right?


I don’t know how many of you are into metallurgy, but when you’re putting ores and additives through the process of making some metal or alloy of metals, as I understand it, you end up with something called dross. It’s kind of like the scum you get on top of the soup you’re cooking, except with metal, it’s a lot more important to scoop that crap off unless you want buildings falling down and cars falling apart.

So to refine metal, to get out its impurities, it has to go through the fire.

Nothing new there. Nor is it new to apply that philosophy to life. The bible talks about putting people through the metaphorical fire to make them into something stronger. It’s a philosophy that also exists outside religion: “No pain, no gain” and “You have to pay your dues” are just two examples.

Generations X and Y have been accused of laziness and complacency at times. It’s true and it isn’t. (I’m an X, by the way…nice to meet you). It’s said that we rely too much on our parents and that we aren’t willing to work responsibly or work hard.

The truth is more that the world changed, and X and Y got faced with entirely new economic dynamics and new rules that don’t always respond to the solutions that suited Baby Boomers and their immediate predecessors.

But in there is also some truth in the criticism, and I see it more the older I get. Members of Generations X and Y can be a bit quick to want recognition and reward, before they’ve proven themselves. They can be fabulously self-centered in ways that are distinct from the often self-absorbed and sometimes self-important Baby Boomers.

But one thing about the Baby Boomers is that they were able in many cases to achieve and build nest eggs and help their progeny get going in life. They may have been less religious and less dogmatic than their parents, but they still often saw value in religion and in seeking God.

I wonder, though, if the increasing way that people are distancing themselves from God, especially in the younger generations, has more to do with the way the world is going and the way we X’s and Y’s see the world. And perhaps less about reason and science making religion irrelevant.

You see, too often, we young-ish folks (if I can still call myself that at 41) want results with minimal work. We want answers and solutions now. We don’t want to wait on God. And so when God doesn’t respond to us immediately, and we look back at history and say, “why does he let this crap happen” we decide that He must not exist. Because if He won’t just give us what we want now, how could He?

Too many of us don’t value the notion that we are works in progress. That our time on this planet is less about getting what we want and more about learning lessons. It’s a lesson that even atheists should take to heart more often. Because particularly for those who don’t believe there is anything beyond this life, there is precious little time to grow up and make something useful out of oneself.

For those who are agnostic, or those who, like me, are in a faith walk with God, it’s time for us to realize that we are put through a fire. We are meant to feel pain. It’s terrible when some people have to live with almost nothing but pain and stress and misery, but we humans aren’t alone in that. We like to think we are, but we’re not.

Whether you want to credit evolution (genetic and social both) or God’s will…or a combination of the two…a pristine, trouble-free world isn’t the kind of world that will push us to become something stronger or smarter or more useful to ourselves and others.

Pain is necessary. Whether we like it or not, we must all pass through the fire, some of us more often than others.

We need to pay our dues. We need to see the value in that and make something good out of it in the end. Or at least as good as we can.

If we don’t, we remain children. We don’t grow. Not in this world, and not in God’s plan.

Journeying Toward God

I’m often presented with this question from people who don’t believe in a higher power, or who aren’t sure if one exists (or who it is) and people with different faith beliefs than my own:

What makes you so sure that your faith is the right one?

Now, you can substitute in there. For example, some like to ask me how I could be so arrogant. Some ask me how I could believe my way is the only way. And so on. Sometimes, it’s a honest, interested query. Sometimes, it’s a challenge being thrown at me. Sometimes, it’s just plain mean.

But, regardless, it’s a valid question and—as hard as it may be for some of you to believe—it’s a question I ponder fairly often. And, mind you, manage to ponder without necessarily having to have a crisis of faith or doubt my own belief system.

What it comes down to is that I don’t believe my path is the only path. I don’t even believe that my Bible alone tells the whole story. I don’t necessarily think that all other faiths are wrong, though I do worry that many of them are off track in some way or another, or have the wrong focus (then again, I think many Christians are off track…).

God wants us to journey toward Him. God wants us to seek spiritual understanding. I also believe that God sent Jesus to be the focal point around which we should gather. The challenge is in trying to understand how Jesus fits into things and why he is the individual God set up as the ideal and as Lord. But the fact is that there really hasn’t been anyone like Jesus in religious history. I can’t think of any individual who has been held up philosophically, socially, politically, spiritually, intellectually and divinely (all at the same time) in any comparable manner. Not Siddartha Buddha, not Mohammed, not Moses, not David…no one of whom I have knowledge. And for well over 2,000 years, mind you.

That alone should make people sit up and take notice that Jesus is someone unique and special.

I have a few follow-up thoughts on this, in terms of where Christians and non-Christians are getting things wrong, as well as areas where they aren’t necessarily wrong but have misplaced priorities, but I’ll leave that for tomorrow or the next day…

Two-fer Tuesday: Walking with God by Deacon Blue

How do we walk with God, an individual we cannot see and who doesn’t speak to us with a physical voice? And how do we do it with a roadmap as confusing at the Bible can often be? We must open ourselves up and let go of our selfish desires. We must be willing to admit that we usually don’t know the right thing to do. We need to let the Holy Spirit do that hard work for us.

I should note that my gut feeling was that Miz Pink would cover today’s topic by going with the “path to destruction is wide” angle (and I was right), so I decided to go a completely different route, and pick one of my favorite passages in the Bible, and one that probably most of y’all have never heard of. But it’s one of the few in my King James Bible that I have memorized word for word.

O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. (Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 10, Verse 23)

To me, this statement encapsulates the very core of how we are supposed to view our walk with God. It not only evokes the walking imagery but hits home that point about how we must let God guide us because, frankly, we don’t know crap most of the time.

So what does that mean for our free will?

It doesn’t hurt it one bit. For one thing, if we are walking with God, we should freely choose to follow the path he wants for us. That’s not slavery; that’s good judgment. Moreover, choosing the path God wants for us doesn’t mean all our choices are made for us. It simply means we put ourselves on the right road. Whether we run down it or walk or skip is often up to us. Whether we stop to smell some roses or head to the end of the road as fast as feasible is typically up to us. We just need to be open to the Holy Spirit and let it guide us.

This is something Mrs. Blue and I have found out the hard way on numerous occasions when we haven’t done what our spirits have nudged us to do. The most recent really painful life lesson in this regard was several years ago when my wife was considering grad schools and the Holy Spirit was prodding her in certain directions that were oriented toward helping people directly. Well, we panicked about how long it might take for such degrees to become something that would pay off financially, and money was heavy on our minds. And jointly, we decided that she should go for something a bit more “business minded.” It was a huge mistake, and God left us to deal with the fallout of that bad decision. Now, He’s been sending some blessings that are making the decision less unbearable, but we are still frequently reminded that we purposefully rejected His guidance based on our fears and preconceptions and impatience. Now as Mrs. Blue feels some new proddings toward another degree, we are not so quick to want to ignore God again. We’ll see if we can keep the faith and stay on the walking path God is setting up for us, though.

Also, taking God’s path and asking him to show us what path He wants us to take isn’t always a dramatic thing involving a grad school or other major life choice. We need to listen to God and invite his navigational skills in smaller things as well. For example, generally when I crack open my Bible just for general edification, I recite that passage from Jeremiah above and then I open my Bible with my eyes closed. I’d say that roughly a third of the time, I find on one of the two pages before me a passage that directly relates to some critical issue with which I am wrestling that day. Another third of the time, it’s something that indirectly relates to the issue at hand or that opens my eyes to something I’ve been neglecting lately. The rest of the time, it’s just a useful passage to give me some new learning.

Point is, given how often I end up with truly relevant passages, from a book that is pretty freakin’ big and has an awful lot of subject matter that it covers, says a lot to me about how important it is not only to remember Jeremiah’s words but to speak them to God with a truly open heart. It never hurts to have a guide when we walk into unfamiliar territory, which is mostly what life is. And what better guide than an omniscient one?

(By the way, as long as we’re on the topic of walking with God, check out my “sequel” to the classic [or, some would say, trite] story “Footprints in the Sand,” a little story I call “A New Record in the Sand.”