Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Keeping Faith

Warning: This post is a result of my meanderings through an informal word study. These are simply my ponderings about what some words mean to me. They are not the be all, end all definitions. As you will see one train of thought pulls into the station only to send another one off in a differnt direction. My understandings have evolved even in the writing of the post, and I'm sure I won't stop learning and growing now that I've written them down for all the world to see. I hope this post is simply a trigger for your own consideration of what it means to keep and/or lose faith and I hope you will share your ponderings in the comments.

The first scripture reading my devotional sent me to this morning was Psalm 116. The Psalmist talks about having kept faith in a time of trial.

My second scripture reading this morning was Jeremiah 3: 1 - 14. This is only one of the places in scripture when the metaphor of an unfaithful wife is used to describe the breaking, bending, or tearing of the relationship between humans and God. In the Jeremiah passage, Israel and Judah have both soiled their relationship with God by turning to false worship and false gods. In other words, seeking to have their desires and needs met through someone or something other than God.

In marriage we often think of being unfaithful as seeking to meet one's sexual or emotional desires and needs through someone other than one's spouse. But there are other ways in which we often fail to stay faithful to our marriage vows and to the one we love. Marriages fall apart due to neglect of the relationship much more often than they are torn apart due to one or the other partner having an affair. So too is it often with our relationship with God. When we fail to tend to our relationship with Christ, we find ourselves moving away from a God centered life and slipping into me centered living.

As I began to think about this blog post, I began to explore the words and phrases that have faith as their root; faithful, faithless, unfaithful, having faith, keeping faith, loosing faith. To have faith is not only to believe in something, but also to trust in it. To lose faith rarely means losing one's belief. More often it refers to losing one's trust. In it's definition of faith, Miraim Webster refers not only to belief and trust, but also to loyalty.

To be faithful to God requires us to continually remembering and honoring our commitment to God and God's commitment to us. But loyalty is more than that. Loyalty is a sense of dedication that grows not out of shoulds or have tos. It grows out of our devotion for the person, organization, or for God. It grows out of love, not out of rules or expectations. Perhaps this is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 5 and 6 when he talks about moving above and beyond the law.

If loyalty is action born out of love, then keeping faith is about more than keeping one's trust. It is also about continuing to act according to one's faith. Keeping faith in God means continuing to believe and trust as well as living out that belief and trust in our relationships, in our actions, in our choices, and in our world view. Keeping faith means attending to our relationship with God.

Like I said earlier, just some thoughts about what some words mean to me. What do the words faith, faithful, unfaithful, faithless, keeping faith, losing faith, and having faith mean to you?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

God is Great. God is Good.

How many times have I said those words as part of a before meal prayer both as a child and with my own child? Hundreds, perhaps thousands, but only recently did I really stop to think about the distinction between great and good in this prayer.

I have begun working my way through The Workbook of Living Prayer by Maxie Dunnam. On the third day, Dunnam explores the meaning of God is good in terms of prayer. As a child (and I imagine that most kids go here too)I assumed God is great, God is good referred to different degrees of the same characteristic.

As I contemplated the lesson for the day, I began to see God's goodness in terms of God's love for us, God's desire for good for us, God's goodness as caring. God is good. Yet this doesn't adequately cover my understanding of God's goodness. I don't have the vocabulary to describe the mental, physical, and emotional reaction I have when I ponder God's goodness. It just is.

So the questions I came to were;
How is my prayer life changed or enhanced when I remember that the God I pray to, the God I crawl to, or cry to, or shout at, or sing with joy to is indeed God.

Does it change whether I pray in faith or in fear?

Where does this line of thinking send you? Do you pray to God who is good? How does/did/might that change your prayer life?