(but first a story…)
It was a year ago this week that I had a conversation with a young police officer who was engaged in a very challenging family situation. I vividly recall our talk because I was sitting on a white sand beach, looking out over clear blue waters, under a bright blue sky, feeling a fresh gulf breeze, complete with the warmth of a Florida sun. We were on a brief, warm weather, winter getaway when I got the text asking for some help, and when I decided to schedule a phone call. (I normally don’t take calls when I’m on R and R, but how and why I decided to take this one is another story for another time). The details of the caller’s situation are not important here, but the the things I learned from our conversation are.
I’m always very careful in these initial calls to be respectful, if and when I decide to bring up the subject of the caller’s personal faith life. In this case I felt comfortable asking if they participated in any particular faith traditions. The reply was quick and thoughtful. They said that if they had to choose, it would be something such as Buddhism. They explained that they found practices such as meditation, mindfulness and yoga were very helpful. And also added, that although they had a Catholic upbringing, those practices were no longer a part of their life. The conversation then continued with perspectives on God, church, faith… as well as some very practical talk about support systems, resources and next steps. All of those critical steps were well taken care of and the conversation was simply one of exploring faith issues, within the context of facing life challenges. The family challenges have since been resolved, but our conversations of faith and life continue, as we both learn from each other!
I tell this specific story today for a reason. As I’ve often shared before, the majority of our ministry is made up of personal conversations. Since the people I talk with know that I’m a chaplain, specifically a Christian, Lutheran, pastor, former cop chaplain… they have some expectation that the subject of faith will probably come up (usually later than sooner.) When it does, faith is often described as a specific religion, most often a Christian denomination. But with more frequency these days, I’m meeting people identifying as Jewish or Muslim, as well as Atheist and Agnostic. And quite often the person describes themself as spiritual but not religious in a variety of ways. But the vast majority of the people who can describe their faith beliefs fairly well, frequently are unable to describe any definitive faith behaviors. That’s what I like so much about the story I shared earlier. The faith behaviors were well thought out and practiced. It was the faith beliefs that lacked clarity and definition. But in both cases, and I’d say in most cases, there are significant gaps between what people believe and how people behave in the context of their faith lives.
So, now moving on to Faithful Living 101, a project that I’ve been working on for several years. It is an introductory level course (or in this case a simple learning experience), that attempts to help bridge the ever growing gaps between the beliefs and behaviors of our faith lives. This experience will be made up of exercises that provide a structure for identifying your faith beliefs, as well as your faith behaviors. And most importantly, how they connect!
A sneak peek at our basic exercises:
Faith Beliefs: Using the format of an exercise used in the 1950’s This I Believe to gather your initial thoughts and ideas about what you believe.
- I believe _______ (fill in the blank)
Faith Behaviors: How would you describe your current faith behaviors using the four faith based categories below. We’ll spend more time defining and exploring these behaviors in the coming posts. For now, just go with you first thoughts and your gut!
With Care, Pr. Dan