Sunday, October 16, 2011



It is a lonely time to be a Christian in Britain. A few weeks ago my daughter brought home a copy of a book by Richard Dawkin and I've been pondering his views. This past week I listened to a new BBC radio show called the Museum of Curiosity whose guests were particularly slanted towards atheism and relegated God to the museum. Last night I watched QI where the banter turned on 'believing in God'. What is hard is that these people that I find witty, entertaining, vivacious and intelligent do not believe in God. I will not stop listening to them or laughing with them because they don't have faith. But I do feel a bit lonelier in what I believe.

There was a movie I remember from my childhood. It was called 'Oh God’ and it was a comedy with George Burns and John Denver. I know—I heard the groans. But what impressed me about the movie was its message. Society cannot accept proof of God’s existence. God’s unwilling messenger (John Denver) eventually gets himself into trouble and God (George Burns) has to come to his trial. He shows a few tricks-impressive ones, which are explained away as mass hysteria, hypnosis, etc as soon as he is gone from the courtroom. Human nature has this need to understand and explain all things. It isn't a bad thing. I think it is innately a good driving force that enables us to adapt and achieve great things but it is also our god complex.

I can be certain of one thing—there is no proof of God's existence and there never will be. This starting point actually gives me great peace. It means I can stop looking for proof and gives me the freedom to start asking questions.

So why will there never be proof of God's existence?

Because I cannot think of any proof that would satisfy me.

There is a reason why Jesus did not reveal his message to the “learned and wise” and it wasn't because they asked too many questions—it's because they thought the answers were within their grasp.

It humbles me to admit that I will not be able to grasp how God exists or even the nature of my own free will. I understand many bits and pieces but the whole picture is still a real mystery. We can talk about speed of light and possible particles that move even faster, string theory and parallel universes, millions of galaxies and life outside our universe. It is all amazing and I want to know more but that knowledge does not make me doubt my faith. God is so much bigger then anything I can comprehend. What I know of God is no more then a grain of sand. Will I ever be able to sift through the whole beach?

What is faith?

Faith is my starting point. When I look at my life past and present and what I can imagine of the future, one thing is always there. It has been with me since I was very young. It is emptiness and a longing, a feeling of being incomplete. My mother used to tell me it was “God calling”.

At various times in my life I feel the emptiness more then others. I run from it quite effectively the busier I am. But it is always there when I slow down. So I have come to think of it as God calling. And my faith is my answer to that call.

St Benedict taught his order that you should question and always be in search of the answers. Faith seeking knowledge. So I try to remember this as I go through my life. Asking lots of questions, trying to be open to answers in whatever form they come and spending time with God because for some strange reason He seems to want to spend time with me.
What now?

Having faith actually takes some bravery. It is a letting go of some of the control I desperately try to have in my life. Having faith is entering into a relationship with God. That is pretty mind boggling and humbling.

Jacques Fesch while in prison experienced a profound conversion and wrote about the search for God. “In the same way a mountain nine thousand feet in height,with a base fifty miles in circumference, has only one summit, yet there are hundreds of ways leading to it. Each one follows his own path and sees only what is within his range. If you climb up the northern side you can't see the southern, but once the top is reached the same panorama stretches out before all.”.

Everyone's path to the summit is different but we all seem to be driven to climb. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh,Buddhist or atheist, we make the journey. So maybe I'm not so alone after all.

If any of the documentaries I have seen on climbing Everest are accurate than each of the many paths are winding and have challenges. No one can rush straight up to the summit.I may even need to go up a ways - find I am not ready and come back down to try later. Most climbers need oxygen. My prayer is that. Maybe one day by following my Christian path, I will see you at the summit and we will take in the view.

I have a feeling heaven will be that 'aha' moment—when I can see the panorama from the summit and realize how simple it all really was...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

An Unread Eulogy

As I write this I realize this will never be read at my father's funeral.  My father was called by some a private person-but more so he was a deeply humble man.  So what he has gone through will never be shared beyond these pages of scribbled tribute.

I watched one of those inspirational movies last lent.  I think the title was ‘A Father’s Love’.  The film clip was about a father who ran marathons pushing his disabled son’s wheelchair.  I came away realizing that my Dad had run many marathons for me in my life-the marathon of the working man providing for his family.  The years of day in, day out, 9-5 despite how he felt or what he would have liked to do.  Over 50 years of M-F, 9-5 to provide for his family.

We all carry crosses in life but my Dad’s road to Calvary began the day my mother died.  He did not embrace the loneliness of surviving someone you have lived as one with for over 64 years, but he did accept it, looking for God’s plan in his life.  He became the hub for our family throughout the next 5 years, always keeping us updated about each family’s joys and sorrows.  He missed mom - words cannot describe the loss - always expecting she was just in the next room.

His time in the Garden of Gethsemane lasted about 4 years.  The waiting and knowing that God would be calling him soon (but when?).  The anticipation of what his last journey would be like was difficult.  I believe he prayed - God’s will be done.

Most people outside our family will not know what my Dad has been through over the last year.  He gave up his driving so as not to put others at risk and as a result did not get out as much.  He often refused offers to be driven places by friends in the community as he didn’t want to add to their “load”.  He pushed himself each day - most of the time feeling he was not doing enough.

Dad often complained - “I have no strength” but he really was a “super” man as he faced each day, pushing himself to live – after all, that was what God wanted him to do.
Dad grumbled, moaned, and questioned the “sense of it all” – that was his inspiration to me – his endurance.  He followed his conscience – his sense of right and wrong.  He knew he was doing what God was asking of him especially over the last 4 weeks of his life.

Dad had a small heart attack 4 weeks ago.  It pushed his body’s heart and kidneys beyond their limits. He endured.  He kept putting one foot in front of the other to the next step.  He had his girls to care for.  He was reluctant to let them help carry his cross – how could he burden them.

His cross-got heavier – itching, breathlessness, chest pressure, swelling, sleepless/restless nights, that slow forced letting go of control (not able to make dinner – he would still direct proceedings from his chair).  His frustration flared when he was not kept informed of “the plan” or when we would try to ease his burden by doing something (like buying groceries without telling him). He was always fully aware of what was happening around him as he lost his life by inches.  After speaking to his doctor and being told he was dying, his first response to us was- “You need to get Fr Vern’s pix back to him.”

It was so hard watching Dad suffer – he would die as he lived – enduring the struggle – doing what he knew to be right.  He taught me an important lesson – following his conscience despite where it led.  He was a brave man.  I like to think my mom was with him through it all – through her daughter’s hands and love.

I think Dad was at peace in the last hours of his life.  He came home from hospital in an ambulance – dignity intact.  He was alert and walked into his home to his reclining chair.
His last words before falling into his last sleep were “I don’t know what to do.”  I desperately wanted to say something – something wise and comforting.  All I could think of was “Just rest Dad – just rest.” .  He leaned back in his reclining chair and 12 hours later went to his rest with the Lord.

I am sure my mom was there to greet him.  I think she was waiting for him these past 5 years.

My Dad taught me so many things in my life –
·      to discern,
·      to endure,
·      to listen to my conscience,
·      to be true to God wherever He leads,
·      that suffering is not easy but a part of life and
·      that at the end God is waiting.
Thank you Dad.  I hope I listened well.