I Believe Lord, Help My Unbelief

A parish I used to visit on occasion used to do a version of the creed that I loved. The presider would say the words of the creed and the congregation would respond: “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.”

To be honest, for a person in ministry, I can’t think of a better prayer and so I’ve stayed with that prayer that came up in my time of prayer during my 19th annotation retreat. I’ll probably sit with it as a mantra for the next few days, in fact.

Do I really believe that God is all I need? Do I really buy everything that we say in the creed? Do I believe that faith alone has the power to move mountains?

Hard things to take all in one sitting to be sure. But this mantra allows me to really engage with Jesus in prayer. It is a bit like the serenity prayer that Phil Fox Rose wrote about on Busted Halonot that long ago. I need to have the faith to believe in God, despite my unbelief. I need to surrender to that unbelief and to give that to God to help with overcoming my doubts and eliminating my fears.

It is difficult to believe that God could be all that I need. I often crave things that I know aren’t good for me. I head straight for things that I know place me outside of that relationship that God calls me into.

In Mark’s Gospel, these simple words are found on the lips of a man whose son is convulsing with a demon. Jesus’ followers were unable to drive the demon out and so they call Jesus onto the scene. Jesus rolls his eyes at the lack of faith that the crowd here has, including the boy’s father who even has a whisper of doubt that anyone, Jesus included could help his son. It seems hopeless, even for Jesus.

And so the man tells Jesus that he indeed believes that Jesus can help his son and he asks Jesus to help his unbelief.

The disciples wonder why they couldn’t drive out the demon and Jesus offers another simple answer to their question:

He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

My friend Margaret once said, “Did you ever have a relationship where you met with a friend once a week and all you did was talk about the same things and did the same exact activities in the same place? If so, ask yourself if your relationship with God is like that too.”

I think I have that tendency. The tendency to stop talking daily to God and to put off prayer in favor of other things that I’d rather do–or other things that are just time wasters. And when I don’t keep developing this relationship with God then I am doomed to face my fears alone–not because God abandons me, but because I often abandon God and turn to other people, places, things, activities that I choose over and against prayer.

I am officially on retreat now for the next few months. I am doing the Ignatian Exercises in the format called the “19th Annontation.” For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, St Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits as they are better known) developed a series of “spiritual exercises” that were to be done over a 30 day period. It’s essentially done as “a long retreat.” But he also made annotations in his book of exercises that state that people who don’t have time to be secluded for 30 straight days should be allowed to do the exercises over a longer period of time. So that is what I am doing now. I have to pray an hour a day, with scripture and in quiet. Not an easy task for me and I am getting used to making the time for this. I’m also supposed to journal a bit about my feelings during my prayer time. So I’ll try to share some of that with you as the time goes on.

Today I would say that I feel humbled by the words of the demonic’s father. He awakens me to the fact that while I believe, I do need help as well. There are plenty of things that trip me up, plenty of things that lock me into fear and hopelessness. Sometimes I get discouraged when things don’t go well and I need the opportunity to take the long view and relax and know that in the end, God is really all I need and that God will see me through regardless.

But God won’t help me if I don’t let God help me. I need to continue to listen to God’s whisper in prayer and to sit quietly for at least some time during the day and let that relationship develop into something that feeds me beyond my hunger.

My prayer today is that I can see Jesus more clearly in my troubled times and can continue to walk with Jesus daily, even when I am untroubled. Pray that I may be able to listen and be patient for God’s voice to lead me out of my unbelief and arrogance.

And I will do the same for you.

For we all believe in something. But we also need God for those times of unbelief.

We believe Lord, help our unbelief.

Are you more honest on Facebook than with your family?

La Lupe, a blog on BustedHalo® by Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft discussed an interesting point: How much do you tell your family about your decisions?

I recently had a conversation with an old friend who was thinking about making some major life decisions without telling her family about it. She knew they would disapprove and she didn’t want to deal with them. She justified it by saying that she believed in what she was doing and just wanted to do it and tell everyone later.

This is a tough issue. There is great tension between wanting to be independent, to be your own person, to make your own decisions and your responsibility to your family.

After 25 years of having to figure out what to share and not share with my family, it’s still a tough call each time. I know that I don’t want to have to lie to my family so I try not hide things that I’ll have to lie about to cover it up but at the same time I don’t tell them every detail about my life. It’s one thing to get a tattoo that you never tell mom about because hopefully she’ll never see it. It’s quite another thing to elope and move out of state saying adios to the family through your rear view mirror as your drive away.

But having to hear them talk and talk about why they don’t like something that you believe in wholeheartedly can be sometimes hurtful. Usually, though, it is just downright annoying.

It seems like an obvious question for the millennial age to add to the conversation here: How sad is it that we blog stuff to random strangers and acquaintances but can’t tell those who should be close to us certain things?

Is there anything on your facebook page that you wouldn’t want mom to see? Have you blogged about grandma behind her back? Are you in the midst of a major life decision but think that the family has nothing to contribute to your thought process–but you freely post a question about it on facebook?

If so, why might we be that way? What does it say about us and how different is this from just 20 years ago? Any thoughts?

Cleveland: Filled With Baseball and Memories

We took a great tour of Cleveland’s downtown ballpark yesterday, now known as Progressive Field, even though people still call it “The Jake” which was the original name (Jacobs Field). Here’s yours truly sitting in the Cleveland dugout.

Cleveland is also a city filled with memories for my traveling buddy Kevin who lived here during his Jesuit Volunteer year and remained here and got married to his lovely wife, Jen, in this city.

We got together with our friend, Paula and her fiance Chuck last night. Paula was a support person for Jesuit Volunteers during Kev’s JV tenure and ironically, Paula was one of the first people that became a “virtual colleague” for me at Busted Halo®. We had met when I lurked on a bunch of listservs and I liked a lot of her opinions and the way that she would listen to others and invite their opinions even if they differed from hers. So I made her the first moderator with me on the Busted Halo® discussion board. We had never met in person until about two years ago and so we gave her a call.

Cleveland has been a city that had always given me some joy. Brittany Janis, Busted Halo’s® development coordinator also hails from here. And she has been such a strong colleague for me personally. She kept me sane when I was feeling the tug to leave full time and I love the work she’s still doing on the podcast.

Lastly, John Carroll University was the first major speaking engagement that I did, after writing an article on the worst homilies I ever heard for Busted Halo. Cleveland gave me confidence to be a writer and speaker but more importantly, it gave me a heart to be sensitive to the needs of people who serve students and young adults.

So we leave a great city, filled with memories of my friend’s wedding day and a whole lot more. The best news is that Cleveland is only 3 hours from Buffalo.

BustedHalo’s® Open Letter to Anne Rice

Myisha Cherry takes a stab at an open letter to Anne Rice. She sums up nicely some similar thoughts to my own.

Even today there are a few of my denominational doctrines that I do not agree with, but the heart of what Jesus stood for is still dear to my heart. My experience from 32 years of church, particularly the black church, has led me to believe that the church is largely anti-gay and anti-female, although two of the largest groups that attend and serve in church are gay and female. The part of me that yearns for justice and equality does not accept this ethic at all. But I stay. I stay because I recognize that I am needed. I am needed to preach a different message; one closer to the one Jesus so radically spoke. I stay because the heart of Christianity feeds my spirit and I am able to recognize and discern “the bad” when it appears. I stay because there are others like me who need my company and support. God and the true gospel are so much more awesome than the acts of man.

I am disappointed you have chosen to leave Christianity, Anne, because people like you are needed to help bring change and revolution but also to serve as a light to others that will shine throughout the body of Christ, so that the institution, filled with weak and strong believers, can be awakened and enlightened. Reformer Martin Luther did not leave Christianity; instead he fought for it. A woman with a writing gift like yours can help usher in a type of radical love, acceptance, accountability and revival that would make Jesus proud (not to mention Christian believers better.) I don’t believe this can be done effectively by disowning Christianity totally. Jesus was a Jew (insider), who was considered an outsider. So was Paul. It is the “inside” outsiders that have the power to make great change.

Today let us pray for the the “inside-outsiders” that they indeed might be heard as a voice filled with wisdom. And may that wisdom lead us to the truth that God wants us to discover.

How Far Would You Go For Reality TV?

Dr. Christine Whelan at Busted Halo’s® Virtue/Vice Blog suggest quite far:

A French documentary, which aired this spring, argues that we’d do anything to win a reality television show — even kill another human being.

The film, called “The Game of Death,” features players in a fake television game shocking fellow contestants if they answer a question incorrectly. The directors of the film found some 80 contestants and auditioned them to take part in a game-show called “Zone Xtreme,” where other “contestants” (actually actors) were asked questions while strapped to an electrified chair. If the actor gave an incorrect answer, the contestant was encouraged to administer an electric shock as punishment, while the crowd roared approval.

Sound familiar? It should. The idea for this show comes from the 1960s and the Milgram experiments. The experiment was similar in that people were asked to hit a button and they would hear bloodcurdling screams and told to continue despite it. Simply because someone in a position of authority asked, people did what they were told.

Amazingly, it seems people will do this for even more superfluous reasons today.

How far would you go for something you really wanted?

Fr Dave Dwyer Gets Low with Robert Duvall

Fr Dave Dwyer, CSP interviews Robert Duvall about his latest movie Get Low and a bit about The Apostle as well. Get Low opens this weekend in major markets.

Here’s a great clip from the movie–courtesy of wingclips:


Anne Rice Quits Christianity

Anne Rice, who Bill McGarvey interviewed extensively for BustedHalo.com® awhile back abruptly “quit Christianity. Yesterday, on her facebook page she wrote:

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

Sounds like a preference for the “vertical” relationship between God and self without the “horizontal” relationship where one also relates to God in relationship with others.

Which is understandable, after all, lots of people have this preference and Ms. Rice exhibits a clear dissatisfaction with organized religion–however, I think the real misgiving here is to assume that we can horde our relationship with God for ourselves. There’s an assumption that religion and relationships with God and others aren’t messy and that we don’t have to talk and be in dialogue with those who we disagree with.

And that’s not easy. Not by a longshot. But I believe that to do otherwise is simply a cop-out. I wrote about my own reasons for staying Catholic awhile back. To add to that post I’ll offer this bit:

To give up entirely on Christianity is to give up on one another, in my opinion. It’s to give up on peace and justice for all. It’s to say that we know better than everyone else and perhaps that we know better than God–that we can’t be led to God by someone else and that God won’t send those people to us (and us to others) in the hope that our hearts might be changed.

We have that choice. That choice to get off the bench and get in the game. The choice to live for others and not just for ourselves. The choice to refuse to let those who we think are unjust go unchecked. The choice to bring Jesus to others and to let others bring Christ into our lives, even when we think we have it all figured out. I know I’m grateful to be in dialogue with people who might not agree with me all of the time, even if it might be frustrating at times.

I am sorry that Ms. Rice, who I really like, has decided to stay home. I wonder what the straw that broke the Catholic’s back was?

She adds a bit more on Facebook here:

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

Anne, know that you are always welcome in any church I belong to. I hope you reconsider. We need you and will miss you and all those who decide to “go it alone.”

But for now, I hope you can “go in peace.”

Thanks to Thom at Ad Dominum for pointing me here.

The Roamin Collars

While not especially current in musical style, I’m sure when the Paulists started this folk group they were a big hit. Paul Snatchko found this on you tube randomly and it made me smile. It also made me pray!

Note that two members of the Roamin Collars went on to be President of the Paulists (John Duffy, CSP and Mike McGarry CSP-who presently holds that office).

Always at the height of creativity, the Paulists continue with of course, Busted Halo®, PNCEA and a bunch of creative parishes and campus ministries around the country.