Archive for Religion

On Faith: Blessing, Burden, or Both?

faith traditions

The younger one answered the phone.

Her older sister had recently died. Soon, I was sharing what our hospice offered for the grieving. Part of my job responsibilities include “cold calling” family members in the fragmented, blurry days after a loved one’s death.

Like many hospices, we have grief counselors. It would be easy to schedule a one-on-one session, but she didn’t sound interested. I suggested our support groups.

“Maybe later on, but I’m really not a groupy kind of person.”

A grief workshop on next month’s calendar also wasn’t appealing. And then, since this conversation occurred when summer was fading into autumn, I mentioned several upcoming annual activities. One dealt with facing the holidays without a loved one. Another was an outdoor memorial service between Thanksgiving and Christmas, open to everyone in the community.

“Are those holiday events going to focus on a particular faith?” she asked.

She emphasized particular. Read More →

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Loving Kindness

May I be at peace.

May my heart remain open.

May I realize the beauty of my own true nature.

May I be healed.

May I be a source of healing for this world.

May you be at peace.

May your heart remain open.

May you realize the beauty of your own true nature.

May you be healed.

May you be a source of healing for this world.

This is the loving-kindness prayer from Buddhist tradition. However, the moment I wrote “from Buddhist tradition,” I wondered if practicing Buddhists humbly smiled or openly grimaced. Is it possible some Buddhists would declare the May I be at peace… prayer was never in their faith tradition? Could it be made-up and willy-nilly tossed into Buddhism by others, or is it a corruption of an ancient expression watered down for modern listeners? I’m not Buddhist, nor a world religions expert, so I don’t know.

But I’m Christian and recall my sadness when discovering the “Prayer of St. Francis” (Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love…) first appeared in a French magazine published in 1912. In other words, likely not written by the Italian-born saint who lived from 1181 to 1226. Read More →

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Christmas Promise

On a long-ago Christmas Eve, I did my last visit to a patient as a hospice chaplain.

I was honoring a promise.

All I did was hold a hand in a dark bedroom while storm clouds trudged across the night sky. In the nearby houses, seasonal lights flickered in the rain, inflatable Santas and snowmen waved their greetings, and outdoor ornaments sparkled as the gusting wind teased them.

In the patient’s room, it was quiet.

In the patient’s room, she now mostly slept.

I’d already started working as a church’s “new minister.” It had been a tough decision to leave hospice—an intimate ministry—for a mid-sized church with hundreds of members, a sprawling budget, and endless obligations. So many decisions are a combination of guesses, selfish and selfless reasons, and trying to do the right thing at the right time of life. I didn’t know then (and I don’t know now all these years later) if it was the best choice . . . but it was my faithful risk to say “yes” to serve a congregation.

Some of those “endless obligations” during the first days of church work were the Christmas Eve services. There I would preach. There I’d read the ancient stories of Jesus’ birth. There I’d seek to connect an old, familiar tale to the daily hurts and hopes of modern folks. There I’d help a congregation light candles and proclaim the “light of the world.” Read More →

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