POETRY: The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold by Madeleine L’Engle

December 15, 2018

The winter is cold, is cold. All’s spent in keeping warm. Has joy been frozen, too? I blow upon my hands Stiff from the biting wind. My heart beats slow, beats slow. What has become of joy? If joy’s gone from my heart Then it is closed to You Who made it, gave it life. If I protect myself I’m hiding, Lord, from you. How we defend ourselves In ancient suits of mail! Protected from the sword, Shrinking from the wound, We look for happiness, Small, safety-seeking, dulled, Selfish, exclusive, in-turned. Elusive, evasive, peace comes Only when it’s not sought. Help me forget the cold That grips the grasping world. Let me stretch out my hands To purifying fire, Clutching fingers uncurled. Look! Here is the melting joy. My heart beats [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Advent Day 7 Personal Reflection by Enuma Okoro

December 8, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent Doubt is common to more people of faith than perhaps care to admit it.  Ebbing back and forth in trust and belief is not something to be proud of but it is also not something of which to be ashamed.  It is simply part of our human condition this side of Heaven.  Some people experience less or more of it than others.  We find grace in the stories of scripture that highlight characters who experience doubt and questioning, who want proof of God’s words to them.  We can take spiritual refuge in people like Zechariah and the disciple Thomas who needed proof of the resurrection.  Sometimes God’s goodness sounds too good to be true.  At times our disbelief testifies more to the [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Doubt And The Believing Community by Enuma Okoro

December 7, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13) It can be scary to admit to ourselves that we are experiencing doubts.  We [...]

ADVENT REFLECTION: Devoted Doubt by Enuma Okoro

December 6, 2018

From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. (Luke 1:18-19) How do we hold onto our belief in God’s promises in the midst of doubt?  At what point do our prayers become rote, tinged more with habit than with hope, based more on what we feel is required of us than in what is possible with God?  Zechariah has a difficult time receiving the angel Gabriel’s words because they do not fall in line with the reality of his and Elizabeth’s circumstances.  [...]

POETRY: The Man Who Couldn’t Believe by David Citino

November 7, 2018

He was the sort who entertained doubts. Even in early childhood when his mother would call out “Your daddy’s home,” he’d look up from toys that were nothing more than toys and, with a smile both knowing and superior, shake his head from side to side. When Sister Mary Appassionata asked “Why did God make you?” he looked her straight in the eye. “Damned if I know,” he answered. Even love was out of the question, a series of motions out and in, crescendo, diminuendo. “You’re no worse than the last one, and I need it,” he’d calmly plead. “I do. I do.” It rained or shined on his parades for meteorological reasons only. Stars were there because they were. Forget charmed quarks and neutrinos, though he admitted that [...]

POETRY: The Theology Of Doubt by Scott Cairns

August 23, 2017

I have come to believe this fickleness of belief is unavoidable. As, for these back lot trees, the annual loss of leaves and fruit is unavoidable. I remember hearing that soft-soap about faith being given only to the faithful—mean trick, if you believe it. This afternoon, during my walk, which I have come to believe is good for me, I noticed one of those ridiculous leaves hanging midway up an otherwise naked oak. The wind did what it could to bring it down, but the slow learner continued dancing. Then again, once, hoping for the last good apple, I reached among bare branches, pulling into my hand an apple too soft for anything and warm to the touch, [...]

POETRY: The Doubter’s Prayer by Anne Brontë

March 28, 2017

Eternal Power, of earth and air! Unseen, yet seen in all around, Remote, but dwelling everywhere, Though silent, heard in every sound. If e’er thine ear in mercy bent, When wretched mortals cried to Thee, And if, indeed, Thy Son was sent, To save lost sinners such as me: Then hear me now, while, kneeling here, I lift to thee my heart and eye, And all my soul ascends in prayer, Oh, give me—give me Faith! I cry. Without some glimmering in my heart, I could not raise this fervent prayer; But, oh! a stronger light impart, And in Thy mercy fix it there. While Faith is with me, I am blest; It turns my darkest night to day; But while I clasp it to my breast, I often feel it slide away. Then, cold and dark, my spirit sinks, To see my light [...]

PRAYER: Ebb And Flow by Henri Nouwen

May 2, 2016

Dear Lord, Today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: “It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life; by your love I am sustained, and to your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love. My only real temptation is to doubt in your love, to think of [...]

DOUBT: God The Rebel by G. K. Chesterton

April 12, 2016

From Orthodoxy Our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose it must be at an end.  Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation, and doubt about everything that exists!  Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality; it must be born of nothingness, it must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way that no philosophy of nihilism can imagine. (H. J. Iwand) That a good man may have his back to the wall is no more than we knew already; but that God could have his back to the wall is a boast for all insurgents for ever.  Christianity is the only religion on Earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete.  Christianity alone [...]

THE CHURCH: Doubt And Faith

October 2, 2014

I’m not really sure that I believe in God, mutters the something-of-a-head of the Anglican church. I write, something-of-a-head because profoundly, historically, Anglicans don’t recognize a head as a head. In truth, the man who bears the title, Archbishop of Canterbury, while seeming to “run” the show of his denomination (or those parts of the Anglican Communion that still endure being in each other’s company from time-to-time) has no real authority or power over anyone else. Anglicans do this as a stand against seeming Romanish, declaring one man as the ultimate authority. If anything, Episcopalianism was based on a pure democracy: you want tall candles, you have tall candles; just don’t try [...]

REFLECTION: The Joy Of Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht

February 23, 2014

From Doubt Ethics, Logic, Mood The history of doubt exists, has galloped across some twenty-six centuries, and has been very conscious of itself for much of that time.  From Cicero to Schopenhauer, from Fanny Wright to Hubert Harrison, from Socrates to Wittgenstein, the long strange story of the history of doubt has loved its heroes.  It seems crucial that this history be known, if only so that its theorists, poets, comedians, and martyrs may be understood in their proper context.  People should be able to speak to each other about doubt without having to establish all the old arguments every time the conversation begins again.  Doubters and believers alike should know that Epicurus and Lucretius, the books of Job and Ecclesiastes, and [...]

HERMENEUTICS: Can We Go On Together With Suspicious Minds? by F. Scott Spencer

February 22, 2014

From Salty Wives, Spirited Mothers, and Savvy Widows  Doubt and Trust as Both Side of the Hermeneutical “Coin” Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’  Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:8-10) Elvis didn’t think so.  “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds,” he crooned.  “And we can’t build our dreams on suspicious minds.”  Loving relationships and communities do not thrive in the throes [...]

POETRY: Emily Dickinson On Belief And Unbelief

February 21, 2014

1260 Because that you are going And never coming back And I, however absolute, May overlook your Track— Because that Death is final, However first it be, This instant be suspended Above Mortality— Significance that each has lived The other to detect Discovery not God himself Could now annihilate Eternity, Presumption The instant I perceive That you, who were Existence Yourself forgot to live— The “Life that is” will then have been A thing I never knew— As Paradise fictitious Until the Realm of you— The “Life that is to be,” to me, A Residence too plain Unless in my Redeemer’s Face I recognize your own— Of Immortality who doubts He may exchange with me Curtailed by your obscuring Face Of everything [...]

DOUBT: Have I Learned Anything Important Since I Was Sixteen? by Elizabeth Deutsch Earle

February 20, 2014

From This I Believe Over fifty years ago, at the age of sixteen, I wrote an essay published in the original This I Believe series.  Since then I’ve advanced through much of the life cycle, including college, marriage to the same man for over forty years, two daughters, plus a scientific career, two lively grandsons, and death of parents and friends. I still believe most of what I wrote long ago.  Many of my early traits remain, including skepticism about religious authority, curiosity about the world, and the lofty desire to live a righteous life.  The world I see now worries me at least as much as it did in the 1950s. So, have I learned anything important since I was sixteen? I now know that life is very often unfair.  My own [...]

DOUBT: An Honest Doubter by Elizabeth Deutsch (Earle)

February 20, 2014

From This I Believe, 1950s Series At the age of sixteen, many of my friends have already chosen a religion to follow (usually that of their parents) and are bound to it by many ties.  I am still “freelancing” in religion, searching for beliefs to guide me when I am an adult.  I fear I shall always be searching, never attaining ultimate satisfaction, for I possess that blessing and curse – a doubting, questioning mind. At present, my doubting spirit has found comfort in certain ideas, gleaned from books and experience, to form a personal philosophy.  I find that this philosophy – a code consisting of a few phrases – supplements, but does not replace, religion. The one rule that could serve anyone in almost any [...]

POETRY: Doubt by Fanny Howe

February 19, 2014

Virginia Woolf committed suicide in 1941 when the German bombing campaign against England was at its peak and when she was reading Freud whom she had staved off until then. Edith Stein, recently and controversially beatified by the Pope, who had successfully worked to transform an existential vocabulary into a theological one, was taken to Auschwitz in August 1942. Two years later Simone Weil died in a hospital in England—of illness and depression—determined to know what it is to know. She, as much as Woolf and Stein, sought salvation in a  choice of words. But multiples succumb to the sorrow induced by an inexact vocabulary. While a whole change in discourse is a sign of conversion, the alteration of a single word only signals a kind [...]

DOUBT: Room For Doubt Makes Trusting Possible by John Ortberg

February 18, 2014

From Faith & Doubt As long as you have faith, you will have doubts.  I sometimes use the following illustration when I’m speaking.  I tell the audience that I have twenty-dollar bill in my hand and ask for a volunteer who believes me.  Usually only a few hands go up.  Then I tell the volunteer that I am about to destroy his (or her) faith.  I open my hand and show the twenty-dollar bill.  The reason I can say I am destroying his faith is that now he knows I hold the bill.  He sees the bill and doesn’t need faith anymore.  Faith is required only when we have doubts, when we do not know for sure.  When knowledge comes, faith is no more. Sometimes a person is tempted to think, I can’t become a [...]

DOUBT: A Second Look At Doubt by Timothy Keller

February 18, 2014

From The Reason for God I want to make a proposal that I have seen bear much fruit in the lives of young New Yorkers over the years.  I recommend that each side look at doubt in a radically new way. Let’s begin with believers.  A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it.  People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.  A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection. Believers [...]

THE CHURCH YEAR: Candlemas/Presentation Of The Lord by Kathleen Norris

February 3, 2014

From The Cloister Walk And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, “Behold the child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35) The darkness is still with us, O Lord.  You are still hidden and the world which you have made does not want to know you or receive you.  You are still the hidden child in a world grown old.  You are still obscured by the veils of this world’s history, you are still destined not to be acknowledged in the scandal of your death on the cross.  But I, O hidden Lord of all things, boldly affirm my faith in you.  In confessing [...]

PRAYER: His Eye Is On The Sparrow by Civillia D. Martin

August 19, 2013

Why should I feel discouraged, Why should the shadows come, Why should my heart be lonely And long for Heav’n and home, When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow, And I know he watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, And I know he watches me. “Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear, And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears: Tho’ by the path He leadeth But one step I may see: His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me. Whenever I am tempted, Whenever clouds arise, When songs give place to sighing, When hope within me dies, I draw closer to Him, From care he sets me free; His eye is on the [...]

PRAYER: Receiving An Answer To Prayer (A Meditation) by Mother Angelica

December 27, 2012

 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:9-13) In our “Journey into Scripture” today, we see the master and the apostles and they are discussing prayer.  I go closer to them and listen. [...]

POETRY: Human Being by Denise Levertov

December 20, 2012

Human being—walking in doubt from childhood on: walking a ledge of slippery stone in the world’s woods deep-layered with set leaves—rich or sad: on one side of the path, ecstasy, on the other dull grief.Walking the mind’s imperial cities, roofed-over alleys, thoroughfares, wide boulevards that hold evening primrose of sky in steady calipers. Always the mind walking, working, stopping sometimes to kneel in awe of beauty, sometimes leaping, filled with the energy of delight, but never able to pass the wall, the wall of brick that crumbles and is replaced, of twisted iron, of rock, the wall that speaks, saying monotonously: Children and animals who cannot learn anything from suffering suffer, are tortured, die in [...]

SERMON: Except I Shall See In His Hands The Print Of The Nails And Thrust My Hand Into His Side, by C. K. Franklin

October 7, 2012

We call your attention to the book of St. John, the twentieth chapter, the twenty-fourth through the twenty-ninth verses.  “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.  The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord.  But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.  And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them.  Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.  Then said he to Thomas, Reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing.  [...]

PRAYERS: Prayers Of Discouragement And Doubt, by Helen Steiner Rice

March 12, 2012

Don’t Be Discouraged It’s easy to grow downhearted When nothing goes your way. It’s easy to be discouraged When you have a troublesome day. But trouble is only a challenge to spur you on to achieve The best that God has to offer if you have the faith to believe. — Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou dost preserve my life; thou dost stretch out thy hand against the wrath of my enemies, and thy right hand deliver me.  (Psalm 138:7) God’s Hand is Always There I am perplexed and often vexed And sometimes I cry and sadly sigh, But do not think, dear Father above, That I question you or your unfailing love. It’s just that sometimes when I reach out, You seem to be nowhere about, And while I’m sure [...]