“Some of you have a funny uncomfortable relationship with your God, and it is a dilemma. If you believe that your God, (or the divine power, the goddess, the universe) can intervene and help you -- in other words, if you believe your god-force has a will -- then you are in a bind. Every time you pray, and that god does not intervene or respond visibly, you are going to feel punished, ignored, unworthy or abandoned. If you believe that the god force has no will, and can not come to help you, then what is the point of faith, what is your connection to this force?
“We do not wish to over-simplify complex theological questions here, but do wish to point out lovingly that we encounter many friends in body who are having a tug-of-war with the universe and their god-force, trying to find a right relationship with it. Some of you are practicing magic in an effort to learn to control or align yourself with the forces of nature and the unseen worlds. Some of you have a kind of superstitious sense that if you behave yourself you will be helped, but if you don't, you will be treated capriciously. Still others treat their gods as super-parents.
“It is not our job to tell you the true nature of the divine force, but rather to help you see your way home to connecting with it, and thus knowing it on your own terms.
“Faith is the practice of making a connection with the divine. It is the practice of making openings in your life for the divine wisdom or guidance to enter. Even if you don't believe in a divine force, this definition of faith can still serve you: faith is a matter of connecting to forces that can nourish you, and it is a question of creating openings for the nourishment to enter your life.
“Let us give you an image to work with. Your house is wired with electricity. If you wish to tap into this power and use it, you must put your plug into the electrical outlet, and turn on whatever appliance or machine you wish to use. While this is a mechanical process, it is analogous to the process of enacting "living faith".
“The universe is "wired" with a force -- call it the divine, call it wisdom, call it energy, call it God or Goddess, and if you wish to tap into it, you must somehow find a way to plug yourself in to an "outlet", and make sure you are open to the flow of energies that you receive. You have the power to create or sever your connection with the divine force. You have the power to be open or closed to divine guidance, insight, and energy. You also have the power to open part-way, and experience the same kinds of fits and starts a vacuum cleaner might exhibit when plugged only halfway into the wall socket!
“In this way of perceiving faith, prayer becomes a request to the divine force for access, and a request to your own three selves to be open. You are praying for an opening of your will, for insight into how energy is moving and could move, for help with the shifting forms in your life, for new connections to be made.
“Living faith goes a step beyond prayer. It requires you to trust that even when you don't see the openings for spirit to enter, you can trust that they are there. You can trust that if you are blind at the moment to what you can do, you will be given openings, shown possibilities, made gradually aware of how it is healthiest and truest for you to proceed in your life.
“When you practice living faith you need to cultivate several qualities: a willingness to learn, patience, gratitude, surrender, and a recognition of the difference between your needs and desires.
Willingness to Learn
“Willingness to learn is obvious. It is an attitude that says: I have changed and evolved thus far in my life, and I will continue to change and evolve. If something is not to my liking now, it will shift, change, and either I will like it better, grow to accept it, or find the strength and resources to make a change.
“Patience, too, is obvious. It is an attitude that says: my needs will be met. I do not see how or when, so I am willing to rest empty for a time, cultivate myself in the moment, do what I can do, but let go of what I can't do. I am willing to let the seeds grow in their season.
“Gratitude is a practice of remembering what has been given to you in the past and acknowledging what you do have in the present. It is a willingness to work with the absolutes and “always” of your mind, to create an opening of recognition of the tiny seedlings of change, as they begin to appear in your life. If your mind is engaged with remembering the gifts you have been given -- moments of gratification, recognition of connection, physical health or well-being, insight, friendship, and even quite specific things, such as the pair of shoes you like -- then it can not be occupied with the pain and resentment of what has not yet been given. Pain and resentment tend to poison young seedlings and block off new growth in your life.
“Surrender is a bit more complicated. The word tends to raise the hackles in people of strong will. Imagine there is a river flowing in front of you. Surrender is an attitude that says: I see the river is flowing in that direction. I can either jump in and flow with it, or remain on the bank and wait for guidance on how to proceed. But I do not need to waste my energy trying to change the course of that particular river, or trying to swim upstream.
“There are times when you must struggle and fight -- when you are caught in a fire and need to push your way out, for example. But often, when you surrender to the recognition of how things are, and are willing to stop struggling against them, you can re-coup your strengths and your intuition has time to show you a better, safer way to proceed in your life.
“Surrender is an attitude of humble respect. It says: there are forces in this world that are larger than I can see at this time. If I step back for a moment, abate my will, I can listen, watch, and perhaps see some things I could not see before. Surrender is not the same thing as complacency. Complacency means giving up your creative will and embracing things you don't really accept. Surrender is a matter of acknowledging and working with the truth of the moment, including your own blockages or powerlessness.
“In the act of surrender you are making an opening in your mind and heart for guidance, and ironically gaining great strength.
Divine Will, Personal Will
“One of the ways you may find yourself getting tied up in knots is between trying to actively create your life on the one hand, and on the other hand trying to work with the "larger will" of the universe, or the divine, or your wiser self. You may think: my vision of my life includes a long-term committed relationship, meaningful work, and cultivating a humanitarian way of behaving. I want to work toward those things. But what does "fate" or the universe have in mind for me? Shouldn't I be listening and waiting upon God's will for me?
“We give you the analogy of steering a car. It is difficult to steer a car that is not moving. But once the car is moving, it becomes fairly easy to steer. Your desires and goals get the car moving, and then your wiser self communicates to you through events, insights, and imbalances in your life that serve the purpose of steering you in the direction of your own greatest good. If you struggle against your own experiences, insights and imbalances, you find your life careening from one curb to another. If you work with the guidance of your perceptions and experience, then your life leads smoothly and naturally to a fulfillment of what you will feel inside to be "right" somehow, even if it doesn't match all your talking self ideas about where your life should be going.
“From our perspective, your individual life experiences are all aspects of your larger will or design. Even the blockages, problems, and resistances teach you some aspect of the realms you seek to explore. But think of the sailor working with the winds. The plans of the universe are like the flow of winds and tides. You can work with them to travel wherever you choose, but you are also constrained by them. To go upwind you must tack back and forth. To go with the winds is infinitely quicker and easier.
“As you practice living faith, you cultivate the attitude of awareness that what you want is not always what you need. When you find that you don't like what is happening in your life -- you are sick, someone has betrayed you, you have been rejected, you are not gaining admittance to the work, love life, or social setting you want or feel you need -- then pose this question to yourself: how will this serve me?
“You may have no idea how pain, or failure is serving you. Living faith is the willingness to live with not-knowing until you can grow in wisdom and vision. Living faith is the willingness to pray for help -- to ask your divine force and your three selves for the openings to grow, meet your needs, and achieve a new balance.
“You have probably noticed over time that sometimes adversity yields a great harvest, and sometimes it does not. Living faith is an attitude that keeps you from poisoning the soil. It is a practice, as we said, of staying open, allowing yourself to learn and be guided, being willing to wait, remembering the positive gifts in your life, and being willing to work with what is "wrong" on its own terms, to sort out over time how your needs will get met.
“Having faith does not keep you safe from tragedy. Believing in God, or in the forces of magic, or in the bounty of the Goddess will not shelter you from the difficult challenges of life. What faith will do for you, is show you a way to walk through the difficulties in the most balanced manner possible.
“Faith is really very simple. It offers affirmations, such as:
"I don't need to know right now. I can just feel my feelings and take care of my immediate needs."
"Breathe, breathe, breathe. In the breathing is life force, ebbing and flowing".
"I have known goodness in the past, and will know it in the future. What I am experiencing right now is a condition only of the present moment."
"There are powers "out there" which can help me. I need only put out my request, wait, and some kind of help will be given, even if I am too blinded by my will to recognize it."
"I have eaten, I have a roof over my head, I am in no immediate danger to my physical being. Whatever happens in the evolving "plot" of this drama does not touch this baseline of safety."
"I am grateful for..."
"My mental picture is causing me great pain. I must admit that there is more to my life, this situation, and the world than I can envision at this moment."
“Living Faith creates openings for you, so you can connect to the divine force and let it in. Faith acts as a pause button, allowing you time to re-group and marshal your resources. Faith teaches you how to bring grace into your life, and spaciousness into your heart and mind.”