Sacred Space Interview: Power in the Word

Melissa, age 56, is a retired network engineer, educator, and computer programmer from Central Florida. Her passions include photography, dogs, and reading. Today she shares her reverence for the God’s Word and for our words.

Do you believe in a God, gods, or other spiritual forces? If so, what name(s) does your spiritual force have? Where does the name come from?

I believe in the one God as described in the Bible. I am currently reading the Amplified Bible but enjoy reading different versions.

How do you practice your faith? What kinds of prayer, texts, service, or other rituals do you use?

I believe daily bible reading is important. In just the same way we must feed our bodies we must also feed our souls. Spending time each day with Jesus (who is described in John 1:1 as The Word) is central in maintaining (soul) peace and happiness.

I strongly believe that the words we speak are important. God created the world with his words: “And God said,  “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3, English Standard Version). And since we are all created in God’s image it follows that the words we speak are also powerful, not only in our own realm but in the spiritual realm. It breaks my heart to hear someone say how stupid they feel they are or how they never have any luck.

I feel I am best described as non-denominational but really I embrace all denominations as avenues to aid different types of people in embracing God. When I was very young my family attended a Presbyterian church but after my parents divorced we stopped attending church. I have always been an avid reader and at the age of fourteen I was given a copy of The Living Bible.  I read it cover to cover. To this day I mispronounce many of the place/people names because I was self taught.

Describe a moment when you knew that this faith was right for you.

I married a man who is a cradle Catholic. He was in the service when we were married, we had a civil ceremony so any faith questions/problems were delayed until we had our first child seven years later. At first we tried attending both the Catholic and Presbyterian churches. Interestingly enough the thing I remember most about that time is that the Presbyterian church was vigorously fundraising to restore their pipe organ at a cost of $100,000 while the Catholic church wanted $1200 for tables for their preschool. At the time the Catholic church was led by an Irish priest whose ideas and values seemed to most closely match my own. I have a story about how we finally chose a faith home for our two sons. (Cue those who know me to roll their eyes and sigh in a long suffering fashion.)

When our oldest son was old enough for kindergarten I began to tour the local private schools in an effort to be fully informed about all options. One day my son and I were recycling newspaper at one of those drop off dumpsters with sliding doors on each side located in the parking lot of the Catholic school. My son looked over at the building and asked if we were going to visit that school. I remember dubiously looking at the building myself while recalling my husband’s stories of ruler wielding, wrist slapping nuns. A woman who had been removing newspapers from the other side of the dumpster while we were putting them in (something I found slightly odd) quickly offered to take us on a tour. The look I gave her must have been even more dubious than the one I gave the building because she laughed and introduced herself as the kindergarten teacher. We did take her up on her offer and were thoroughly impressed with the school and it’s loving Christian staff and atmosphere. Turns out the Irish priest I mentioned earlier was very accepting of non-catholic students and teachers at his school. The only problem (there’s always a problem) was that there was a long wait list for the school. Something inside me made me insist on adding our son’s name to the list even though we were told our son’s chances of actually attending were very small. I went home that night and prayed, I promised that if God would let my son attend that school then I would raise my boys in the Catholic Church. The next day we got a call from the school telling us they had decided to start a second kindergarten section and there was a spot for our son if we wanted it. My sons were raised in the Catholic church and attended a wonderful school. They had a thorough faith and bible education and are good men. What more could a mother want?

In review I don’t believe I have really answered the original question but as my faith is ever evolving then that might not be possible anyway.

Describe a moment when you felt that your God was real, that your faith was making a difference in your life.

I was about seven years old when my parents divorced (it was the 60’s and divorce took a lot longer back then). I remember lying in my bed one late afternoon, a sunbeam streamed through the window dancing with dust flecks, the light was that soft gold of late summer. I was crying, desperately afraid of living without a father and felt so alone. This next part is hard to adequately describe but I heard someone call my name. Not “Melissa” but my real name, the name only our own heart knows. I knew, I knew right away that I was not alone, that God had called my name and he would be my Father. Volumes had been spoken in the breath of a second. I immediately stopped crying and rose from the bed no longer afraid. I am always grateful that God chose me, not because of anything I did or who I was but because He loves me.

Have you had any spiritual mentors or teachers? If so, describe their role in your life. How did they help you find your faith?

There have been many people in my life whom I have admired, who have some quality that I find inspiring. Almost everyone has something special about them if we take the time to look closely enough. Strangely enough I find that dogs are fantastic examples of faith. They love unconditionally. They forgive completely. We can push away their nose in our preoccupation with things “more important”  but they keep no record of our wrongs. Dogs offer affirmation in their exuberant greetings. Dogs have a purpose, my setter is driven to hunt, the guide dog puppy I raised was born to guide. We people often behave as if we were placed on this earth for our own entertainment but we also have a purpose in this life. Dogs live in the present, they don’t regret the past or fear the future, they never feel sorry for themselves but carry on in whatever circumstances are present.  I would love to be the person my dog thinks I am. I would love to be as good a person as my dog is.

Where and when do you feel most in tune with your faith or spirituality?

Out in nature. God created it all! The vast expanse of the universe was created by the same God who loves you, who knows the number of hairs on your head.

Assign some “spiritual homework” for our readers. What is one practice, prayer, or lesson you’d like to share?

Be kind. Our words have power, more power than we know. We can build someone up or tear them down with just a few words. All of us have a memory of someone who devastated us with just a few words, how crushing to think we may have been that person to someone else.

Sacred Space Interview: God Is the Beauty in All Things

Kathy, age 59, is a retired radiologic technologist from Jacksonville, FL. She loves reading, cooking, gardening, doing crafts of all kinds, and caring for her family. Today she is speaking with On the Blink about her Catholic faith.

Do you believe in a God, gods, or other spiritual forces? If so, what name(s) does your spiritual force have? Where does the name come from?

Yes, I strongly believe in God the Father, Jesus God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
These names have always been a part of my life since I am a cradle Roman Catholic.
I come from a long family history of Catholics.

Sum up your faith in three words. Why did you choose these words?

Love God always and put Him first in all things. Keep the holy commandments.

How do you practice your faith? What kinds of prayer, texts, service, or other rituals do you use?

Roman Catholicism is a religion of sacred rituals, sacraments and time honored traditions. I keep the holy commandments, I keep the laws of my faith, honor holy days with special services and fasting.  I attend Mass, pray daily and pray the rosary. I read Scripture from the New American Bible.

Describe a moment when you knew that this faith was right for you.

My faith is how I was raised and I never thought to question if it was right for me. I will always be Roman Catholic. It’s a deep part of my being. It fulfills me in a way that is indescribable and brings comfort to my soul.

Describe a moment when you felt that God was real, that your faith was making a difference in your life.

My God has always been real to me. I feel His presence in my everyday life and especially during dark times. He is my joy during happy times. During life crises when I needed to make difficult decisions, my prayers were answered. These answers were defining moments for me personally.

Have you had any spiritual mentors or teachers? If so, describe their role in your life. How did they help you find your faith?

I have found support and guidance in the elders of our family. Those whose faith was so much stronger. They were my spiritual guides. I married a man of the same faith and all of his family were Catholic. Two relatives were priests so this Catholic environment has been very real and supportive from day one.

Where and when do you feel most in tune with your faith or spirituality?

God is everywhere—in the beauty of children, nature and all things. Celebrating mass, receiving the Eucharist (the body of Christ) often. Holy days such as Easter and Christmas is a very intensely spiritual time for me. Easter is the foundation upon which our faith is built.

What is one misconception that others have expressed about your faith? How would you correct it?

A common misconception is our love and honor for the Blessed Mother, Mary mother of Jesus. We do not worship Mary but implore for her intercession. As a son we believe that Jesus would do everything His mother asks. Another confusion is the many statues we choose to have in our churches and homes. Catholics are not idol worshipers, but these symbols remind us of holy figures. We need not ask for intercession in prayer, but it can be part of our faith life.

Assign some “spiritual homework” for our readers. What is one practice, prayer, or lesson you’d like to share?

Seek and examine to find a truth for yourself and a place or way of peace, love and worship. Respect all life from conception to the natural end. including yours. Be happy with your life and know each life is a worthy gift. Be thankful every day.

Sacred Space Interview: Live By Doing

Welcome to the first of my Sacred Space Interviews! Today, I’m honored to present my conversation with Elaine.

Elaine, age 65, is a retired teacher living in Jacksonville, FL. She describes herself as a lifelong learner with a passion for meditation and travel. She speaks in today’s interview about the beliefs and practices of her Jewish faith.

Do you believe in a spiritual force or forces? If so, what name(s) does your spiritual force have? Where does the name come from?

I believe in one G-d as my spiritual force.  G-d’s name should never be used in vein so one speaks of G-d with words such as:  Adonai (“My Lords”),  HaShem, and many other words. Adon (singular) is found in the Tanakh, which has the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets and the Writings.

Sum up your faith in three words. Why did you choose these words?

“Live by doing.” Judaism focuses on one’s actions, one’s belief in following G-d’s laws in their daily life.

How do you practice your faith? What kinds of prayer, texts, service, or other rituals do you use?


Judaism is deeply grounded by rituals and religious observances. These traditions found in Judaism are intertwined in the framework of the commandments as well as the rabbinical laws and traditions. The Jewish religion recognizes significant occasions in a person’s life.  Specific rituals use specific prayers and traditions to recognize these occasions such as birth, bar/bat mitzvah, marriage, death.

Describe a moment when you knew that this faith was right for you.

I was brought up in a Jewish home and knew no other faith.  When experiencing all the traditional rituals throughout my life, attending services in a Conservative Synagogue and attending Religious School, it became my way of life.

Describe a moment when you felt that G-d was real, that your faith was making a difference in your life.

 
I feel comfort knowing that when I am in a difficult situation or in a good place, I am able to believe G-d is always with me.

Have you had any spiritual mentors or teachers? If so, describe their role in your life. How did they help you find your faith?

 
The Rabbis from my many congregations that I have been affiliated with have been my spiritual teachers.  I enjoy learning each of their philosophies and their beliefs on Judaism. My Judaism is deep rooted, but I do believe I can expand my knowledge of the faith.

Where and when do you feel most in tune with your faith or spirituality?

 

At home, in synagogue, around my family celebrating Jewish rituals and traditions

What is one misconception that others have expressed about your faith?  How would you correct it?

Many people do not understand why the Jewish people do not believe in Jesus.  One needs to explain that we do believe Jesus was the son of G-d but believe G-d is our spiritual force.

Assign some “spiritual homework” for our readers.

Reflect upon who you are, who you could be and who you should be. How are you living up to the image of who you could be by your actions.

What is one practice, prayer, or lesson you’d like to share?

Think about your family, work, love life, social life, community, spiritual and religious life and make a list of the ways you are blessed.

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I am still seeking participants for this series. If you would like to discuss your spiritual practice, please contact me here.

Announcing Sacred Space, a new interview series at On the Blink!

I’m delighted to announce the launch of a new series of interviews here at On the Blink. The series is called Sacred Space, and it will feature short interviews with people about their spirituality.

I was inspired to create this series for several reasons, but I can trace bright lines of inspiration to two figures in particular: the former Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and the Jewish-Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein.

In his On Being interview with Krista Tippett, Rabbi Sacks emphasized the need to honor difference across religious practices. Rather than insisting that everyone conform to our beliefs, Sacks suggested that we take the time to learn the beliefs, songs, and stories of other religions—even if we don’t choose to adopt them. He suggested that our God lives in these differences, in the rare and surprising moments of connection we establish through empathy and trust. So this series will strive to bring such differente voices forward.

Sylvia Boorstein’s wisdom also came through her On Being interview. Dr. Boorstein says that developing a spiritual practice doesn’t require time apart from our daily lives: “Spirituality doesn’t look like sitting down and meditating. Spirituality looks like folding the towels in a sweet way and talking kindly to the people in the family even though you’ve had a long day.” She emphasizes the need for a spirituality that is expressed through everything else in our lives, that hums along beside us in all we do.

My Sacred Space interviews will attempt to honor difference and bring spiritual practice to the center of conversation. Faith and spirituality are not all we will talk about on this blog, but they are moving toward the center—as all important commitments in our lives must.

If you would like to share the stories of your faith and spirituality with me, just send me a message through the contact form below. I am excited to begin this series with all of you!