My Sunday (Thoughts About Faith and the Material World)

Did you know that The Big Bang Theory was invented by a Catholic priest?

Look him up! His name is Georges Lemaitre.

I love science, so was very happy to find this out! About 10 years ago I did have some trouble with the whole “science vs. religion” debate as although I did want to believe that there was a God, I didn’t want to forget science. It was one of my best subjects at school! Luckily I learned a few years later that actually science and Catholicism can easily go together and one very useful way to see it is that science is merely another one of Gods tools with which he creates this world :)

Boom! I find that quite easy to comprehend, and any science nerds that still try to debate that whole aspect of religion with me (a.k.a. Dad, brother, sister, classmates…) I feel just can’t handle losing that argument :P haha!

I could write an entire post about science and religion but would instead rather talk about my day today! Might come back to this later.

Today’s Gospel reading at church was the one where the rich guy asked Jesus how to achieve eternal life and Jesus tells him to give up all his possessions and follow him. Then the rich guy walks away feeling sad and Jesus proceeds to say how difficult it is for a rich man to go to heaven.

Right.

I know this passage might bring relief to a lot of people who are struggling financially. As for me, on the other hand, this passage always makes me feel kinda uneasy. I’m a spoilt expat brat. No other way to say it! Sure, I have known P-L-E-N-T-Y of kids who were more spoilt than I am, but I also know plenty of people who are much less spoilt than me and all I can do to make myself feel better is resort to relativism e.g. “at least I am not like them!”  In this case, “them” referring to all the other spoilt kids I ever knew or encountered! Although, I do try to hide it as much as I possibly can I am sure it must show through sometimes.

Today has been one of those days…. Nuff said, moving on!

Another thing I can say is “well, I don’t know anyone who would be willing to give up all of their stuff!” with the exception of the few nuns I’ve met briefly at church of course… They are different!

And also, by nature, as an artist and a designer I have an undying desire to surround myself with pretty things! My clothes, my accessories, my home decor, my blog theme etc…. My career (oh yea! I finally got a job!) is based on the principle of making material possessions both practical and aesthetically pleasing.

Human beings appreciate beauty! I love just being able to see! From the trees and birds, to the cities, home decor, fashion, people and my own reflection. Yea, I said it. I am not one of those girls who always hates the way I look! No way! I appreciate it whole heartedly and I hope 30 years from now I can still say that!

I appreciate the things I see so much that I thank God for allowing me to see everything I get to look at everyday.

I also appreciate the things I see so much that I always want more. I always want more clothes, hair styles, shoes, ornaments, lamps, clocks, bed sheets… you get the picture?? It was a task being able to give away everything (yea right! Not everything!!) that I didn’t need in order to ship the rest during my move over here.

People do soften the impact of this particular Gospel reading by instead saying that it means that God does not want us to be “too attached” to our material possessions. That does make me feel better. I know that if I had to give away all my possessions then I could. If it was out of necessity. There are more important things out there and I know this at the bottom of my heart. I just hope that I won’t have to, and I hope that by writing this post I have not jinxed myself. Eeek.

Anyway, I am not quite sure how to conclude this post… I always suck at conclusions!

After hearing todays Gospel reading and then analysing my own attitude… I can at least thank God that he has brought this to my attention again and continues to on a regular basis through the world around me. I am reminded all the time that I should be grateful for everything in my life, material and immaterial. I pray that he continues to remind me, that I continue to grow in my ability to show thanks for all the good blessings in my life, and that I can grow and learn new ways of showing thanks and gratitude by contributing in my own way to the world I have been given.

Faithfully,

Smileyface! :)

Easily Influenced?

I can be easily influenced.

So…

I try to surround myself with POSITIVE influences!

I think people underestimate the power of other influences in their lives. I had to say this because many people (including myself) often feel too proud or even too “grown up” to be influenced by others. I used to feel like I was too smart to be easily influenced.

But then I realised, it’s not that I was too smart to be easily influenced. It’s that I had been surrounded by intelligent people that acted as positive influences in my life and my self-image. So how could I possibly go down a bad road when I am only interacting with positive influences?

This realisation didn’t happen overnight. But from my experiences over the years with a few different groups of people, my standards and views on life flow in response to who and what is going on around me. If you surround yourself with people who have what you would consider a lower moral standard than yourself (and lets be honest, cutting all the niceties and polite-ness, you KNOW when this is the case!) you begin to feel like you are an amazingly wise and saintly person! You may then start to feel like because of all your hard work and moral value, you can afford to relax a little and give in to that one vice which appears innocent compared to what’s going on around you. After all, it’s not like you’re being as bad as them!

This is not healthy, this is how bad habits are formed. But it happens. As humans we always compare and most things are relative. I know it!

The wake up call comes when you suddenly find yourself surrounded by people of a higher moral standard than you. It’s very simple! All of a sudden you realise that you would rather not share the stories of those tiny little vices you’ve been indulging in, however small they are. You may even feel a little ashamed! Stay around these people long enough, and you will find yourself phasing out those vices once again. Eventually.

I guess it comes down to which influence you spend more time with. This will end up being your primary influence and the winner of your soul. Boom.

I know that everyone has different degrees of this. We are not all EXACTLY the same. Some people appear much harder to influence than others, but I would like to argue that no one gets this way on their own. If I meet someone who appears to be very well grounded in their values and principles… someone who is simply just very hard to influence, then I will assume that they probably have a much stronger influence in their life with which they choose to really focus themselves. Positive or negative.

This is why I find that religion is such a gift to humanity.

I am fully aware that there are lots of atheists out there living full and happy lives filled with deep inner peace and a love for their neighbours and the world around them. My Dad has always been a real example of this to me. He is an atheist, and I can easily say that he is the most kind hearted person I know. The influences that contribute to who he is are his parents (who are in fact Christian) and his siblings. Their influence is held on to and continued through my Dad’s strong sense of purpose to be a good Dad and provider for our family. I could dedicate an entire book to his example (if I could write a book!).

But family is not the only influence in anyone’s life. I’ve had friends, teachers, classmates, communities, culture, tv, music, art, the list goes ooooonnnnnn….. All of these things are my influences and all of these things have a tendency to send mixed signals from time to time.

I need guidance to know when to follow and when to lead, when to hold on and when to let go, what to believe in and what to be wary of.

I can’t come up with this all by myself.

I need a positive and constant influence to surround myself with.

This is one reason why I have been gradually introducing Catholicism to myself over the past few years. It’s a lot to take on all at once.

But God is one influence in my life who I can say with confidence will always lead me down the right path, keeping in mind that I need to know how to apply my belief and understand God according to the context of what is written and what I have been taught. God is also the one influence who I could present any issue to without worrying about the shame or embarrassment I would rather not put myself through when I am afraid to speak to anyone else. Stating the obvious: I care about how people see me, especially the people I am closest to. God however already knows all there is to me so there’s no point in hiding.

I can’t say that religion is black and white, the Bible, as with any religious text, is very open to interpretation hence there are many different sectors of Christianity who all interprate the Bible differently. I need to take the time to read, pray and meditate on what I am reading and maybe speak with someone about it as well. Someone who I respect and who also knows the Bible and Catholicism better than I do! Speaking indirectly about an issue with someone by asking questions about the Bible may be a lot easier than speaking directly about whatever the issue is. Of course they may read me and figure out what it is that is really bothering me, I have to decide if I want to take that risk!

Anyway, what this all comes down to is I believe that no matter how “mature” we are, we are all easily influenced. The key is to try and choose your influences as wisely as possible. Be picky! Be picky with who your friends are, be picky about the music you listen to and be picky about the TV you watch. Be mindful about how much time you spend with negative influences you can’t avoid, and be determined to spend at least equal or more time than that with the influences you need.

In fact you can start by just choosing one influence that you know you can always depend on to lead you down the right path. When you have found that influence feel free to question it at times, questions lead to a deeper understanding, but do not ever turn your back on it. Keep it with you.

I would like to recommend this post, Everyone Worships Something, on a blog which I don’t always agree with, but I do believe holds a lot of insight and wisdom which I can’t get enough of! I love reading each post as it comes up on my Reader and they always give me something to really think about.

I think I could write half a dissertation about influences, so I will just leave it at that for now!

Much Love!

Smileyface :-)

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