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“Blessed are they who have not seen”: A Personal Meditation on Faith

MARCH / APRIL 2017: BY JESSICA PRESCOTT

Faith.

It’s a tricky thing, is it not?

Simply put, faith is the act of believing in that which we cannot see.  If we could see God in all his glory, right before our mortal eyes—faith would instantly become a superfluous virtue.  A moot point.  After all, when we see the sun rise, we don’t stand about debating whether it’s a “real” sun or simply a clever sham.  We know beyond a doubt that it’s real.  We’ve seen it.

But . . . we cannot see our God. And this uncomfortable fact leaves each and every human being on earth alone to face, in their own way, the following dilemma.  Namely: is God real?  Or is the concept of an all-knowing, all-loving God just another pleasant fiction; something we humans have fabricated over the centuries as a way of keeping ourselves sane?

I know I, for one, have certainly struggled with this dilemma over the years.  It’s a tough one.  Deep inside, I feel—I know—that there’s a real God out there.  There has to be.  I’ve talked to Him, for Pete’s sake.  And yet, I still have doubts, every so often . . . doubts that run something like this:  “What the heck am I doing, anyway—trusting my heart, my future, my whole life, to a Power that I cannot prove is even real?”

If I could see God, this would be a lot easier, wouldn’t it?  But I can’t. For the past year or so, whenever I’m wrestling in my mind with this issue, there’s a certain quote that keeps coming back to me—over and over.  I think it means something; something special.  (It does to me, anyway.) Here it is: “I know how you think.  But I have seen too much.  I believe in prayer for the dead.  I have seen too much.”  

As you might surmise from the reference to “prayer for the dead,” this quote is in the context of a Catholic-Protestant debate.  It’s taken from Willa Cather’s masterpiece My Antonia, from the scene in which a Bohemian friend of Antonia Shimerda’s family tries to explain to their Protestant neighbors, the Burdens, why the Shimerdas need a priest for their dead father. But it doesn’t only apply to the Catholic-Protestant divide.  This quote, I think, ultimately speaks to the struggle of human faith as a whole.  Why, in the end, do we choose to believe in God?  More to the point, why do I believe in God?

It’s pretty simple, really, I guess.  I believe in God because . . . I have seen too much.

No, I haven’t seen God.  And I never will, until I die.  But I have seen, over and over and over, so much that tells my soul there truly is a God in this universe—a real, living, all-powerful God.  And it’s what I’ve seen that keeps me going; even in the face of repeated attacks on my faith from the outside, and continual doubts from the inside.

I’ve seen men and women who have dedicated their entire lives to God’s service—and who are some of the happiest people I know, in the bargain.

I’ve seen people I love facing death in peace, without fear—and all because of their complete confidence in what awaits them on the other side, in their Father’s house.

I’ve seen the breathtaking, otherworldly joy on a child’s face when he or she receives the Eucharist for the very first time.

I’ve seen friends and family who don’t believe in God, and are yet comforted in times of pain and grief and uncertainty by the mere mention of His name.

I’ve seen awe-inspiring summer storms and the delicate, shimmering rainbows that follow; and I’ve felt the certainty of knowing that the Artist Who created them must be a thousand times more awe-inspiring and beautiful.

More than anything, I’ve seen how God’s love and mercy has changed me, as a person, and continues to change me—every day.

To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, I still believe in Almighty God, and I always will, no matter how many doubts assail me; “not . . . because I see [Him], but because by [Him] I see everything else.”

Faith. It’s still a tricky thing. But it’s worthwhile.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Prescott is a former homeschool student and current graduate student, pursuing a master’s degree in American history with a focus on immigration studies.  In her (sadly limited) free time, she can usually be found listening to “Hamilton” or Celine Dion or Twenty One Pilots and dreaming up new ideas for historical fiction novels.  Which, she hopes, will someday make her famous.  Someday…

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Bethany Hamilton: Woman of Faith

MARCH / APRIL 2017: BY JESSICA SANTULLI

On October 31, 2003, a horrific event happened off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. No, it wasn’t a Halloween prank gone wrong; the occurrence had nothing to do with the ghost- and goblin-filled holiday. Thirteen-year-old Bethany Hamilton, an up-and-coming professional surfer, was waiting for the next wave with her friend Alana, and Alana’s brother and dad. Suddenly, out of the murky blue water, a shark surface and attacked her. It bit her surfboard, and ripped off Bethany’s right arm. This young, forceful, athletic competitor was now fighting for her life.

You may know the story of Bethany Hamilton. She recovered, and almost every national and local news source covered her unbelievable comeback and success in the professional surfing world. She wrote a memoir in 2004 entitled Soul Surfer and a biopic of the same name hit theaters in 2011. This film has inspired millions of people to never give up and overcome obstacles. However, the driving force behind Bethany’s willingness to share her story is her faith in Jesus Christ.

Bethany’s parents raised her in the Christian faith, and she gave her life to Jesus Christ as a young child. She became more serious about her commitment to serve God in the years before her attack. Just two weeks before that fateful Halloween, Bethany prayed fervently every day with her mom: Lord, use me. She assumed God would use her to bring the love of Jesus Christ to the often dark world of the surfing community. She was ready to serve God with her whole heart.

After her attack, Bethany realized God wanted to use her not just to impact the surfing world, but the entire world. Before she got back on the board, she journeyed to Thailand for a missions trip after a devastating tsunami, helping children overcome their fear of the ocean. This trip took immense faith; Bethany didn’t know if she’d ever surf again. But God was in control. Bethany got back on the board three weeks after the attack, and went on to win surfing competitions, speak around the country, and make sure Jesus Christ received the glory for it all.

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Bethany’s story has turned people towards Christianity, myself included. I saw the film Soul Surfer when I was fourteen years old. I wasn’t serious about my Christian faith. I attended church, going through the motions, but wasn’t living out the teachings of Christ. Watching Bethany’s story on-screen changed my life. I needed to find out more about this incredible girl. Her faith in God prompted me to seek His face. If God can help an amputee thrive at surfing, he is surely King of the Universe. He spared Bethany to tell the world about His love, and I want to do the same, I resolved. To this day, I credit Bethany as the number one influence behind my strong faith (except for God himself, of course).

By all worldly standards, Bethany beat the odds and lives a life of success. She became a professional surfer, married a godly man, and has a beautiful, healthy son, but the main reason I admire her is because of her unwavering faith. Bethany had more faith in God’s ultimate plan for good than she did in her own plan for her life. Bethany still got to achieve her dreams; she just did so on God’s timing. Often in the midst of a setback, I convince myself I have missed an opportunity and my plans are ruined. However, during these times, I think of Bethany’s story, and how God brought hope to millions out of a seemingly hopeless scenario.

I’ll leave you with a Bible verse. Maybe you have heard it, maybe not. I believe it’s the truth, and so does Bethany.

Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Santulli is a graduate of Ramapo College with a passion for storytelling in all forms. She works in a library where she is surrounded by her favorite things: books, films, music, and people. On her free time she loves to run, hike, or just contemplate in nature. She credits God for any talents or abilities she possesses and hopes He is glorified through her life. Connect with her on her book blog, Librelephant.

Substitute People: A Guide in Healthy Relationships

JAN / FEB 2017: BY CHARITY BISHOP

The world is full of lonely people who “play the supporting role” in relationships, who are the second friend you call (instead of the first), or who seem overlooked in the grand scheme of life. It’s hard to be that person. Every mortal desires an understanding with other people, to be wanted, even to meet, as Anne Shirley so famously put it, “a truly kindred spirit.”

Despite our fast-paced society, with many potential relationships at our fingertips, many people are lonely and unfulfilled in their relationships; sometimes they’re completely alone, because no one has “found” them (or they’ve “found” no one), or they’re in a relationship because it’s always been there but they really aren’t connected to that person in the way they want to be (they “settle” because it’s easier and less scary than starting over or being alone), or they’re in a relationship because it’s good, fulfills them, and teaches them selflessness and ability to put another person first. Continue reading Substitute People: A Guide in Healthy Relationships

Ghost Stories

HALLOWEEN 2016: BY MARIANNA KAPLUN

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Curious thing, but we don’t often hear about happy, friendly ghosts. More often they seem to be unfriendly spirits who cannot rest. In August 1901 one English woman Miss Charlotte Anne Moberley visited France. When she walked through the Petit Trianon, a small château in the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, she saw a woman at the window of a building, which was not there in 1901. Continue reading Ghost Stories

Compassion International

MAY / JUNE 2014: BY CARISSA HORTON

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Imagine the poorest family you know. Maybe it’s a relative down on his luck, barely scraping by with his wife and two kids. Maybe it’s the lady who lives down the street, at risk of foreclosure who has to buy those generic Barbie dolls for her little girl’s birthday. Maybe your sister needs food stamps to get her through the week, your brother uses Medicaid, or your friend had to move back in with her parents because she can’t make it on her own. There’s homeless shelters in every American metropolis, soup kitchens to fill growling stomachs and churches willing to pay someone’s rent for a month or two if they can’t scrape enough together to put food on the table and pay the mortgage. There’s always someone to offer a helping hand, lift up the downtrodden, and offer them hope. Continue reading Compassion International

A Day at the Sanctuary

MAY / JUNE 2011: BY CHARITY BISHOP

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It stuck its head outside the cage and sniffed at the strange green turf, then put one foot in front of the other and stepped out.

This might seem like a strange sight on the high plans of Colorado but is a regular happening at the Wild Animal Sanctuary. Home to over 1,500 of God’s creatures, it offers a safe home to abandoned, abused, and mistreated lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and other carnivores. Each has a story, many of them tragic, from the mountain lion whose owners abused her so badly  she arrived with skull fractures to a bear whose poor eyesight has dimmed to blindness. Rescued from zoos, private collections, circuses, roadside attractions, and shelters throughout the US and abroad (25 lions just arrived from Bolivia), these animals faced euthanasia if not taken in. Their stories are heartbreaking …leopard cubs found in an air heating duct when their owners tried to hide them from the authorities, a lion kept in a filthy pit dug in a backyard (the owners fed him dogs from the nearest animal shelter!), and bears who were not even given water, so they resorted to drinking their own urine. It’s hard to read these tragic accounts of mistreatment but each has a happy ending: a new life at the Sanctuary. Continue reading A Day at the Sanctuary