I offer you this excerpt from an essay written in 1953, which looks at a way of living as an act of faith.

"I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one's being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God.

"Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired."

From "An Athlete of God," by dancer and choreographer Martha Graham

I have yearned this past while to speak a few more words about healthy faith and I have not known what to say. Tonight I think I know. But first I want to whisper something about us. Has anyone told us lately that it is very, very hard to be a human being? Come here with me for a moment and rest in that truth. Just for a moment, let's drop our pretenses and our images and our facades.

The world is a tough, tough place.

It is very hard to be what we want to be.

Rest in that, take it easy, breathe, take a moment before it all starts up again, it will be alright, it is alright—not alright in the sense that everything is fine, but alright in the sense that you and I are fighting to make it better and though we fumble that is Ok too because we are all fumblers.

And so relax. Easy, easy, easy. Cry, if you need to. Your softness will do you mighty good.

Don't perform, you don't have to. We're just glad you are alive. That's quite the feat.

I have thought a lot about healthy faith, thought about this for my whole life. And tonight I can only say this. We are all too human and we cry and we are tired and we are very tired and yet there are gems that keep coming to me and I hope and know that there are gems that keep coming to you and it is those that keep us going, that fill our empty minds and empty hearts; it is those that make our lives shine—whether the gem be a lifeline of wisdom or a friend showing up unexpectedly or a child breaking the dullness with the sound of his voice.

A gem found me tonight. I was going to give up on all this for the tenth night in a row and a sweet friend sent me this out of the blue:

I am reading "The Lost Art Of Gratitude" by Alexander McCall Smith. I am sending you a passage from it. There are good words preceding it but I'm too tired to type the whole thing.

(Two characters had been revealing their thoughts about God.)

"And there's Mozart."

She encouraged him to explain.

"Mozart, you see," he said, "is so perfect. If there can be music like that, it must be tied in some way to something outside us--it has to be. Some combination of harmony and shape that has nothing to do with us--it's just there. Maybe God's something to do with that. Something to do with beauty."

"Something to do with beauty. Yes, she thought, that was one way of expressing it. Moral beauty existed as clearly as any other form of beauty and perhaps that was where we would find the God who was so vividly, and sometimes bizarrely, described in our noisy religious explanations. It was an intriguing thought, as it meant that a concert could be a spiritual experience, a secular painting a religious icon, a beguiling face a passing angel."

Can I whisper to you, without insult, that we are empty, we are very empty indeed? We, most of us, are starved for affirmation and love because most of us grew up in long silences surrounded by lots of criticism or worse. And we are starved because God does not fill us like a drug. We have to work to find God and that is good because we have to work hard to find most great things. But the great things find us too and that for me is my whisper of faith. The great things find us too. The gems. The wisdom. The friends.

The voice of a child. Mozart. A concert. A beguiling face.

And it's only a whisper. Because tonight I'm tired and I'm vulnerable and I don't have all the answers. I just want to be quiet with you and tell you there is a depth to things that we forget, there is a depth to you, there is music to hear that is richly beautiful, there are sights for our eyes to behold that will renew us, and so pay attention and listen and stop and slow down and whisper to me something that is quiet and true and sacred and whisper what you know for sure and what has ravished you lately and who you love and what do you stand for and what has touched you with grace and beauty and hope. And you can cry and tell me where you have gone wrong and where you have been fooled and we shall tonight admit our folly and yet I will tell you that if you give us a chance we will see your beauty anyway and we will love you and you can rest in that love, a quiet love, a non bravado love that knows you are tired and you are a mess too and the world is tough and it is hard right now as it has always been hard but the great things find us and we keep going and we shall be gems, we shall be gems (because we are all gems) and it is my whispering hope that God will find us too and we will most likely find God when we are soft and quiet and vulnerable, as I am now as I send you this.

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