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with and without

I listen to the pastors preamble in a large cattle ring at a Fairgrounds. I thought there were going to be a crowd. I wasn’t sure to expect, but seemed like fun to check it out. I really enjoy seeing what it is that draws people to God. I like to experience and examine different journeys. This was very unlike my usual journey. The pastor was a nice enough fellow. He was meek and kinda nerdy. His hair had gel in it, but was combed with bangs, maybe 1 inch long. He talked slow and methodical. I kept expecting him to say, “We call it a Slingblade.” It was a tad distracting. Then, he started one long sentence. He talked louder and faster. He joined sentences together with a guttural sound. He made a noise when breathing in. It was never quiet. There was no pause for effect. He spokeandspokeandspoke. I think it was pretty good, but I missed much of it. I worried a bit that he would pass out. I have heard of people saying they have been touched by the spirit and channeling the word of God. I was afraid and embarrassed to ask if this is what that was.

The next day I went to an Episcopalian service. It was very ordered and packed full of familiar rituals. We talked about things I knew: Richard Rohr, CS Lewis. I felt comfortable, but somewhat sterile.

I wonder about a journey of religion without spirituality or spirituality without religion.
The journey to God doesn’t require ritual or structure. We are born in the image of Christ, which means returning to God is natural, it is innate, it is a spiritual yearning that we only need to succumb. However, we are also pretty naural liars. Since Adam in the garden jumped into the bush, trying to hide from an all powerful, all knowing God, we have invented stories assigning blame. We jump out and say, “Eve made me do it.” Eve the first scape-goat. She is the predecessor to the fat kid on every playground in the world. Left to our own devices and our own choice, we seem to make some pretty bad choices. The same is true with spiritual journeys without a guide. We might be making great time, but we are lost.

What about religion without spirituality. I wonder about rituals and platitudes without substance. Rote memorization and reciting of different oaths and creeds. I entered into that world, thinking that I found it anemic and sad. I met with a fellow who put a spin on each ritual that will stick with me forever. He talked about how whatever measures of comfort and tradition aid in the journey to God are a spiritual journey worth keeping.

One without the other seem like a treasure hunt without a map or a map without a journey.

God is pretty dang mysterious. What a ride!

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Posted by on November 22, 2014 in journey

 

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ride it like you stole it

I think my bike is a temple. Seriously. Not all bikes, and not because my bike is somehow different than any other bike. It seems like I can be all twisted around the axle about any number of things. I will go to meetings. I will go to church. I will seek counsel. I pray. I meditate. I read books. I write this blog. However, I will remain twisted until I ride my bike. I had a friend who used to run long distances. He said it was getting harder and harder to get a runners high. It is similar on my bike temple. IT takes me awhile to get into the right mindset to hear God, or to recognize the work being done in my head. This last ride, I had to double back and do some sections again because He wasn’t done yet.

This Sunday, I went to a new church and it was an ok sermon. I ducked out of Sunday school because I wanted to ride before it rained. I was headed home and drove by the church where my mom and sisters memorial services were. The service had just started and I decided to listen to the sermon. There was something about this guy that spoke to my mom and sister and I thought I wanted to hear it. He was speaking of Grace. He talked about how to keep Grace you needed to earn it. He told several stories about people who just didn’t understand Grace. He said, with no small amount of disdain, that one woman had actually said that Grace is like a carwash and you come out clean. He scoffed. He told of a college boy who said he felt so welcome in the Lutheran church because it wasn’t as oppressive as his Baptist roots. The boy felt that nothing he did wouldn’t be forgiven. The pastor told of his rebuke and said that God expected more out of the boy to keep Grace.

I was a little bothered. OK, I was incensed.

Grace is not a commodity. Grace isn’t earned or selectively granted. It is given freely and openly to all that will receive it. Luther himself broke from the catholic church because he felt that all you need was Grace. I have been the woman, dirty, hurting, lost, and lonely. I have needed to know I was clean. I have been the boy, rejoicing in the idea that unconditional love is not a myth. I have been blind. I have been wrong. I have been lost. I don’t want to be the person who speaks of Grace and doesn’t share it. When I pray the Lord’s prayer and ask for the Grace of forgiveness from my sins, I want to absorb the idea that I now know how to give that Grace.

As I rode my bike, I realized that I am not extending the pastor as much Grace as I would like to be extended. Shoot. I guess I will just have to accept that some people want to hear it that way.

I don’t.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2014 in faith

 

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hide and seeker safety

We had this great tree in my front yard when I was a kid. It was taller than our two story house and every fall it would litter our yard with these black bean pods that served as weapons. We had brutalized that tree in a myriad of ways. We had cut branches, nailed steps to climb in it, hung swings from it. We even tied a rope at the highest sturdy branch and strung it out 200 feet to the other side of our property and made a zip line with an old set of handle bars. It was universally accepted as the tree in our neighborhood. Kids would hang out in its shade. It was always base when we played hide and seek. It was the neighborhood Giving Tree.

I was maybe 8 or 9 and we were playing hide and seek again. We played that a lot in my neighborhood. There were 20 or so kids playing. As I said, the tree was always base. So when you felt the coast was clear, you ran to the tree and gleefully taunted the seeker with a chorus of “Free.” This time was different. Someone invented a new rule. It had to have been my brother. He is the kind of guy that invents games at every gathering and then changes the rules to make it more fun. MY brother’s new rule was that a previously freed individual could hold on to the tree and stretch out his hand. Grabbing that hand was akin to touching the tree yourself. I had a particularly good hiding spot that day and remained hidden for a long time. This sounds like an easy task, but I am a bit hyperactive and staying still was not my strong suit. He was closing in on me, I could feel him getting closer. I looked up and ran right into the outstretched hand. As my nose bled and tears welled up in my eyes, the seeker said, “You forgot to say Free,” and tagged me.

This scene flashed in my mind at church this morning. The pastor mentioned a movement in churches in the 70’s, called seeker safety. The idea was to figure out how to welcome the un-churched into the community. How do you teach people what church is about when they have never been? The movement was to build a welcoming community to receive these people. It is a nice thing to make people feel welcome into an unfamiliar setting. There is a thrill and a joy that happens when you see people stretched out to greet you. When you can see the earnestness in wanting you to belong. To feel safety by touching another person is a glorious thing. But what of the legalism that says you didn’t say the right words to be truly safe? What of the person so intent on stretching that they don’t move their hand or call out a warning? What of the line members who encourage you and say it is good enough to be safe and that you really don’t need to touch the tree?

I wonder if many of those seekers had a spiritual experience? Did they get to feel touched by God? Did they learn of God and not just about church? Did they get to feel the freedom that was there all along?

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2014 in faith, journey

 

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