a Baptist, a Methodist, and a Jew

I said this was going to be a religious blog and not a personal blog, but at some point, the religion has to become personal or it’s of no value. So please indulge me for a few paragraphs.

I’ve been a bit frustrated lately, not making the progress with study and meditation that I’d like. And when that happens, I start hearing old voices. These old voices were telling me that I was wasting my time, that all this spiritual stuff is fake, that religion really is the opiate of the masses.

But today, I had messages from three very different sources. First, I caught a few minutes of Charles Stanley on TV. He was talking a bunch of fundamentalist nonsense when it occurred to me that that’s the world he lives in. If his world is real for him, there’s no reason why my UU Pagan Druid world can’t be real for me.

Then, on the way to church, I was listening to Lover’s Lane Methodist on WRR. While their minister isn’t a universalist, he is a very inclusive Christian. Today he was preaching on the call of Moses. He had two key points: “can you hear me now?” (stealing the Verizon ad to say that first God has to get our attention) and “what are your excuses – let’s get them out of the way up front.” He quoted someone else saying that your vocation lies at the intersection of your deep desires and the world’s deep needs. I need to quit making excuses and stick to answering the call I’ve received. I have a deep desire to learn, and sooner or later that’s going to intersect with someone’s deep needs.

Finally, I got to DUUF. Our guest speaker was Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis of Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound, who preached on labyrinths. One key point was that inspiration comes through absence – when the stimulation stops, then the imagination can take over. And he described labyrinths as (among other things) trials that you must get through.

So, the message from all three sources aligns: this is as real as you want to make it, stop making excuses, and do the work you know you need to do.

Back to studying…

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  • I’ve been convicted about this very thing, of late. There are two practices I keep wanting to begin as a way to somehow “go deeper” into my UU faith. I invariably put them at the bottom of my list, and I tell myself that to “chop wood, carry water” can be a deeply spiritual exercise. That good old Puritan upbringing keeps insisting that the daily tasks of working and making a home, when done lovingly and with cheer, is as big a gift to the spirit as any meditation.

    The labyrinth sermon by Rabbi Geoff Dennis was compelling. A labyrinth can be a bridge? One of the things I really love about Rabbi Dennis is that he’s never afraid to say: It’s your relationship with the divine; It’s your job to get out there and make your personal sense of it.

    Just do it, eh? Quit procrastinating and making excuses and do the work.

    And then what? What if the only thing we get for the striving is the sweat and the diligence?

  • The Puritans were right about this, if not about other things – a mundane task done well can be a gift to the world and a gift to the spirit. The world needs more of that.

    But for some of us, it’s not enough. Some of us are called – whether by God/dess or the gods or by our innermost selves – to a depth of being that goes beyond living a good life. And reaching that depth requires intention, practice, and dedication.

    “What if the only thing we get for the striving is the sweat and the diligence?” That’s a fair question, but one that’s easily answered from life’s experiences – when have you ever worked on something worthwhile and not gotten something for your efforts? College is a lot of work, but it pays off in job opportunities and greater knowledge. Relationships are a lot of work, but they pay off in love and support. Jobs are a lot of work, but they pay off in better living conditions and the satisfaction of doing something tangible. And the spiritual work I have done to this point has all resulted in reaching a depth I never would have imagined 10 years ago. But I want to go deeper.

    My problem is that I want a plan, a roadmap, a guidebook – a course of training that will guarantee that in 12 weeks or 12 months or even 12 years I’ll be a wise and powerful and serene sage / adept / master / Druid. Those maps don’t exist – I can’t see what I’ll need to be doing in two years.

    But I do know what I need to be doing now. And I have faith that when I’m done with that, the next step will present itself – in part, because it always has. I just have to do it.

  • Chopping wood and carrying water isn’t enough for me either.

    There are roadmaps, I suppose. The writings of the masters. But those texts are dissected by people with better credentials than mine.

    Seems our uncertainties meet here – though your faith seems stronger. I can’t see where I’ll be with this in four years. And if I can’t guarantee that I’ll be a notch smarter, a hair more loving and somehow better, does that mean I fail?

  • I have a three part answer.

    1) Trust the source. This call, this yearning, this desire for a deeper life is coming from somewhere – trust it. For me, that’s the Goddess and God, what I call The All, The Ultimate, The Divine. But even if that’s only your inner self (and that’s a pretty big “only”), it’s still a trustworthy source.

    2) Trust the process. There are things you know you need or want to do now – meditation, prayer, study, service (you’re hitting that last one pretty hard – you might want to try some more of the others). Those things have been beneficial for others – trust that they’ll be beneficial for you as well.

    3) Do you really have a choice? If your desire is genuine, failure to make an honest effort is the only real failure there is. You may go down some dead ends along the way, but that’s not failure – it’s just eliminating options that don’t work for you.