Crisis comes easily, interrupting carefully constructed futures in ways we can never truly be prepared for. Crisis has abounded a bit too much recently -- my call to theology continues to flourish, yet life-sustaining employment remains elusive and my PTSD sits under the surface, ready to disrupt my plans. At these times of chaos and crisis I can begin to feel it in my body -- trapped, unsettled, energetic and uncertain. When Jesus felt this he went into the desert to wrestle with his devils. I have no wilderness, but I have miles and miles of city road. When I need revival I start to walk -- pushing myself out into the city, pulling myself along familiar and unfamiliar streets. At first I argue with God -- sometimes inwardly yelling, sometimes fuming. But in the end I'm alone with silence and my own body. And there, in the silence, I rest in God and return to the uncertain journey confident that I do not travel alone.
Jason Derr, M.A., Journeyman is an Independent Scholar and Theologian-In-Affiliation with the Progressive Christian Alliance. He blogs at Patheos' Faith Forward and the Huffington Post.
Monica A. Coleman
Taking the pressure off
means going to the restaurant that makes my favorite dish
or getting to my Mama's kitchen
with childhood favorites
of okra and apple crisp;
Or taking a retreat to a spiritual center in the woods
where I can sleep for two days before praying
Or getting to the last place I felt God:
the wooden altar of an AME church
crying there until the janitor locks up,
Or seeking the company of my closest friends
who don't need me to do or be anyone
to love me
Monica A. Coleman is Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions at Claremont School of Theology. She blogs at The Beautiful Mind Blog.
Rachel Held Evans
I too journeyed to India in the midst of a crisis of faith, though a close encounter with a single-celled organism turned my own "search for everything" into an unfortunate sequence of eat, pray, throw-up. Despite the Delhi-Belly, I encountered something in India that brought me closer to God. As I worked alongside widows and orphans affected by HIV and AIDS, I saw in them the kind of life, love, and spiritual connectedness I longed for, and suddenly the Sermon on the Mount made sense in a new way. Blessed are the poor, the hungry, the persecuted, and the peacemakers -- for theirs is a Kingdom made not of stuff, but of love. Now, whenever I feel disconnected from God, I seek him out the "least of these." Serving my neighbors and learning from their experiences gets me out of my own head and puts things in perspective.
Rachel Held Evans lives in Dayton, Tennessee -- home of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. Her memoir, Evolving in Monkey Town, released with Zondervan in July. She blogs at http://rachelheldevans.com.
To find stability in unstable times, my most constant and life-giving spiritual practice over the past few years has been the Awareness Examen, inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Each evening, I ask God to reflect with me on my day and ask, "What people, places, or activities have brought me the greatest consolation? When did I feel most loved, most alive, or most connected to God and those around me?" Next, I ask myself "What people, places, or activities have brought me the greatest desolation? When did I feel alienated, drained of energy, or disconnected from God and those around me?" This practice has helped me identify the people, places, or activities that God may be calling me to let go, and the people, places, or activities God may be calling me to move toward.
The Rev. Carl Gregg is Pastor of Broadview Church in Calvert County, MD and blogs at Faith Forward.