Moving forward

What’s next, as I embark on the next leg of my spiritual direction journey? How do I maintain and build on my progress?  

My first goal will be to spend some time each day outdoors – away from the computer screen, away from the political bickering by culture warriors on TV and Facebook, away from endless news reports about people’s inhumanity to other people. Because nature constantly reminds me of God’s existence, going outside is something I can easily do whenever I encounter those pesky doubts. I need to immerse myself in God’s creation. Watch sunsets. Listen to cicadas. Smell some flowers. Feel the breeze against my face. Take a walk. Dig around in the dirt and plant flowers or veggies. Experience evidence of God with all my senses. If severe weather keeps me inside, I can nurture the plants in the sunroom or watch the birds and squirrels from the picture window in the living room. Meanwhile, I’d like to start each day with Psalm 118:24, which reminds me, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” 

While I’m nowhere near my original goal of “a place for everything and everything in its place,” I’ve made some real headway sorting through physical clutter. I still advise houseguests against venturing into the basement or garage (I’d rather not have to file a missing person report), but the house mostly stays presentable enough so I’m not totally embarrassed when someone drops by without notice. I plan to continue with my spiritual director’s recommendation: Devote one hour per day to tackling clutter. And stop collecting more and more STUFF to fill a home already bursting at the seams with too much material abundance.

My spiritual director and I have also explored various kinds of “spiritual clutter” that crowd attention to God out of my life – and I eliminated a major distractor by walking away from an incredibly abusive volunteer work situation. As much as leaving the organization saddened me, I must say I love the newfound free time. Deadlines have practically disappeared. I feel so much “lighter” – like I’ve put down the 100-pound bag of stress I carried around for five years. Now, as I ponder the question of vocation, I must resist the urge to plunge into something new right away. I need to be selective as I discern where God wants me to go next.

My continuing spiritual journey also involves asking more questions. Lots of them:

  • The nature of God. I’ve decided there must be some kind of Creator. But who, or what, is this Entity I choose to call God? Is God distant and uninvolved, as some deists claim? Or is God a “close-up” entity who not only cares about each of us personally, but intervenes regularly in human affairs?
  • Authority. What is my authority for what I believe? The Bible? Church tradition? Clergy? Why, or why not? What about the priesthood of all believers? Where does science fit in? Since not even all Christians agree on the issue of authority, how do I decide who is right? Also, who or what outside of church has influenced my beliefs? How reliable are these sources of authority? Should I rethink some of them?
  • Church. Why go to church, when by my own admission, I feel the presence of God most while immersed in nature? Is there anything I can get from church that I can’t just as easily get by going outside? If we go to church, how often do we go? What characteristics should I look for when evaluating a church? What characteristics serve as deal-breakers? 
  • Prayer. What is prayer and how should we pray? Can writing, singing and gardening be forms of prayer? Is it okay to ask God for things? What about “crowd-sourced” prayer on Facebook?
  • Salvation. Some Christians say we’re “saved” through baptism, while others insist we must make a personal decision for Christ. Which is it? What about predestination? Is there a literal heaven or hell? If so, who goes where? What does salvation mean, actually?
  • The 10 Commandments. How do I relate these Commandments to 21st Century issues? For example, I promise I’ve never even been tempted to worship a golden calf made from melted-down jewelry. But what about the bronze bull on Wall Street? What does it mean to keep the Sabbath Day holy in a 24/7 culture that worships productivity? What constitutes stealing? Your wallet may be safe with me, but what about the way I invest my money?
  • Sin. In a world where many “sins” have been reframed as “diseases,” is sin still a legitimate concept? Is sin a specific act or is it the condition of separation from God? How would liberal Christians define sin versus how conservative Christians would define it? Who is correct?
  • Creeds. Considering that no creed exists anywhere in the Bible and a number of Christian churches don’t have one, do we need a creed? If so, what should be in it? 
  • Politics and the Culture Wars. Part of my motivation for seeking spiritual direction was the extreme level of vitriol permeating our society in recent years. I’ve begun to suspect I’m part of an Exhausted Majority who feels pressured to take sides in the Culture Wars, but at the same time doesn’t fit neatly into either the liberal or conservative camps. As the partisan positions have gotten more and more extreme, common sense seems to have flown out the window. This has prompted me to ask: What are my own beliefs and what is my role as a Christian in our society’s political battles? Even if we think someone’s values are totally wrong, how do we change hearts and minds if we demonize certain people and won’t have anything to do with them? 
  • Ecumenism. Is there a common core of beliefs shared by most Christians, regardless of sect or denomination? Do all of these denominations offer equally legitimate paths to God? Is there a way to heal the divisions between believers and relate respectfully to people whose viewpoints differ from ours?

That’s just for starters. 

When my spiritual director asked me point-blank if I ever doubted the existence of God, her question gave me permission to “go there.” For the next leg of my spiritual journey, I want to keep being honest about the questions I have.

One thing I do know for sure: I’m grateful to be making the journey with this spiritual director. When I shared this list of questions with her, as usual, there were no lectures. She just smiled and asked, “Where do you want to start?”

3-2-1 Quote Me Challenge: Holiness

Thank you to Vickie at Vickie’s Book Nook and Meditation Corner for nominating me for this challenge. I’ve enjoyed reading her posts.

The 3-2-1 Quote Me Challenge was created by A Guy Called Bloke. You choose 3 bloggers to write 2 quotes each, on 1 word you give them.  

The rules of this Challenge are as follows:  

  • Thank the person who selected you.
  • Post 2 quotes on the topic selected for you.
  • Select 3 bloggers to take part in 3-2-1 Quote Me.
  • Give them a topic/word.

The topic Vickie gave me was “Holiness.” The two quotes I’ve chosen feel especially appropriate, since my New Year’s resolutions (at least as close as I come to New Year’s resolutions) involve carving out more “God time” and practicing better self-care.

Quote #1:

My husband and I usually go to church on Sundays (except in the summer, when the choir doesn’t sing and we go on Saturdays). But resisting the urge to cram the rest of the day full of activities can be a challenge. Since it’s so hard for me to just relax, it’s good for me to remind myself that God intended for us to rest at least one day a week.

Quote #2:

I’ve done pretty well with a Lenten discipline I committed to in 2018 – incorporating at least 3-5 servings of vegetables and fruits into my diet each day. Alas, I suspect my “temple of the Holy Spirit” still doesn’t appreciate the amount of junk food I manage to slip past my lips along with the veggies, especially the sugar-laden stuff. But the veggies and fruits have been a good start and I’d like to do a better job of laying off the sugar as well.

Thank you again, Vickie, for nominating me. This was fun! You even gave me an excuse to play with Photoshop – the program I used to create these graphics – and I love playing with Photoshop.

My nominees

One of the inspiring parts about creating my blog has been “meeting” people who also write about spiritual issues. So I’m nominating three of my favorite “spiritual journey” bloggers:

  • Ordinary Time – Feeling God’s presence in music. Plus a wealth of historical information about each of the featured hymns.
  • Seeking Divine Perspective – Believing the Word of God “regardless of how I feel.” When encountering this woman’s words, I sometimes suspect she can read my mind.
  • Scot in Progress – Thought-provoking essays by a Scottish mother blogging about “life, faith, doubt and crossing religious divides.”

My topic for my nominees:  Grace.

NOTE:  There is no specific deadline for this, meaning you can answer whenever you choose. (Actually, Vickie sent me this challenge a few weeks ago and I’m just now getting to it.) And there is no obligation to participate. It is my pleasure to nominate you since I thoroughly enjoy reading your blogs.

Have a wonderful grace-filled day!