Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Letting Go’

Barn Again

The work has started on painting the barn. First is the scraping of the old, peeling paint. I hope the warm weather holds long enough for the actual painting! A few of my more delicate plants were touched by frost last night. Autumn is upon us.

These words arrived from a friend:  “…when I attempt to be productive in the traditional sense, it seems as if I am hiding in busyness and running away from the heart of my being.”  Her words struck me – yes!  Because I am the caretaker of my elderly mother, some of my “busy-ness” cannot be avoided. But there are tasks I do that others could do just as well, if not better than I, and those I am in the process of releasing.

Like my friend, I wish to devote more time to contemplation, and to writing. Early autumn always feels like a slowing down time for me, before the Thanksgiving and holiday rush and visitors. Already I sense the busy-ness of the approaching holidays, as I help plan for the community’s multifaith Thanksgiving service.

Photo by Seth Rockmuller

On the walls of the barn, the old is being scraped away, in preparation for the new paint. What else is awaiting release and renewal?

To Stay or Go ~ Spiritual Communities & Community Ministry

Brace yourselves; here comes the C-word and the J-word, not to mention the R-word.

Popular author Anne Rice has “quit” Christianity. On her Facebook page last week she wrote:

“Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out…I remain committed to Christ as always, but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”

And this morning in my inbox I discovered a stunning response in the form of an article in Salon magazine, from Lily Burana, who has chosen to stay and fight. She wrote:

“Religion can be freighted with heartache, disappointment, uncomfortable adjustment and the dreary slog through the vale of tears. But I believe we can fashion the pieces of a broken heart into a new shape of belief. I’d rather endure the contortions of worship than suffer the bone-dry refuge of refusal or a spiritual life half-lived.”

Here’s the link to the article.

Some time ago, with the blessing of The Center for Progressive Christianity, I created a Facebook page, wanting to spread the word about this group’s work and resources. If you are one of those, like me, hanging in there with Christianity, you may wish to check it out. This month’s articles at www.tcpc.org are about Anne Rice’s decision, people who consider themselves SBNR (spiritual but not religious), the new atheists, interfaith – innerfaith, and more.

As an infant, I was baptized in the Universalist Church (in the 1960s it merged with the Unitarian Church, to form Unitarian Universalism). Although I trained as a UU minister, I am not firmly planted in a UU church, nor am I a free-floating follower of Jesus, but rather someone with more than one spiritual home. This is distasteful (bordering on heretical) to many people calling themselves Christians, but my religious experience is not a “spiritual life half-lived;” it is expansive and broad, as well as deeply rooted. I like to think it’s the way Jesus lived, breaking bread with all kinds of people, while intimately knowing his Source. Community is important to me; if I cannot find it, I gather with others and  help it grow. And I see this happening all around me. Community ministry. Yup. That’s what I do.

At Home, Spiritually

This evening I attended an ecumenical Lenten service, as I did last week at this time. Area churches plan these services for each Wednesday evening of the Lenten season, with area ministers preaching on a given theme at one another’s churches. Soup and sandwiches are offered before each service, creating a time to connect with people from other religious communities.

Beyond my general fascination with religion and spirituality, I particularly enjoy these Lenten services because, of all the Christian services of the year, those offered during Lent are likely to get us thinking counter-culturally  about how we live our lives, about what is really important and foundational, and especially about what we need to release to be able to live more freely, deeply, and in touch with the source of life.

Metaphorically, I’ve been looking to my own backyard, to new spring plant life in particular, to feel my way into the new life that is promised at this time of year. Thus my previous post here was about clearing away winter debris so that new life (snow drops, crocuses, daffodils) can appear. I tend to think metaphorically about these things, seeking out the debris that clutters my life, and finding ways to clear it so that I can be more creative, more forgiving, more loving. This time of year offers me a chance to consciously do that.  Certainly the pre-Easter season is in anticipation of the new life that followers of Jesus find at this special time of year, when his risen spirit is recognized as being within us and among us. I understand resurrection, too, as metaphorical, akin to the cycles of life in nature.

I can’t help it. I was not raised as a literalist.

The church of my upbringing was Universalist (before the merger with Unitarians in the early 1960’s). In the sanctuary of my childhood one could see not only a Christian cross, but visual symbols for Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, and more. Our services were Christian in form, but far-reaching in content. That which is learned in childhood is close to the bone.

As I listened to the music and the message this evening in the little Congregational Church I hold dear, I thought about the astonishingly diverse and beautiful ways we each find meaning and purpose in our lives. As we left the church, in the west the last oranges of sunset hid behind the hills. In the blue-black sky, a gorgeous sliver of a moon lay on her back looking up at the stars, while Venus twinkled on the horizon below her. I am grateful that there are many places I can feel at home spiritually. Within and without walls.

A poem that says it all

Born innocent, one

– that’s I –

strives hard to become

an adult, no longer childish,

worldly-wise

in one’s art, one’s love, one’s life . . .

Then discovers:

that no one ever

becomes an adult,

becomes either

delightfully childlike

or pitifully juvenile . . .

Discovers:

one’s art to be outside the art game

one’s faith outside the religious game

one’s love outside the sex game

Discovers:

one’s own little song

and dares to sing it

in all variations,

unsuited as it may be

for mass communication . . .

For perhaps

here and there

someone will hear it

and listen

and know

and say

Ah!
YES!

From Art as a Way: A Return to the Spiritual Roots, Frederick Franck, New York: Crossroad, 1981

Depths

A number of years ago I attended  a gathering with Jean Houston. She talked about the special social responsibility of people over fifty years of age, because elders have a life-time of experience and have “access to the depths.”

What depths are these? I think of the Underworld, understood in many ways by different cultures. In myth, the Underworld, or Otherworld, is sometimes a place one travels not just after death, but during life. It is very dangerous, and sometimes beautiful. Time has a different quality there; many years can pass in the outside world while one is entranced and / or challenged in the Otherworld. If one is able to return to this life again, it is with a gift or gifts, which are to be shared with others.

As people who have experienced the depths of life, those over fifty who approach life consciously can see the larger picture. We have visited the Underworlds of life, and returned after those experiences of profound loss and grief, the “innering” work of depression, or deep pain; we have explored the Otherworlds of enchantment, beauty, grace and joy.  As pilgrims returning from the depths, we can bring forward new ways of being in our world, new possibilities.

Many systems are in transition now: planetary, political, personal. Think of the “transition” phase of giving birth: the time when you want to call the whole thing off because it is all too difficult and overwhelming. That phase arrives just before the final stage of birthing, the breakthrough, when we push new life into the world. This can be the birth of ideas, creativity, and action. The elder years present a time for a different kind of birthing.

Accessing the depths requires inner space, a cultivation of imagination, and a small community in which to share, nurture, and celebrate the process of integrating our Underworldly and Otherworldly life experiences. You may already belong to a circle of friends which serves this growing-edge purpose.  Elder-wisdom. It’s a powerful time to be coming of age, drawing strength and knowledge from our depths, moving into the wisdom stage of our lives, and sharing those gifts.

The Year of the Barn

In seeking an indoor space for meetings, as well as a space to do my textile artwork, we have been working on the upper story of the old carriage barn. After replacing the roof, the first task was to clear out decades of accumulated stuff.

Next, we found that the sill had rotted, though the foundation was fine. So the sill and some of the siding were replaced, at the back of the barn:

And at both sides:

Windows were replaced in the lowest level of the back (the horse stalls), and added to the front and back of the barn on the top level.

Two windows, one at each end, will be added to the side walls on the top floor. The interior staircase is in place, and now insulation, electrical and interior walls are in process. When the indoor work is done, and the weather is warm enough, we’ll scrape, paint, and beautify.

Meanwhile, going through a lifetime of /stuff/ has been intense.  It has called for a life retrospective, which is appropriate, difficult, and liberating. “Let It Go” has been my mantra.

This is The Year of the Barn.