Monday, June 30, 2008

Taking time to breathe

Sorry about the lack of posts here lately. For a couple of weeks it was because of work demands, including wrestling with a new computer system (it's the sort of struggle that tends to make you more prayerful -- or at least more likely to invoke the name of the Almighty).

But for the last two weeks, I have been seeking some Sacred Space of my own, on the coasts of Maine and Nova Scotia, Canada. My son traveled with me. The computer stayed home.

After my mouse-deprived fingers stopped twitching, I knew it was right to take this time away, to abandon productivity for the sake of wholeness. To hike trails instead of running in place. To laugh at the silly walk of a roadside moose rather than brooding about newsroom layoffs and national politics and the unholy squabbles over religion.

What a novel idea: Taking time to breathe. To be rather than to do.

But it's not novel at all, of course. We have lost the concept of Sabbath time to our own detriment.

Do you take time to unplug from your busy life? How does that affect you spiritually?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Indiana Jones and the midlife quest

I recently caught the new Indiana Jones movie. It was on the whole what I expected: mindless fun with enjoyable characters. One line of dialogue, though, broke through the escapism, perhaps because it hit uncomfortably close to home for someone of my age.

The university dean tells a graying Indy, "We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away."

That's how it seems sometimes as age begins to claim our agility, our memory, our energy and, most painfully, our family and friends. The sense of loss can be overwhelming.

I think often of how difficult it must be for my parents, both in their 80s, who have buried their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and many of their close friends. Much that has anchored their lives is slipping away.

So part of the spiritual journey of middle-age and older involves letting go -- not only letting go gracefully of the things and people we lose, but letting go of fear of further loss. It starts with gratitude for what remains in our lives, and matures into gratitude even for the empty spaces that once were filled.

Most of all, it requires trust that even if all is taken from us, life endures and God is good. Then we can live richly, whatever our circumstances.

Later in the film, Professor Oxley says, "How much of human life is lost in waiting?"
Or in fear? Or in clinging?

It's impossible to accept the gifts of one season or one age if you are desperately trying to reclaim the one that has passed.

How has aging affected your spirituality? Comments welcome.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Church in the rearview mirror

The news that Barack Obama has resigned from membership in his church, Trinity United Church of Christ, is hardly surprising. Video clips from sermons by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and a Catholic priest who spoke there, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, offended voters and raised questions about Obama's association with the Chicago church he attended for two decades.

The candidate says he's doing it not just for his own political benefit but to spare the church endless attention from the media. Although as Frances Coleman points out in the Mobile, Ala., Press-Register, "... smart pastors and politicians will preach every sermon and make every political observation as though the whole world is watching. It pretty much is, from here on out. Thanks to camera phones, other electronic devices and the evolution of the Internet, someone is always poised to post video of embarrassing utterances on YouTube."

I've never left a church because of anything that would have gone viral on YouTube. In fact, usually it had nothing to do with the shortcomings of the church I left and everything to do with the qualities of the church I found: Outreach that is sacrificial and benefits the "other." Worship that's fresh and lively. Teaching that enlightens and challenges. Community that is loving and inclusive.

What would make you leave your current community of faith? Why do you stay?