I’m a little groggy, having not gotten home until 3 a.m. due to repeated flight delays. And today is a big day–the Juvenile Justice System recommendation for my son will be revealed to us–so I’m a bit distracted. But I wanted to write something about the clergy retreat down in San Antonio.
It was good. So far, not life-changing, but then I haven’t had much time to reflect upon and integrate the experience. I think it’s fair to say that both my theology and my life story were out of the ordinary experience of most of the participants. But no one seemed to have a problem with me or with my crazy ideas. In fact, they asked good questions and listened attentively to the answers. So no problems there.
The structure of the retreat with its practice of praying the hours and instruction about creating a “Rule of Life” was intriguing and I began the process of uncovering, recovering, and discovering the things that really matter to my soul. I’m pretty sure this will take a long time for me.
I’ve built up a bit of defensiveness about “Spiritual Discipline” and need to take the time to work through that, however, I was able to articulate some of the values that are absolutely foundational to my spiritual health: (Are these even values? I don’t know, but they are very important to me…)
- Joy that demands justice and well-being so that it can be shared by all.
- Love that expands in both directions: from within me to the world and from the world to me.
- Integrity and faithfulness that enable trust to increase in practical and mysterious ways.
- Gratitude that acknowledges the abundance of Life’s gifts and makes known the goodness that abides.
- Forgiveness and humility that recognize our common humanity and ultimate reliance on grace.
I haven’t yet really connected those values to specific practices. What are the things I really want to do to nurture my spirit and my connection to Life and Love? These should be things, I think, that I yearn for–not things I think I ought to or should do. They have to be fully mine–springing from desire to be connected with the sacred and holy. I can feel ideas beginning to stir, but they are still mostly unformed. But I will let you know as they take shape.
Praying the hours was good for me, even though the language of the prayers and psalms didn’t really speak to me and was even an obstacle at times, because it kept me in my brain. I just couldn’t quite surrender to it. But I am curious to take the daily prayers and adapt them for a more liberal–even Unitarian Universalist–practice. Because the idea of stopping many times a day to acknowledge something larger than ourselves–God, Love, Life, Mystery–really appeals to me. And it seems to be a rather universal way of creating meaning in our human lives and keeping us humble, which I’m more and more convinced is one really good thing religion can do.
Our culture tries so hard to teach us that we are the center of the Universe and we should never want for anything. How dare life make us unhappy! How dare we not be able to acquire every single thing we want! How dare there be a moment that doesn’t seek to entertain us! The rule of obedience, chastity, and poverty is essentially a rule to keep us from that sort of entitlement. Under the Fransiscan rule, no one is entitled to anything except an ongoing reminder of God’s presence. One is immediately UN-entitled to being the boss, to controlling one’s sexuality, and to possessing stuff. Or, to push it a bit further, one is not allowed to cling to power of one’s own making. Not power over self, over others, or over stuff. One surrenders to the rule, and by surrendering finds time and space for Spirit.
I think that’s enough for now. Oh, I did want give one specifically Piratical report: Spaceman Spiff is as awesome in person as online. Even moreso, I’d say. And he gives great hugs. And RLP–well, he’s everything I expected. A normal guy. A minister down to his very bones. Funny. Humble. A bit embarrassed by all the fuss. He kept being surprised that I remembered so many details of his essays, and I guess he never knew about the pirate prayer vigil that happened during some hard times. I hope I conveyed a little bit of why he has made a difference to so many of us when I reinterpreted the 1st verse of the Gospel of John:
In the beginning was the story. And the story was with God. And the story was God.
Preacher, you ain’t Jesus, but you are an amazing storyteller and for some of us, that has restored God to us as well as restoring us to God. Thanks for that. It was great to meet you.