May 15 Part 1.
You are a spiritual person. You know you are, yet you don’t seem to connect, or even want to connect, with the people you know who are Christians. They’re a little too far over the edge for you. You don’t see yourself as a religious fanatic, and don’t want to put yourself in a position you’ll be uncomfortable trying to squirm out of. You’ve been there before. Someone invites you to their church and you like it. You and your family start going on Sundays. The next thing you know, they’re asking you to sing in the choir or help with the bake sale. One church even asked you to teach Sunday School. Why bother going to church if you have to sit in the Sunday School room and teach your own kids? You can do that in your pajamas with a steaming hot cup of fresh coffee, not the junk they serve there. Before you have the chance to simply take it in and get comfortable, you feel pressured. Or maybe you’ve had the complete opposite experience.
You start going to a new church and its so crowded and loud that you can’t connect with a soul. People stream in right on time as if a concert is about to start, and leave even faster. You never even say hello to the person next to you. You couldn’t if you wanted to because you couldn’t even hear yourself think. You leave feeling empty inside, and lonely. But at least the coffee was good.
You just want to explore more of your spiritual side. At the same time, your friends who are into other ‘spiritual’ things are a little flaky, even though you love them for their quirkiness. Their path is fine and sometimes fun, even, but you’re not sure it’s the right one for you. You think there’s more than just going to a Yoga class and reading books about your intuition. For some reason, you just can’t figure out where you belong. You’re not the tie-dye type unless it’s a retro party, and you’re not a goody-two shoes who wants Jesus stickers all over your bumper. You just want to find out what else is in you. If there’s more to be uncovered, you want it. If not, you’d rather spend the time making memories with the people you love. Life is short.
Is this you? It’s been me for a long time, and I had a fairly clear sense of my spiritual side. I can only imagine what it’s like for people who haven’t explored it in depth yet.
It’s like our culture is missing a piece to the spiritual puzzle. Everyone has an agenda. Churches hang out their shingle and you’re welcome to join them in their already established beliefs. They’ll be patient with you, and nice, until you catch on and feel like they do because it’s the answer, the only answer. It’s frustrating. I think it’s also rude.
I know they’re not trying to be rude. Sometimes they have no idea what to do. At other times they simply are doing what they’ve been taught to do, or what they think they have to do. Rocking the boat could cause conflict or threaten the loyalty of people already there. They feel between a rock and a hard place. Or they’re simply oblivious to the needs of people in the wings. Every church is different.
For decades now, I’ve been repeatedly frustrated by the assumptions churches made, and, what appeared to be, an ignorance about where people were really at. If you came to a group meeting, class, study or anything else - they feed you what they want. I’m not sure I’ve ever stumbled on a church that just allowed you to explore without telling you what to think.
Why is that?
Another aspect of going to church that has kept me from putting both feet in the water, literally, has been how they turn their nose up at other practices that I enjoyed. I didn’t just enjoy these things, they were part of my life. I liked yoga. I enjoyed attending workshops that helped me in my relationships or identifying my deeper sense of purpose in my career, etc. If I’d share this with someone from church, they’d tell me it was wrong and dangerous. WTH? For many people who go to church, they just learn to compartmentalize their life and don’t share their authentic selves with people from church because they’ll be judged, or in my case, it was more trouble than it was worth. I eventually tired of having to be the person they thought I was supposed to be, and stopped going. There has to be someplace where I felt like I fit in.
I wasn’t a snob. But my life had exposed me to incredible people, places and experiences. Sometimes people thought I was full of crap too. I remember a woman saying, “It’s a little fishy that someone who has done all those things and knows all those people would choose to live in a little podunk place like this. There must be more to the story.”
This made me laugh and stunned me. The place we lived was one of the most beautiful places on earth, even if few knew it. I felt as if I’d walked into a dreamland and prayed nobody would figure it out before I could buy some property or invest in something here. It’s hard for people to separate their ideas about our culture from the desire of our heart.
I wasn’t seeking fame or fortune. I never was. I wanted to experience life to its fullest in ways beyond what I could see. I believed with all my heart that life would unfold before me if I kept on staying open to what lay before me. This didn’t mean I wasn’t strategic in my approach, but more often than not, strategy went out the window when something bigger seemed to be directing me. Now you may be wondering what I mean by something bigger. Well… it is and it’s not at all what you may think.
I didn’t know.
That’s a fact.
The truth is I’d call it God or my higher power, or my inner self, or the Universe, or my intuition which always inferred that it was directed by something else…it was a mystery.
But it was also real.
I got very comfortable with it. Over time I trusted it more and more. It was clear that I had to pay attention to it in order to be connected to it. It didn’t just run on its own without some acknowledgement from me - like being attentive. Like any relationship between two things needs to flourish - or to be created. Or exist.
Between two living things anyway. But I didn’t really know what they were.
All I knew for sure was the older I got, the clearer it became. The more I suffered, the more it showed up. When life got so hard that I couldn’t breathe, it suddenly appeared and I became hopeful. It’s a little hard to describe but it’s as if it’s a part of me within, and yet, somehow, it knows more than me. It’s like it has a deeper well maybe - that I don’t have access to but I’m connected to. This access this has that I can’t reach without it being there is upstream, or maybe downstream - it’s beyond my ability to see or even envision actually. I can sense it like we can, at times, sense when someone is staring at us if our eyes are closed. Does that make any sense?
When it shows up in times of trouble or suffering, it comes after I’ve allowed myself to feel what’s happening. I get to a point that I need more than I can give myself. I might pray or just search deep within myself. I get really honest and want to find what I’m not seeing yet. It doesn’t matter if it’s my own character defects that need to surface or if it’s another type of awareness. All I know is that I want to learn how to heal the pain, or change the situation in the best way possible but I haven’t a clue what to do or how to do it. I’m at a loss and tired of the pain.
The way it shows up reminds me of when my husband is really really tired from being on his feet all day, and life has been pulling him from every direction, and he still wants to fix everything for me that he can because he’s so true to his maleness and I see his frustration because he can’t be really good at any one thing because everything he does is compromised and he’s starting to lose it a little because this is not who he wants to be but he wants to meet everyone’s needs and that’s when I tell him to sit down. And he does. And I just stroke his hair.
It’s kind of like that.
Sometimes what we need is just that.
And often, it’s not at all what we think we need.
But it fixes everything.
Because we can feel ourselves again.
We can breathe again.
We can stand up without being wobbly.
We can see a little further than we could a minute ago.
We have hope.
And we know we’re not alone when we step back into the chaos even
if we have to take the next step by ourselves…
That’s when we remember there’s something more.
Even when we have no clue what more is.
Some people say they
mustered up the courage
the fog lifted
that happens too.
but this is a little more than that.
it’s when you have to draw from a deeper place
and it works.
something came over you that you can’t explain
the world is full color all of a sudden
you have a dream that feels different than others
you have a sudden sense of peace
there’s a subtle feeling that all will be well
that grows into a very strong feeling that all will be well
you have a passion about something
you didn’t know you were passionate about
you love people more
Not too long ago, Wally and I visited my mom and Jill. Jill is my Idaho friend who takes care of my mom. Mom is 90 and is bedridden, is blind, with late stage dementia. Jill is our angel. We always sing with Mom when we visit while Wally plays guitar. Wally’s voice is the voice of an angel to mom. She loves to hear him sing the old hymns . She is in a different place when she listens. We see her travel there. There have been times I’ve wondered if she’s passing in that moment. If she did, it would be a beautiful way to transition. On this day, Jill and I sat in the dining room, which is not far from her bed. Wally sat at the foot of Mom’s bed playing the guitar and singing softly after breakfast. She closed her eyes and let the music envelop her. That’s what it looked like. As Wally sang, something happened. To all of us. We began feeling different. The light changed in the whole room. Every one of us had tears streaming down our cheeks. Our bodies, each one, felt weightless - almost out of body, floating, adrift but present, no thoughts other than the now existed or could’ve floated in unless it was harshly intrusive.
At the risk of sounding weird, it felt like we were one with something, even though we were still ourselves. We all knew the Holy Spirit had been fully present because each one of us was fully present. It’s a dance. Even on an unconscious level, we had each allowed the Spirit to lead, which is the only way a dance can be a dance. Someone has to lead, someone has to follow.
Have you ever harmonized with other people? Friends perhaps? There’s a moment when everyone reaches the sweet spot and you know it. It may last for the rest of the song, or you might hit it just once, but either way you hit it and it’s beautiful. Everything feels right. That’s what this was like. Our hearts were the voices, and even though we couldn’t hear a sound from one another’s hearts, nor were we communicating in any way with each other, the love and tuning of our hearts seemed to reach just the right harmony - and in it came. The thing that’s more.
When Wally finally stopped singing, we were quiet. We looked at each other as if to see if anyone else felt it too. Clearly they did. Thank God. It was so powerful, and it was the fullness of our combined hearts with more that made it so. It would’ve been sad if someone didn’t experience it - but that may not have been possible unless they were in total denial. Or lying.
We all felt it.
That’s a moment that can’t be explained away. Or denied.
Even if we don’t know what it is.
Other than more.