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March 3, 2018

A Sacred Journey

What shall we do this Lent to make it meaningful? Perhaps along with church talk of sin and repentance, we ask the all too personal questions we may be surprised that we have in common.  My life is not exactly “where or how" it should be for me. How can I get it "there"; where ever "there is for you?   With all the outward turmoil in society how can I have some inner peace? What is next for me: the same old same old? Waiting for the next shoe to drop? Or what I really need or have been waiting for all these years?

You have heard of "firsthand" and "secondhand" faith.  Secondhand faith being that which is passed down to us from others. It has its place. In a way the Bible can be both.  But firsthand faith is when God becomes a real presence in our lives, giving us a sense of purpose and peace and calling us to love like we have never loved before. Calling us to greater depths of forgiveness and acceptance and courage in life that we could have ever imagined.  
 
But first hand faith has always been difficult for me. I heard a minister say not long ago that he wrote a book in three days like it was taking dictation from God. Meaning no disrespect I felt no urgency to go buy the book, which I think was his intention. I have no problem talking to God. It is the God talking to me part that often baffles me. I tend to be hard of hearing in that regard. I think my experience is born out by many of the saints and the way the Bible speaks of encounters with God. We do not see Her face to face. Communication often seems sporadic to say the least.
 
Lent is often equated to a journey. And the more we take that journey seriously, and observantly, and intentionally, and lovingly (towards ourselves and others); the more we will be aware of God’s presence and what he is saying to us. Frederick Buechner calls this "Listening to your Life" and says we often discern God's thoughts through the "hieroglyphics of things" that happen to us, as well as, the quiet holy places within our hearts. This is what turns a journey into a “sacred journey”.  Buechner says begin by just paying attention to your life. God is speaking through all the twists and turns, the uncertainties and the mysteries. He says, in particular watch out for unexpected tears; pay close attention, for they may tell you where you should go next.
 
Even life's daily hum drum and trials can speak. In her most recent book, Barbara Brown Taylor says that there is a lot of healing and liberation in dark places. “There is a lot of what happens these days that I would call “spiritual bypassing,” where one offers a religious formula that will help you stay on top. But I cannot sell out the Christian message, which at its heart says that when the bottom drops out and you’re screaming your guts out at God, there’s more. It says that if you are willing to enter the cloud of unknowing and meet God in the dark—maybe even the dark of a tomb—you might be in for a surprise. The great hope in the Christian message is not that you will be rescued from the dark but if you are able to trust God all the way into the dark, you may be surprised.”
 
For Lent this year, I think instead of bemoaning the fact the God never speaks directly and clearly to me in two syllable words that I would prefer; that I will try to listen a little differently. Maybe even take a “leap of faith”, and try living as if each and every moment of my life is in its own way full of grace and has a truth to tell. And that even if the sacredness of it all escapes my small mind, that it will not escape my heart, this time around.
 
Peace to you, Bob Bell
​February 26, 2018
 

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