Friday, August 9, 2013

Sketching spiritual stripes

"A free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain." -Red Redding, "Shawshank Redemption."

There isn't much that's important that hasn't been said in "The Shawshank Redemption." In this case, Red could have been summarizing my thoughts on spirituality. We are free men and women setting out on a long journey with a yet to be determined outcome.

My own unfinished trek started out in the Episcopal Church, baptized and confirmed (and later married) at Holy Trinity Church in Oxford, Md., as well as a couple formative years and thoughts at St. James School outside Hagerstown, Md. But as an adult, I didn't come to appreciate Christianity until studying Buddhism, philosophy and Taoism/systems thinking in college. And reading Tom Robbins.

Our own spiritual journeys are winding paths and trailblazing up a mountain. How far we get and what we find is up to us. I tend to agree with Krishnamurti when he says in "Freedom From the Known:"

The question of whether or not there is a God or truth or reality, or whatever you like to call it, can never be answered by books, or priests, philosophers or saviours. Nobody and nothing can answer the question but you yourself...

That's always been one of my beefs with Catholicism, that your experience of God has to be filtered through another person. Unless your Catholic like Thomas Merton, in which case I'm in your camp. But we'll rap with Merton another time.

I've always considered myself a spiritual nomad, a wanderer, a philosopher in training (cue KRS-ONE and BDP, "I think very deeply"). At the same time, my wife and I wanted our girls to be raised in and exposed to the thoughts, teachings, traditions that we knew growing up.

About 13 years ago, we were invited by friends to the Easton Church of the Brethren. I didn't know anything about the Church of the Brethren (even though my sister's husband grew up in that church), but when we went to church, Pastor Gene Hagenberger was riffing on Kierkegaard and Jesus, and grabbed my attention. And the congregation over the next couple years, from making us feel at home and welcome, and throwing my wife a baby shower when she was pregnant with our first daughter, has always felt like family.

Even still, I struggle. I find God on Sunday morning trail runs, in sunsets on the water, in Sonny Rollins' saxophone, in the horseshoe crab I picked up in Ocean City and showed to the girls and other kids on the beach. If I'm looking for God daily in the world, what is it about church specifically on Sunday mornings?

And that's when family, when community, speaks up. The Brethren stress individual study of the Bible, your own relationship with God. I can dig that. There are our girls, putting their spiritual feelers out into the Universe. And there is the church community, who have been there for us through the births of both our children and through the deaths of family and loved ones.

There is Pastor Kevin Kinsey, in his mid-30s, his wife and two children coming to Easton and looking for the same kind of community that those of us who have grown up on the Eastern Shore have known.

We each have our own spiritual journeys to embark on. For my own, and for the sense of community, I'm going to be questioning, thinking about, exploring my own journey via social media and on Sundays with the Easton Church of the Brethren. Like them on Facebook and follow along. Or come see us on Sundays when you can.

I'm not an evangelist. I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Just a vagabond working my way up the mountain.


Brian said...

Lots of good stuff here, V. I was particularly struck by your thoughts about finding God in everyday things and why does it need to be just on Sunday, as well as the concept of experiencing God through a "filter."

I'm also a big believer that one's relationship with God ultimately has to be cultivated on an individual level. I think religion is a man-made thing, but I don't mean that in a way negative way. Rather, I think it's a great and important vehicle for cultivating that individual relationship. It's kind of like eating out. A great chef (holy man/woman) can help you experience, understand and appreciate great ingredients, techniques and flavors. But ultimately, he can't make sure you're fed and he can't cook for you and you alone all the time. You have to pick it up yourself at some point.

I also think that each of us has a special gift, talent or capacity that connects us back to a higher power and helps us cultivate that relationship further. It might be the ability to enjoy nature in a special way, a special capacity for writing, music or painting or something else, but when we use that talent and have those sort of blissful experiences that come with it (and I think we all have something that does that for us), we are, in a unique way, acknowledging and demonstrating our appreciation for God.


Michael Valliant said...

Man, I dig this, Ox. Thanks for sharing, kind sir.

Tim said...

This is fantastic!

nic said...

It seems at Lebron X EXT Cork , which modeled the X on the theme of the unbreakable diamond, James just had to wait 10. On the technical side of the shoe, you'll find a good chunk of the Innovation Kitchen being used here: full-length Nike Zoom, Flywire technology, Hyperfuse construction and Nike+ Basketball technology.

niv said...

Thanks for the weblog loaded with so many information. I like how you’ve taken this information and turned it into engaging, tidy and smart content. I share your views on many of the aspects of this article. Thank you.