Last month, we welcomed Brian McLaren back to the pages of ReadTheSpirit to talk about his newest book. At the same time, courtesy of McLaren’s colleagues, we were given a dozen copies of “Naked Spirituality,” which we agreed to give to interested readers. To match those copies with the right readers, we asked a question: What’s the biggest spiritual challenge in your daily life?
Then YOU responded with emails, messages and even letters. We’ve spent a week sorting out the most helpful responses in light of Brian’s book—and those 12 men and women will receive the books.
PLUS, all of us get to enjoy the spiritual truths these dozen have raised. First comes a response close to our mission here at ReadTheSpirit—connecting people with spiritual resources and each other. This first response comes from Jan Jett of Indianapolis, Indiana, who describes herself as “a United Methodist diaconal minister, a Benedictine Oblate, a spiritual director—and forever a student.”
In seeking spiritual peace and discernment, I also seek companions on the way and that is where I have my greatest spiritual challenge. Even though individuals are seemingly accepting, I often find myself alone and lonely. How might I share the uniqueness of my spiritual walk without becoming defensive or argumentative?
Jan Jett of Indianapolis, Indiana
The biggest spiritual challenge in my daily life is routine. The routine of waking, getting ready for work, the job, household chores, church—and even the disciplines I do to seek God’s nearness and guidance—all settle into a routine that I do without thinking, without focus, and without intention. I do the same things over and over in automatic drive and, too often, I do not even consider what I am doing. I can drive to work each morning—so out of habit that I do not see anything as I pass by. I can do so many things at work in automatic mode that I can fail to pay attention to the people I work with. I go though the routines at church so out of habit that I can hear a prayer without hearing and worse yet, pray with so many well-known phrases and clichés that I do not have to think about what I am praying. My biggest challenge is to break out of the routine of each day, and be consciously present to others and to God.
Charles Gambrell of Mobile, Alabama, is a computer system administrator and also a spiritual director who works with church classes and groups in formation and discipleship.
SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE: THE HOME FRONT
My biggest spiritual challenge is putting into practice all the spiritual information I glean from reading and research with my immediate family—those with whom I live and for whom I care. Through reading and listening, I intellectually grasp positive passionate spiritual approaches. Yet, I am much better able to succeed out in the “world” applying my beliefs by action and word, than within my own family. Perhaps I sense more validation outside of home when I show understanding and compassion. I listen and am able to share and feel interdependence.
My personal struggle is at home with what should be the sacred space of family. Often the energy in the home, despite attempts to practice a positive calming approach, revolves around the reality of schedules and my roles as wife, mother and family CEO. There are testy interactions when teens and spouse have their own agendas, and likewise react due to their own perceptions and stories based on past experiences. The first Toltec way of “The Four Agreements” is to not take things personally and I fail more often than not at walking that talk. Often perceiving or feeling taken for granted, as Tolle would say, my ego and pain body surface and my previous stance to better communicate, delegate and trust evaporates. I am unable to just “let it go” when misunderstood, mislead or ignored. Conceptualizing peace between the religions seems plausible but what about the realities on the home front?
Debbie Valencia of Northville, Michigan, facilitates an interfaith circle of friends who seek bridges of understanding between the world’s faiths. She writes that “as my youngest heads to college this fall, I anticipate the empty nest to allow for easier scheduling of long-distance elder care and a new freedom to travel with my husband during the school year!”
SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE: RELYING ON GRACE
My constant struggle with our faith community is connecting the Christian understanding of “stewardship” vs “ownership”. It seems like my weekly focus on God’s ownership of all of all our lives doesn’t “take.” The Genesis-through-Revelation temptations: the pride of life, the lust of the flesh and desire for material security daily blind us to the truth of life lived in grace.
I am a Vietnam veteran and spoke on Memorial Day to our community. I mentioned that my grandfather died in WW II in Germany, my father died in Korea ten days before I was born and my potential children died in Agent Orange clouds in South Vietnam. These realities daily remind me that life is a fragile, uncertain, gift of grace.
Ralph Lepley of Statesville, North Carolina, describes himself as: “a spiritual formation and life coach, peacemaker and a sinner being saved by God’s love, mercy & grace seeking to constantly live authentically as a transparent vessel of God’s peace and grace to every person.”
COME BACK WEDNESDAY for our in-depth interview with Franciscan spiritual teacher Richard Rorh, who we introduced on Monday.
READ ALL THE RESPONSES TO OUR QUESTION: Part 2 includes 4 more responses.
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.