On Tuesday, we published the first 4 of 12 responses to the question: What’s the biggest spiritual challenge in your daily life? Then, on Wednesday, we published a joint interview with Brian McLaren and Richard Rohr focused on the spiritual challenges of aging in America. TODAY, we are returning to publishing the 12 responses to Brian McLaren by our readers.
To all 12 “winners” receiving free copies of Brian’s book, “Naked Spirituality,” we say: Thank you!
When the first four reader responses appeared on Tuesday, the reactions we received ranged from “moving” and “so personally inspiring” to “really makes you think” and “I’d like to ask people in my Bible study group about these.” In other words: As these 12 readers share—other readers are responding to your honest words. And that’s the kind of spiritual connection that makes ReadTheSpirit work.
Here are the next 4 (come back Friday for the final 4) … AND, HEY—Psssst!—here at ReadTheSpirit, we see fascinating patterns and connections among today’s four voices—and all 12 you’ll read this week. Can you see the connections in these responses? Think about asking your small group to consider these voices along with you.
I GET IN THE WAY
My biggest spiritual challenge is—me. I could talk about lack of time, overscheduling, you name it, but it boils down to me. Every time I try to make time for prayer and meditation, for reading scripture that is not in conjunction with sermon writing—did I mention I am a pastor?—I get in the way. I suddenly think of things I need to do, people I need to call, and I’m off and running. As a result, I feel as if I am dying on the inside. I look but God is nowhere to be found; I listen, but God seems silent; I am caught in running and doing and I cannot find my way back!
Vicki Rucker of Bismarck, North Dakota
MOVING SO FAST!
As I look forward and as I look back over my life and spiritual development, I am sandwiched into a time when things are moving so fast and the information is so readily available—that things become confusing. What seemed like a comfortable place to be just 10 years ago, spiritually speaking, no longer seems like a good place to stand. There is no rest in the past and no certain peace of mind when looking at the future. Spirituality seems up for grabs in the sense that what worked for grandma doesn’t seem to translate for my grandson’s generation.
Reading the Bible through in a year doesn’t seem to meet the spiritual needs that are generated on a daily basis by all the news streaming toward us from around the world. There is a disconnect for me when it comes to keeping old practices alive and trying to venture off into a new realm of understanding where things are heading. That’s a real struggle in my life as a believer in Jesus and His mission.
I shall look forward to reading McLaren’s book and suspect that I will appreciate it as much as his New Kind of Christianity. However, I know that it may not translate very quickly into the mainstream of the way we do church in these times. How we get there is definitely another question that needs answering as things move so rapidly around us.
Thomas Mansfield of Traverse City, Michigan, who describes himself as “growing up in a Christian home to parents in the Baptist tradition. I am now 62, which explains in part my journey of faith—in, during and through the valley of Baptist distinctives. I add to this the struggles of being in ministry as a Baptist pastor for over 40 years in various Baptist churches.
SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE: FALLING INTO OLD PATTERNS
The biggest spiritual challenge in my life is the force of habit. I start every morning with prayer, and I’m grateful to have established that habit and be at a stage of life when I’m seldom pulled away from it. Still, it’s easy to let the familiar words slide over me and chatter away instead of listening. I want a lively practice of prayer, not just a habit of prayer, and that seems slow in coming.
I have a hungry mind and I’m constantly excited about new things I’m learning. Recent research on brain plasticity shows that even at 66, I can make big changes in the way I meet the world. I make resolutions. Then, in the crunch, I go right back to being the person I was 40 years ago.
I practice Nonviolent Communication for 2.5 hours every week, because I want to meet my needs and help people I care about meet theirs. It takes lots of practice, because it’s truly countercultural, but in the company of others who care about clear, honest communication I think I’m getting it. Then I meet a real opportunity to respond to a character builder with love instead of judgment, and I fall back into my old habit of “being right.”
God has found ways of shaking me out of my ruts in the past, but they haven’t been pleasant. So I pray, “Have your own way, Lord,” and I whisper, “Please, be gentle.”
Mary Liepold of Silver Spring, Maryland, is “Editor in Chief at Peace X Peace, a mother of four and grandmother of five, a Secular Franciscan, a peace activist, and a lifelong book-lover.
SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE: TASKS THAT NAG AT US
The biggest spiritual challenge in my life right now is a lack of depth in my relationship with God. As clergy, I’m privileged to have time to study the scriptures weekly, to listen to the spiritual struggles of others, and to pray publicly. However, I’m also burdened by administrative tasks that are very time consuming. I am not taking the time to “rest in God’s presence,” to savor “the goodness of the Lord.”
When I do find a few minutes, I read a devotional to help me center, but I am easily distracted by the tasks that need to be done during the day. I’m drawn to move on with the tasks, thinking that once I complete them, I’ll have “time to waste with God.” Alas, the tasks are endless; the longed for time for renewal is absent.
The few snatches of devotional reading I catch are not sufficient to enable me to drink deeply from the well of Living Water. Not only does my own soul feel parched; I fear that I am not able to quench the spiritual thirst of the congregation if I have not drunk from the well myself. I recognize more negative thoughts about individuals arising within; I know that if I took these relationships to God in prayer, I would receive insight and compassion for relating to these people. I long to renew the spiritual practices that will reconnect me with the meaningful presence of the Divine Lover in my life.
Lori Sawdon of Lafayette, California, describes herself as “a United Methodist pastor for 25 years. My husband and I have a teenage son. Our family enjoys musical theater, especially when my son is on stage!”
CHECK OUT our in-depth interview with both Brian McLaren and Franciscan spiritual teacher Richard Rohr about the spiritual challenges—and gifts—of aging.
COME BACK FRIDAY for more of our reader responses to “my spiritual challenge …”
Please connect with us and help us to reach a wider audience
Conversation is far better than the dangerous shouting matches we’ve been witnessing in our global culture. So, please, email us at [email protected] and tell us what you think of our stories—and, please tell a friend to start reading along with you!
We welcome your Emails! . We’re also reachable on Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Huffington Post, YouTube and other social-networking sites. You also can Subscribe to our articles via Email or RSS feed. Plus, there’s a free Monday morning Planner newsletter you may enjoy.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.