Friday, December 10, 2010

Ebb and Flow

One mystery to me, in the formation of spiritual community, is the experience of ebb and flow.  Sometimes we, at Circle of Grace, engage with enthusiasm and excitement and at other times, we are ebbing and it seems like only a few of us straggle in on Sundays - the faithful, the hurting or the urgently seeking.

The unfortunate thing is, as pastor, those ebbing times affect my energy and creativity.  My dark side blames myself and assumes more responsibility than is healthy.  When we ebb there are things I don't do: calls I don't make, plans I don't escort to fruition, sermons I recycle rather than engage the text in a meaningful way while holding the community in prayer.   I get discouraged and my personal energy ebbs.  It is a chicken and egg question.  Do my actions (or lack thereof) contribute to the ebb or are they a response to the ebb?  Or both? Or is it all a viscous cycle? 

Either way, in times of ebbing, I find myself the least faithful.  My prayer life suffers.  My sermon preparation suffers.  I question my ministry. Has Godde truly called me to this work or is this all about me?  

I don't have answers to any of these questions.  Well, I do know it is not all about me.  And I do recognize my dark side (for those familiar with the enneagram I am an almost redeemed four). My internal conversation in ebbing times is my struggle with my dark side: doubt, fear, hopelessness.   

I am not proud of any of this but I need and want to be honest.  This blog is about the good and the bad of creating and participating in christian, feminist, ecumenical, spiritual community.  I am sure I am not the only one among us who wrestles with this.  Several blog postings back I talked about Circle of Grace as an elephant orphanage.  It is certainly one of our calls.  The down side of it is letting go of people who have become spiritual family when they return to their tribe.  It is another time we ebb.

Recently, in keeping with our feminist commitment, council members have taken on even more responsibilities.  Everyone is on a learning curve.  I, personally, have been on a learning curve for the past seventeen years.  As we transition in our collective and personal responsibilities things get lost or left undone.  When things are lost or left undone, we ebb.  We are a small community.  We are an intentional community.  And in our seventeen years there have been many times of both ebbing and flowing.  Looking back, all the ebbing and flowing seems organic.  But living through times of ebbing is always a challenge and never feels good.  

Frankly, I'm ready for some flowing.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What if There is No Godde?

I'm not asking the question you think I am.
I am asking a question that makes my heart ache.

What happens to children who are raised with no concept of the Sacred?  My question might better be put:  what if there is no Godde in the lives of children?  How much do they miss out on?  How do they learn to think beyond themselves and the immediate present?  What ideas or experiences  counteract the messages of the dominant culture in the mind and heart of a child?  I wonder.  

I wonder about these things all the time because my childhood was so filled with the wonder of creation, with sacred encounters that I had words and stories for because I was nurtured spiritually.  I learned songs that formed my theological understandings.  I heard music that soared, inviting me into wordless wonder.  I was told stories that challenged me to think about the meaning of my actions, my relationships and my life.

I wonder about these things especially now in the Advent and Christmas season.  I ache for children who spend this month focused on 'stuff' and never experience the quiet joy of hope, the silence of peace, the mystery of longing, who are never encouraged to encounter  Godde in the sacredness of human relationships.

And then there is the problem of children encountering Godde as a concept.  It is one thing if children, left to their own devices, touch the holy in play, in creation, in relationship and quite another when, untutored, they come to believe (by default or by interpreting the messages of the culture) that Godde is either an invisible Santa Claus or invisible tyrant.

How can children learn about Godde when they are not given any language or stories, any encouragement, to think about the Sacred?  They learn from the adults around them what matters.  They learn from the adults around them how to be in relationship with spouses.  They learn how to parent from they way they are parented.  And they learn what it means (and how) to be in relationship with Godde from the adults around them.

Of course, this can be both good and bad but I like C.S. Lewis's assertion in his collection of lectures, The Abolition of Man, where he posits that teaching children the concepts and values of good and evil is important not so much because they will mirror the parents' (or church's) understanding of what comprises good and evil but because they will know that good and evil, itself, exists.  (for those of you uncomfortable with the idea of evil- I promise to go there another day.)   

Further, I would assert that teaching and modeling for children relationship with Godde grounds them  in knowing that Godde even exists.  Then, as they mature, they will develop relationship the Sacred on their own.   But if they never have the idea that Godde is encountered in relationship they might never enter consciously into that relationship.  

These days our kids spend countless hours before the screen, entranced by mindless television or video games.  When they are outside, it is often to participate in organized sports.  The 'go outside and play' directive has become uncommon.  So children have fewer and fewer opportunities to meet Godde in nature, in creation, in the changing of the seasons, in the exploration of the world around them.  And I have witnessed a certain callousness that surprises me when they do encounter the natural world.  Nature is not met so much with wonder  as it is as challenge, something that needs to be either controlled or endured.  It seems to have less reality than the current video craze.

My heart aches.  It aches for all the children who are missing out on something profound and spectacular.  For all the kids who are, in the words of Marian Zimmer Bradley, 'head blind' - or perhaps 'spirit blind' or 'soul blind'.   There is a reality, a majesty and a mystery to be encountered that cannot be perceived when the spirit of the child is not nurtured.  And if not nurtured, then Godde, creation, the universe are alien.  The self can be tempted to become the center of its known universe.

My heart aches.  For them.  For us.  For our world.   If you are a person of spirit, I urge you to share your story with a child.  I urge you to help a child encounter divine mystery in a snowflake,  a cloud, a breath of wind, a symphony, a tear drop, a loving act or a stand for justice.  Tell your story not because you want a child to become like you or believe like you, but because you want to introduce a child to her or his own spirit.  And because you have the honor of introducing that child to Godde.