God is In*

Looking outI’ve spent a good deal of my professional life playing with “how we share our spiritual lives with children.” My own children, with very different approaches to life and varied learning styles, were often my teachers. “Boring!” was often the comment after a morning at church.

I am also enough of an overgrown adolescent that I quickly glaze over when traditional, rote styles of teaching are used. I am frequently as uninspired as they are. Experiencing God, the Sacred, should not be boring. By definition, the Sacred stops us in our tracks, and causes to do strange things: remove our shoes, drop to the ground, bow our heads, touch our hearts, stand in wonder, or sing with joy. In some cases, the presence of the Sacred in our lives changes everything – things look different, sound different, and we, in turn, act differently when the Holy blows through our lives.

Two of my granddaughters are off for their first week of camp right now. Their family practices mindfulness in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. My daughter teaches “Sunday school” at a local Buddhist monastery where they attend. The camp they are attending is called “IdRaHaJe” – short for “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” Should be an interesting week. But they’ll be sleeping in tepees under the stars, doing ropes courses, swimming, singing, riding horses, you name it. They’ll be encountering the Sacred one way or another. Thich Nhat Hanh would love this place – but it might be a bit loud for his taste.

I find the Sacred all over during summertime and so do kids. It is seldom that we need to talk about it. We live the experience. These days, I find the Sacred when I’m hiking, weeding our hillside or feel a crisp breeze. The sacred surprises me in a strain of music, a grandchild’s joy, and peace that arrives even though my instinct is to latch on to anger or pain.

My daughter is less discriminating than I am about Christian traditions. I’m fussy. It took me a year to find a church I was comfortable attending (and I tried out the Buddhist community, the non-dual philosophy community, some of the shamanic and energy groups, too). My daughter has close friends who are mainline Protestant, Mormon, and Evangelical Christian. I do, too, but I’m quite aware of our “differences”; she isn’t so much. My husband is kind of like her in that respect – give him a short sermon, a decent choir, kind people, and organist who isn’t out to shake the rafters and he’s content…or he’s happy to not go at all.

I, on the other hand, am always longing for a spiritual community of somewhat like-minded folks who can support me on my journey and with whom I can share the task of carrying love and compassion into the world. But like I said: I’m picky.

It is funny, though, where I actually landed and found a spiritual home – after all that searching and deliberation. It wasn’t in a group of enlightened folk with perfected spiritual practices, nor in a place with a gorgeous facility on a high mountaintop. No rock-star preachers or fancy, high-tech sanctuaries for me, I guess. Who knew?

pride parade deer park umc

It turns out what I was longing for was a group of people who were authentic and down-to-earth…and imperfect like me. So I’m hanging out in a tiny, fairly traditional, progressive church on Sunday mornings (one that honors all paths to the Sacred) and I love it. They let us help wash the coffee hour dishes and hand out bulletins and we feel at home.

In the end, it isn’t about labels, philosophies, or who’s in and who’s out of our spiritual tribe. Hopefully, my granddaughters are finding that, too, as they sing, ride, create, shout, praise, and splash this week. In the best of all worlds, we find that everyone is “in” our Sacred tribe.

(*The song, “God Is In” by Billy Jonas was discovered by one of our beloved students on a youth service trip to Alamosa, CO to serve at San Luis Valley Habitat and La Puente Home.  It became the year’s theme song 🙂 This blogpost reminded me of that trip.)

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