BETWEEN TWO WORLDS. Those of you who have followed my blog for awhile know that this is a theme that has threaded itself through many of my posts. It was actually that lonely, not-quite-sure-where-I- belong feeling that prompted my pilgrimage in 2011 around the Western United States. (BTW, my memoir from that ride, Alone: A 4,000 Mile Search for Belonging, should finally be published before the end this month. Details coming!)
If the first pilgrimage was wrestling with that nagging feeling of being caught between two worlds, my second pilgrimage from Rome to Rumi’s Tomb in Turkey felt like I was coming out of the tunnel. By the time I reached Thessaloniki, Greece I felt that I had finally landed in the new emerging world of spiritual experience and expression. I felt free and ready to fly.
I remember the blog post when I wrote, “I am not coming back” and quickly assured family and friends that I WAS returning to the United States. What I meant was that I felt that I reached a point where I had shaken off the heaviness and constraints of institutional religion. A new world–large, expansive, and open with new possibilities lay before me. I couldn’t imagine ever turning back the clock.
But alas, a few months of unemployment, relying on food stamps, digging dirt and making trash runs for my good friend’s construction company forced me back into the world of the institutional church. It is work that I am well-suited for. I have two decades of experience. I have walked with churches from the moment of their conception and I have officiated at the final service for a church closure. In between I have taught and preached and baptized, married, and buried church members. But I know that this world is dissolving away like a sand castle on the beach.
This blog comes in the form of an invitation.
As a pastor I am about ready to walk with my congregation through the traditional period of Lent. But I am desperately needing to find a way to reignite that voice that was so crystal clear as I rode along the Aegean Sea in Greece on my way to Turkey. I vowed during that pilgrimage that I would never let anything come between me and my voice again.
I want to invite all of you all to take a Lenten journey with me. Lent is traditionally a period of naked vulnerability and honest reflection. The period of Lent lasts 40 days (mirroring the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness by the escaped Hebrew slaves and Jesus’ 40 days of temptation) which includes all the days from Ash Wednesday through Easter, minus the Sundays.
I have committed to blogging every one of those days during Lent. This will be my Lenten practice. It is also my way of recovering that voice that I thought would never be squelched again as I rode the final miles into Konya, Turkey last year.
But there is another reason. I know that many of you are also feeling caught between two worlds. I hear it from my professional colleagues in ministry and education. People in the church tell me that even though they still love the church they yearn for something that they can’t quite see or put their finger on. And hundreds of people I have talked to outside of the church find themselves flirting with a new spiritual world yet grieve over how unformed it is.
During this period of Lent I invite you to join with me in this journey. My readers come from those in the church who are flirting with the edges. I have readers who have left the church decades ago but who still appreciate the world that religion speaks to. My readers are really a community of people who represent the place where two overlapping circles meet. I believe that you represent the emerging future of spiritual community, especially in the U.S.
I will blog every day (sans Sundays) and ask you to join the conversation. Reply to me. Reply to others’ comments. Let’s take the journey of Lent together. Let’s wander out into the vulnerable desert of Lent and see just where the Sacred face reveals herself. Let’s mark ourselves with the ashes of Ash Wednesday and see just what the world looks when we arrive at Easter. Let’s create something along the way!
And…don’t forget to look for my book!