|Fruitlands...look it up!|
Lately I have been into peeling things away. Maybe it is because I am forty-and-one-half-years-old. Maybe because the leaves are falling and the air is colder. Maybe it is because I have been so busy...
This past Sunday I preached using two texts that I hadn't read in a while. One was "The Transient and Permanent in Christianity" by Theodore Parker. The other was "Christian Simplicities" by Palfrey Perkins. The first of these is well known among many liberals. The second is an important text for Christians in the UUA. Both of them have been important to me.
In both cases, the authors talk about removing those things that are non-essential to the faith. They are concerned primarily with things like doctrine and ritual, while pointing a sophisticated modern eye to the Bible and its meanings. We, as a religious culture, pick up a lot of theological and spiritual baggage that just sometimes needs to go. That is the argument, anyway, and it is one that has worked for me for a long time.
Still, something has changed for me recently. While I was preparing for the service--and for the related Bible Forum after church--I started thinking about how little I use this discipline of subtraction in my own life. As a default, Burbanian culture practices a theology of addition. Are you sad? Here is something to cheer you up! Stressed out? Sign up for yoga! Are you busy? Get an iPad! We do this also with relationships. If you want to spend more time with the kids, then coach soccer. You get the idea. We add. I add. It is what we do. We do it, in fact, until we find ourselves bent by our cares and worries.
So anyway, I am back to trying to approach my life differently. I am not sure I have a choice. While there is an obvious environmental and economic impact, Burbanian life is also not sustainable on a personal level. Sometimes we (or I) over look that. The questions have changed for me. So now I am trying to ask "Is there God in this?" If the answer is no, then I let whatever it is pass.
Or, at least, that is the goal. It is harder in reality than in theory. The fact is, most of the time I ask this question the answer is the same. Yeah, there is a lot of not-God in my life. Sometimes I wonder where it all came from...
Still, I try. I am finding that certain areas are easier to deal with than others. Food, though I backslide from time to time, has been the easiest. I can safely say I am eating better. I also exercise more. I am keeping yoga in the schedule. However, I am addicted to stuff like no one's business. Yesterday I sent a vast raft of paper to the recycling and started making decisions about the clutter (books, computers, software, garbage, etc) that gets in the way and sucks up my time. I need less paper. I need less technology. I like to have both around, but then I feel the weight.
Also hard are attitude and behavior. I bet some of you readers know what I mean. Even so, I am trying to ask myself to find God in my feelings, behaviors, and judgements. If the answer is "no" (as it often is) I am working to let them go. It is hard to keep your head in the 'burbs.
Sounds bleak on a rainy day doesn't it? It shouldn't. Asking these questions and getting "no" back means getting an opportunity to change things. Asking these questions and getting a "yes" makes that yes so much more meaningful.
This morning Son #3 and I had breakfast together before school and work. There was no one else home and there were few distractions. He got up early so we had plenty of time. My wife says he is a lot like me. We worry about stuff and fixate on specific things. So that is what we did...in a good way. It was a pleasant hour working out our days.
Of course, his stuff has a lot more to do with kindergarten, which was nice. We had a good time chatting before we walked to school. Some time while re-packing his bag (he wanted to make sure he had the exact right combination of pumpkin muffins and Goldfish--both chocolate and original--for whatever his snack needs are today) I asked myself that question about God's presence and received a resounding "yes". I will take it. After all, there is Grace in these simplicities.