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Spiritual Renewal

For the second time in two weeks, my inner GPS failed me yesterday. I’m usually pretty good at directions, by lately I’m all over the place.

I set out for church (First United UCC of Tampa) in plenty of time for the early service. I had said recently to Nancy that I never like to go the same way twice, so I took another road that I assumed ran parallel. It didn’t. Then, one of my battery cables had come loose the other day after I’d replaced the battery and was apparently loose again since my electrical system kept zapping in and out, so I stopped to fix that. By the time I got near the church, the first service was half-way over so I figured I’d just scoot around a little more until the second service.

I ended up just on the other side of the Hillsborough River from the church at a little park with a boat launch. I decided to kill some time sitting in the warm sun.

The past several weeks have been a strange sort of spiritual hell. I have found myself sucked into the discussion around the passage of Proposition 8 in California which effectively rescinds the right to marriage that had been granted to same-sex couples this year. Approximately 18,000 couples had taken advantage of the new right and were now being told that it is no longer valid.

So I have been worshiping at the church of Facebook, reading for hours the tales of heartbreak and expressions of anger. It seemed like they had finally reached the top of the mountain only to have the rocks beneath their feet give way and send them tumbling back down. There are people all over California fashioning splints for their broken emotional limbs, trying to repair the damage and get strong enough to start climbing again. And then there are those standing at the bottom of the hill simply pegging rocks at the mountain as though the stone facade of bigotry can even feel them.

I decided that I needed to get back to the reality of church. I hadn’t been there in a long time and my heart lately has been feeling like it just wants to crawl out of my chest. It took getting lost on my way to the church to realize how easy it is to lose our way spiritually when these theological storms blow in.

hickox_birdAs I sat there in the little park, looking at the nubby stumps of riverside cypress trees variously lit and shadowed by their still-standing fellow trees in the early morning sunlight, I found a root that made a good seat. The water looked still, though it was constantly moving underneath. I sat down and watched as a white crane stood patiently in the shallow water waiting for a fish to swim near. Every minute or so he’d get very still and suddenly PLUNGE his beak into the water. Mostly he just came up with a mouthful of vegetation. Time after time he’d repeat the process, moving around as needed to find a better vantage point. Finally, his aim was dead on or the fish had simply given in.

I made it to church and the call to worship said the following:

One: As any parent knows, the time comes when letting go is essential for a child to move successfully into adulthood.
Many: As any partner knows, possessiveness can stifle the growth of a good relationship.
One: If there’s a risk in letting go or giving freely,
Many: There’s a greater risk in holding on to too much.
One: Jesus said, “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it.”
Many: Possessiveness kills.
One: Touch us, O God, with your grace that we may become less fearful, and more open to a larger life.
All: We want to live, and give, more freely in the Spirit of Christ.

In the recent election, our country voted against fear. After a seemingly endless period of captivity in the name of freedom, we have finally said “NO MORE”! We are no longer willing to live under old ideas that have held many of us in bonds of complacency and apathy, thinking there was nothing we could do to change things. We had become afraid of our own government. The very presence of this new president signals a need for us to break out of what we’ve long held to be “safe” traditions and allow ourselves to entertain the idea of something new. We are trusting him, as well as ourselves, to make this change.

We are all fish in this ever-flowing, ever-changing river. There are those of us that splash around in the shallows, trying to tease the spearing bird just for the thrill of it, and others who prefer the unknown of the deeper waters where we can rest and renew ourselves before returning to the surface to challenge the omnipresent BEAK OF DEATH!!!

In my next life, I want to be the bird….

  1. November 17, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Maybe I’m optimistic or naive, but I think in a few years, we’ll look back on this time with disbelief. We’ve already come along way. (It’s not so long ago that a woman singing “I kissed a girl and I liked it” would have been an outrage instead of a pop hit.) We’ve still got a long way to go, but I think we’ll get there.

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