What the Hell is Living Spiritually?

An eagle in Waterton Canyon my friend Steve pointed out

On a recent hike with Steve, a chemical engineer friend, I explained how the day after Christmas God had prompted me–at least I think it was God–to actively seek out the God-created soul in daily life.

“I’m calling 2012 The Year of Living Spiritually,” I told Steve. Then I breathlessly recounted several exciting stories of God sightings I’d had and how I was trying to pry beneath the surface of things and see people and experiences for who and what they really were: created and loved by God. I told him how much this experiment was changing me.

“It’s an experiment,” I said, hoping scientific, engineer language would help him understand. “I’m recording my experiences in a journal every day and reporting them in a blog called The Year of Living Spiritually. And my son, Brendan, and I have started a Facebook page where we can all compare our Living Spiritually experiences. I’d love it if you took part?”

Steve is practical, concrete, down-to-earth, in short an engineer. He wiped his hand through his wispy blond hair and looked at me as if I’d just asked him to count how many angels can dance on the point of a needle.

“So, what is it exactly I’d be doing if I joined you in this Living Spiritually experiment?”

What the Hell is Living Spiritually?

Good question. I had no easy answer. As far as I know he’s not yet joined the exepriment.

I’m obviously not an engineer, but even I know spiritual things are intangible and therefore hard to see much less measure. My greatest lesson of 2012 so far is that talking about being spiritual is much easier than living spiritual.

I think several people involved in The Year of Living Spiritually have hit the same roadblock and are asking the same question. I know, for me, some days look and feel just like any other day I was not trying to live spiritually. And then when something spiritual does happen, I wonder if I’ve made it up or just have gas or something.

A Prickly Pear Cactus: Joy & Sadness

In the fall, Steve, my engineer friend, will often pause on our hikes and gather handfuls of wild chokecherries and we eat them while hiking. Other hikers rush right by. Another day he showed me we could eat the fruit from a Prickly Pear Cactus. I’ve lived around these cacti all my life and never knew you could eat the fruit. It was a delicious little gift on a mundane hike. Steve always points out wildlife and all kinds of fun things on hikes.

Often a daily mundaneness numbs me. So, I decided I’d turn Living Spiritually into a metaphysical scavenger hunt and daily search out and write down one joy and one sadness, like picking fruit off the side of the trail.

A Joy

Searching out joy may seem obvious. But there is a lot of trouble and hurt in our world, big and little. We get overwhelmed by it and maybe miss a sparkle of light in the middle of daily dimness.

The ancient Christians had a proverb: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Yesterday my joy was grilling steaks, tossing a salad, and drinking wine. Dee Dee says it’s the first meal I’ve cooked for her in 32 years of marriage. She smiled. I did too.

A Sadness

But life is more complicated than the glass being half-full or half-empty. Sometimes the glass is heavy.

Another biblical proverb says it well: “Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.” We learn and grow most from our pain and sadness, if we pay attention and break out of denial. The Prickly Pear is a cactus.

Reading through my journals, I notice I write about a couple of big life questions or struggles regularly. I’m insecure at times. I still haven’t finished my novel. This makes me sad. I wish I were more disciplined and more . . . . whatever. There is also evidence in my journals I have grown, however, if even slightly. I don’t think I would have, if I had ignored these issues.

What the hell is living spiritually? It’s taking a daily hike into your soul and noticing, tasting, the sweet and sour, joy and sadness of life. There’s a lot out there we don’t notice. Since that day I started recording one joy and one sadness, I’ve added some variety. Now I am also often writing about one memory, one thing I’ve found or lost, one thing I’ve learned, and a prayer to sum that day up.

Maybe now I can go back to Steve–and you–and ask again: “I’d love it if you took part in this Year of Living Spiritually.”

Eugene C. Scott may have only “cooked” one full meal for Dee Dee, but he has grilled entire herds of steaks and burgers. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following this blog and clicking here and liking the page.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “What the Hell is Living Spiritually?

  1. Georgie-ann

    Coming from a family where engineers are rather prevalent, I can say “I understand” very sympathetically. They can easily make me feel that I talk and think “gobbeldy-gook” with a single raised eyebrow and quizzical silent stare — (even somewhat pitying) — in my direction. Nice guys, though! (-:

    Our engineers seem to relish hiking in the great outdoors also, and I think it is an exhilarating, cosmic connection for them,…man under the cathedral of the universe.

    I can feel this way in an awesome Catholic Cathedral, and often did search them out for “the experience” in my younger Christian years. But my own personal “hiking and exhilaration” therein, is done in prayer, in silence and stillness, inwardly, completely “invisible” to the outside observer. I have ascended many “prayer mountains” in this way, the significance of which can only be fully known to God — and not even to myself! I am drawn “like a moth to a flame!” to transcend the limitations of mortality and gravity: the straight-jackets of our earthly existence that confine and suffocate and restrict us: perpetually draining us; restraining the expansiveness of our “internal wings” which yearn to stretch out to reach to the sky and beyond; and which even noxiously poison our very life’s inhaled breath in so many unavoidable and clouding ways.

    A spiritual fire of love and desire burns in my human chest to seek and find the “One” Who really knows me, and loves me even still, Who loves us all, and Who understands what this cob-webby, messed-up existence is all about, or at least how to survive in it (spiritually)! Surely, I’ve been early convinced that to get “lost,” “mixed-up” in this tragic soup of “life” with the very depressing “Exit” signs, is a very Big Mistake! But there is no good “way-out” but “Up” (to God), and no good way to God but “in” (in our hearts). The rest is often just so much sham and charade, destined to come to an (abrupt) end of itself. Will we have found “the real meaning” and “our true identity” before it’s all over? Will we have connected to our “spiritual anchor” or will we still just be “spinning our wheels?”

    I could never judge how much of another person’s “inner (unseen) life” is dedicated to God or honors God. It’s even hard to “know” about our own! The very First Commandment is about Honoring God first and foremost in our lives. Then the rest follows.

    Mark 12:29-31
    29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

    If our lives honor God’s principles, if we can love doing good, if we sense a transcendent meaning and purpose to existence, if we can make willing sacrifices for the benefit of others, we may be closer to God’s heart than we realize. Sometimes we’re on the mountain (prayer mountains or real ones!), and sometimes we’re in valleys (we all share in the overcoming of “obstacles” of life), and lots of times we’re just “trudging along.”

    Luke 9:23 [ Take Up the Cross and Follow Him ]
    “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.'”

    Faithfulness endures to the end:

    Matthew 24:12-14
    12 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

    Matthew 21:28-31 [The Parable of the Two Sons]
    28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” … They said to Him, ‘The first.'”

    God sees us more clearly than we see ourselves, knows us more clearly than we can know ourselves, and He is more “fair” than we are about all things.

    Living spiritually may feel like being on a mountain top, or in a deep valley, or enjoying a wedding feast, or giving up something to be able to bless another, or going an extra mile — or two — even when we’re tired, or giving the benefit of the doubt, or calling sin exactly what it is: sin, missing the mark. It is not so much achieving performance perfection, as it is honoring God and living with love in our hearts, desiring to do (and be) the right thing. Learning to listen for God’s leading will be helpful to us. His Word is designed to be helpful to us in this way also.

    Luke 8:8 “‘And some seed fell into good soil, and grew up and yielded a crop a hundred times [as great].’ As He said these things, He called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him be listening and let him consider and understand by hearing!'”

    Psalm 139 [God’s Perfect Knowledge of Man]

    1 “O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
    2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
    You understand my thought afar off.
    3 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
    And are acquainted with all my ways.
    4 For there is not a word on my tongue,
    But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
    5 You have hedged me behind and before,
    And laid Your hand upon me.
    6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    It is high, I cannot attain it.

    7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
    Or where can I flee from Your presence?
    8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
    If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
    9 If I take the wings of the morning,
    And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
    10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
    And Your right hand shall hold me.
    11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
    Even the night shall be light about me;
    12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
    But the night shines as the day;
    The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

    13 For You formed my inward parts;
    You covered me in my mother’s womb.
    14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    Marvelous are Your works,
    And that my soul knows very well.
    15 My frame was not hidden from You,
    When I was made in secret,
    And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
    16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
    And in Your book they all were written,
    The days fashioned for me,
    When as yet there were none of them.

    17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
    How great is the sum of them!
    18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
    When I awake, I am still with You. …

    23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    Try me, and know my anxieties;
    24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
    And lead me in the way everlasting.”

    Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”

    Acts 17:28 “for in Him we live and move and have our being …”

    Living spiritually, honoring and connecting ourselves to God, in joy and gratitude, in love and service, in sorrow or loss, exalting on the heights, or touching the depths, we overcome through our faith:

    Hebrews 12:1,2 [The Race of Faith]

    12 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

    Since “living spiritually” is not usually particularly “self-centered,” we’re almost assuredly going to “almost miss” some of the best moments!,…as the more that we have more fully yielded ourselves “into the dance” — “into the moment” — the less we will be thinking of ourselves at that time! Tricky, this! We ARE part of a Very Great Mystery! (-:

    John 3:27-36 (excerpted)
    27 John (the Baptist) answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. … 29 … this joy of mine is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. … 35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life … ”

    Amen.

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