~A Few Back Roads to God~
“Do you wish your prayer to fly toward God? Make for it two wings: fasting and almsgiving.”
Dear Members and Friends,
At church, we often hear about the importance of reading the Bible, praying, attending worship, taking communion, and building relationships with people of faith. These are things that build up your spirit. In “Reformed” (Presbyterian) circles, we call them “the means of grace.” But grace comes to us by other means too, doesn’t it? What are some other ways that you experience God’s presence and peace in your life? You surely know a few “back roads to God,” which get little if any airtime from the pulpit. Here are a few that come to mind:
Almsgiving: This is a central spiritual discipline in Islam. Christians often do it, but we couch it under the bigger concept of “stewardship,” and we don’t usually think of it as a spiritual practice. And yet, giving is good for the spirit. Give to beggars. Donate to charities. Drop a generous tip in the jar when the server isn’t looking. When you give, you practice freedom from your money and power over it. Give things away and they no longer own you; you own them. Almsgiving helps us reorient our lives toward simplicity, humility, and gratitude.
Fasting: How could eating less bring you closer to God? Fasting is an ancient spiritual discipline practiced by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Its new popularity as a dieting technique has brought some of its benefits to light. Its physical benefits are well known: reducing blood pressure, inflammation, and cholesterol. But fasting for several hours each day is said to clear the mind, improve sleep, improve moods, and increase energy levels. Maybe just for a few weeks, skip one meal a day and refrain from eating between meals–being sure to take a lot of calorie-free liquids? Be careful with this one; some medical conditions make it ill-advised.
Exercise: Can’t find the words to pray? Then don’t use words. Put your body in motion and feel the Spirit moving in you and through you. Try to concentrate on the marvel that is your body; focus on the energy that moves your body and gives it life.
Water: Most people, especially older folks, don’t get nearly enough water. And yet, at least two liters of water each day can be surprisingly good for the mind and body. It washes away toxins, causing an increase in comfort and feelings of well being. People who swim daily report that it, too, feels like time spent in communion with God.
Art: God is a Creator, and divine creativity is found in every creature. Whether you’re making music, sewing a quilt, painting a house, or baking a cake, creativity is always spiritual.
What are some ways that you draw close to God? How can you put them to work more effectively in your own life and in the life of our church and our world? Let me know what you think!
In Christ’s Peace,
PS: Don’t miss LENTFLIX every Wednesday in March! This is a weekly potluck and movie discussion. Watch your emails for a link to each week’s movie; watch the film at home. On Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., show up with a potluck dish to share and take part in a discussion of the movie. Or just enjoy the free dinner and listen while other people talk!