Have you ever felt that there just had to be more to life than getting up, going to work (or school), coming home, eating, watching some TV (or YouTube or playing some video games), doing some housework (or some homework) and going to sleep only to get up and do the same thing again the next day? Have you thought, even after a good vacation or some time off, is this all there is? Perhaps you’ve left a worship service thinking that the music was great and it was good to see people and share in Holy Communion, but isn’t there more to connecting with God, to having a relationship with God like so many people talk about?
On the one hand we all have so much. We have clean running water, warm places to sleep, vehicles to drive, plenty of food and medical care and many other blessings. We have a church community that, though imperfect, cares for us and makes a difference for good in the world. We have much for which we can be grateful. And much of the time we are grateful. But when we look at our lives, and especially our spiritual lives, many of us can’t help but think, “There must be more.”
If that describes you on some days, I’ve got good news for you. There is more. There are ways to deepen your relationship with God so that God becomes more real and the rest of life becomes more blessed. If you are thinking, “There must be more,” that is a good thing. Change starts with desire. If a person doesn’t want to change, chances are he or she won’t change. But if you have the desire to know God more deeply, you have already begun. As Thomas Merton, the great mystic prayed, “[T]he fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.”
Over the centuries, the Church has taught many exercises that help us receive God’s grace. There are also some modern ways that people have discovered to be life-giving. As we do these practices, the change in our lives is the result of God’s love and God’s presence. There is no technique that we can implement that will make us more spiritual. But there are practices that we can do that help us be more open to God working in us and more likely to see God at work.
One of these practices is contemplative prayer. One description of contemplative prayer is that it is time in silence with God. It is like those times when you are sitting with your spouse, your child, your sibling, your grandparent or your friend when there is no need for words. You are just enjoying each other’s presence and that is enough. Contemplative prayer is taking a break from the noise of the world and the noise of our own thoughts to spend some time with the living God. It is not easy! It takes time and commitment, but it is also a gift from God. A regular practice of contemplative prayer changes a person, helps a person sense God more and helps one look at the world in a way that reveals more beauty. If you are interested in contemplative prayer, you are welcome to check out the Living by the Spirit group which generally meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.
Another way that some people have found more connection with God and a deeper understanding of who God created them to be is through the enneagram. The enneagram is a theory of personality types used by people in the Christian community and outside it to gain more self-understanding. The increased self-understanding helps us interact with others in healthier and more authentic ways, and it helps us connect with God as well. We have all internalized many false messages about ourselves. The enneagram helps us cut through the clutter and see ourselves as the people God created us to be. The nine personality types of the enneagram give insights into our strengths as well as our weaknesses. If this sounds interesting to you, please contact me. Several people from the congregation are beginning to read a book on the enneagram and we are using it to help us better understand ourselves and relate to God more deeply.
God is obviously concerned about more than how we spend our Sunday mornings or how much time we spend reading the Bible. God is concerned about our entire lives: our faith, our families, our friends, our jobs, our finances, our physical health, and our recreation. What would it be like if you had a plan to balance all these areas of life and do better in each one? What if there were ways to increase your physical fitness, have better relationships with your family members and ease some financial stress? Some people at Trinity are living into what is called “Oola” – “That state of awesomeness. It is when your life is balanced in the seven key areas of life – the 7 F’s of Oola: fitness, finance, family, field (career), faith, friends and fun.” Two authors, Dave Braun and Troy Amdahl, have developed a system and written a book to help others balance and grow in the seven areas of life that they have identified as crucial for Oola. They have been working their system for years and gotten results. Thousands of other people have, too.
Lynn Denning and Amanda Prentiss will be leading an Oola Retreat February 16-18 at Camp Calumet. They will go through the Oola curriculum written by Braun and Amdahl. Everyone will have time to plan how to reach their Oola goals to have a life that is balanced and healthier in all seven areas. If this interests you, you may contact Lynn Denning at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we move into the new Church Year on December 3 (the First Sunday in Advent) and into 2018, we will have more opportunity to engage in spiritual practices and open ourselves to the presence and love of God. Council members and some other leaders will be meeting with Dr. Steve Macchia in January to work on ways to help Trinity move toward becoming a community centered around spiritual transformation.
If you have the desire for a deeper connection to God, more love and more grace in your life, that is possible. If you are thinking, “There must be more,” you’re right. There is more.