Become What You Behold

whenourheartsarewarmedwithloveThose who have visited here regularly expect the usual Sunday reflection on the lectionary offerings. That will not happen today, nor any time in the near future at least.

Ironically, as my life becomes more and more peaceful and settled, or perhaps because of it, God has seen fit to disturb my calm and shake things up. It is nothing of great import in the sense of urgency or some major life change. It is more a growing sense that God and I are off on another adventure. As usual, I have no clue where that will lead.

Let me say that my experience since leaving the Episcopal Church and returning to “Mother” Church has not been very successful. It has gotten worse (which utterly surprised me) since we moved here to Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Here, let me just say, tradition is applauded, and conservatism prevails. I’ve been a back-bencher, biting my tongue at the recurring invitations to “pray that government recognize and protect religious freedom”, some slap at the Obama Administration and it’s attempts to insure that women who want contraceptive care can actually get it from their employers. You can extrapolate from there to all the other “issues”.

At my church, most homilies involve chastising me  as a Catholic for not going to confession enough, not going to church enough, not reading the bible enough. After having visited several in the area, the message seems universal. This suggests that the trouble is not with individual priests but with a seminary system that pushes this kind of message as “pastoral”.

At the same time, I’ve been reading a lot of Matthew Fox and other things that speak to the evolution of the Christ Consciousness, which arguable is the future of “religion” in all its guises. It is definitely not about my faith being “better” than yours, or my salvation more assured than yours. In fact, it focuses entirely on something quite different: what would Jesus do.

Yes, that trite phrase, so bandied about is in fact the reality of what we should be as Christians, indeed as God-lovers. Jesus is but the universal term for God-love. Buddha, Krishna, or a host of other terms would do as well.

And I get nothing of that in church. I found it most ironic that our parish priest some weeks ago offered five suggestions on what individuals and families might do with the summer “vacation” to enhance their faith lives. While I can’t recall all five, they were things like, “attend mass during the week”, attend a family retreat”, organize family weekend drives somehow around faith”. It had everything to do with improving one’s “faith”, thus improving one’s salvation.

There was NO suggestion to, as a family, collect food from neighbors for the food pantry. There was NO suggestion to collect used children’s books for families who can’t afford such luxuries. I could go on, but you get the point.

So my “going to mass” has been a thing to do, not a joyful experience.

All the while I’m just starting a Self-Realization program offered by the foundation started by the Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda. It is a melding of Christian principles, i.e., the Christ Consciousness with Hindu meditation practices.

I am more interested in my small time each week at the food pantry. I’m more interested in setting up a small “free library” for the tent city behind it, where so many homeless veterans live. I’m more interested in “doing”.

I see Matthew 25 as THE call, not just a reminder to offer to serve Thanksgiving dinner once a year to those “less fortunate.”

Surely I’m not alone. Surely that is why the pews are so empty each week. People are not being fed by their churches for the most part. They are not celebrating love. They aren’t sharing it either.

I ponder looking at one of the local Episcopal churches here. One is decidedly not for me, plastering its website with words like “Anglican tradition”, “traditional”, and “word of God”. I know where they are coming from. The other is quieter. If I choose that route, I shall speak with the rector and I will lay my cards out, and hope that I get honest answers not designed to “get me in the door” rather than meet my needs.

For church is supposed to meet my needs, not their own. The more I read of Matthew Fox’s history with the Roman Church, the more sickened I am by the damage done by the past two popes. I have hopes for Pope Francis, but I fear he will not do nearly enough. Part of the reason is that I don’t think he’s inclined to actually believe he should.

My church is simply wrong, as wrong as it can be in its stance on birth control, women’s role in the church, and gay rights. I am not sure Francis sees that. My church talks a good game against poverty, and the uneven distribution of wealth in this world, all the while continuing to be bloated with all the gaudy trappings of extreme wealth itself. It continues to belittle the efforts of liberation theologies and wars against the best scholars of our day, pushing them out of the church as it to Matthew Fox or marginalizing them as it did to Jon Sobrino and others like him. It threatens women religious because they, unlike their male counterparts, do march, do feed the hungry, heal the sick, comfort those who are marginalized.

Through all this, the one sadness (for I am peaceful, serene, and feeling renewed regardless of how my words may sound) is that I can find no one to walk this walk with me. Try as I might, I cannot seem to locate a spiritual director to guide me through this labyrinth. There are no Franciscans or Dominicans here, religious that I have come to trust.

So I wander a bit in the dark.

But that may be what is best, it is hard to say. I know it shall all work out for the best. But I know I would meet less dead ends with the help of a professional. Perhaps that too is part of my journey. God is fond of confounding my expectations and asking for me to trust. This seems one of those times.

Here, I will chronicle that journey, not with the idea that this serves the needs of another. Each and every journey is utterly unique, started form its own place, and traveling at its own pace and along its own path. Perhaps you will recognize a stop along the way. Perhaps you will then be able to offer me a bit of advice to get around this or that obstacle. Perhaps I might comfort you once in a while, with a recognition that you’re not alone on that problem confronting you.

But that is where we stand, or I stand today.

Again, if this sounds sad, morose, or defeatist in any way, it is not meant to be. I feel free, gloriously at peace, and eager to see where all this leads. My inner work is renewed and feels fresh and alive. God is close, and life is marvelously new and beckoning.

Blessings to you all, and please offer every advice that comes to mind. Surely we are community.





18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shannon
    Aug 11, 2013 @ 14:53:00

    Sherry, a friend of mine is part of the Ecumenical Catholic Community–so I went looking to see if there was a presence there in Las Cruces. Have you come across them yet?


    • Sherry
      Aug 11, 2013 @ 15:26:55

      There is a Holy Family Catholic Church that is not Roman. I attended once. I’m just not sure I want to be in a institutionalized setting right now. I’m more interested frankly in small community house gatherings to share and have meal…more like original Christians, but more in the way of embracing all faith traditions? I am at least thinking of sending out an inquiry on Craig’s list. There is always the UU of course, though I think the one here has been through a bit of an upheaval. I’m not going to move too fast, but just let things resonate a while I guess. I’m sure it will be clearer to me as time goes on. Thanks Shannon for your thoughts. !END


  2. Jon Mark
    Aug 11, 2013 @ 15:00:06

    I understand that journey. I am on a similar one which took me from Baptist into the Orthodox Church. I will pray for you on your own journey. Peace be with y’all.


  3. aliceny
    Aug 11, 2013 @ 16:59:20

    You have hit a bump in the road on your Journey. Not to worry, Sherry. This could very well mean a time of great spiritual growth for you. I, too, am disenchanted with the present status of the RCC. You have lots of company out there.

    I will be writing more to you but, right now, I don’t have my thoughts together and I need to pray about what I want to say to you. In the meantime, know that you are never alone. He is walking right beside you, holding you up with the grace of His Presence.

    Please, do NOT use Craig’s List. That is an evil place.



    • Sherry
      Aug 12, 2013 @ 08:14:33

      Thanks Alice I’m quite happy. Just waiting to see where I am led. Hey Craig’s list is where we found our last two cars! lol…Seriously though, I don’t feel like its a bump so much as a fork, and I’m just sitting here not knowing which one to take or even what the choices are. I’m sure it will become clearer. 🙂 !END


  4. Tim
    Aug 22, 2013 @ 06:39:39

    Sherry, as I read this (with great empathy, as I too have “been there” and find myself returning “there,” regardless where I may be in my faith journey), I began to think of so many wanderers in the Bible: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Ruth, the Prophets, Jesus, and Paul. And I wonder if we’re not missing the point by searching for a place of anchor, when we should see every stop on our journey as a transitional resting place, a momentary haven before moving on. I recall Jesus’s grief when He said, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest His head.” Weariness is part of this walk, I’m afraid.

    In my own life, as you know, I had to abandon the Pentecostal tradition of my youth because of its hostility toward me as a gay man. Now I’m part of a radically inclusive Presbyterian congregation where the Word is preached and lived. Yet there are moments even in this “safe space” where its approach to faith doesn’t satisfy. So I’ve had to supplement that with engagement in other communities and dialogue with other traditions, including the one that I left. I will always be a Pentecostal. It is too deeply wound into the fiber of my being to strip away. Yet I’ve had to come to terms with the truth that I cannot be a Pentecostal in community with “mainstream” Pentecostals. I’ve had to sacrifice that luxury in exchange for my spiritual integrity. And I’m at peace with that.

    I would encourage you to look beyond the boundaries of RCC parishes to find a community where your faith is validated and your vision is nurtured. Somewhere in your area there is a church that needs your gifts. There is surely a church that shares your burden and mirrors your faith philosophy. Just as I’ve become a “closet Pentecostal” living in community with a Reformed congregation–and learning a great deal in the process, while also offering a great deal to those I serve and worship with–you may wind up becoming a “closet Catholic” in a new home.

    We are all wayfarers, looking for “a city whose maker and ruler is God” (as the Hebrews writer put it). Growing complacent and comfortable in one place is a dangerous thing.

    You are on the right road, dear friend, and I’m excited to see where it will lead!

    Blessings always,


    • Sherry
      Aug 22, 2013 @ 11:04:31

      Oh Tim, I have waited patiently for your return because I knew that you would have the right words. It is exactly what I feel, being a Roman Catholic yet not finding a home there. As you point out, we are all wanderers and perhaps we are meant to grow “out” “up” or “through” the places we carve out for ourselves. Perhaps that’s part of listening–finding that it’s time to move on. Right now, I feel quite content with shaping my own rituals for the day. I suspect that I fit most well with the UU community, but here, I get the impression from their website that they are in some state of flux. I would love to look at a UCC but I don’t seem to find one here, which is I think rather odd. Anyway, I am trying not to rush it, but figure that somewhere something will alert me to where to go next. As I’ve said to others, one feels a strange sense of holiness about at times like these, and it is anything but sad or painful, except to saying goodbye to an institution that I can’t abide any longer. (At least for now! lol). Thank you for your perfect response. It was just what I needed. Much love, Sherry !END


  5. aliceny
    Aug 22, 2013 @ 13:53:10

    I’m going to comment on your reply to Tim. I believe that you are not so much a “wanderer” as you are one who has grown out and through where you have been – carved out for yourself as you say. In essence you have prepared your mind and your soul for what the Holy Spirit is going to do next in your spiritual life.You will be “alerted to where to go next.” It may be a gentle nudge (like a whisper) or a real loud message. The reason that you feel a “strange sense of holiness” about this time you are experiencing as “anything but sad or painful” is because the Holy Spirit is guiding you, holding you in protective custody so to speak, until you are ready for the next phase of spiritual growth – and ministry. This is a time a significant transition for you and that means that you may be vulnerable to the ‘enemy,’ whose ‘m.o.’ is to pounce on someone in this position, causing doubt and trying to entice one to take a damning path. Sounds dramatic, I know, but that has been the experience of many saints. Know, too, my sister in Christ, that the whole Christian “institution” is in a state of flux. People are leaving all dominations for one reason or another. I’ve run out of room here. Be patient. As I said before, you are not alone.


    • Sherry
      Aug 23, 2013 @ 09:33:32

      I agree Alice, people are leaving the traditional churches in droves. I’m a little concerned about where they are landing however, which seems to be more rigid doctrinaire locations. But that is not my concern I believe. I am exploring this new avenue of blending Christianity with Hinduism in the sense of meditation.This seems to fall in line with people like Michael Fox and Richard Rohr and the like who argue that we are each in search of our true selves, plastered over by years of societal debris of who we should be and “have to be” for the sake of living in communities. So I think I’m heading for a more self-discovery thing at the moment, and hopefully this plays out in a more human response to the problems of the world. I don’t think we act very human most of the time. Richard Rohr says that Jesus came not to show us the way to heaven but to be human–the whole point of our evolution. Some interesting ideas to ponder surely. Loving thoughts always, Sherry !END


  6. aliceny
    Aug 22, 2013 @ 14:16:17

    Sherry, I just re-read your original post (for the third time). After making my last Comment a thought occurred to me. You mention a priest’s homily wherein he gives suggestions for summer vacation activities to improve one’s faith life. Your counter to that is ACTION: collect food for food pantry; collect used books for children and a free library for the homeless vets living in a tent city.(Actually the vets may also need personal hygiene products and other things that we take for granted because we use them every day).
    You state that “I’m more interested in doing.” Perhaps that is the answer for you, Sherry? Are you being nudged to step up to a leadership position and start an active ministry for the things you have mentioned that you feel led to do. Someone has to get the ball rolling. You are a leader. That is obvious from the things that you write about in your post. So, LEAD.
    Love, Alice


    • Sherry
      Aug 23, 2013 @ 09:27:46

      I’ve thought that perhaps I’m more destined to do stuff too Alice. I have talked to the Community of HOpe about a free library and they are enthusiastic about doing this once they have fulfilled the requirements the city has imposed upon them for the tent city. They will call when they are ready to start a new project. I have also checked at the farmer’s market about what they do with food at the end of the day–they do already take it to the pantry. So, yes I’m open to seeing things that I can do in my community that will make a difference. I do see that as better than warming a pew every Sunday at this point since I’m getting precious little in the way of food there. Thank you so very very much for thinking on this so much. I knew that I could count on a number of people to help me figure out the road ahead. Loving blessings to you dear Alice. !END


      • aliceny
        Aug 23, 2013 @ 10:10:32

        Thank you, Sherry.
        When I was involved with the Catholic Charismatic movement back in the late ’70s-early ’80s, I heard a frequently-quoted phrase that I’d never heard before:
        “You go where you are fed.” I liked it then; I like it now.
        I have not warmed a pew in years. Could not stand the hypocrisy, the meaningless doublespeak. After having worked closely with priests and religious sisters for about 20 years in parish ministry I also had an intimate inside look at how they viewed the whole picture. Nearly the same as mine, except they had to keep it to themselves. Later, we saw the mass departure of those same people, many of whom are now happily married with grandchildren. I have my own ministry based on
        my 30 years as a reference/research librarian.
        Just ‘keep on truckin,’ doing what you do best and WAIT. The Holy Spirit will guide you. Just be patient.

      • Sherry
        Aug 23, 2013 @ 10:40:33

        You had the job my husband would die for….actually he wants to be the head library at the library of congress. lol…Blessings lady! !END

  7. aliceny
    Aug 23, 2013 @ 10:22:48

    Re your reply:
    You can’t go wrong with Rohr. I subscribe to his blog. Sometimes he gets a little too pedantic so I wait for the next post to arrive. Have one of his tapes in my car right now. He introduced me to so many new concepts: false self/ true self/, first- and second-half of life; Cosmic Christ. That took some getting used to but then made complete sense. He stretches my mind and leads me closer to my Lord Jesus the Christ.
    Please take Fox with a grain of salt!!!! He’s much too angry.
    Try Gerry Straub’s blog (WordPress). He’s a secular Franciscan, former Hollywood director of soaps, produces documentaries of poor in Africa, Haiti, L.A.,
    He’s in Peru now on a scouting mission. He writes the most hauntingly beautiful posts that I can immediately relate to. He’s good for the head and for the soul.
    Believes in contemplation, meditation, silence, etc. which we all need to prepare to lilisten to what the Lord want us to hear.


  8. Tim
    Aug 23, 2013 @ 11:36:24

    I second everything aliceny has said–and your responses–with great gusto! The life is in the work and it sounds like you’re turning a new corner that will dazzle you with new life!


  9. Terri Cole Pilarski
    Aug 24, 2013 @ 09:45:28

    As perhaps one of the few, or maybe only person in this thread who not only continues to go to church but actually is ordained and work within the institution I tread lightly here. I do not want to come across as defending this broken, flawed institution. I myself left it for sixteen years but am grateful to have found my way back in, even though I often struggle with the crap that humans make of the Church.

    A couple of comments, just to clarify: You mention that the church is here to satisfy your needs not the needs of the church. I think, actually, the church is here to offer a community through which we can come to know God more fully, the church is here for God not for the institution nor even really for the needs of an individual. A church is comprised of many individuals, it can’t possibly satisfy the needs of all and each. But if we consider that church is here to provide a community that journeys with us as we grow in our faith and our relationship with God, then perhaps in the end our needs will be satisfied. It is unfortunate that the RC, and other denominational leaders, seem to think that using scare tactics and threats about our eternal salvation will bribe people into coming and staying. Pleeze, that is such a bad theology all around, intended to support the institution not the relationships of people and God.

    That said, finding a faith community that enables one to grow in one’s faith is crucial. I think going it alone is fraught with misperception, not to mention lonely. Sometimes, as Tim and Alice rightly suggest, we need multiple communities to fill the breadth and depth of our desired relationship with God. No one community may be able to meet us where we are and encourage us to grow further.

    I found the desert southwest to be a particularly conservative region. Beautiful though it is the people who navigate there for retirement are by and large very old school. And, of course the RC’s are only able these days to raise up clergy from the most conservative regions of the world, thus the theology they spew reflects both their upbringing and the trajectory of Rome these days. Other denominations are similar. BUT there are always a few havens of progessiveness buried with in, if you can find them. I hope you do.

    I also hope you continue with this class that blends hinduism and Christianity – the two are very compatible. Hinduism leaves much room for Christianity to live and breath within it – particularly as one practices yoga and meditation. This may provide you with a community that deepens your understanding of true Christianity. Along the way I hope you also find an open progressive Christian church that will afford you community and the sacraments – the rituals of which may take on new and deeper meaning as you engage in meditation, yoga, and the connecting points of Hinduism and Christianity.

    You may not find what you need from a Christian church community through an RC church in your region. BUT you can still engage in the RC tradition through retreats, and online readings, meditations, etc. RC has a deep, profound, rich offering of spirituality which the church would love to kill, so it seems. Perhaps there is a progressive convent in your area where you could find a nun to be a spiritual guide for you? That, combined with the Hindu/Christian studies would be formative. Then maybe a church for the sacraments now and then.

    Lastly, yes! DO – be active. An active faith is really necessary. Learning and growing in faith is meaningless unless we live it! SO however you are are “doing” faith, go for it!

    Anyway, my little offering, for what it is worth, amidst the other great counsel you have received. Blessings!


    • Sherry
      Aug 24, 2013 @ 10:29:47

      Terri, thank you so much for your input. It reflects careful consideration of my words and my needs. You are most right. The church of course does not exist for me, but for all of us struggling to be Christ-like in our humanness. It should be aiding and fostering that process. I guess I meant, that the RC church seems to suggest to me that I am there to support her. To not follow the priest’s directions is to somehow “let him down” and thus the church in general. If only I could find direction here! There is no localized convent that I can find, and I fear that the very few nuns that I have seen mentioned are as conservative as the rest. I have even asked a Franciscan convent in Iowa if they knew of any in this area I might seek out. I know that the path is fraught with perils when attempted alone (or at least leads to plenty of dead ends!) so I would appreciate that option. I will continue, as you suggest, to seek out some denomination that is practicing something akin to progressive theology and biblical scholarship.Coupled with good service to the community would be ideal. I am guided mostly by what I read at their websites. I just have reached a point where I see the road ahead for the RC church to be too long for my years left. I leave that to younger bodies. I need to engage in work that moves forward in an inclusive and Matthew 25 type atmosphere. I know that you share such a vision and it delights me no end that you have found a place where your creative and deep wisdom find purchase and value. Thank you for all you have said. I shall take it all in and ponder it carefully.

      Blessings, Sherry !END


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