God is No Longer a Receding Horizon

My unyielding, relentless persistence to seek an external God ultimately resulted in a Southern Baptist conversion, a thirteen year reckoning with the evangelical face of God and–in the end– a public renunciation of conservative faith.

To clarify: there are people, including some good friends, who find traditional Christianity a healing experience. They are able to make valuable contributions to their communities at an active, vibrant spiritual level. However, my personal experience was not one that fostered healing, vibrancy or spiritual clarity. The constant pressure to conform filled me with continual conflict and doubt and I did not feel I had the “right” to disagree. During those conflicting years the support of my religious community mattered more to me than my own inner conviction.  But inevitably things came to a crisis point and finally I gathered enough courage to leave, even at the risk of “eternal damnation.”

In my early thirties by this time, having barely survived with my skin, soul or any sense of dignity intact, I decided that seekers were better off if God stayed missing.
Though after a time I began attending some metaphysical events and took courses in shamanism, feeling particularly drawn to mesa (altar) work, no doubt influenced by the ritual and ceremony of the Catholicism of my youth, I resigned myself to the status of pilgrim without a destination.

I still believed in God, and still peered around mysterious looking corners occasionally– but I stopped expecting him to be anywhere, really.

Yet that inner voice, ebbing and flowing through the various spiritual experiences, never completely stopped communicating with me. No longer wrestling with the need to find or surrender to a culturally mandated version of faith, that inner presence no longer felt either confusing or threatening. I  still didn’t think of it as part of myself, but we were no longer at odds with each other. Through the very real, human challenges of the intervening years, I learned to listen.

And ever true, it led me to Kelly Barn that fateful Sunday morning. Led me to a spiritual framework with tenets and principles that allowed me to begin making sense of my early spiritual experiences, and also affirmed in a very real and palpable way that God and I were never separated from each other at all. Ever.

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However, Incarnational Spirituality isn’t exclusively about relating to the Self. In fact, the focus isn’t really on the self at all. It’s on the relationships we foster–with others, with our own immediate environments, with the subtle realms, with the Earth.

As David says, “We incarnate into relationships.”

Yet emphasis is placed upon the wholeness we are capable of generating as sovereign, integral beings granted a measure of spiritual agency by virtue of being human. The inherent worth and value of the integrated soul not dualistically split between the God part that’s “good” and the “bad” untrustworthy ego is the starting point. That’s the critical point I missed in my early days.

Of course evil exists. The challenges of incarnating on this dense planet cause many of us to feel separation anxiety and to act out, to embody our fear and confusion, our loneliness and our rage. (In some sense, the creation myths giving rise to shadowy split between the ego and soul, God and the self are born of this perception of loss.)

Yet it took me a long time to accept that where we go–to the heights, to the depths, back to seed–God accompanies us in most intimate ways. In our breath. In our blood. In our longing. In the dramas we enact, again and again, in order to remember that we are here with great purpose.

Earth really is not a graveyard where the ego must be slaughtered so that the higher self can escape the body and reunite with God (hence the moat around the kingdom.) It’s more of a paradise where the losing and regaining are all part of a collective dream humanity will one day awaken from–and see our home, like Dorothy (upon her “return” to Kansas) through fresh eyes.

As of now, my most coherent prayer is for holopoeisis, which means wholeness–an integrated self waking up each day to a very real human experience lived as an act of love for all entrusted to me to tend in the most ordinary, sacredly prosaic ways.

My connection with God, like many others, began with the story of exile. Though I’m still on the journey, still learning how to belong even more deeply to the God within, my relationship with Lorian (thanks to a divine encounter with Incarnational Spirituality along the way) allows me to ground deeply into a sense of spiritual spaciousness based on the divine calling of being human.  Now I have the opportunity to move through the world, not as a pilgrim seeking God, but as a tiny light on the miraculous earth– an emergent self rising and falling through the days, through the struggles, yet ever- knowing as I am also known.

God is no longer a receding horizon.

Quest for God

In An Introduction to Incarnational Spirituality, David Spangler writes:

Incarnational Spirituality honors who we are as unique incarnate individuals and seeks to enable us to express the creativity and energy inherent…in the phenomenon of selfhood…The self has a real existence and effect in the world. It is a presence that is constantly emerging and manifesting…(it is) the expression of an identity, the  manifestation of a set of boundaries, a means of connection and engagement with the world, an emergent phenomenon, and perhaps above all, a means by which wholeness may be introduced and enhanced…Whatever the ultimate nature of the self, its function is to hold consciousness and life, enabling them to participate in the shaping of the world.

patchworkpuppy

One of the chief mysteries of my own life involves this dynamic exploration of the inner self.  As a girl with a bent toward the numinous, I struggled to find the wholeness called God. I looked for Him everywhere, much like The Patchwork Puppy, the main character in my Golden Tiny Tale Storybook, who wandered all over town asking others to mirror back his true, beautiful self. In fact, in every book, every engagement, I sought the reflection of meaning, of God.

Yet bred in the deep heart of the Gulf South, the practical pursuit of God often felt like a receding horizon–or a mythic kingdom with a hidden drawbridge surrounded by the moat of “humanity,” synonymous with sin.

Though not exclusively a southern phenomenon, the relationship between shame and faith was certainly exacerbated by the cultural strictures of religiosity further crippled by conservative mores masquerading as “God’s will.”

Even though I attended a liberal Catholic church, it was still more or less an assumption that Divinity existed apart from the inherently profane human being.

Yet mysteriously my search didn’t begin there–with austerity and judgment. Actually, in some ways the mystical realm was an active, vibrant playmate. So I didn’t realize that enacting the rites of communion at home after church with my little brother wasn’t typical playtime.  Or that my favorite pastime–searching the skies above the Coastal Gulf for the place where God lived before he formed the universe (peeling back layer after layer of color and cloud in my mind’s eye as I honed in on God‘s location) was an uncommon spiritual practice.

Nor was there a category for the “angel‘s whisper,” that inner voice influencing my early writings. Or the visions that started as dreams and twilight imagery, synchronicities from the world beyond dropping at my feet like leaves.

Not understanding my own interior nature at all, I didn’t have language to express these sensitivities, especially as struggles in my immediate environment growing increasingly more intense.

It never once occurred to me that God was communicating with me from within. In my teens and early twenties, especially, quest for the external God became the answer to everything!  If I could find Him, or at least track His footprints to a specific trail, then the purpose of life–my life, life in general–would surely make sense.

An encounter with fundamentalism was inevitable.

Lorian Journey

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My Lorian journey began as an email.

On Tuesday, February 7, 2012, Edie Stone, an acquaintance (and my Colorado connection to all things Shamanic and Celtic) sent out to her mailing list information about a workshop being held in Boulder: Kinship with the Sidhe–Exploring our links with the Celtic Otherworld, led by Jeremy Berg.

I must confess the email barely got a second glance.

But throughout the next day a pesky inner voice kept insisting I pay closer attention, to the point that I finally yelled out loud while driving home from the studio where I taught piano, “Why do I need to go to this workshop? What are the Sidhe? How do I even pronounce the word? This is nuts!”

At this point it finally occurred to me that, instead of arguing, maybe I needed to find out more information. But I still wasn’t convinced that this was the wisest course. Given my religious history, I was definitely not open to anything even remotely unfamiliar. However, at the same time I’d been learning how to trust my intuition. More and more seemingly odd and sometimes bewildering inclinations had yielded some powerful insights and led me through open doors.

Perhaps on some level I suspected I was being guided, even through my reluctance.

So four days later, with no real understanding of what I was doing except responding most trepidatiously to an inner summons, I wound down the highway for an hour or so until I got to Boulder, found my way down unfamiliar streets to Kelly Barn, stepped across the threshold into the studio where the workshop was being held–and stood face to face with Lorians for the first time.

The work with the Sidhe was interesting, I must admit. But I was more fascinated by what was taking place around the activities we were engaging with. The format was unfamiliar, but not frightening. I was definitely out of my element in some ways, though not necessarily out of my depth. I felt a bit odd, not so unusual, but definitely not out of place. Quite the contrary.

Prior to that Sunday workshop I had never heard of Jeremy, David Spangler, the Sidhe, or even Findhorn, yet in a subtle and consciously unfathomably way my soul recognized–or was recognized and met by the celebration of inherent sacredness currently known as Incarnational Spirituality.

Though I could not have told you exactly then what the future would hold and how a relationship with Lorian might develop in only a few years, by night’s end I knew that at the very least Incarnational Spirituality held answers to questions that had been ruminating within me since childhood, spiritual queries that had lingered for nearly a lifetime unanswered.

A hidden part of me, still awake and aware–realized that finally, after a long exile, I was on the road home to the God within–my inner self.