Faith Works 1-23-16
"In diet, in exercise, in spiritual discipline and financial health: we have to find a place of peace, from which we can grow as we ought."
I said that in closing last week, and in between I read an online essay by United Methodist pastor and writer Joe Iovino, from whom I am about to borrow (because I'm giving attribution, otherwise it would be stealing, somewhat...).
Joe suggests starting a new year with some spiritual decluttering, with ideas that go right to the heart of helping any of us find that place of peace if we're not finding it where we are right now. If your closets or garage are keeping you on edge because of useless debris or just impending confusion getting in your way, a decluttering is a way of peace: so why not a spiritual declutter?
One proposal: change pews. Right, or seats if your worship space isn't furnished that way, but you know what Joe means. Rather than worry about "getting your seat" and the view you're used to, why not make a Sunday morning move? See how the prayers and the music and the message sound when you're on the other side of the aisle, or from the front if you sit in the back, or vice versa.
What about trying a different Bible translation, asks Rev. Iovino? This doesn't mean you throw out your familiar one, the one you were given at fourth grade graduation, but take up another – they're easy to find, you know – and see what a season in a new edition does to your reading of passages worn smooth with repetition. Try the old and new in tandem, or stick with something different for a while, then go back. You may find yourself with new appreciation of the version you're accustomed to, but don't think much about.
It may be time, I would agree with Joe, to take up a different author or devotional this Lent, starting in just a few weeks. If you're a Beth Moore fan, fine, but see what another Christian writer does to your spirit. Try Max Lucado or Will Willimon, Phyllis Tickle or Anne Lamott, Lysa TerKeurst or Tim Keller (just to name a few). There's The Upper Room, The Secret Place, Christian Standard and Our Daily Bread (just for starters) as devotional options, monthly, weekly, daily.
And is there a group or book club or class you've thought about joining? Nothing like different voices sitting right next to you to startle you out of complacency, or worse, ennui. Take the plunge, try some new community in your life.
As to your church activities in general, maybe it's time you reassess those, too; what you've always done isn't necessarily what you've always got to do. Yes, some will say "what will we do without you?" In this world, maybe we all have to learn the answer to that for others, and for ourselves. If you've always worked with the Christian education, but have a hankering to sledgehammer down a wall or two, maybe it's time to volunteer for the Property team?
Spiritual decluttering can take many forms, but like a closet or even just a desk drawer, it can simply be going through some stuff and deciding "is this necessary to keep, or is this something I can do better another way?" And it may be addressed as simply as walking into the sanctuary and sitting down where you never have before.
Which might make you the cause of someone else's reassessment, as you take their seat from them and they walk in later and wonder "what will church be like if I don't sit THERE?"
It may just be time to find out.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; this is all very unfair for him to write, because he has a seat up behind the pulpit that rarely gets taken by anyone else. Tell him where you like to sit in church at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.