Simple Spirituality and NASCAR Racing

The more I dig into this concept of the spiritual person, the more I realize how uncomplicated it really is.

Because of my religious upbringing, and my dedication to church work, I have kept spirituality within a religious context.

One of the favorite thoughts of the past 10 years has been the contrast of spirituality with religiosity. People say things like, “What is the difference between being religious and being spiritual?” Or, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” There has been a strong move to separate the two in our thinking and practice. This is good.

Can religion be separated from spirituality?

The answer should be an obvious, “Yes,” since we all know many religious people who haven’t an ounce of spirituality in their life.

However, the flip side is much more open to debate, because it is harder to define–“Does spirituality hinge on religion? Must one be religious in order to be spiritual?” A definition of terms is required for a meaningful discussion of these questions.

“Spiritual” is the term I am seeking to define with this series of articles. For the moment, I will leave it as “a person who manifests the positive qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (We have not yet determined if ALL of these must be present in order to be considered spiritual.)

“Religion,” however, is a bit more difficult to limit, because we use the word and its cognates in a broad range of concepts. For instance, “He is religious with his workouts at the gym.” “She is religious with her diet.” “NASCAR racing is his religion.”

The underlying/overriding idea is that of ‘regularity’ or ‘discipline.’ Due to the original meaning of the word “religion,” we can also see the idea of ‘worship’ in these various uses.

Therefore, I return to, “Must one be religious in order to be spiritual?”

If spirituality is defined as and by the characteristics listed, and religious is defined by regularity and discipline, then the answer should also be an obvious “Yes.”

Why?

Look at the list of positive qualities and point out which one comes naturally to a human. Not one. Each one of those are qualities that must be cultivated, developed over time–ie, disciplined.

Therefore, if one is to become a spiritual person, one must possess the discipline of practice in order to develop each particular quality. It is the “discipline of practice” that makes one ‘religious.’ However, it is the realm of that which we practice that makes all the difference. This is what sets most of the Judeo-Christian people apart from most other religious practitioners.

For most Christians, their practice consists of going to church, Bible study, prayer, and fellowship–commonly referred to as religious activities. For many other religions outside the three Judeo-Christian ones, their practice is focused on developing the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, etc.

This ought not to be. It should be the same for all who are seeking spirituality or godliness.

 

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On Being Gentle

Whenever I teach a yoga class, I preface almost every change in position with the words, “Now please gently…”

One time a student called out, “Why do you always say gently?”

Good question.

Gentleness is not something most Americans know much about. Our approach to life is marked by force, attitude, determination, control, tenacity, a ‘git-r-done’ mentality. While none of that is wrong in and of itself, they most often militate against any “gentleness consciousness.”

We speed down the road in a hurry to get to our next task. We jockey for the best parking space at the store. We set things down with a bang/clang. We consume our meal as if it is the “Passover” and we need to be ready to flee. Even the way we tread upon the earth lacks gentleness.  Rice Paper Walk

When we are trying to persuade another of the rightness of our opinion, we raise our voice, intensify our language or tone–not gentle.

The Buddhist practice of “ahimsa” keeps gentleness in the forefront of the practitioner’s consciousness so that all they do is wrapped with gentleness.

What do Christians have in the way of a gentle practice? “A bruised reed he will not break, nor a smoldering flax will he not put out.” (Matt. 12:20) (When was the last time you heard a sermon from that verse?)

We often see the phrase referring to the “gentle Savior,” but we rarely find a gentle disciple. Yet Jesus said, “It is enough that the disciple be as his master.” (Matt. 10:25)

Gentleness should mark the life of one who considers himself spiritual. Gentleness should be the characteristic of all that we do in thought, word, and deed.

Why is gentleness in such short supply?

In what way could you practice being gentle today?

 

 

 

Spiritual Life

What does a spiritual life look like? How do we know if we are spiritual? How can we tell if someone else is spiritual?

Is spirituality really necessary? Is it necessary to know about someone else’s spirituality?

The answer to the last two questions is YES, it is necessary. The answer to the first three is fraught with difficulty. This article seeks to alleviate some of the difficulty while acknowledging that complete elimination of the difficulties is next to impossible.

The Greek word translated “spiritual” is used 26 times in the New Testament. (You can bypass this article and gain much insight simply by reading and meditating on each of those verses.)

It is necessary for us to determine what spirituality looks like, because of the passage under consideration in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 6:1 tells us that the restoration of someone overtaken in a fault is to be restored by those who are spiritual. Obviously, therefore, recognizing spirituality is a prerequisite for this tender endeavor.

I recently read someone’s comment that they point out people’s blind spots. They used Gal. 6:1 as justification for their critical nature. (I’ve known this person for more than 40 years.) Pointing out “blind spots” is not restoration, and is not being spiritual.

Gal. 6:1 follows directly after the listing of the fruit of a spiritual life, which follows after a listing of the works of the flesh. So, there is no change in thought in what Paul is writing about. He is now telling us what a spiritual person should do.

It is in the contrast of the “carnal/spiritual” where we gain the greatest insight as to what a spiritual person looks like.

You know the feeling you have when you are looking for something that you can’t really describe. You know when you see it. You also know when it’s NOT it.

The same is true here. We can tell what spirituality is not by observing the listings of the carnal person.

This is important, because we allow many people to influence our lives who are more carnal than they are spiritual. This is a dangerous practice, because what we are is imparted to others much moreso than what we say. Truth is imparted life to life, not mind to mind. (1 Cor. 15:33)

So, the evidence of carnality should be a warning. The lack of carnality, however, is not solid proof of spirituality.

Many think that because I know so much about the Bible that I am therefore spiritual. That has little or nothing to do with spirituality. I could do that simply with my intellect. Going to church regularly doesn’t prove one spiritual. Praying doesn’t prove one spiritual. Obeying the commandments doesn’t prove one spiritual. All these things may be tools to aid in the development of spirituality, but they are not proof that one is truly spiritual.

The proof of spirituality is in the visible fruit of a spiritually centered life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control.

What do each of these look like?

Is it necessary for one to possess all nine of these in order to be considered spiritual?

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Have a godly day.

Gal. 5:22 tells us what a spiritual person looks like.