On this Resurrection Day for many, I wanted to share a writing I originally posted on N&N in 2018. I have since added to it in order to share here with you now.
We went to freakin’ ISRAEL y’all.
I know some people are like, “Israel…what’s the big deal? It’s a country everyone wants take over or throw missiles at.”
Not making light of that, because while at dinner one evening with locals, they got alerts to have their bomb shelters ready on standby. And they casually shrugged their shoulders and said, “What are we going to do? Stop living? If that’s the case, they’ve already won.”
Israel may be small, but the people there sure are mighty.
Because of the tradition in which I was raised, this sacred place has always been on my heart. Even though my perspective has slightly shifted + expanded, I do not discount the amazing teachings, stories and lessons that originated there.
I’ve never been one who cared much for labels. They seem so finite. Determined. Set. Permanent.
I believe the constructs in which we build around ourselves sometimes end up keeping us from growing. We become stagnant. Stinky. #stankstank
During college, one of my professors for my Spiritual Formation class said something I’ll never forget:
“We often think that the spiritual life is like a circle of highs and lows. A cyclical routine of connection + disconnection. When in fact, our spiritual nature is not to be confined to the finite shape of a circle. It is in fact, a spiral, still containing those familiar highs + lows, but ever moving forward.”
Yeah, you might need to take a second to chew on that one! And for those of you wondering, WTF kind of college class is that!?! I studied Religion and the Arts at Belmont University. There were 10 of us sitting in leather back chairs in round-table discussion over spirituality, poetry, politics, dream interpretation and our Enneagram results. Random? Maybe. Life-changing? YES.
Anyway, back to labels. We are gonna use the C and the F word here in a second. Brace yourselves.
For some reason, deep down I never really liked to call myself a Christian. It felt icky and sticky and judge-y and put out all those “holier-than-thou” kinda vibes. Yet in high school I carried my Bible to school at times, created a political party called the “Dove Party” for an economics class project, sang in the youth praise band every week, went on mission trips, led Bible studies, and even returned after college to work as an intern and then Assistant Youth Director.
Even still, amongst all of that, I didn’t like to blatantly call myself anything.
Our human thinking minds like categories and labels to decipher between and differentiate what is this or that. Identifying with labels make us feel safe because we know where we belong. Psst I have a secret for you. You have always belonged. Regardless of what you’ve been taught to believe. YOU BELONG.
After dropping labels, I still had Faith in something. Something bigger than me. Some Thing that created this place, these people, this world, this life. My life.
As Rob Bell puts it, “There’s More going on here…” More beneath the surface, waiting to be unearthed.
Now, THAT is something I could bodly claim and spread to the ends of the Earth.
Now hear me out, I don’t discount my upbringing and the tradition I was raised. Not one bit. I don’t discount my teachers or friends or family or anyone who claim that title and proudly wear it on their sleeves.
But for me, over time when I felt confined, I noticed I wasn’t growing. I felt comfortable. Going through the motions.
And comfortable isn’t something I want for myself.
Comfortable = complacent in my book.
It means routine, structure, methods, rules, should’s and should not’s.
Comfortable = unconscious living. I wanted to feel ALIVE. I wanted to live a conscious life.
I remember having several conversations with my youth kids and even an old college boyfriend who were struggling with their Faith. They had doubts. Questions. Uncertainty. And they were afraid.
All I could tell them was that “At least you are consciously aware and are questioning things, rather than blatantly or blindly accepting it all.”
You might ask, Isn’t that what “faith” means, Madison?
For some, sure. I don’t want to tell you what’s the perceived “right” or “wrong” for you. That’s not my place or authority. That’s between you and the Divine.
All I do know is that you are sacred + sovereign. Right here, right now.
I believe the questions are asked by the seekers. The awakened. The conscious.
So I guess I am sharing all of this REALLY personal spiritual stuff (because that’s something we aren’t allowed to talk about apparently) to let you know that if you have questions + doubts, those things you don’t have the answers to, but know there is something More…where ever you are on your journey, that it is OK.
I believe everyone has a spiritual path on this Earth that we must learn to discover, and if decided, we choose to walk it open-hearted. Have you ever stopped to consider, we are the Divine literally experiencing itself? Have you ever stopped to consider that “to bear witness” meant to witness the Divine that exists within our very own being?
Ask the questions. Wrestle with the Why. Follow your curiosity. Listen to your Intuition. (aka God, Spirit, Gut, Inner Knowing, Divine Presence, whatever-you-call-IT.
Allow yourself to be open to discovering the Divine Presence in places you never imagined. And you just might be surprised where you end up.
Wow. What I thought was just going to be a short intro turned into a bit of a spiritual testimony. Not gonna lie, I am a little afraid to put this out there, but it’s something I can no longer keep to myself.
The Divine Who created this universe we call home, created you and me of the same materials. When you get elemental about it, we are made of literal magic and stardust. Each human being who walks this Earth, is The Universe embodied. How freakin’ cool is that?
It’s a land of history + mystery. A land of poets + prophets. A land of mysticism and tradition. A land of conflict and resolution. A land of Wonder + Awe.
Now I’ll let the pictures do the talking.