Toward a Practical Spirituality

Oct 11, 2010

Spirituality can be like going down a fairly straight ladder with your back to the rungs, or like facing the rungs and holding on as you descend. Spirituality, being led by the Spirit of God, and religion, a set of beliefs, rituals and a community drawn together by its commonality, form a continuum that depicts the full range of how we relate to God. It is true that God and God’s Spirit cannot be contained in any set of beliefs or limited by the way we think about the Divine, but religion does provide a container that grounds enthusiasms for God and helps them be applied in the real world. That’s a practical spirituality.

Some people may just operate on the spirituality end of the continuum, be sort of airy-fairy in their “religion.” Others may spend all their time in the religion end of the continuum, content to just believe certain things and never be touched by God’s Spirit.  Both are better served by being somewhere in the middle: sometimes more grounded in their beliefs and sometimes more in tune with the Spirit, but moving back and forth between the two.

As we participate in the religion/spirituality continuum, in the best-case scenario, we learn to walk the walk and talk the talk.  We learn the importance of the outer, public self becoming consistent with the inner, private self. We learn to relax into our humanity and embrace the humanity of others. I sometimes joke that if you can love every person in your church, then you can extend love to anyone anywhere.

It does matter what we say and think. Our motivation is important, too. Are you aware of the mix of motivations you usually have when you speak out? How you act is important, too, if you want to get your point across: are you impatient, accusing, loving, passionate, accepting of another’s humanity? Do you talk down to others, making yourself the expert?  It makes a difference in how your words or actions are received.

It is important that your voice be heard! Spirituality in a religion helps train us to become better, more effective spokespeople for God. Learning to be still inside is arguably the most important skill to learn. Only when we are still inside can we hear what God is trying to say to us. Then what we say and do can be consistent with the Spirit’s leadings.

I call this breathing in and breathing out. Setting our intention to be with God we breathe in the Spirit of God with every breath, then we breathe out—speaking out and acting out of the Spirit in the world. Breathing in, breathing out. This is the nature of the religious/spiritual life. In this process as we take in God’s Spirit, the Lord transforms us into the people he created us to be; then we are impelled to be the voice he wants to be heard in the world.

It’s the relationship with God and the Spirit that matters. Everything good proceeds out of the depth of that relationship. With a good relationship there are always hand-holds on the ladder we call life, a grounded-in-the-Spirit place where we can cling to God, no matter what.

6 thoughts on “Toward a Practical Spirituality

  1. Pat, thanks for sharing…I am new to this site and while exploring, had some challenging questions. To me, and without you directly saying it, are you saying that all “ways” are equal and acceptable in the eyes of God? all ways as in “Christianity”, “Islam”, “Buddhism” etc? that these are all of the same God and Holy Spirit. Each are the “religious” parts of our faith and each are valid as practiced by the believer? If that’s the case, what is the purpose of Jesus dyeing on the cross, the bases of Christianity. It would seem crazy to go thru that agonizing death if any other way would satisfy God’s Holiness. I hope I presented this in a most unoffending way. Just would seem like an important questions for all who seek to know God.

    1. bmadams–This is just such a good question. I have tons of problems with the diversity of views in Christianity. I’ve read recently that there are 39,000 sects in Christianity. Are they all right? or only some? Some seem to directly contradict other Christians’ beliefs. I wouldn’t try to decide how God really feels about all these Christian sects, much less other religions in the world. I have a whole raft of questions for God without answers about life in this world: this is certainly one of them. Thank you for your questions. Pat

  2. Thanks Pat, I am a seeker of truth, in this, I do struggle with the idea that there is no truth relative to God. That truth is in the “eyes’ of the beholder and God (assuming there is only one true God) is wishy-washy and flexible, accepting any faith/religion. Would it not be safe to assume that this very concept of how God is seen, described, related to and worship, be important to God. There is so much that is lost when one enters and accepts the idea that God is defined by man. As for Christianity, I am sure you have studied the Christians Bible, and yes there are many many variations of this ‘religion’, and yes, error and change has been part of many of these variations, but wouldn’t you agree (personally), after your study of the books of the Bible, that the foundation is the sacrificial death of Jesus, making Him the Christ. And I understand that one may be hesitant to decide for “somebody” else, but isn’t every individual called to decide what truth is valid for themselves…in the end, isn’t that the only thing we are accountable for. Our personal choice in the matters of God. and thanks for being open to a discussion like this.

    1. I’ve enjoyed talking to you about this. I think you are right: we’re accountable for our own choices before God. I don’t think God is wishywashy at all. He’s made it abundantly clear how he thinks about many things in the Bible. My audience is Christian with hopefully some others who have no religion or church. My task is to write about a deeper relationship with Christ. Write again if you have other comments. Pat

  3. thanks Pat!!!
    and for me! He is the center of God Himself, the Alpha the Omega. In Him the world was framed. And in ALL THAT He IS…He received me unto Himself, He called my named…and called me His own. ….and the closer I draw to Him, the more I know that He feels the same about everybody…no matter what I think about them….I think this is a bit of what you are teaching…


    This prayer is from Jesus that we may hear from Him, that He may speak to our hearts. It only consist of three simple steps.

    1) We need to read one scripture. This will focus us in the word that brings everlasting life.

    2) Since this prayer is from Jesus we need to direct our prayer to Him personally. Too often Christian focuses they’re prayer’s to G_D the father. Scripture proclaims that Jesus should be the focus of our prayer.

    3) The simplest part of this Prayer is to ask Jesus one question. Please, all that is required for this question is that it should be simple. Let Jesus Himself finish the question when He gives you that understanding through this prayer.

    The PRAYER

    The scripture that is the focus of this prayer is “ACTS 2:38”. It’s not necessary to do any study into this scripture. Jesus Himself will bestow the understanding that will resonate in your heart. Just read Acts 2:38, keep it in your heart and take this one scripture to prayer

    The most important part of this prayer is that we need to direct our prayer directly to Jesus. If you normally would say Father in your prayer, change your focus from the Father to Christ Jesus, by lifting Jesus name up every time you would normally use Father in your prayer.

    Maybe the hardest part of this prayer is the question that we need to ask Jesus. For man as we are, always trying to understand the question instead of listening to the answer. The simplest question is all that is required.

    Simply ask Jesus ‘WHY’

    For those who are obedient

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