Summer has arrived with a vengeance here in the northeast with temperatures in the 90’s and very little rain. Even so, as James Taylor croons in one of my still-favorite songs, “It’s my favorite time of the year.” It’s that time of year when we can sit back and kick back and yes, focus on our spiritual life.
Spiritual life? Let’s get serious here. How many of us actually do that?
But most of us do find time for those things we most enjoy, like our favorite leisure activities, sports, family outings. Perhaps the key is to find spirituality in the midst of these activities. My husband, Michael, and I share a passion for a sport known as sporting clays, a bit like trap or skeet which involves shooting at a round clay target with a shotgun. Could there be a kind of spirituality in even this most unlikely of sports? It may be a stretch, but bear with me as I give it a try.
I always make notes after shooting in a tournament, primarily because I know I will completely forget what I’ve learned if I fail to do so. So here we go. Notes to self:
1. Focus only on the target in front of me, nothing else. How often I get sidetracked when I try to pray or give thanks to God! My mind wanders everywhere except where I want it to be. A Buddhist might say I’ve got ‘monkey brain’. The target in front of me, the one thing that matters most in prayer and spirituality? Listening. Listening for the still, small voice of the Divine in the midst of all the other voices in my life. That’s it, just listening.
2. Do not compare myself to other shooters. How often we compare ourselves to others and feel less than, not good enough, lacking in some way. Yet this is the opposite of what God wants for us. Over and over again in both Hebrew Scripture and the New Testament, we are told, “You are precious in my sight.” “You are my beloved.” In the Book of Genesis, in the act of creating humankind our Creator saw that we were indeed not just good, but “very good” – each and every one of us. Without qualification.
3. When I’m in a pattern that’s not working, make a change sooner rather than later. If I keep trying to connect with the Divine Source of Being and it isn’t working, try something different. What have I got to lose? If any part of my life is in a rut, I can either live with the fact that I’m unhappy and stuck, or I can make a change. It is not our Creator’s will that we be miserable! God wants joy, goodness, and peace in our lives. We may have to make a change, trusting in a Source of Goodness beyond ourselves, to find that joy and peace that passes all understanding.
4. Expect interference. I wrote this note after shooting clays in high winds and rain. How often do we have the equivalent of that in our spiritual life? There are 101 things to distract us from that which matters most – our groundedness, our relationship with the Divine, our peace in the midst of turmoil, our ability to find good in the worst of situations. Expect the distractions, the interference. Don’t let it throw us off track. Deal with it and keep going.
5. Practice, practice, practice. Whether it’s our favorite sport or our spiritual lives, without practice we will become rusty, losing those precious insights we once had, those abilities that make it all work. Even so, it’s never too late to start again. Try again. Give it one more go.
As I write this blog, I realize that I’m meant to pray for all of you who read it. Pray that you might connect with that still small voice of your Creator, even in the most unlikely of summer activities. So pick up that golf club, fishing rod, bicycle, ball, baseball bat, or you name it and discover what God might have in mind for you.