“A Pilgrim Diary” is dedicated to a certain kind of person or organization—those who find themselves called by Life or God to get out in front; those who have been ordained to pave the way to a new world. I am one of those people. I can’t help myself when it comes to imagining what the world might look like if we fully embodied the spiritual values that we espouse.
But I have also discovered that the visionary life is difficult and not for everyone. Financial uncertainty, lack of security and loneliness often come with the territory.
“A Pilgrim Diary” is a window into this world of being a spiritual scout. I share my experience so those who also feel called to this wildly unpredictable life will have a companion. I want to provide support as well as cautions, inspiration as well as insight for those people and organizations who want to get out ahead.
This blog represents a shift from Holy Breadcrumbs in that I was speaking to the whole church community and beyond in that blog. Now I am speaking to the R and D (Research and Development) part of our culture. Google recommends that all of their employees spend 20% of their time doing what they believe will most benefit Google. This rule allows for an ongoing culture of innovation and creativity. “A Pilgrim Diary” is dedicated to the 20% of us (or the 20% of your time) who want to scout out the future.
I do believe that I have the scouting credentials to do this.
Over the last fifteen years, I have lived in eleven different homes and seven different communities. I have intentionally cut my salary in order to model for a church the need to balance their budget housesitting to make ends meet. I have taken short-term transitional work that left me wondering about the next job. I bought a camper “just in case.” I have been unemployed for months at a time when I have mistimed interim work. I have lived in low-income housing as a full-time employed minister and single dad. I have had to rely on food stamps and minimum wage work just to survive between professional calls.
This is not a complaint. This is a job description. I will repeat that:
This is not a complaint. THIS IS A JOB DESCRIPTION.
If you or your organization want to do spiritual scouting, you will find times when you will have to choose between security and vision. I have been fortunate that I have had periods where personal security and vision could work together. I am grateful for those occasional respites. But I can also pinpoint exact moments when I felt forced to choose between the two. And what I know about myself is that every time I had to make a choice I chose vision over security. Vision has been the one non-negotiable in my life. Security has been an option and just the “frosting on the cake” as people often say.
How do you or your organization shift from the status quo to committing to the life and work of spiritual scouting? How do you honor the need to do spiritual R and D work? Here are some tips:
- You have to learn to have a deeper attraction to your vision than to things and particular people:
- You have to be open to breaking your attachment to buildings and property if your vision does not allow you to be stationary;
- You have to worry less about the livelihoods of staff trusting that God will take care of people as you make tough decisions to live into your vision;
- You have to worry less about the feelings of people and more about the implementation of your vision.
- Most importantly, you have to allow past identities to dissolve away in favor of making room for a new identity to take root.
The great barrier of our time in many of our institutions is that we poured cement, put up walls, installed expensive pipe organs and pulpits and claimed a piece of dirt as our own. There is nothing wrong this. But the downside of digging a deep hole and pouring a permanent foundation is that it is almost impossible to move when life calls for more flexibility and adaptability.
We are in such a time. What we need now is responsiveness, flexibility and adaptability. Not everyone will need to live in eleven different homes as I have, but a dogged commitment to vision almost always requires sacrificing some security. When our security is not dependent on things and people, we quickly learn the meaning of Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
Psalm 46 captures it so well: When everything is shifting around us the one and only secure place is in Godde.
The great paralysis of the church and many of our institutions is that they want it all—they want to protect assets, people and their way of life AND be visionary at the same time. In nearly 35 years of ministry, I have discovered it is impossible to protect one way of life while trying to live into a new way of life. You can’t get to the Promised Land by keeping your feet planted in Egypt. You will have to choose between being a slave to a past life or stepping into the insecurity of entering the wilderness of a new emerging life.
I can tell you from experience that being stubbornly committed to vision is often unnerving and difficult work. There are risks—personal risks, emotional risks, financial risks, and professional risks.
BUT, living with insecurity is still better than the soul-crushing life of living without hope and vision.
Are you called to do spiritual R and D?
By Rev. Brian Heron,
Awesome reflections and liberating vision, Brian. Your words about freeing yourself truly resonate. You are not merely a visionary, but also a road warrior who lives his beliefs regardless of circumstance.
I do try to stay true to my values and beliefs. Thanks for the affirmation. It is not always an easy road.
Your Spiritual R & D program appears rather severe and might be described as “wearing a hair shirt for Jesus”. It seems difficult to determine the nature of any objectives or goals you may have in mind, or how you might measure success. The Presbyterian Church and other “Main Line” churches are failing because they have missed the CHANGES in our American Culture and left the future Up for grabs.
For younger people and the dramatic changing racial-cultural make up in America, the Presbyterian Church USA does not meet the changing needs of a younger more diverse population and is perceived as complete bore.
The Philosopher Heraclitus understood the world as being in constant change (“No person walks through the same stream twice”) Only those who can adapt to change will survive and have a future, and right now The Presbyterian Church USA gets a failing grade in Adapt, Improvise, & Overcome. Take some R & D time to clearly understand the Changes that have overwhelmed the church. Work to identify the reality of what is needed regarding objectives & Goals for the 21st century. Focus on goals that may work with both religion and the spiritual value’s people need and want for their life.
Yes, it is difficult to determine the objectives and goals because I am advocating a pilgrim approach to the work of discovering the future of the church. When you don’t know where you are going it is hard to set goals. What I am advocating for is the process that helps us get to those goals–which is more about experimenting, discovery, failing over and over again, all in the service of discovering the future. Goals and objectives are about building a future. I am talking about discovering something that we can’t yet see. Puzzling, I know!
Brian, Your point is well taken, and I admit that after working 40 years in Corporate America it is very difficult to approach a major problem without a clear eyed review to be sure the specific problem has been identified, along with developing objectives and measurements to be clear about how you define success. A true visionary allows for mistakes and failure along the way, and in the process finds the objectives that eventually evolve with experience. I will watch with interest as you proceed, remembering the famous words of Yogi Berra—-“When you come to a fork in the road—Take It”
“Sometimes a Light Surprises”… in worship, in life, in prayer, in the walking. Thank you for a welcoming, reassuring, and challenging, invitation to all of US: Scouts, Pilgrims, and Dancing Disciples. (#800)
Yes, Sue, this is such a difficult shift for the church to go from putting our trust in planning to trust in the walking. But I am convinced that is the time we live in now.