“Sacred Pathways–Loving God”

September 7, 2014


Robin McGonigle

University Congregational Church

Sept. 7, 2014


“Sacred Pathways; Loving God”

Psalm 42: 1-2


Confession time:  I have a love-hate relationship with Martha Stewart!  I secretly want to imitate her, but only as a hostess.  I want to put my table together the way she does … decorations with a theme and cute handmade nametags, food that is delicious and artfully displayed, and guests who ooohhh and aaahhh over it all.


But once when I watched her show, she dedicated an entire show to the cleaning and care of wicker baskets.

  • Using the right soap and the right brushes
  • Drying the baskets
  • Stacking them
  • Hanging them

Who knew?  There is a right and proper way to do these things!  She said it takes her a full day to properly maintain all of her baskets.  Martha said that if we take good care of our baskets, they will bring us lots of joy for years to come.  And I began to ask myself, “Who in their right mind cares that much about their baskets?”


And then I wondered to myself if

  1. we followed the advice of Martha on all things household and
  2. we followed the advice of mechanics on all things vehicle and
  3. we followed the advice of teachers about all things intellectual and
  4. we followed the advice of our preachers about all things spiritual…(you get the idea)

would there be any time in our days to eat or sleep?


I just don’t care about my baskets that much.  It’s okay with me if they’re dusty and dry, cracked and neglected.  It just doesn’t matter.


For you and me, it may not be wicker baskets, but there is probably something – your clothes, your bike, the size of your TV, or the apps on your smart phone.  Perhaps it isn’t so much your possessions, but taking care of your body or improving your appearance.  As we get older, we begin to accumulate stuff.  And all that stuff requires a piece of our time for purchase, use, maintenance, etc.  And before you know it, you can spend all your free time just maintaining the stuff.


There’s a fix-it shop for everything under the sun.  You can spend your entire day off taking things to the dry cleaners, the mechanic, the handyman, or the geek squad.  However, when we don’t find as much pleasure in the stuff, we might stop and listen deeper to our lives.  And we may find that inside, we are empty.  And if not empty, maybe a bit disconnected.  But who knows what to do with or how to repair a soul?


Sure, there are self-help books at the library and the bookstore.  But after reading them, you may feel better for a time and then fall back into old habits.  If I were to recommend a book to feed the soul, it would probably be the Biblical book of Psalms.  It is gritty and honest.  In it you will find a complex array of emotions that validate our deepest needs through poetry and song.  One such text is our traditional word today:


As a deer longs for flowing streams,

   so my soul longs for you, O God.

      My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

   When shall I come and behold the face of God?

                                                                        Psalm 42: 1-2


When was the last time you stopped busy activity (like taking care of your wicker baskets) and thought about your soul?  If you are like me, the soul work we need to do often gets relegated to the end of the long list of to-dos; and it doesn’t get done.  Have you even given much thought to your relationship with your inner spirit?  It is common to ignore and neglect our souls until the quiet gaps in our busy days when, unexpectedly, we feel that desperate thirst David wrote about “as a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”


Whether it is the pressure we put on ourselves or the stress we take on because of the perceived expectations of others, it is increasingly easy to throw up our hands, rip open a bag of Doritos, turn on the TV, and devour the entire content while channel surfing!  When life feels overwhelming it is a good time to ask our souls a question: “What’s going on?”  Too often we are panting through life; parched for a drink of something holy and whole.


In the next 8 weeks, we are going to discover our soul’s paths to God.  I am using Gary Thomas’ book called “Sacred Pathways” to guide us through the various ways each of us are spiritually enriched.  Too often, he says, we give people a kind of pabulum – pray, meditate, go to church – instead of finding the spiritual pathway unique to that person.  None of those things are bad – prayer, meditation, church attendance – but not everyone experiences God in the same way.  We are always in need of new ways to nurture our souls.


As Thomas notes, “Why should everybody be expected to love God the same way?  We would think it absurd to insist that newly evangelized Christians in Moravia create an identical worship service to Presbyterians in Boston or Baptists in Georgia.”  Gary Thomas identifies 9 different spiritual temperaments to show that there are many different and acceptable ways of demonstrating our love for God and finding our pathway to God.


Our personality profiles are also connected to our spiritual journey.  Many of you have studied Carl Jung and his four personality profiles or have taken the Myers Briggs personality test.  These also align with the 9 different spiritual pathways.


In the next weeks, we’ll be talking about a different spiritual pathway each week.  You may find several that resonate with you, and I hope you will find one or more you would like to expand in your spiritual life.  These are the 9 sacred paths defined by Gary Thomas:

~ The Naturalist, who loves God out-of-doors

~ The Sensate, who loves God with all of the senses

~ The Traditionalist, who loves God through ritual and symbol

~ The Ascetic, who loves God in solitude and simplicity

~ The Activist, who loves God through advocacy

~ The Caregiver, who finds that loving others leads them to love God

~ The Enthusiast, who loves God with mystery and celebration

~ The Contemplative, who loves God through adoration and meditation

~ The Intellectual, who loves God with thought, reason, and mind.


Listening to our souls may take some planning and some quiet.  When we have responsibilities pulling us in all different directions it is easy to put off the necessary for the urgent.  But when we take time for our souls, we are taking care of that part of us that eternal.


Martha and her baskets will have to wait.  The oil change can happen next week.  Dinner may be a ½ hour late.  Right now, we have some soul work to do.  As your minister, I urge you to take a moment each day this week and simply stop and listen.  Listen to what your spirit says to you.  And if your spirit stays silent, it may be that it has been empty for too long.


Next week, we’ll talk about one way to start filling your spirit!  Through the recognition of each unique pathway to God, we will grow individually and collectively.


Resources Used:

Thomas, Gary.  “Sacred Pathways; Discover Your Soul’s Path to God.”  Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc. Publishers, 1996.