Something to this spiritual vs. religious thang

I’m a liturgical guy.  Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing and that’s where my comfort zone is.  Dunno.  But I do like the liturgy.  It’s kind of mysterious, yet kind of familiar.  It’s richly symbolic and deeply meaningful.  But there can be too much of a good thing, sometimes.  Here at Sem (I know: it really DOES sound pretentious!  I have proposed, apropos of nothing, that my classmates and I adopt a ritzy accent, a la Thurston Howell III, to lend our seminary some yacht club cred, but so far nobody is biting.  Didn’t work at my last grad school, either.  Hmm.) we do a chapel service every weekday, then we head to our respective local Lutheran churches on Sunday.  Now and then, for variety’s sake, we’ll throw in the (incredibly beautiful) Holden Evening Prayer, and last week a few of the Young Upstarts (tee hee) put together a more contemporary worship, which my headache prevented me from attending.

I’m NOT a contemporary worship kind of person.  I usually find contemporary worship self-indulgent, pretentious, “oberflaechlich” and filled with inane, repetitive, creatively lacking music (in the vein of “Jesus is my boyfriend” – not my phrase but I like it).  Disclaimer:  I understand that contemporary worship doesn’t have to be that way:  it’s just been my experience so far that it almost aways is.  Still waiting to see otherwise.  Maybe the service I missed last week was the exception.  Probably was.  Nevertheless, I remain solidly liturgical.

Today was an exception.  Instead of heading into our local religious establishment, Christy and I took the hounds to the Mines of Spain nature preserve again.  We did a different walk this time, in which we mostly avoided water (except for the doggy-waist-deep mud adjacent to the canoe put-in point) and hiked along a wee trail next to a field of tall grasses and wildflowers.  It was GORGEOUS.  This was our communion today:  we communed with our little family, such as it is, giving thanks (eucharistomen!) for the beauty and for the opportunity to be together.

When we got home, I needed something a bit more.  Maybe this was self-indulgent on *my* part, but I needed to feed my Introversion, so I took a bike ride down (or more aptly, up) to Eagle Point.  I took the camera along, so that I could share photos, but the derned batteries died.  Maybe next time.  When I got down there, I called Christy, who then packed up some sammiches and some pooches and headed over to meet me.  We had a nice lunch and a quick walk with the doggies down by the riverside (where I laid down my burden.  Ahem.  Sorry.)  After lunch, I hopped back on my bike and rode home.  Uphill.  All the way.

I’ve done this ride before and was surprised (flabbergasted even) by the sheer scale of the hills in Dubuque, but my last rides paled in comparison.  Today I took a different route – the one we usually take in the car.  It’s funny how, when you’re in a car, you don’t tend to notice things like, oh I don’t know, the fact that some hills seem to go straight up at 90 degrees.  OK, it wasn’t THAT bad, but danged close to it.

When I first started toward home I was on a street called Kerper, which became 9th street.  So far, so good.  But as Kerper became 9th, it began going uphill.  I expected this, since a) clearly the Mississippi is at the bottom of a valley, and b) since I actually hit 35.2 mph on my bike before I crapped my pants in fear and began applying the brakes.  OK, what goes down and wants to go home, must come up.  But the sneaky, sneaky city planners of Dubuque – without warning anyone or checking with me first, even though I wouldn’t be born for 1.5 centuries – turned 9th street into Hill Street.  And they weren’t just kiddin’ brother.  I rode uphill for what seemed like a half-a-mile, then I rested at a plateau before finishing out the rest of the half-mile.  I foolishly thought that was it as I was riding past Mercy Hospital, seriously considering stopping in.  As I passed Mercy, though, I looked at what was now Bryant Street:  it was a quarter mile downhill followed by another 3/4s upward.  As seagulls flew beneath my feet I wondered if I’d make it.

But I put the bike in high gear for the downhill and granny-geared it on the way up, remembering the Tortoise’s advice: slow and steady wins the race.  Lo and behold, I made it.  Granted, I was soaked with sweat and my legs had turned into spaghetti, but I made it nonetheless.

This kind of closeness to the open air, the chance to feel right within your muscles, bones and circulo-respiratory systems just what it means to be alive is the epitome of abundant living.  So I missed a day of liturgy.  This was worthwhile, and all is well with my soul.


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