My website is (finally!) moving

Hey All,

After many years segregating my work as an extremely occasional writer and a much more regular podcaster, everything is coming together on a new website! It’ll officially launch next week, but you can point your bookmarks to: www.reportsfromthespiritualfrontier.com

You’ll be able to subscribe by e-mail or rss feed (as you do now) when the site goes lives next week. Thank you all for your comments over the years, and I hope you travel on over to become part of the new community I’m forming in this little corner of the interwebs!

Chris Jenkins – Restoring Hope (and Houses)

Join us for a conversation with Chris Jenkins of Hope Restorations in Kinston, North Carolina, as he shares his journey from personal grief to community transformation. Hear him tell the story of how they’re restoring hope and houses in his rural community; why they focus on hiring those who typically find it difficult to find work, why true communion means seeking those who are not yet at the table, and how joy and grief dance together.

You can become on our patron and unlock exclusive content by backing us at www.patreon.com/reports.

You can hear conversations with other spiritual pioneers by subscribing to us with Itunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Make sure to visit Facebook  and our website for all your updates, including new episodes, news from our guests, and writing from Ben.

Reports from the Spiritual Frontier is sponsored by patrons like you, by Path1 the church planting agency of the United Methodist Church, by the Oregon-Idaho Conference, by Bayit: Your Jewish Home, and by the Upper New York Annual Conference.

Greg Moore – Spiritual Community at the Rate of Friendship

Join us for a conversation with Greg Moore, Executive Director of New Faith Communities for the North Carolina Annual Conference, as he shares about cultivating spiritual community at the rate of friendship. Hear him share about his experience as a church planter, about the challenges of planting “oak tree churches”, the oft-confused difference between consumption and communion, and the challenge of being a spiritual pioneer.  

You can become on our patron and unlock exclusive content by backing us at www.patreon.com/reports.

You can hear conversations with other spiritual pioneers by subscribing to us with Itunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Make sure to visit Facebook  and our website for all your updates, including new episodes, news from our guests, and writing from Ben.

Reports from the Spiritual Frontier is sponsored by patrons like you, by Path1 the church planting agency of the United Methodist Church, by the Oregon-Idaho Conference, by Bayit: Your Jewish Home, and by the Upper New York Annual Conference.

Shawn Moore – Following Jesus In A Multicultural Community

Join us for a conversation with Shawn Moore of The Beloved United Methodist Church in Saint Paul, MN; as he shares about the journey of transforming his young, non-denominational church into an age-diverse, United Methodist community; about the centrality of daily obedience for spiritual growth; and how true multicultural community is more than a diversity fair.

You can become on our patron and unlock exclusive content by backing us atwww.patreon.com/reports.

You can hear conversations with other spiritual pioneers by subscribing to us with Itunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Make sure to visit Facebook  and our website for all your updates, including new episodes, news from our guests, and writing from Ben.

Reports from the Spiritual Frontier is sponsored by patrons like you, by Path1, the church planting agency of the United Methodist Church, by the Oregon-Idaho Conference, by Bayit: Your Jewish Home, and by the Upper New York Annual Conference.

Gavin Rogers B-Side: God in the Caravan, Among the Poor, Among the Rich

Join us for a conversation with Reports’ host Ben Yosua-Davis, as he is joined by Gavin Rogers of Travis Park United Methodist Church, as he talks about encountering God on a migrant caravan. Hear him share about how he learned about the importance of authenticity, how migrants and those who are homeless showed him radical hospitality, the challenges of living a fully integrated public and private life, and the story of Willy, his homeless friend who also became his roommate.

You can become on our patron and unlock exclusive content by backing us at www.patreon.com/reports.

You can hear conversations with other spiritual pioneers by subscribing to us with Itunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Make sure to visit Facebook  and our website for all your updates, including new episodes, news from our guests, and writing from Ben.

Reports from the Spiritual Frontier is sponsored by patrons like you, by Path1 the church planting agency of the United Methodist Church, by the Oregon-Idaho Conference, by Bayit: Your Jewish Home, and by the Upper New York Annual Conference.

Gavin Rogers – Meeting God On A Migrant Caravan

Join us for a conversation with Reports’ host Ben Yosua-Davis, as he is joined by Gavin Rogers of Travis Park United Methodist Church, as he talks about encountering God on a migrant caravan. Hear him share about how he learned about the importance of authenticity, how migrants and those who are homeless showed him radical hospitality, the challenges of living a fully integrated public and private life, and the story of Willy, his homeless friend who also became his roommate.

You can become on our patron and unlock exclusive content by backing us at www.patreon.com/reports.

You can hear conversations with other spiritual pioneers by subscribing to us with Itunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Make sure to visit Facebook  and our website for all your updates, including new episodes, news from our guests, and writing from Ben.

Reports from the Spiritual Frontier is sponsored by patrons like you, by Path1 the church planting agency of the United Methodist Church, by the Oregon-Idaho Conference, by Bayit: Your Jewish Home, and by the Upper New York Annual Conference.

The Spiritual Life Is Lonely

“A Foggy Passage” Simon Kingsworth

The farther you progress in the spiritual life, the lonelier it gets.

The topics that used to consume you may now only arouse faint interest. (How many books did I read about “the future of the church” in my late twenties and early thirties? Hundreds. How many have I read since we moved to the island three years ago? None.)

The dichotomies that used to agonize you now all seem like artificial constructions that obscure a deeper Truth. (Is this an outward work? An inward work? Is this love of God or love of neighbor? How do you balance work with rest? Anger with forgiveness?)

The conversations that used to energize you all deflate like sad little balloons, without enough hot air to keep them afloat anymore. (In my case, denominational politics, theological esoterica, and the over-earnest discussion of “what does it mean to be the church?”)

Instead, you find that your gaze turns inwards: to the places of deepest unspoken hurt, to the deeper comprehension of self, to the wrenching, painful work of giving up all those external attachments that you thought were You.

In the process, you also discover loneliness.

I’ve discovered that there are precious few people who are able to have those conversations about matters like this, much less engage in this work with the necessary degree of maniacal consistency.

After all, it is a journey that their friends will not encourage them to take, because it can strip them of the unspoken tribal prejudices and previously energizing interests upon which friendships are based.

After all, it is a journey which our society, built upon superficial urgency and the frantic pursuit of novelty, is designed to prevent. (Don’t believe me? How many times did you check your smartphone today? And how many of times did you check it because you grew uncomfortable, bored, upset, or disturbed with something which you would prefer be left unnamed?)

After all, it is a journey which their churches, which institutionally depend on busy people highly invested in externals, simply do not have the capacity to imagine.

And the journey is hard, because the road is terrifying. From the comfortable ruts of life, you emerge into a dangerous, dark wilderness of spirit, filled with monsters of your own making. The road ahead seems like no more than a vague trail (pray to God for something as clear as a vague trail!) with the road behind always clear as day, beckoning for you to come back to safer ground.

My experience? Most people, if they don’t have journey companions, will take a few steps on that terrifying trail, and then retreat back to the comfortable territory of their familiar existence, filled with friends and jobs, religious observances and books, momentary bursts of passion brought on by the novelty of a new spiritual idea, and the steady, familiar rhythm of prejudices and interests that were formed in childhood.

The problem is that God (and by God I most specifically the Love that birthed the universe, that birthed each of us, and that lies at the truest center of our being,) can only be encountered fully in that dark wilderness of spirit.

Ideally, our spiritual communities exist so that people can find companions and guides for exactly this journey; but maintaining that communal ethos requires spiritual vigilance and produces very few institutional returns. This is why the communities that call themselves churches have turned instead to peddling a hyper-commodified mass market version of themselves, so that people may learn to possess God rather than learning to let God possess them. (This may be true for other religious and a-religious traditions, but I’ll let them speak for themselves on this count.)

I’m thankful that I’ve found a community, albeit a temporary one, that has helped me take my first full steps into the wilderness of my own soul. I also hear an echo of loneliness, sometimes even terror, knowing that soon that community will come to an end, and it is not a given that I will find other people to journey with me.

I don’t have any reassurances for me, but I do have advice for you if who have heard God’s call to walk a deeper path, even if that call is heard only in whispers.

First, step out the door on that new road, even if all you have is a backpack full of questions.

Second, find some people. Be wary of the good church people. Look for the pones hovering around the edges (or the comfortably self-differentiated ones in the middle.) Look for the ones who talk more about God and about people and less about “church”. Look for the ones who have a smiling, self-deprecatory honesty. Look for the ones who seem like actual humans, not religious facsimiles of themselves.

Finally, ask them to join you on the journey. Some will look at you oddly. Some will say “no”; or say “yes” but actually mean “no” when they realize what is involved. But remember, God is gracious, and if God is pulling you into the wilderness, then God will send you a couple of people who might dare to say “yes” along with you: people who will pick you up when you stumble, or get lost, and point you back into the darkness and say “keep going”.

Because, in the end, this is really the only journey ultimately worth taking.

It is just as the great Quaker mystic, Thomas Kelly, says,

Out in front of us is the drama of [people] and of nations, struggling, laboring, dying. Upon this tragic drama in these days our eyes are all set in anxious watchfulness and in prayer. But within the silences of the souls of [people] an eternal drama is ever being enacted, in these days as well as in others. And on the outcome of this inner drama rests, ultimately, the outer pageant of history.

It is the drama of the Hound of Heaven baying relentlessly upon the track of [humans]. Is the drama of the lost sheep wandering in the wilderness, restless and lonely, feebly searching, while over the hill comes the wiser Shepherd. For His is a shepherd’s heart, and He is restless until He holds His sheep in His arms. it is the drama of the Eternal Father drawing the prodigal home unto Himself, where there is bread enough and to spare…And always its chief is – the Eternal God of Love.

Thomas Kelly. A Testament of Devotion. 1941.