By Father Leo Booth

Why is it that so many religious people seem so rigid and 'traditional' (not open to new ideas or new templates to express their beliefs and ideas) when contrasted with spiritual people who are so positive, exciting and open to new concepts and creative expressions? 

As a religious priest who has an Episcopal Church in downtown Los Angeles and works nationally with Treatment Centers and Therapeutic Conferences it is becoming more and more obvious that the concept of creative spirituality and the expression of this concept is lost to so many congregations: whereas people committed to spirituality are effusive with creative ideas. Why is this? 

You have probably realized that I am asking a question for which I have some ideas which might be helpful, not least the belief that until religion and religious people are able to incorporate the concept of spirituality into their religious life (in the broadest sense of the term - I'm not meaning by spirituality the Holy Spirit) they will slowly decline, cease to be effective and eventually die. 

This is not a pleasant thought for me to entertain because on the 4th of July, I celebrated twenty-seven years as an Episcopal Priest (by a strange quirk of events it was also my twenty-first recovery date from the powerlessness of alcoholism). Let me express it this way; I know sometimes I feel very, very, I mean very religious, but always I awake knowing that I am a spiritual person. Also, each and every day I seek to search out and connect with other spiritual people. Namaste- the God in me honors and celebrates the God in you. You may be religious or not,
that never seems to me as important as the question: Are you in touch with and expressing your Spirituality? 

Earlier I referred to the 4th of July as a date when I celebrated two different and yet connected events in my life; also I think this date illustrates the point I am making above. Religion, the ritual and belief systems, did not help me get sober . . . gracious, I was drunk and hung-over doing some of the services and sermons! Only when I was introduced to the challenge of spirituality did my life begin to change. You see, like so many people my religion was 'form'; only when it was
injected with spirituality, God-energy, self-empowerment, and creative expression, did it become 'process'. This process I like to call LOVE.

1 Cor, Ch 13:2  "I may have the gift of prophecy, and know every hidden truth; I may have faith strong enough to move mountains; but if I have no love, I am nothing."

I may dole out all I possess, or even give my body to be burnt, but if I have no love, I am none the better. In a word, there are three things that last forever: faith, hope and love; but the greatest of them all is love. 

That is it! If you were to ask me what does 'creative expression' mean, I would say: Love. And love equals creative expression.

So much religion, when it is not effused with spirituality, is systematic. Don't get me wrong, it is often intelligent, well written, has good intent and is a commonly held belief . . .  and yet it is dull,
boring and life-less. Religion without Spirituality does not create connection. As a suffering alcoholic, this kind of religion was not helpful. 

Early in recovery I was introduced to a new concept: Spirituality! Not the same as religion. Spirituality revolved around people connecting, talking honest stories, discovering a God within, not judging those who were different or 'free -thinkers', a journey . . .  yes, a process. Did the spiritual people I met early in recovery read the Bible? Some did, others did not. Some were Christians, others were not. What they all had in common was a belief that God, Higher Power, Spirit is alive in and through the world and it was our job to discover and connect with that
God or Higher Power. They also suggested I begin the search by looking within.

When they used the Bible or other spiritual books, they asked the question; what did this reading or story mean to me? How did I connect with what was being said? Did I connect? Soon a discussion would ensue and feelings (those strange funny sensations in the body that I'd personally tried to hide or keep under firm control) suddenly started to pop-up . . .  and it felt good. The process was beginning to work; if I were willing to step out of the 'religious box' then I would soon
connect with creative expression. And it would affect everything!

Twenty-one years later I'm living what I like to call a life of creative expression. My books, audio tapes, videos . . .  yes even the Spirituality Cruise are based on a celebration of Namaste; the God in me honors and celebrates the God in you. Oh yes, and nothing that I do or say is dull or boring . . .  you don't believe me? Ask my mother!

from Father Leo Booth

Question: I was raised to think money is the root of all evil; indeed it leads to the worst form of materialism. Do you agree?

Answer: Actually, I couldn't disagree more. It is not money that is the root of all evil . . . but the love of money. The issue is not really about money being evil . . . but how we use it.

Of course we all know people who are "tightwads" and do nothing more with money other than accumulate it and stash it away in their various banks of Mutual Funds. Even worse are the people who use money to "buy" others, and attempt to feel superior because they drive a bigger car,
live in a nicer area, or only wear designer clothes. I can see how such people could be considered evil . . . however, for me they are just silly people!

I consider money to be a spiritual gift, that when used correctly, can bring joy, healing and connection to many people. The world is full of people who need a helping hand, not least in the area of dysfunctional families, and to help in producing a safe place, recover home or "gift"
that brings a smile to an anxious face is surely spiritual. When a mother is nursing a crying child who is hungry and malnourished, she needs food (purchased with money) not a gentle hug or a well-meaning blessing. The child needs to be fed. Feed the child, and then give the gentle hug or well-meaning blessing. 

Money for me has little real value in itself, but it allows me to do what I want, when I want, where I want . . . and with friends, wherever they are. Prosperity is freedom! 

An aspect of religious abuse is think that money is evil, and therefore we never develop a healthy relationship with it. Jesus was surrounded by people who willingly spent their money to support his ministry; he also commended in a parable those stewards who enabled their money
(investment) to grow.

Mae West was reported to have said, "I've been rich . . . and I've been poor; rich is better!" 

Don't misunderstand me, I am certainly not suggesting that money is more important than love, forgiveness or joy . . . but I think it is an essential component of the spiritual life. My mother used to say that people who will tell you money is not important, usually have it!

When I arrange my Spirituality Cruise, I often hear people say (genuinely) they can not afford it; they would love to go but the finances are simply not there. Well, that makes me sad. Sad for them. In order to "smell the roses" we need: (1) Either grow the roses, or (2) Purchase some flowers. Both cost money! 

Loving ourselves surely means more than standing in front of a mirror saying, "You are a beautiful person". If you love yourself you will be willing to spend money on the good things in life: food, clothes, home, car, friends, travel and healthy recreation: for that, believe me, you need money. 

Thank God, in my recovery today, I earn the money I freely spend.

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