Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sacred Pathways and Celebrity Diets

Dear Friends,

Last week over dinner my husband and I had a conversation about the barrage of celebrity diet advertisements on our Facebook news-feeds. Aren't they bizarre sometimes? "Baby-food Diet," "M-Plan Mushroom Diet," "Five Factor Diet" (in which you cook with only five ingredients), and of course don't forget to stock up on the "revoluntionary fat-buster" diet supplement --Garcinia Camogia!

My husband said he heard a radio talk show host say the only celebrity diet worth following is the "Marilyn Monroe Diet."

"The Marilyn Monroe Diet?!!" I had no idea there was such a thing.

I did a search online. It really exists! And you are absolutely guaranteed to look like the Blonde Bombshell if you follow it.

One journalist went on the "Marilyn Monroe Diet" for ten days. She ate two raw eggs whipped in warm milk for breakfast, no lunch, broiled liver, steak, or lamb with five carrots for dinner, and a hot-fudge sundae for dessert.

Here is part of her entry for the final day:
"I have stayed basically the same weight and have a huge cystic pimple on chin. But my breasts seem — slightly? — more firm, and I don’t have to drink raw eggs anymore. Raw eggs make everything seem tolerable in comparison."
Ayiyi. I think I'd rather eat bread, potatoes, and a Philly Cheesesteak on occasion. I think I'd rather eat a fresh Cobb salad, or homemade chicken noodle soup! Maybe instead of trying to be Marilyn . . . I'll just be me.

Now let's talk about diets for the soul --

Recently my pastor loaned me his copy of Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul's Path to God by Gary Thomas.

I gobbled it up like a hungry child.
"Instead of learning from others, Christians have often chosen to segregate themselves by starting a new church whenever worship preferences diverge. Unless you happen to be born into just the right tradition, you're brought up to feed on somebody else's diet."

With a heavy heart I think of the church of my childhood. It began as a church split because there was a disagreement over whether or not puppets depicting Bible characters should be used in children's church.

Puppets? They split the church over puppets?! 

I think, too, of some of my life-long spiritual frustrations --

Why does this little plastic communion cup and stale cracker make me sad? Why am I afraid to admit that lighting this candle helps me pray? Why does my heart positively ache with a yearning for beauty? Why am I afraid to lift my hands in church?

Ina Garten's maple glaze. Drizzle on muffins, scones, quick bread, and cake.
Mix  1  1/4 cup confectioners sugar, 1/2 cup real maple syrup, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

Thomas describes nine "sacred pathways" for those who feel like they are stuck in a one-size-fits-all spirituality. Each of these temperaments has unique traits, strengths, and potential pitfalls. Most individuals will find their spiritual temperament to be composite of multiple "pathways." 

Here is a list of the nine "Sacred Pathways":
Naturalist: Loving God out of Doors
Sensate: Loving God with the Senses
Traditionalist: Loving God through Ritual and Symbol
Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity
Activists: Loving God through Confrontation
Caregiver: Loving God by Loving Others
Enthusiast: Loving God with Mystery and Celebration
Contemplative: Loving God through Adoration
Intellectual: Loving God with the Mind

Sacred Pathways offers a short test at the end of each chapter to help you determine which pathways help you relate to God best. I scored highest as a "Sensate" and lowest as an "Activist."  This was helpful information. (For example, now I know why I hesitate to share the status updates of my activist friends.)

This is a 100 year old recipe for apple cake that my friend, Tim Fall, shared on his blog.
Let me clarify: I am not trying to implore you to leave your faith tradition! But I will encourage you to give grace to others who might need to exercise their faith in a way that is different from you. Let's celebrate the wondrous diversity of spiritual life, while at the same time being wary of the potential pitfalls that come with each "sacred pathway."

Do you sometimes feel pressured to practice your faith in a way that does not suit your spiritual temperament?

Peace & Joy,


P.S. I'm eager to develop this further. Viewing some of the authors of the classics through this lens might help me answer the question, "Why did the author write this book?


  1. Very interesting, Adriana: it's so refreshing and reassuring to realize that maybe it's OK for us not to be like everyone around us. I hope to check out this book, take the test, etc. -- just from your brief descriptions it's the Contemplative and Ascetic ones that resonate most with me at first read.

    Another book which is a little bit along these lines is Richard Foster's Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of the Christian Faith. It talks about the different faith streams (holiness, charismatic, contemplative, evangelical, social justice, and incarnational), focuses on one Biblical and one contemporary example, and discusses the strengths and potential pitfalls of each. Foster's style is very engaging and the examples he gives are really useful and interesting. Although this is not meant to be a personal book, I found I came to understand myself better as I realized which stream I was drawn to and why certain approaches don't feel as comfortable for me.

    Your idea about relating the pathways to authors is very interesting, too. What would Charlotte Bronte be? ......

    1. Streams of Living Water sounds like it would be right up my alley, Jeannie! I just purchased a used HB copy for $1.66 + shipping.

      And as for Charlotte Bronte's spiritual temperament -- that is a very good question! I pondered it today while on my walk. I probably don't know her well enough yet -- I'm still only half way through Jane Eyre and I've never read any bios on her. Just based on what I see from JE, I would say Enthusiast.

      I have noticed her emphasis on dreams, which seems to be a distinctive of that temperament. She also appears to be venting a bit with her use of the character Eliza Reed, who joined a convent. It would be natural for an enthusiast to express frustration for what she perceives to be "dry ritual." The annoyance over Eliza Reed's extreme structure and self-righteous discipline could also be Charlotte's inner INFP talking.
      The Enthusiast is drawn to mystery, so that would certainly fit here! They are also buoyant people and Jane Eyre is an exceedingly buoyant. :-)

      That's the temperament I'm leaning toward now. More info might give me a different impression.

  2. Hi Adrianna! This is very interesting. Within the Catholic "faith tradition" all of these Sacred Pathways exists. It's easily seen in all the different religious orders that coexist within the Church.There are contemplative orders, Hermits, monks, active orders, preaching orders, and orders that serve the poorest of the poor. The whole Church is drawn to The Eucharist. They are all different parts but One Body! So what ever Sacred Pathway you are drawn to you can find a home in the Catholic Church!
    Also I have been reading Jane Eyre and have forgotten to mention it to you. I am really enjoying it! As far as the pathway I think CB is leaning toward I would say " Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity" if Jane is a reflection of her own personality. I think it is interesting that you see "Loving God through Ritual and Symbol" and "Loving God with Mystery and Celebration" as opposed to one another. Maybe because I look at it through a Catholic lens but I think these two as dependent on each other. A perfect example is the Mass which is a Celebration of the Mystery of the Eucharist which is seeped in ritual and symbolism that date back to the apostles. Really I feel that all these pathways are very compatible to each other and dependent on each other. The danger, I think, would be to see anyone of them as the "only" pathway. My ramblings as I wait for the Homecoming dance to be over so I can pick up my daughter!

    1. Hi Nancy! Glad you are joining me for JE. Thank you for sharing your perspective on this very interesting topic.

      You mentioned that CB was an Ascetic --"Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity. " At the moment I'm folding laundry while listening to an audio version of JE. I just paused to write another reply to Jeannie about this very subject.

      In the following scene it is night and Jane has just reached the heath after leaving Mr. R:

      "Nature seemed to me benign and good; I thought she loved me, outcast as I was; and I, who from man could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, insult, clung to her with filial fondness. Tonight, at least, I would be her guest, as I was her child: my mother would lodge me without money and without price. I had one morsel of bread yet . . . I saw ripe bilberries gleaming here and there, like jet beads in the heath: I gathered a handful, and ate the with the bread. My hunger, sharp before, was, if not satisfied, appeased by this hermit's meal. I said my evening prayers at its conclusion, and then chose my couch."

      From this perspective I see Jane as an Ascetic, so I suppose it would follow that CB would score high in this temperament.

      As for my comment about CB using the character of Eliza to vent against "dry ritual." I do not see the temperaments of Traditionalist and Enthusiast as opposed -- only their misuses. For her own reason, CB did not portray the character of Eliza in a noble light. I did not get the impression that Eliza became a nun out of love for God. This makes me think that CB might have had a sour personal association with the Catholic Church.

      I absolutely agree with you that all these pathways are compatible/dependent upon each other. And yes, sticking to one pathway is very dangerous, not to mention ridiculous, as illustrated by the "Marilyn Monroe Diet!"

  3. Yes I felt the same about CB having had some "sour personal association" toward the Church. And yes I felt that Eliza was an extreme just as her sister's character was also an extreme. You do wonder how much of Jane's personality is a mirror of CB. I would like to read a biography of CB. Have you read any other works of CB?

    1. No, I haven't read any of her other works. I'm planning to start a biography that Jeannie recommended soon -- Unquiet Soul: A Biography of Charlotte Bronte by Margot Peters.

  4. hmmmm, i wish i could also take the test so i can know my sacred pathway. Im more on affection, like calling God's name and attention from time to time and saying sorry or i love you. What path is that? haha
    I dont feel pressured at all to practice my faith in a way that does not suit me. Im open to trying many paths. haha. Right now im trying different hand gestures while praying. Every different hand gestures evokes different emotions from me so im exploring that. Also i love the traditional way. I'm raised Catholic by my grandma, back then, every 6pm we pray the angelous and the rosary and the long novenas. hehe. It was boring and sort of ritual for me. Something we just have to do. But right now i kind of miss it(There is something about routine that i really like.) and perhaps i appreciate it now that i have grown up. I also like candles and incense inside the church every mass-oh the aroma! I feel like im in heaven. haha. And hearing some part of the mass in latin give me goosebumps.

    Linking the spiritual pathway of the author and his/her book is such a good idea. Im sorry i was not able to read along with you(Jane Eyre) so i cannot comment on that. Reading all the comments above makes me feel like im with a bunch of intellectuals. haha

    1. You strike me as a Contemplative, Sheena, "Loving God through Adoration."

      Here's a quote from the book:
      "Contemplatives simply want to bathe in the ocean of love God has for his children, while the rest of us seem unfortunately content to experience that love drop by drop."

      As a contemplative you understand what it means to be the "beloved of God." It is perfectly natural for you to speak to God tenderly -- as a friend.

      I would say you also would score high as a Sensate, like me! I could relate to your post about the first time you cried over a painting. Great art arouses humility in me. I've found visiting art museums and listening to great symphonies are usually very moving spiritual experiences.

      I'm smiling over your memories of your time with your grandmother. I was raised Baptist, but we had our traditions too! My dad used to read the Psalms to our family every night. He would read an entire Psalm -- whether long or short! Often, the sound of his voice would lull me to sleep! :-) Though our readings often felt boring and ritual to me then, I wouldn't trade that time for the world now! In fact, I believe I'm drawn to have devotions every night with my kids because it's ingrained in me. And it's interesting now that even though my kids don't always seem like they are paying attention, they are disappointed on the rare occasions that we don't have family devotion time.

      P.S. Many of the people who leave comments here ARE brilliant intellectuals, but I doubt they would ever admit it! I love them in spite of the fact that they are miles ahead of me mentally! ;-)

  5. My sacred pathway usually includes passing by the buffet table at the church potluck and then finding a quiet place to eat, so I'm not sure which category that puts me in.

    When I first read your category, Adriana, I thought you said you scored highest as a Sensate and lowest as an Atheist. Made sense to me. Then I saw it really said Activist. Oh well, that makes sense too I suppose.


    P.S. Glad you liked the apple cake recipe!

    1. Church potlucks! Heaven on earth! "O taste and see that the Lord is good!" I go for the dishes the older women bring: steaming crock-pots of tender beef tips & noodles, chicken and hand-cut dumplins, green beans with new potatoes and ham . . . sacred pathway, yes indeed! :-)

      P.S. I scored a zero on Atheist!

    2. Tim, your comment reminded me of my husband, who whenever he (unwillingly) does a personality quiz or questionnaire, says that the result was "Not compatible with human life." He'd be all over that buffet table, too. So that's another benefit of not being an Atheist: church suppers.

      Now sit back and marvel at how I pulled all those ideas together.

  6. So beautiful, dear friend. I love the mercy and kindness that such thoughts embrace and dispel. It is a glorious thing to be free to believe and live in the way that most deeply reflects our hearts and who we are.

    1. Thank you, dear Krista. Our time in Russia was a very sensuous experience for me. A few of my friends fasted through large portions of the trip while I immersed myself in all the tastes, textures, sights, and sounds! Perhaps these students were ascetics, I don't know. Of course I believe there is a time for fasting -- but I recall being reprimanded by someone for enjoying my borscht a little too much! Learning the distinction between being "sensuous" and being "sensual" has been very liberating for me. I wish I would have had the wisdom to express that distinction to my naysayer then. Glad you have found freedom too! ♥


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