Tag Archives: books

Open Space

“To keep the heart space open, we need several things.  First, we almost all need some healing in regard to our carried hurts from the past…  And to be fully honest, I think your heart needs to be broken, and broken open, at least once to have a heart at all or to have a heart for others.” (Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water, p. 11, 12)

These quotes pretty much explain my spiritual journey since college.  I probably came to the second part first.  Rohr talks about the importance of re-aligning the head, heart and body. In my head-centered religion, I realized during college that my heart was not open.  I remember singing the praise song, “break my heart for what breaks yours,” and realizing that my heart didn’t break for much of anything.  And then my friend Nicole died (14 years ago yesterday), and my heart broke.  I began to FEEL instead of just THINK.  A little bit to avoid feeling, and a little bit to get better at feeling, I went back to Kenya and worked in a children’s home, where I met a young girl named Wamaitha who broke my heart a bit more.  Sitting on the bench in the children’s dorm, a crowd of kids tugging at my hair to braid it, and Wamaitha sitting next to me–holding my hand and rocking back and forth singing sounds and words that only she understood–my heart broke open just a little bit more.  When I came back to the States and got involved in a community that didn’t need me to think my way to spiritual maturity, I sensed my heart opening to those around me, and more deeply to a Spirit that is mysterious and beyond comprehension.

At times along the way, I have also realized the need for healing in regard to past hurts.  This has meant counseling and spiritual direction, where I have been able to sit with that inner 8-yr. old who was dropped off at boarding school and give her some space to name her fears and tears in new ways.

I can see the difference it makes as my heart space becomes more and more comfortable being open.  It’s overwhelming and scary–because an open heart space inevitably means the possibility of pain.  Not just pain others might cause me, but I find myself feeling the pain of others…of our culture…of the world more deeply.  Maybe that’s what Rohr means when he talks about a broken heart leading to a heart for others…

the space between us

My Lent devotional this year has been A Way Other than Our Own, by Walter Bruegemann.  There are several quotes throughout the book worth pondering, but here’s what he says about Maundy Thursday that has me thinking today:

“The drama of the towel provided an example for the disciples to replicate:

  • Replicate the truth that you have come from God; you are not on your own.
  • Replicate that the truth that you will go to God; your future is assured.
  • Replicate that the space between you and others is filled with a towel.
  • Replicate that as you travel with towel and basin, you will be safe in vulnerability, treasured in obedience, and free from anxiety” (p.88)

What do I make of this image of the space between me and others being filled with a towel?    The towel is the symbol of vulnerability and humility.  If the space between me and others is filled with a towel, we are open to that vulnerability–both in ourselves and in the other.  We are mutually serving each other…at each other’s feet.

That means not only am I serving my neighbor, but I am open to being served by my neighbor.

Deaconesses (and others) use this image of basin and towel to describe our call to the world.  We receive a basin and towel at our Consecration service.  So I can intellectualize and spiritualize this ritual with the best of them.  But, personally, I am all too aware at how easy it is to keep distance between me and others that is not filled with the towel of service and vulnerability, but is filled instead with fear, criticism, and self-protection.

So what would difference would it make to see the space filled with a towel?

I imagine it would make quite a difference.

As Bruegemann says, as we travel with towel and basin, we will be safe in vulnerability, treasured in obedience, and free from anxiety.

Safe.  Treasured.  Free.

Yep.  I imagine it would make quite a difference.

 

The Boat…

My congregation is doing a 6-week sermon/study series based on the book by John Ortberg, If you Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.  I’ve been familiar with this book for quite some time, but I don’t think I’ve read it.  The book is based on the story of Peter walking on water, and the basic premise is that to really experience the fullness of what it means to follow the call of Jesus, we need to step beyond the safety and security of what they know and walk directly into the storm.

So this first week we were invited to ponder what boat we are in that maybe Jesus is calling us out of.  Ortberg says, “Your boat is whatever represents safety and security to you apart from God himself.  Your boat is whatever you are tempted to put your trust in, especially when life gets a little stormy.  Your boat is whatever keeps you so comfortable that you don’t want to give it up even if it’s keeping you from joining Jesus on the waves.  Your boat is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship” (p. 17).

As I was pondering this for myself, I began to wonder…what if the church (structured religious institution) is my boat?  What if I’m missing out on something bigger because all I can see is what I’m doing now…which is good and important and genuinely matters.  But is there somewhere beyond this to which I am being called? Continue reading The Boat…

Worthiness and Poverty

I recently began reading the book “When Helping Hurts,” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  I’ve heard about this book in the context of reflecting on attitudes and methods used in “Christian Outreach” that are…less than helpful.  I’m reading it to increase my capacity to engage a conversation about the attitudes and methods of ‘mission’ in my local context and in other environments.

A few chapters in, the authors are offering a ‘theological framework for poverty.’  I’m not sure I agree with everything they’re saying, but much of what they say is not untrue:  poverty is not just material, poverty is spiritual, relational, emotional, etc…and any ‘help’ that’s given that only addresses material poverty ignores the other dimensions.  And “until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good.”  I don’t disagree.

But then here’s the question posed at the end of the chapter:

Continue reading Worthiness and Poverty