When loving lilies, people, and God take too much energy ~ The Spacious Heart

Two years ago when I started this blog, I called it “spiritual practice, faith, and life,” then last year switched to “on faith and writing.” I was never entirely satisfied with either wording, and sharp-eyed readers might notice that I’ve now changed the tagline to “practical spirituality.” I’ll still include the occasional Writer Wednesday or other post, but overall, I think this new title is a better expression of my blog as I now envision it and I like the focus it provides. I’ve also updated the sidebar of my website to add:

  • Feature Posts (mainly for new readers to get a sense of my blog) and
  • my Twitter Feed (mainly for readers not on Twitter to see my tweets).

The_Spacious_Heart (259x400)All that is by way of announcement, and what I really mean to share with you today is The Spacious Heart: Room for Spiritual Awakening by Donald Clymer and Sharon Clymer Landis (Herald Press, 2014). I was privileged to read their book in its development stage–written by a brother and sister who share their personal journeys from cynicism to joy, from the North American culture of dissatisfaction to gratitude, from the mundane to spiritual awakening. This book is rich in stories of practical spirituality. Here is one example from Sharon (page 66):

When you cannot enjoy the lilies of the field or the sparrows in the sky, don’t waste time thinking you can enjoy God. Start at the bottom; try to love a rock. – Richard Rohr (Richard’s Daily Meditation: Contemplation in Action, May 11, 2012).

This quote amused me during a time when I really needed gentle, transforming humor, when I struggled to accept the “rocks” in my life: difficult people, circumstances, and schedules. My flower gardens did not even console me, as they too were full of glaring white rocks that wind and rain had surfaced. The rocks came from a load of stone-contaminated mulch we bought and spread on our gardens last season. As an avid rock admirer and collector, I felt completely out of sorts with my dislike of these rocks, even irritated at my irritation! Thus the catchy phrase found a home in my soul, tickling my mind and heart in a playful way, a welcome contrast to the other way–my mind’s compulsive insistence to be more spiritual, to skip ahead to joy and peace, rather than first honoring and being completely present to the rocks, both literal and figurative. . . .

It comforts me knowing everyone struggles with rocks in their lives: inner turmoil and anxieties, or illness, loss, accidents, or financial stresses. No one is always laid back. Even spiritual giants have times of starting slowly at the bottom–perhaps loving rocks–when loving lilies, people, and God take too much energy. Despite frequent failure, I desire deep authenticity, where my interior impulses and thoughts match my exterior words and actions. Assimilating this will take an imperfect lifetime.

And another from Don (page 82):

I recently had an MRI done on my knee and listened to the inevitable verdict: surgery. My first instinct was to be resentful. Why did I slip on the ice and tear my meniscus? Why did this have to happen to me? Why do hospitals charge so much, and why do I have to supplement a physician’s already bloated salary? The more my thoughts went in this direction, the angrier I became. The irony is that I was working on this very section of this book at the time of my medical diagnosis. I immediately challenged myself to choose to respond gratefully rather than resentfully. “Thank God for surgeons and a medical industry that can repair my knee and help me function without pain,” I thought. I am sure that my blood pressure went down considerably after I changed my attitude from resentment to gratitude.

Gratitude and Dissatisfaction
The culture of dissatisfaction seeks to build up one’s ego and self-worth by continually accumulating material goods along with exotic experiences. This ego inflation is the opposite of what Jesus calls us to do.  . . . Instead of trying to grab everything for himself, Jesus gave it all away: ultimately his own life.

Now it’s your turn:

Do you resonate with Sharon’s struggles with the rocks in her life? With Don’s experience of growing in gratitude? How do you deal with these?

What do you think of my new tag line? Can you suggest a better alternative? I’m open to ideas!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Spacious Heart from Herald Press, and as in all my reviews, my comments are my own.



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8 replies

  1. actually practical spirituality really appeals to me. Interesting how blogs evolve and grow don’t they? This book sounds interesting. I too had to stop and ponder Rohr’s comment about loving the rock. Too often I avoid or neglect those bumps in life when that is where God wants me. All part of the journey. Have a super week, April

    • Yes, Jean, in just over two years, I’m amazed at how my blog has grown and changed, and I have a new sense of focus. I love healthy spirituality too, but that’s already taken by your blog 🙂 Your journey in blogging and writing is instructive for me–thanks for stopping by, and congratulations on your new book for Advent!

  2. Not sure this is *better* than “Practical Spirituality” but “Everyday spirituality” came to mind. :o)

    • Great suggestion–I really like Everyday Spirituality, and had almost settled on it, but then I wondered whether it might sound as if I would actually be blogging every day. That would definitely be too much, although with Twitter I’m “micro-blogging” most days.

  3. I’m all about practical spirituality. Most people think there’s nothing practical in Spirit-led living, but you can’t really live out your faith if your not walking it out. Faith is more than a mental assent to something. Truth is we all act out what we believe in practical ways. If you don’t really believe, you won’t act on it.

    You post another intriguing book. Those rocks are hard to be grateful for and I admit I’m slow to give thanks for them. I heard it once said we can never fully appreciate joy until we’ve experienced sorrow. Joy comes in the morning…after a period of darkness. Blessings! Thank you for this post, April!

    • I’m not always grateful for the rocks in my life, but thanks be to God who is with us during the hard times! Like jumbo shrimp, “practical spirituality” seems to bring together two opposite ideas, and each tempers the other–spirituality that isn’t lived out in practical ways becomes irrelevant, and practice without the depth of spirituality becomes superficial. I’m reaching for both in my life and blogging too.

  4. Try to love a rock — definitely a thought that challenges me. I’ve tried lots of other approaches — walking around the rock, avoiding the rock, sitting on the rock, climbing over the rock, debating whether the rock matters — but when love has moved me to a place of appreciation, it has made a real difference.
    I enjoyed the excerpts from their book, and I also think the tagline of “practical spirituality” is quite illustrative of what you seek to do in your writing here. You have developed a blog that invites engagement and community, which are true gifts.
    Blessings, Mark

    • Thanks, Mark – I’m glad to be in community with you and your blog. Your thoughtful comments are a gift 🙂 I too am challenged by trying to love a rock and by many of the other ideas in this book.