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).
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.