listening

A Reflection Practice for Uncovering Our Racial Narrative

On the occasion of George Floyd’s burial today.

I have wanted to write something to help uncover our racial narrative for my Christian white friends who are asking,

“How am I a part of the racial dichotomy of America (world)? Do I have a part to play and what is it?”

These are deep questions that hold great potential, and stymies many. I have found that often the way forward is illumined when we spend some time with God in our personal past. We all have unconscious structures of felt belief that guide our choices. We must uncover our racial narrative for it is a prime place for such hidden drivers.

We are, as a nation, at a point of magnified recollection and reflection. God is shining light in dark places to do a deep work of transformation. Every one of us is a part of it, no matter how distanced we feel or think we are from the racial issues in our society. It is imperative that we non-racist whites, specifically, do some deep reflecting, allowing God’s spirit to move us into better awareness and action. It is brave and difficult work, largely unseen by the world, but its ramifications will certainly change the shape of our lives and those of our society as we remain faithful to it. Ours is to walk with God into our memories, our unconscious structures, and have our eyes opened by his healing Spirit.

Many, including maybe you, agree racism is wrong and don’t want to be a part of it, yet are unaware of how it’s been present in our lives. We are grappling with saying “This is mine.” We have not made slurs, avoided blacks or browns, preferred whites, done violence, or withheld care. Have we? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Often we aren’t aware of times we’ve participated in a racial slant toward white and away from anyone else.

I deeply believe that God is working in us always to make us whole, and to bring wholeness in our divided culture. This is necessary work. We have a special invitation at this time in our collective history to dive into our personal histories with him and partner with the Holy Spirit in bringing wholeness into fruition. Let us not give up in doing good, deep work with him, spurring one another on towards good deeds to love kindness, act justly and walk humbly with our God. I hope and pray that you will join me and the Holy Spirit in this reflection activity to uncover your racial narrative. I pray for the Spirit to bring his liberation to your being, revealing the beautiful truth he has placed in you with the eyes to see the beautiful truths of others.

 

A Reflection Practice for Uncovering Our Racial Narrative

Begin by reading Psalm 139 meditatively. Allow the words that stand out to you to linger between you and God. Consider why they resonate. Ask God for his light, recognize his steady “for you” presence, thank him for desiring your wholeness and the wholeness of the world, and ask to see your life with his eyes. Then ask yourself these questions about your relationship with the black experience in America:

Where do I hurt?

We might feel more pain and defensiveness at being accused of being racist simply because of our whiteness. We may feel more moved by the stories of suffering and injustice coming from blacks and browns. Perhaps the pain of guilt rises to the forefront. Acknowledge the hurt and talk to God about it. He wants to move from where you are towards healing.

Ask “Lord, why? Why do I feel this way?”

Then pursue deeper and ask again, regarding those answers, Why? Why do I feel this way? Show me, Lord, my hidden agendas, my sympathies, my protections and my hopes. See if there is any offensive way in me.

 

Have I witnessed a preference for white over black or brown, and remained silent?

It could have been a silent snub on the playground (read my friend Jen’s poignant recollection here of just such an instance), a white co-worker always given the better tasks, a joke using the n- word, the possibilities are multitude. Allow the Spirit to lead your body into the recollection, how did you physically feel then? What emotions were stirring? How do you feel physically and emotionally in this moment? Allow it to pour out to God.

 

How do I respond to others’ experiences that are different from my own?

Jesus came into our experience, to suffer alongside and know intimately the struggles we have with sin. Allow him to come into your experience of others’ experiences. When someone is telling you about theirs, what do you do internally? There is a spectrum of possible response. Consider with Jesus whether you tend towards rendering blacks and browns accounts unbelievable because it’s not your own, or if you counter and minimize theirs with your own, or if you leave their experience uncontested and you untouched, or if you try to stand in their shoes feeling and seeing what they say. Do I include and expand my views to welcome them or discount and dismiss? Talk with God about it.

 

What justifications or excuses have I given for believing I need not be involved in fighting racism?

Though yours will be your own, these were my primary ones:

  1. “I am not a racist, therefore it’s not my problem.”
  2. For the first fifteen years living in America my excuse was that I am Canadian, it’s not my story. It’s not my history, I have nothing to do with it. I conveniently disregarded my American citizenship and my residence.

Spend some time in the discomfort of examination, allowing the Spirit to reveal what needs to be revealed.

 

Where do I feel resistant regarding my racial narrative?

Resistance can often feel like boredom, avoiding, depression, minimizing, frustration, not wanting to engage with someone or something. Stay with that feeling, holding it, not judging it. Ask yourself gently, “I wonder why I’m resistant.” Listen for God’s guidance and invitation.

As you end your time of reflection, write down what you’ve learned, ask God to reveal one way to keep saying yes to his invitation toward wholeness. Commit to ongoing reflection and learning with him. I had to literally write in my rule of life, and in my monthly goals, to continue to listen to black voices mainly by reading, but also in relationships. I know it’s too easy for me to step out of the fray and back into a white bubble. 

Become better acquainted with history told from a black point of view, rather than from the dominant white narrative. Watch movies like, Harriet, Selma, Just Mercy, Remember the Titans, etc.; read the books and speeches by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Martin Luther King Jr, Howard Thurman, Maya Angelou, and many others. Upon this foundation then one can better hear the voices of today. The racism of the past is different from our experience today and we need to connect the dots for the “nice whites” who agree in our heads but have trouble connecting our hearts to know how our “niceness” is contributing to the problem. Leslie Verner has extensive resources for white people to start, or continue, their journey into oneness with the blacks of America. Take a look here.

Hopefully this reflective practice we just engaged in has helped examine our personal past for non-catalyzed moments: times we witnessed racism but didn’t do anything, a time we felt something was off but couldn’t quite name it, a time we thought “that’s just the way it is”, a time we pulled away because it stirred conflict or tension.

As you do your hard work, know that the Spirit is leading us together deeply and into unity and reconciliation. Lean in and take His invitation to whatever your next step is. Grace and peace to you my friends as you faithfully pursue wholeness, right-relatedness, and faithfulness in such a time as this.

 

Posted by k2mulder in Community, Spiritual Formation, 1 comment

Michelle DeRusha on Letting Go

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Today we have the honor of a guest post from author Michelle DeRusha who just released her newest book,
True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created on January 1, 2019. I’ve read a few books about uncovering your true self with God, and this one really encompasses the journey well. The metaphor of fukinaoshi (Japanese pruning to an open center) is so perfect for structuring the book and the topic. She weaves her personal story, Biblical story, historical story, science, and gardening into such a beautiful exposition of this essential journey. She leads you into some difficult to grasp concepts and the challenging place of facing things in ourselves we’d rather not see, with wisdom, encouragement, and clear ideas. Each chapter ends with a “Going Deeper” section so you can spend some time with God reflecting and implementing practices to help you let go of your false self. And I loved that she finished the book with an exploration and example of how important it is to uncover your true self within the context of community, even though it’s an intensely personal journey. Enjoy her post, and don’t forget to enter my giveaway (which closes on Tuesday, January 29 at midnight) by sharing this post or another from my blog on Facebook or Instagram and entering your email here, “True You Giveaway!”


I never noticed that oak trees are the last to lose their leaves until I began a daily practice of sitting still.

It all began with a whim. One sunny November afternoon while I was walking my dog, I decided to stop and sit on a park bench. As I rested there for a few minutes with Josie sprawled at my feet, I decided I would make this bench-sitting part of my daily routine. I vowed I would stop at that same spot along our walking route every day, and I would sit for five minutes. I would sit in silence, I determined – without music or a podcast in my ears; without dialing my mother or texting my sister; without snapping photos with my camera phone or scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. I would simply sit in silence for five minutes. It would be good for me, I reasoned. Turns out, five minutes on a park bench seems short in principle, but is a surprisingly long time in reality.

The first afternoon I sat on the park bench, I looked at my watch after two minutes and then again after four. The next day I took a cue from Josie, who sat still, ears pricked, nose quivering. I looked at what she looked at; I sniffed, trying to smell what she smelled. When she twitched her ears, I turned my head too, trying to hear what she’d heard.

I noticed a little more of my surroundings that second day, like the fact that the leaves of the burr oak on the edge of the ravine still clung stubborn and tenacious to the branches. Unlike the maples, birches, elms, and ash trees, which had dropped their leaves like colorful confetti more than a month ago, the oaks were still fully dressed, their dry leaves scraping together in the wind like sandpaper.

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I wasn’t at all sure what I was doing there, just sitting. All I knew was that I felt compelled to do it, even though I didn’t particularly like it, and even though I knew, after only two days, that I would resist it in the coming weeks. At the same time, I knew this sitting in stillness was something I had to do. Somehow I knew that the stopping, — the interruption to my daily routine and my incessant push to get from Point A to Point B — was important, maybe even imperative.

Turns out, I learned over the weeks and months of sitting in quiet solitude that I am a lot like the oak tree that clings so fiercely to its leaves. In fact, I suspect a lot of us are. We, too, clutch our camouflage — the person we present to the world, to our own selves, and even to God.

We, too, are unwilling to shed our false selves, to let go, to live vulnerably and authentically. We are afraid of what might happen if we drop our protective cover, afraid of how we might be seen or perceived, or how we might see or perceive our own selves. We spend a great deal of our time and energy holding tight-fisted to our leaves, simply
because we are too afraid to let go, too afraid of what, or who, we will find underneath. The thing is, though, even the stubborn oaks have to let go of their leaves eventually. New growth can’t happen until the old, desiccated parts fall away. Spring only comes after winter. There is a rhythm here – relinquishing, stilling, rebirth.

The truth is, God does not wish for us to stand stubborn like the autumn oak tree, cloaked in a façade of protection, our truest, most authentic selves obscured beneath a tangled bramble of false security. Rather, he desires us to live open and free, our true essence revealed and flourishing, our true self front and center, secure and thriving. God yearns for us to live wholeheartedly and truthfully as the unique, beautiful, beloved individuals he created us to be. Most of all, God’s deepest desire is for us to know him, to root our whole selves in him like a tree rooted by a stream, and to know his deep, abiding love for us. God yearns for us to live in the spacious, light-filled freedom of Christ and to know ourselves in him, through him, and with him.

As we slowly begin to let go of our false selves, branch by branch, leaf by leaf, and layer by layer, as we finally begin to relinquish, open up, and allow God to prune us from the inside out, we will grow in ways we never imagined: in our relationships with loved ones; in connection with and love for our neighbors; in our vocation; in our heart, mind, and soul; and in intimacy with God himself.

Our true, essential self, the one beautifully and uniquely created by God, is there, deep inside, hidden beneath layer upon layer of leaves clinging fast. Within each of us is a spacious place, waiting to be revealed.

Letting go is the way in.


Michelle DeRusha for www.kimberleymulder.com

Michelle DeRusha, author of True You

BIO: A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of chickens … and God. She’s the wife of an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun and mom to two teenage boys and the laziest Corgi-beagle in the world. Michelle’s newest book, True You, released January 1, guides readers on a journey toward letting go in order to uncover their true God-created selves.

This post is adapted from True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created, by Michelle DeRusha, released January 1 from Baker Books.

Posted by k2mulder in Being Present, Giveaways, Guest Posts, 0 comments

Who are you listening to?

I have recently been thinking a lot about voices—speaking up, listening to them, hearing God, and more. Even without our media-laden society, it is difficult to know who to listen to. I’ve been studying the explosion of popular preaching in post-Revolutionary America, and there were literally thousands of itinerant riders seeking audiences throughout the back country of the 1790s-1820s, all with their own version of understanding the Bible. Many a conversion happened, and many were from idea to idea, rather than simply to Jesus.

Fast forward to today, and we have the same thing happening but in light-speed time as tweets ping, posts slither through cyberspace, and multiple ideas bombard our minds many times per second. It is a wise thing to have some solid barriers and filters in place as we engage with our technological idea marketplace. I am not going to spell those out (in this post anyway), but wanted to nudge your thoughts into what would be appropriate for you, along with a story of how my inability to hold up my safeguards wreaked some havoc in my life. But then, how God mercifully came to my aid, through my friends’ real prayers. This is a link to a post I wrote for anchoredvoices.com, where I contribute regularly. I hope it helps you navigate this online world a little more wisely than I!

“I think I need a lock screen on my phone with the words “You, bleary-eyed one, do not touch this! Danger!”—on a red background, in bold.

cell phone hello

Photo by Tyler Lastovich from Pexels

Have you ever regretted your early morning, nonchalant scroll through social media? I certainly have. Just this past week, I spent three days removing the shrapnel of allowing the many feet of Instagram and Facebook trample on the landmines inside me. You know, those parts of yourself that are weak, sensitive to comparison and criticism, your perennial Achilles heel. That simple, foolish, not-thought-through action loosed a storm of doubt within. As my coffee perked, I struggled to gain ground and fight back.”

Read more at anchoredvoices.com.

 

Posted by k2mulder in Anchored Voices Posts, 0 comments

Step Aside A Moment

When life is coming at you full-on force, clarity and intention drain away in the torrent like watercolors bloated with water. The picture we were so carefully painting becomes nondescript, even unrecognizable.

water spray window

Photo by Kimberley Mulder


These weeks tailing our summer feel like this, and I am gasping. At a time when I have emptied my reserves, I find I must rally all strength—not to push through the onslaught necessarily, but to shelter and rest.

Automatically, I push back at force to prove you can’t get me down, and it can seem too vulnerable to go with the flow. It requires strength of spirit, mind, and will to step aside into a quiet space, remember and renew my intentions, and trust I am not losing ground as I catch my breath.
But in these lulls Jesus blots the swollen, running colors until the picture is recognizable again. He is creating my life with me and it is his brushstroke that becomes permanent on my page, not the tearing, striking stormrains motley mess.

So step aside a moment today, take a breath, clear your vision, and let Jesus paint your picture.

Shortly after writing this first part I stopped at the lake nearby to clear my mind. God gave me a speech in the fluid painting of sky, the rush of cloudburst, the whisper of water lapping, the silent wing of swallows, and the flow of colors mutely inscribing awe as it seeped into my heart’s depth with their molten heights. 

sunset over Alum Creek

Photo by Kimberley Mulder

My heart rested in new understanding, in something I didn’t even know I needed to know until God said it through his sunset speech. A sudden intuitive understanding rose within like the glowing gilding of the clouds in relief before me, causing my own cloudburst of relieving tears. And as the sun sank beyond my horizon, I laid some things to rest that had passed away and needed to be let go.

Now the new day can rise without the burden of the old.

I encourage you to turn aside into quiet pockets when life is blasting you with busy-ness or trial to reorient yourself and receive Jesus’s loving strength.

 

I hope and pray you are encouraged by these blog posts, and that your quiet soul is thriving. I want to provide more resources for you, and to do that I have a short questionnaire for you to give me feedback. If you would take a moment to fill it out, it will help me bless you as I build and grow this little ministry. Thank you!

Click here to access the questionnaire.

Also, I am embarking on my Master’s in Ministry at Portland Seminary starting in a week! As I become more equipped to assist you with your spirit thriving, I will need to dial back my blog posts to twice a month rather than weekly. As always, feel free to contact me, comment, share my posts on Facebook, and follow me on Instagram @writerkimberleymulder. I will often write short, in-the-moment, thoughts and observations on Instagram, so it’s a good way to stay in touch.

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Jesus is Present to You

It is such a gift when someone really listens to you. You can tell by her uncrossed arms, attentive eyes, and thoughtful questions. She makes you feel welcomed, validated, and loved. Somehow this friend has succeeded in putting aside her preoccupations, her concerns, her agendas, her life, for you!

She asks a question, born of her careful listening, that stuns you with clarity, like sunlight suddenly caught and intensified through a magnifying glass, bearing down on your soul with brilliant accuracy. Maybe her question broke open a festering wound, maybe it sealed an ache with healing, maybe it removed obstacles and shone a way forward, maybe it released you from a prisoning thought, but in some way the Holy Spirit used her attentiveness to bring you closer to Him. She ministered to and served you with her willingness to truly listen.

Two people listening on a park bench

Photo by Kaboompics.com from Pexels

“For even the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served by everyone, but to serve everyone…” Mark 10:45 TPT

Jesus had a way of paying such close attention that he got under people’s walls and defenses. He was so in tune with people’s souls that he frequently asked questions they themselves didn’t realize they needed to be asked. These questions were often so accurate that people felt uncomfortable and vulnerable in his presence. Sometimes they couldn’t stand it and walked away, like the rich young man in Mark 10. Others braved the awkwardness, intrigued by Jesus, and trusted his take on them, which always resulted in a freed and rejoicing person.

The Samaritan woman (John 4) who could have bristled defensively at Jesus’ insight into her adultery is a dramatic example of this. Instead, she responded to Jesus’ insight because he knew her so well, yet didn’t avoid her, even inviting her to know him. Had Jesus been consumed by his own thirst, sore feet, and getting to Galilee rather than being available to listen and speak into this jaded lady’s problems, she would never have known the grace of God.

Very rarely did Jesus command anyone without having listened to them. The majority of his interactions were with people coming to him, coming into his presence and asking him questions, to which he listened and most often answered with another question meant to make them consider their hearts, souls, and wills.

People swarmed him, inundating him with requests for healing, and peppering him with moral tests. He so often asked the simplest of questions, like “What do you want?” or “What do you need?”

He could see that he had to demonstrate how God is present to them, listening and aware of their depths even more than they were aware of themselves, because his agenda was for people to be with him. He made Presence his agenda.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you.” John 15:4

He wants nothing more than to be with you, today and forever. He wants to be present to you, and you to be present to him. Being with you is Jesus’ greatest desire! His agenda is to serve you with his presence and you to serve Him with yours.

So, take five minutes to imagine Jesus sitting with arms uncrossed, eyes focused and attentive on you, really listening. Then, what thoughtful (maybe pointed!) question does he ask you? Sometimes you will feel the question before you hear the words. Welcome the feeling (even if it’s uncomfortable) and allow him to clarify into words what is going on inside of you.

As you regularly practice being present with Jesus, you will find that you are less preoccupied with your own things, able to really listen to others and to Jesus at the same time, so that He is able to speak through you and minister to others.

 

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Being Present, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments

Where Can I Find Peace and Quiet?

My soul hungered for quiet with just Jesus. With an unexpected hour of uninterruption before me, I took the opportunity. I rushed to the bench we usually meet at, and hurriedly sat down to commence “The Time of Being Present” (cue soundtrack indicating an important moment!).

Only I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t stop talking. I felt as if tiny flashes of electricity were flowing under the surface threatening to shock me into action any second. I kept flicking my eyes to see who might be coming, ready to look busy. And Jesus wouldn’t say anything! He just sat there. 

In my discomfort I began to realize that Jesus was holding the quiet for me because I couldn’t.

He was guarding our peace, refusing to bow to the busy-ness of my brain. He remained in quiet peace, because it was in him. There is no confusion in him, no conflict, no tug-of-war in his being, like there is in mine.

Awe washed over me, chasing my pesky, distracting thoughts away. 

Take a moment and let that sink in: Jesus holds the quiet for you.

When you are having difficulty quieting yourself, focus on Jesus, knowing He is there holding the quiet for you. Be willing to surrender your thoughts to his. You could say, “I’m here, Jesus, and I want to lay down my thoughts to hear yours. I welcome you.” Then allow Him to be quiet with you, allow Him to speak to you, allow Him to show you something. Whatever He chooses to do with you, He does for you, not against you, with your best interests in mind. 

Sometimes that means saying nothing, just being present.

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Being Present, Encouragement, Spiritual Formation, 2 comments

Why should a Christian practice “being present”?

For some Christians, practicing being present sounds too other religion-y, too “out-there”, too vague. To Christians who love the “go” of the gospel, who find purpose in a mission, and joy in activity, being told to “be present” is too inactive, even a trap of the devil to stop the forward motion of the kingdom. Aren’t we supposed to be looking forward to Jesus’ coming and the full expression of his kingdom? Yes, we are. Aren’t we supposed to turn from our old selves? Yes, we are. But these are not the only aspects of following Jesus. We follow him today, too.

So, why is it important for a Christian to be present? And what does it mean?

First, although God spoke the Bible into being in the past, His word is alive and active today. He has also embedded every “today” with his presence. In Hebrews 4:7, 9-12a, it says:

God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David,…

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish… For the word of God is alive and active.

When you read a certain passage and it strikes you as especially pertaining to you in the moment, that is the Holy Spirit speaking today.

To those who are compelled to go and tell, do and act, it is important to recognize daily that Jesus does not only live in the future of heaven, but in today. Let that future inform the present, but not take its place. In our eager anticipation, let us not gloss over the realities of today.

Second, our creating, life-giving God is making today and gifting it to us who live in it. He has purposes for it and for us. God speaks in Isaiah 55:10-11:

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish,

so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

All time is in his hands, for he made it. In Isaiah 46:10 he says, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.” Yes, he has created us for eternal life and called us into His promises, but He is giving us life today to live that out now.

Third, to be present means three things for a Christian:

1) to be attentive to God in the moment,

2) that we are called to be his disciples today, not living nostalgically for a real or imagined past, or living with disdain for today because we think the future is the only place we will find happiness and fulfillment,

3) that we are able to attend and minister to others without our own thoughts and concerns taking precedent.

The biggest difference between the practice of being present within other spiritual traditions and Christianity is that a Christian is seeking and experiencing God in the moment as His beloved creation. We are listening to God in the moment.

Jesus left heaven with its lack of time, to enter our here and now at a very specific time. He did not live longing for the past, or ignoring the importance of today because of the future. He lived in Mary’s now, and Joseph’s now, and Peter’s now. Then he sent the Holy Spirit to be our present help in the todays that followed in which we now live. In John 14:26 He says, “The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you.”

I will elaborate in another post how practicing being present helps Christians minister to others. For now, may I merely point out that when we are present with God regularly, our worries and preoccupations dim because we are able to leave them in his hands, thus making more compassionate space within ourselves to minister to others.


Now, I am by no means an expert on other religions, but I wanted to make an effort to point out some important lessons we can learn from others who practice presence far more frequently, as well as some fundamental differences.

In yoga, it is an exercise, a practice, meant to waken you to yourself on the way to perfection. While Christians do not share the same belief that self-awareness will make us perfect, there are some lessons we can take from yoga. For example, “Yoga uses the simple clarity of the body as a means to bring the mind into presence. Rather than just dictating actions to the body, the deepest yoga practice teaches the mind how to listen to the body in the pure light of awareness without judgment or expectation.”

This stance of listening without judging or expectation is necessary for Christians too. Jesus listened deeply, and he did not cast judgment, reserving that for the Father when He deems the time right. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” John 3:17.

While Zen Buddhism recognizes that we are limited beings, it denies God, certainly a personal, loving God. But it does recognize that the problem lies within us. Christians go further and name it sinfulness.

“It’s how our mind handles those external forces [like interruptions, conflict, pressure and chaos] that is the problem.”

This is true. We try to solve things on our own, without God. No matter how brilliant we are intellectually, how emotionally intelligent, we are still sinful, including Christians, so our natural bent is toward broken, independent-of-God solutions.

Practicing being present, which really puts us in touch with the experience of being a creation and beloved at the same time, helps us to humbly accept this again, and find God in the here and now.

In Buddhism of a more general nature, practicing being present is a way to be released from suffering, from the attachments we make with our expectations and desires. Ultimately, Buddhists deny any permanent, essential soul and self, so practicing presence is a way of losing those attachments that create the illusion of self. This is very different from why a Christian practices presence!

Christians recognize the permanent eternity of our souls, that God created each and every unique one, and when we are present we are allowing ourselves to be aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence. It is much like paying close attention, so close that we forget our own concerns and preoccupations, to a dear friend.

To those who acknowledge the inspired word of God, the historical humanity of Jesus’ divinity on earth, and base their lives on God’s past actions and the promise of His future actions, it is important to be open to His presence and action in today.

 

 

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Being Present, Spiritual Formation, 1 comment

Recovering a Hospitable Heart

The reason I chose the word “hospitable” for April’s focus, and not “hospitality,” is that I wanted to focus on being, not doing. We are hospitable; we practice or do hospitality. Hospitable is the intention and attitude, whereas hospitality is the action that springs from the intention. However, we frequently start with good intentions, but as we carry out the multitude of actions, we often end exasperated and empty. As with many things, we become good at the executions and tasks required and lose the heart and intention of it.

Are you excellent, or strive to be excellent, at all the little things to welcome someone into your space? Is it easy, even fun, to make sure all the fresh freesias are displayed beautifully in the mason jar, or every book and shoe is in its rightful place? Wonderful! These are welcoming touches.

freesias

 

But when you are done, are you so tired you have a hard time paying attention to the guests? Or do you find that, even as they tell their travel stories, you are thinking about the smudge on the window you missed? If so, your hospitable heart has swept out of the room with all your cleaning. I confess, sometimes this is so for me!

 

So, how do we recover a hospitable heart?

This is what I do:

  1. Practice hospitality to Jesus first. This is foremost because no other guest to my heart can make it bigger and more welcoming. Jesus always fills and fuels. As I let go of my ‘stuff’, He makes that heart-space in me spacious and able to welcome. I consciously spend five to fifteen minutes with open hands, focused on Jesus’ presence right in the moment – not asking questions, not thinking about what needs to be done, just welcoming Him and worshipping. Music can help, as can a short piece of Scripture beforehand if concentration is challenged! When I do this, I am remembering that Jesus is hospitable to me, and I walk into his welcome. I am so much better at welcoming others after I have been welcomed by the great Host himself!
  2. Before I get started on the actions of hospitality (cleaning, arranging, cooking, etc.), I think about my intentions in my hospitality. I want these lovely people in my home because I want to spend time with them. Do I need energy for visiting when they arrive to pay attention? Then I must set a schedule beforehand for how much I can realistically accomplish so I’m not worn out. Which is more important — making sure every smudge is off every window, or having the energy to see my guest’s needs? Is my intention in this action to make myself feel more comfortable (presentable), or make my guests feel more welcome to be themselves?
  3. I focus on listening to my guests. This is the biggest difference between being hospitable and practicing hospitality. In the hospitality industry, the best companies are the ones which have employees that really pay attention to the guests, even to the point of preemptively meeting a need. But in most hotels and restaurants, hospitality is relegated to good service, not good conversation. Need a bed? Check. Need toothpaste? Check. Need a napkin? Here it is. That’s hospitality. But hospitable goes so much deeper because it’s an investment in a relationship. When I have guests at home, I make space in my activities to listen to them, and when I am doing that, I try to do nothing else (not even in my head!) I try to invite them into sharing their lives, and not always be talking about my life. Listening is the best way to show your hospitable heart.
  4. Recognize that I have a limit to my listening abilities, and be okay with that. Generally speaking, I do not have the capacity to listen and converse for a long time. I shoot for quality over quantity because of this. Some of you are different, so find what works for you. I like to invest in a deep conversation, then retreat to do something else quietly. If I don’t I find that my attention to my guest is about as good as if I weren’t there anyway! This way, we can re-enter conversation later, after I’ve rebooted. I used to think I had to drop everything and always be present, but this only drained me, making me a grudging, zoned out host, and I’m sure my guests felt caged and forced to engage. Take breaks!
  5. Recognize that your guest has limits, too, and be okay with that. I choose not to take offense if a guest goes off by herself, or chooses to help with the dishes (believe it or not, I did take that as a criticism of my hosting abilities at one point!!), or wants to watch TV instead of talk. I want them to feel welcomed, but not feel forced to engage.

Recovering a hospitable heart can only happen when we are first welcomed into Jesus’ presence because He takes all the things that are burdening us: tasks, problems at work, illness, deadlines looming, etc. The more we can find peace in knowing His care for all these things, the more we will have space within ourselves to pay attention to someone else. So start by entering the presence of the hospitable one, Jesus, then proceed to stick with your intentions rather than your “to do” list, recognize your limits, and recognize your guest’s limits. It takes practice and intention to keep a hospitable heart. I do not do this perfectly by any measure, but I am learning how to regain a hospitable heart when I lose it.

 

When your heart is weary and over-burdened, cluttered and overwhelmed, unable to welcome another,

May you find grace’s space, the gentle unpacking and strong uplifting, of the One who welcomes you as you are.

And in His space, may your heart regain its shape and capacity

To love and to welcome another.

 

 

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Hospitality, 0 comments