Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Altared States

I've lived in the same house now in Seattle for about 14 1/2 years. The backyard, bald as an eagle when we arrived, is now a little forest, a place we go to chat, watch hummingbirds, and listen to creation (and landing airplanes). The bedrooms shelter our kids still, but only when they're visiting. Each room is ripe with memories, but empty. The climbing wall in the upstairs office is still in use, though mostly for a few pull-ups, and less for climbing.

There are two places in the house that have become favorite places. One is our bedroom, where my wife and I share our nights and early mornings. Slowly, there's been a dawning realization that we're growing old together on this futon, bought new in 1985 from a woman who made them by hand in Friday Harbor, on the island where we lived. We've lived a lot there in that bedroom... loved a lot, fought a little, prayed some, laughed, dreamed, negotiated, cajoled, even served one another. It's been good.

The other place, though, is special in a different way. Shortly after we moved in, a little "dead space" at the top of the stairs to our bedroom became a tiny sanctuary. I bought a cross and set it on a styrofoam box, covered with a tiny cloth. There's a meditation pillow. I can sit there and read my Bible, read my little Celtic prayer book, a gift given by friends. I pray. I breathe deeply. I pour my heart out to God, whether in joy or sorrow, praise or lament, self-doubt or profound assurance. It reminds me a little bit of the "healing house" concept floated by Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings.

I've grown to love this little spot more and more over the years. The "stuff" of life, things like mail which qualifies as neither junk nor valued, old sermon notes, myriads of books, dark chocolate from Trader Joe's, running shoes, and more, seem to migrate to the top of the stairs. If it's stuff I'm supposed to deal with, sometimes it takes up occupancy in the shelter space. This bothers me, and I usually try to deal with it quickly. I do this because this space, which I must walk past every time I go up or down the stairs, is a reminder to me, by it's very existence, of the centrality of God. It's a reminder that God is present, a reminder to be still and listen for His voice, a reminder that God is inviting me to something bigger than my fears, my lusts, my self-doubt and inadequacies, my hopes and ambitions, my deep sense (felt often) of dependency on God. This space reminds me, at some deep level, of all that.

I know that we can pray anywhere. We should. I know that God isn't contained in buildings, let alone 20 square feet at the top of stairs. Still, I know too that it's a blessing indeed to have a place, a space, that exists for nothing else other than to meet with Christ. If the relationship with this invisible one is to be real, it requires intentionality. Somehow, the devotion of space invites that intentionality. Of course it's true that Christ is the source of sustainance for us, but it's also true that meeting Christ doesn't happen accidentally; it happens because we seek Him. The altar space is my ever present spatial invitation, and I'm glad it's there.

Does anyone else have a shelter, or ideas about how to facilitate meeting Christ regularly?


At 27/3/09 12:40, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Native Brother, i find shelter in the Sweat Lodge and find peace while attending. It is there that i can go & talk to my Creator,be thankful,Praise him & sing to him. i find peace & rest in the Sweat Lodge & know that his Spirit is w/me. i pray everyday but the sweatlodge is there for me.

At 30/3/09 08:20, Blogger LadyBee said...

I am blessed to have lots of time in my life for solitude and, if I choose, quiet. My sewing room is my sanctuary of sorts.


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