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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Trading Spaces

I read something this morning that echoed another idea I ran into last Friday, so I'm trying to pay close attention. Is God telling me something?

Here's what I read this morning:
Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating. It is important, however, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God's guidance.

Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God. Solitude requires discipline, worship requires discipline, caring for others requires discipline. They all ask us to set apart a time and a place where God's gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to. (Henri Nouwen)
The tension between discipline and discipleship is so clearly stated in these simple paragraphs. In some ways, they define the spiritual wrestling match of my life in Christ. I so earnestly want to grow, and make grand plans. But putting one foot in front of the other, day in and day out, and just practicing what I preach is the real measure of my maturity, and it is the place I sometimes falter.

Thankfully, the words I read just 4 days earlier helped me make some forward movement in this regard. Here is what I read last Friday:
Sacred Space: Thinking About Where We Pray

Without a doubt we can pray anywhere, but there is something to be said for having a space that is reserved for prayer. Scripture makes it clear that God doesn’t dwell in buildings made by hand any more than God is in the streets or alleys. Still, most of our homes have places where we eat, play, or work. There are also places where God leaves a mark. To be sure, the church is not the building but the people. But it can be nice to have a special place to meet the God we love.

One thing we see in Scripture is that folks like Jacob are commanded to mark the sacred space where God met them, to remember. As we look at spaces like a chapel or a shrine in the Holy Land, we remember not the magic of a physical space but the magic of what God did and who God is; we are reminded that this entire planet is filled with sacred spaces where God meets people.

Consider creating a space where you can get on your knees in the “secret chamber” and be with God. A friend from Brazil started a tradition of tacking prayers on her wall, so she could pray simply by looking at the walls and remembering the needs of her neighborhood and all the prayers God has answered. Some of us keep things that remind us to pray for others, like dog tags of soldiers whose faith has called them to leave the military or a crack valve or a bullet from the streets in our neighborhoods. It is important to remember the things that happen on our streets, both good and bad. (Common Prayer, February 25)
After reading this second passage, I took some time the day after, on Saturday, to think about what a "sacred space" could look like at home. I ended up not just designating a certain chair (the rocking chair in the corner of my room), but also the "wall" described in the last paragraph.

I dug out a map of the world that I have that folds up nicely into 5"x7". I spread it out before me, and looked at the places in my life that I want to keep before me. I grabbed a small post-it note pad, and start sticking some post-its around the continents...
  • I have friends serving Christ in the Philippines, Argentina, Guatemala and Madagascar. I scratched out simple prayers for them, and noted the date.
  • I lifted up the turmoil going on throughout the Arab world and the Middle East right now, praying for Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, Libya... not to mention Palestine, Iraq, Israel, Iran.
  • I wrote down a prayer for healing and rebuilding in New Zealand after their recent earthquake, and perseverance for Haiti a year later.
  • Closer to home, I listed prayers for Providence Hall, for the Free Methodist Conference of Southern California, for my bible study, my family and for the community I live in.
  • Then, I pulled out my new edition of Operation World, an amazing guide to prayer for the entire planet. I bought my first copy in 2000, and a new edition just came out around Christmas. While I strongly recommend that you purchase the book, the website lists ways to pray daily. The book marks out a way to pray for a country in very specific ways for each day of the year. I read it every Saturday and spend time praying for world concerns. More post-it notes got slapped onto my "prayer wall."
I share this with you as something you can ask me about (Kelly, are you still praying over your map?) and as an idea for yourself. I really like the image of the astronaut at the top of this post. With God we can be world travelers, opening our hearts and souls to the needs of the world, caring about the things that God cares about. Amazingly, this opens us up to the world right in front of us too.

My housemate shared a quote with me that sums this up best:
"May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in." Mother Teresa
Let's push one another to carve out sacred spaces in our daily lives, and give ourselves over to the discipline of true, heartfelt, soul-feeding, life-changing discipleship.


  1. Wow, I feel honored to be on your map. Thanks for your prayers and support. You're wonderful!

  2. I'm so glad you followed through on the ways God was prompting you!