Geography of Grace posits that grace like water flows downhill. The stories of finding God in the hardest, poorest, and most oppressed places gripped Geography of Grace posits that grace like water flows downhill. The stories of finding God in the hardest, poorest, and most oppressed places gripped me. I am trying to process what this stirring in my soul means for me. Why has this book wrecked me?
For one thing, I must repent for the insulated life I have sought. I remember discussing with Abba Basil Irenaeus the hallmark of new monasticism: setting up in the abandon places of the empire. I remarked that didn’t seem like a mark of our order as we valued beautiful things. Wow. How uncomfortable that statement makes me now. Since feeling the call to move to Detroit, I have been drawn more and more to the scarred and desolate places in spite of my aesthetics. Father, may I find true beauty in your face and grace in those places.
I think another thing that stirs in me is facing how to act in the face of these things. The authors talk about asking beautiful questions and asset based ministry. I think I am left struggling with how do I put these things into my context? How do I engage, even find, the depressed places where grace is pooling? Certainly my developing relationships with some of the homeless and struggling in the neighborhood provides some of that.
I found reading Geography of Grace timely. With the transitions at Courage Church I found myself longing to be in ministry in a more traditional way, a leader in the church gathered. I have been confused why God would persistently and increasingly shut me out of that familiar kind of ministry for the last few years. The authors’ experience ministering as part of the church scattered gives me a window into where God is positioning me.
How do I live missionally? What exactly is our mission? The authors encourage me to resist the easy answers to that question, and instead look for where grace is flowing, like a cartographer mapping the contours of terrain. I am suddenly reminded that the authors have a process for mapping the hurt, the hope and the heart.
Sacramental Discernment Street Psalms members pray with their “eyes open,” learning to map the geography of God’s grace in a particular place. Our mapping process includes three basic exercises that pay attention to the hurt and the hope of a particular city/community as well as the heart of God. The three exercises include:
Mapping the Hurt: e.g. “Moment of Blessing” – a public liturgy for victims of violent homicide.
Mapping the Hope: e.g. “Signs of Hope Tours” – Identify, visit and encourage key ministries/business/organizations that are signs of hope serving high-risk youth and families.
Mapping the Heart: e.g. “Prayer Table” – Our communities host and participate in an open and inclusive table for leaders to pray for the city.
In this I am reminded of the way the Spirit directed me down the street in time to participate in the prayer vigil for Noodlez a young man gunned down during the Cinco de Mayo parade last year.
Also my drive to be a part of the various expressions of faith and encourage what is going on in my neighborhood seems to be mapping the hope for our community.
I have also felt recently a desire to step up my prayer game. It seems my Beloved is eager to reveal his heart to me. Take me to the depths, outside my comfort zone – into the waves and chaos of the sea of humanity....more
Bound is a wonderfully imaginative and intricate book. It is the kind of writing that stretches my mind, like good science fiction, to grasp the conceBound is a wonderfully imaginative and intricate book. It is the kind of writing that stretches my mind, like good science fiction, to grasp the concepts and principles, while at the same time providing a simple enough narrative to engage. The book, written as a training manual for angelic Special Forces preparing for service on Earth, gives insight into the human condition. Much like The Screwtape Letters, Bound gives us a look in the mirror at the things that blindside us and trick us into living a life disconnected form our Spiritual Source. I enjoyed the read.
I found myself at times, however, needing to willfully engage my suspension of disbelief in order to continue to trust my Angelic instructor. It may simply be the voice of a military-style manual, but the communion and intimacy with God enjoyed by the angelic beings didn’t seem to be communicated. Angels in bound don’t understand concepts of grace and mercy, not having the experience with it that wo|man has, but on the flip side the do have the an experience of perfect communion that we can’t grasp. It would be nice if the text hinted at this reality.
Also, most difficult for me to swallow, the angels take sides in valid theological arguments that honest and authentic Christian scholars differ on. For instance the instructor states that the scriptures are obviously flawed and those who hold to inerrancy are foolish. The application the author makes, that we must trust the Spirit to guide us in interpreting the truth is spot on, but I feel he falls into the same trap of literalism that he criticizes in fundamentalists. I would like to see angels affirming scripture as the self-revelation of God and asking how this is true, not whether it is trustworthy. There is much mystery in God’s self-revelation that is not given room to exist in Bound.
If this kind of challenge is going to shake your faith, perhaps you’d be better off finding truth in another form, but I recommend this reading to those sojourners who enjoy a read that will challenge them spiritually and mentally, and are open to some progressive thoughts. ...more