Every now and then I come across a book that helps give me language to express what I have been thinking and feeling. This is one of those books. RolhEvery now and then I come across a book that helps give me language to express what I have been thinking and feeling. This is one of those books. Rolheiser speaks to how there is a loss of wonder, amazement and awe in our world today. In our rush to find an answer for everything we have lost our ability to be in awe of anything. Rolheiser points to the problem of unbelief among believers and a loss of our ability to live and move as contemplatives within this world as one of the biggest things that keeps us from seeing God alive, well and working in our world today.
Of particular value is Rolheiser's work on three main things which stand in the way of our fully experiencing God. Excessive Narcissism - "When we stand before reality preoccupied with ourselves we will see precious little of what is actually there to be seen." Pragmatism - "doing counts for everything, being counts for nothing. We cling to what we do, not who we are, as if it (doing) were life itself." Restlessness - a sense of being unsatisfied with our life, a greed for experience - "when restlessness becomes excessive...our lives become consumed with the idea that unless we somehow experience everything, travel everywhere, see everything...then we are small and meaningless."
The longer I read the more I found myself with words to explain some of what I have wrestled to express and share. Rolheiser believes that when Jesus said, "I have come to set captives free" he was speaking to all people. If I can be set free my self-centered thinking and way of viewing the world, if I can be set free from always to doing and be at peace with my being, if I can learn to live content with the gift of life God has given me...there is life to the full.
Much in our society fights against such thinking, against living and moving in this way. Rolheiser's gift is that he gives solid language to express what many have felt as only a longing deep within their soul that there must be something more....more
Coates's book is both easy and painful to read at the same time. His skill as a writer and the way he blends personal narrative, words of instructionCoates's book is both easy and painful to read at the same time. His skill as a writer and the way he blends personal narrative, words of instruction to his son, American history, and the experience of men and women who are seen as "not white" into a common thread make this work easy to read. It is enjoyable, easy...even fun to read the work of someone who understands how to use the English language to communicate with passion and energy. Yet at the same time this is one of the most painful books I have read in a long time. As Coates speaks to his son we are invited in to hear words of warning, concern, pain and enlightenment as he shares the burdens carried by many men and women of color. There were times I wanted to put the book aside...denying the reality of what he wrote about. At times I wanted to take the book and push it into the hands of people who I have journeyed with asking, "and what are we to do about this?"
While I respect his perspective and can understand how he would have arrived at the place he finds himself I cannot disagree more with his apparent lack of belief in or hope for transformation through faith. He is pretty clear that for him church represents a weakness or a denying of the reality of human suffering under racism and a "fairy tale type" belief that things will be better "someday". Again, I can understand how he would have arrived at this place in his journey, yet I could not disagree more. "Life to the full" is the gift of Christ. It is a gift for the here and now, and for the eternal. Learning to move with Holy Spirit power is what gives me hope that we can / will overcome the evils of this world (some of which he writes and shares so eloquently) and eventually see healing of body, mind and soul.
This should be required reading for every Deacon / Elder board of a church concerned about issues of equality, or working to understand people who have a different life experience than our own. It is one of the books on my shelf that will be pulled off a few years from now and re-read...there is much to learn from the open, honest sharing within the pages....more