Posts Tagged With: home

Finding the Return Home

How often do you long for home? This could be the house of your childhood, or, really, any place where you are accepted and loved. A place where others understand you and where you fit in. Whatever this place looks like, whether it exists in a physical location or in your mind’s eye, each of us has a longing for home.

Ever since my mother passed away, I’ve had to redefine this longing. I may be living in the house she made into a home, but it doesn’t have the same feel. Thus, I’ve been working to create a welcoming place to which I can invite people and where I can experience and share a grounded love. But something is always missing in this endeavor: specifically the arms of my mother. Yet, there remains in me a hope that a home, a solid home, still exists.

This hope has be284D26BD00000578-3067012-A_page_in_a_rare_medieval_tome_named_the_Liesborn_Gospel_Book_be-a-85_1430750081229en revived through a new spiritual practice a friend introduced me to – a prayer wheel. Recently, a version of this forgotten prayer tool from the Middle Ages was discovered in a 10th century gospel book from Liesborn, Germany. On the first blank page, someone drew a circle and then filled it with elements to guide praying. Included are petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, the gifts of the Spirit from Isaiah 11, moments in the life of Christ, and the beatitudes from Matthew 5, all arranged in seven spokes with God at the center. (Learn more at http://www.religionnews.com/2015/04/30/no-dice-required-a-medieval-prayer-w
heel-surfaces-but-how-it-was-used-is-anyones-guess/.)

Around this circle the words “The order of the diagram written here teaches the return home” frame the diagram and the prayer. Each day that I’ve prayed using this tool, I’m drawn to the words of home. I place my finger on the cross at the top of the wheel and trace the outer words. By the time I’ve returned to the cross I realize a renewed peace as I begin praying the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Though I may not experience home as I have in the past, I’m recognizing that a different and deeper reality of home is present. I’m moving towards a deeper peace because I’m learning that home is not something I or someone else creates, but is being with God.

As David cries out in Psalm 27

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.

Even if I use this tool for less than a minute a day, it is redirecting my thinking. There is something about physically tracing a path as I speak the words. It’s similar to taking a pilgrimage, walking a labyrinth, or making the sign of the cross. As I connect to something tangible, such practices take me out of the sometimes ethereal, otherworldly practices of seeking to dwell in the Lord’s house. But, isn’t this what abiding in Christ should be, since he is fully human, as well as fully God? It makes sense that to abide with him, a person needs to connect with that human, material part – not merely the spiritual. These material practices point the reality of God’s incarnation. They also affirm that the longing for home has a destination.

St. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about this longed-for dwelling as well:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. (2 Corinthians 5:1-3)

While I continue to re-create a place of home and as I hear the call of home from many other sources, this diagram on a single 8×10 sheet of paper reminds me of the true home. A home in which I don’t need to worry about paying the taxes, repairing cracks in the wall, or finding the right sofa. Even as I fondly remember the home my mother created and seek to create my own version, I realize these can only be glimpses of an eternal home at the heart of God.

It’s a blessing to find home with God, where ever I may find myself – and to be thankful for the experiences that have and continue to point to it.

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The Homemaking God

“The home is creation redeemed and transfigured, a place of grace that is inhabited by an indwelling God of unfathomable love.”  Beyond Homelessness

What is it to see the Bible through the lens of home?  Not some sanitized view of a 21st century suburban two-story house, but a compassionate view of God’s deep yearning for a place for his creation, his people.  This is the essence of Steven Bouma-Prediger’s and Brian J. Walsh’s book, Beyond Homeless: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement.

Though the authors do speak to the most familiar definition of homelessness – not having a physical, stable shelter in which to live – they also expand what it means to be homeless.  Someone who has lived in a house, or series of houses, their entire life, but without a sense of place or connection to these spaces, can be described as being without a home.  Furthermore, destruction and abuse of the earth’s environment is another type of home breaking.  In their discussion of this larger view of homelessness the authors explore a variety of socio-economic, ecological, and postmodern issues.  Brokenness surrounds and infuses each of these perspectives and we see so many ways in which people and creation are displaced from that which God desires for us.

However, this book is not merely one more honest look at how our world is broken.  No, this book also explores God’s story through the eyes of homelessness.  Throughout the observations and arguments about homelessness, Bouma-Prediger and Walsh weave God’s story.  Starting with God’s creation of the ultimate home – to the brokenness that arises from people tearing this home apart – to God’s seeking to bring people back to a flourishing understanding of home – and ultimately to the new home that will be created when Christ returns, we are led into a dialogue between God’s Word (that living, acting word) and the world today.

This dialogue begins with the exuberant creation of the earth – exploding Genesis 1 and 2 into a symphony of joyous creation.

“It all began with joy.

In the beginning was joy,

pure, holy, ecstatic, life-giving, celebrator joy!

. . .

In the extravagance of love,

in an unspeakable generosity.

God had created a home,

a world of homemaking,

a world of care and affection.”

but then

“this world of blessed homemaking fell into a cursed homebreaking”

As I was drawn into this conversation I saw more intimately the connection of God’s story with this ever present social issue.  More importantly, it became more than another issue to address.  Assumptions and stereotypes that I held were made starkly clear to me.  Homelessness is not something we can just fix with enough money, education, and buildings. Neither is it a problem limited to certain groups of people or geographic locations. A deep reality of displacement – from one another, creation, and, ultimately God – is a fundamental consequence of sin.

Caught up in the text, I also became aware of the safe, comfort of home to which I cling.  A comfort that ignores the homelessness of others – and also of myself.  It’s quite easy to wrap myself up in the security that a physical structure and close family provides.  Furniture, insurance, IRA, family gatherings, all speak of a home, a safe place for the rest of my life. Yet, if I look deeply, its very safety provides a sense of displacement from the community around, and often even within, its walls.

Into this conversation the authors don’t bring a modern, multi-step answer to the problem. Do this and people will no longer be homeless.  Instead they explore hope in juxtaposition to the brokenness.  The hope that God promises.  Through the practice of Jubilee, the experience of Exodus, the very act of Creation and the rest of Sabbath, we have sign posts to the home that God desires for us.  These are home-looking celebrations and memories that are focused on the true meaning of home, not a mere buildings.

Furthermore, they bring us into Jesus’ mission to draw people out of homelessness.  “Much depends on dinner” as Jesus enters homes to share in the meals of ‘sinners’ and feeds thousands of people by simply thanking the Father.  He tells stories of feasts where the invited guests don’t arrive and others must be invited.  Who comes to the meals, who is invited, who is excluded, what is served?  All these questions provide a view into Jesus’ way.  A way that is open to all people now.  A way not popular with those in power, who already think they have homes and need to protect them.  This new feast  breaks into the lives of people to show that the homes they have created are only a poor substitute for what God desires.

These stories bear witness to the hope God provides and that we can then share with others.  Responding to this book is difficult.  There is so much to be done.  Yet, the authors remind us that “artists do not create hope; rather, they bear witness to hope” (317).  As sojourners on this planet we can share this hope – bringing others into the yearning for the true home and seeking to live in the shalom that God provides even now.

What does your home look like?  Where are you heading – towards a narrow definition of the 21st century good, safe life – or the fullness of the the homemaking God?

 

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