DJ's Book Rants

A Seminary student and pastor trying to find an outlet for all the books he has to read.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Hidden Wholeness

The best description for my experience with Parker Palmers book would be frustration. To speak of the soul, healing and community in a neutral and secular context is outside my convictions and beliefs. Palmer speaks of humanities “endless capacity for self-absorption and self-deception.” I agree with him that community is essential in helping us find our true identity and soul. However, what I am interested in is Christ centered, rather than Humanity centered, community. Palmer’s explanation of the soul and wholeness seemed to move around our need for a Trinitarian God.
Many of the topics Palmer discusses are helpful to understanding in creating an authentic community. The disconnect came because his language forced me to decided on each topic if I could understand wholeness in the same way he had defined it. I could go along with his critique of the secularist and moralism. I do believe moralism has had an unhealthy understanding of self as bad. Before I read Palmer I would have considered myself as fairly optimistic on the goodness of humanity. However, my self is good in that it reflects the creativity, glory and favor of God.
Every time I hear the phrase “The Circle of Trust” I think of the movie “Meet the Parents.” In a terrible way this has ruined this term for me as a serious descriptor of authentic sharing and community. I would like to affirm that I can identify with each of his conditions: Clear Limits (clear expectations), Skilled Leadership, Open Invitations (opportunities for depth), Common Ground, and Creating Ambiance. The most helpful reminder for me in this section was his explanation of coming to common ground through differences, stories and goals. The most fulfilling groups I have been apart of have had clear goals that have allowed for a great diversity in our points of view and experiences.
Palmer’s description of the “focus person” was very helpful. In one meeting I am apart of I see the focus person changing a rotating on the basis of need. It is helpful to think that even if I am the leader facilitator others can become the “focus person” were we as a group are listening to God for them and offering thought on their topic. In other relationships I can recognize that even if I am the “expert” they come to the meeting as the focus person.
When I read about the Quaker understanding of silence I see something that I appreciate and desire. However, I know they have done the work of setting clear limits or expectations for how God is going to work through silence. Most of the people I am currently in contact with do not understand the value of silence. This is actually an area I feel is a growth edge in my own spiritual formation. Between reading both Palmer and Henry Nouwen this semester I am becoming very convinced of the value of silence