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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Soul-saving Practices in a World that’s Not Ours

by Lauren Van Ham

When we look beyond appearances, we see oppressors and oppressed people, in all societies, ethnic groups, genders, social classes and casts; we see an unfair and cruel world. We have to create another world because we know it is possible. But it is up to us to build this other world with our hands and by acting on the stage and in our own life.
–Augusto Boal

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
-  John 17:13-15 (NRSV)

In the season of Pentecost, the gospels invite us to observe the difference between heaven and earth.  Seeking the kingdom within and bringing heaven to earth have been among Jesus’ instructions; and now, too, is his radical reminder that we are not of this world.  

Perhaps you don’t find this so “radical”… but humor me with a quick reality check: in my daily life, this earthly existence feels pretty real a lot of the time.  A laptop in my backpack, a smart-phone ever in arm’s reach, billboards and sound bites calling my attention this way and that, and a calendar chronicling plans and commitments, I am highly caught-up in the world.  I fall prey to action all around me, and become uncomfortably full with the fire-hydrant-spray of information flowing 24/7.

I love my meditation cushion and prayer time each morning, I value my periods of “e-sabbath” on weekends, AND still, I am sneakily arrested and driven by what feels like the very real world around me.

Is some of this true for you, too?

But we’re NOT of this world.  And, thankfully, there are moments each day when I can be rattled back to that truer, deeper sense of Belonging I believe Jesus was talking about.

Twenty years ago, I was a theatre intern for a most incredible company in Washington D.C., whose projects included mounting theatre pieces with incarcerated populations, partnering with public school teachers, and cultivating creative play space for kids in the foster care system. On the wall of the theatre was an enormous sign, “Art Saves Lives.”  

Said differently: art recalls us to our True Nature, the divine stuff of which we are all uniquely, wondrously made.  …And don’t let that word, “Art,” scare you away for fear you lack the proper techniques.  When art saves lives, so, too, does play: Play saves life.  Creativity saves life; moreover, it IS life.  Consider those times, in your existence, when the world’s pace and monotonous messaging has become deadening.   

What creative act, what art-fueled oasis alerted you, once more, to the Greater Web of Creation?  Paint, Dance, Sculpt, Sing, Move, Act, Write…Make it up, do it soon and then do it again… and then share it with the rest of us.  Our soul life depends on it!


About Lauren: Lauren lives in Berkeley, CA.  She serves as Dean at The Chaplaincy Institute (ChI), an interfaith seminary and tends her private practice as a spiritual director.  You can read Lauren’s blog at: http://www.laurenvanham.com/

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