Thursday, April 09, 2015

You Need "Sacred Space"

You Need “Sacred Space”
 If you are an observer of global, North American, national, state/provincial, and/or local news, you would likely agree with my own conclusion that we live in a very restless society. But go deeper than that – get down to our neighborhoods, our churches, our families, our marriages, and even just our own lives, and most of us would say, “We too are very much active participants in that agitated state in which the world and most everyone in it are struggling, doing our best just to survive.”

That is the setting for John D. Duncan’s book, Sacred Space: The Art of Sacred Silence, Sacred Speech, and The Sacred Ear in the Echo of the Still Small Voice of God, published by Austin Brothers Publishing, Fort Worth, Texas, 2014. It’s a setting that Duncan considers dangerous to our physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Writing from personal experience, he argues we need to slow down and renew our damaged souls.

Sacred Space describes one man’s formula for doing just that in three most dangerous steps. Dangerous because each one is capable of changing a person, changing how one faces life each day, and changing one’s impact on everything and everyone they interact with. Duncan first makes the case, backed solidly by scripture, of the need for moving out of noise into quietness through ‘sacred silence’. Only when we have mastered our ability to get there, does he push us on to ‘sacred speech’ whereby in communion with God we can turn our personal chaos into peace. And finally, Duncan shows us how to use what he calls our ‘sacred ear’ to both hear and obey God.

The author shares his personal experience finding himself, in essence, being told he needed to move on from a pastoral calling he loved. He shares how he struggled to know when it was the right time for him to make a choice about what came next. And he agonized wondering why God was allowing this to happen to him. What had he done wrong? And then it hit him like a train coming down a track.  He writes, “I had not taken time to create the sacred space in my mid-life that I did in my younger life both as a pastor and a human being.” Life goes amuck all too often because we have not sat alone in a quiet room, being silent, speaking to God, and hearing God.

In the book, Duncan describes each of the three steps of the process with great details and examples. He then asks us if we’re ready to practice each one. And not just as a passing moment of our day, but as a conscious ‘priority’.  I found myself saying ‘yes’ audibly. There was no argument that would come to mind for any other response.

While teaching us about the second step of his three-part formula, he points out that “stress, the mind, and the tongue can combine to form a lethal combination: chaos.”  Then he shows us how ‘sacred speech’ “like one coin with two sides includes, first, God’s Word speaking to you and second, you speaking to God.” He explains how every book of the Bible has it’s unique role to play as ‘sacred speech’ from God to help us “experience renewal, restoration, even salvation and the glory of a new day with a new outlook . . .” Duncan goes on to teach his readers how to elevate ‘sacred speech’ as prayer, which he says, quoting Frank W. Moyle, in The Book of Uncommon Prayer, is “the elevation of the mind to God.” And there are other appealing tidbits throughout the book like, “Stop the worry is the first step in prayer.”

Finally, in the portion of the book dealing with the ‘sacred ear’ he describes how it enables us to experience a “feast of joy thrusting us into life with God’s peace.” And in the process of doing so, he points out how many of us really miss the implication of Luke 18:11 for us today. Jesus says the “Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself . . .” Duncan points out how so many of us miss this. Too many of us use our imagination wrongly, he contends, praying with ourselves instead of with God or turning our mirrors inward to reflect upon ourselves instead of outward to reflect His image. The art of the ‘sacred ear’ allows us to turn that situation around, reflecting on Christ, “and listening with our ears and heart for what God has for us in that moment or in future days.” He shows us how the ‘sacred ear’ helps us keep balance in our lives during our falls and rises, learning the necessary wisdom at the feet of God.

I personally enjoyed his description of what happens to terrain after a volcanic eruption covers it with its spewed lava and dust. There is in due time a rebirth after the ashes. So it is, says Duncan, with the ‘sacred ear’ that transforms us renewed and prepared for greater future service for Christ and to people.

Near the end of the book, Duncan quotes from William Law’s book entitled A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life in which Law warns us, “then how poorly must they perform their devotions, who are always in a hurry; who begin them in haste and hardly allow themselves to repeat their very form with any gravity or attention!” This is indeed a dangerous book, just as we were warned in its forward, for time and again each one of us can find our own reflection among many of its pages.

I recommend it to anyone who knows there’s something wrong with life as he/she is living it and believes there’s something more. Duncan has found what that is and in his book he shares it clearly and directly, pulling no punches.

    -- Ken B. Godevenos, , Toronto, 15/04/07

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  1. Good review, Ken, of an obviously helpful book. I'll look it up!. Thanks! gfp

  2. Thanks Gary Patton. I certainly found it helpful. And also discovered two new sacred spaces for me.