Thursday, July 26, 2007


My program/class this summer assigned a book by Henri Nouwen and others called Compassion. At times I cursed this book for the way it explained service, because it claims that service is only truly possible if we first have a deep relationship with God. I would agree that it helps, that it keeps you from serving for the sake of serving and points you towards what you're called to do, but I would argue that simply because I have the faith of a rather desperate agnostic does not mean that I can't serve and offer compassion.

Sorry for ranting. There were parts of the book that spoke to me, and one was the chapter on displacement. It started by talking about voluntary displacement- the times in our lives that we decide to make ourselves uncomfortable in order to reach out to others. My eight weeks of service was the most radical voluntary displacement I have ever done. The first part of this chapter has you ready to move to Calcutta and work with Mother Teresa's nuns, so passionate is its speech. But then comes the catch: involuntary displacement, the ways in which we struggle in our ordinary lives that we have no control over, are also calls from God.

"If voluntary displacement is such a central theme in the life of Christ and his followers, must we not begin by displacing ourselves? Probably not. Rather, we must begin to identify in our own lives where displacement is already occurring... Our first and most difficult task... is to allow these actual displacements to become places where we can hear God's call... In and through this recognition a conversion can take place, a conversion from involuntary displacement leading to resentment, bitterness, resignation, and apathy, to voluntary displacement that can become an expression of discipleship. We do not have to go after crosses, but we have to take up the crosses that have been ours all along" (Nouwen, et al. 70-71).
I both love and hate that sort of uncomfortable wincing that comes with realizing how blind you've been. The mantra in the back of my mind since I've been home has been, "I don't want to be here, I want to go back." I am being uncomfortably and involuntarily displaced, and I naturally rebel against that. But that's not the healthy and moral thing to do, is it? Thanks for your questions in your comment on my last post, Maria- they made me think.

Also, I've started a site, mostly for my own use, to collect and organize the nifty bits of wisdom I keep finding all over the place. I have recently fallen in love with the label function of Blogger. Yay!

Last but not least- a big, happy, grateful, public thank you to Miss Linda, Mr. Jeff, Annie, and Chloe for letting Mark and I crash at their place last night. It was my parents' 25th wedding anniversary yesterday, and we tried to let them have the house to themselves. Of course, rather than go quietly, they brought the cake I had made them and champagne over to Linda's house to share before going home for the night, but what can you do. They're where I get my stubbornness from, but also my life, so I can't be too disgruntled.

Peace be with everyone :-)


  1. Well, congratulations to the old geezers, I mean, lovely couple. They are a fantastic example to us all.

    And I LOVE the crumbs of wisdom. If only we can learn to really GET IT instead of dismissing them as trite when we really need the wisdom of those little aphorisms.

    May I contribute one or two as the mood inspires, or is it limited to those you find? I think it's a great exercise!

  2. By all means, contribute! You can be a "team member" if you want.

  3. "If something is broken, (here defined as unusable) it can't get any more broken if you try to fix it. You can only possibly fix it."
    Oliver B - on and off during my life time, and which I have come to live by, which explains my new title around the house "Little Miss Fix-it"

    Oh I've got a bunch of them! I shall drop them for review as I am inspired.