In the book Practitioners (copyright 2005, Regal Books), Greg Russinger and Alex Field let us in on a conversation, a dialogue in mostly prose form. My only interaction with some of the voices within - Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, Dan Kimball, Anna Pelkey and others - has been a couple of face-to-face meetings and through their online presence. The proverbial fly-on-the-wall would have had a great seat in the midst of the questions and answers and then better questions that were flowing from the Soliton gatherings upon which this work was based. I proverbially envy that fly.
I admit that I was this close (picture my fingers making the little "this close" sign) to putting this book down when I got to the first page asking me to draw my thoughts. I didn't want to find a pen, didn't want to doodle while reading in my comfortable wingback by the fireplace, so I closed the book. Later, heading to bed, I took the book upstairs to keep reading on the post-doodle-your-thoughts page. On my nightstand was a crayon, and I made a leap of faith into a book that asks the reader to draw, to think, to pray, to stretch into new contortions of the way faith can work out in community with each other. I doodled, and entered into the conversation. Or rather, it left me wanting to be that proverbial fly again, wanting to join in those former chats or start some new ones here and now.
In reading Luke 7 and the story of the girl washing Jesus' feet with her hair as the leaders gawk and wonder what's going on, my mind was opened to the way I "see people" - "Do you see this woman?" is such a deep question: "In Jesus, we see the raw recognition of her human value come to the forefront and the rebellion of love challenge the systems of moral judgment that haunt the human heart, as well as confront church policy that unknowingly ousts the broken for fear that those with wealth would exit the doors" (p. 40). There are too many folks pointing the finger of judgment, saying that new movements and emerging ideas are lacking in biblical foundations. This book has made me once again look at favorite passages with new eyes, showing a certain depth that's going unnoticed, a certain love for the scriptural narrative that is wonderful on all kinds of levels. Instead of a lack of Bible, there's a love for the Bible that will not let us take it for granted.
Dialogue on missional prayer, pondering story and the visual aspects of learning and communicating, a wonderful chapter on movies and the impact of culture on the human story - and that's just halfway through the book. Covering topics much like a conversation would, chasing bunnies and coming back to a common thread, the book winds its way through to Dan Kimball's experience with stained glass, which speaks to my own journey, too: "I sat there in the chapel for a long time. As I did, I watched the sun come through the window, I saw the stories on the stained glass, and I examined my heart, putting it all into perspective... God chooses us as art, and in this sense we are all broken pieces of stained glass, and He has chosen us for this particular time" (p. 207). I think it resonates with me because I want my life to be more beautiful, a better story, more impacting on the lives of others around me. As a "practitioner", we can have this conversation, at least changing and challenging ourselves.
[quotes from Practitioners, © 2005 Edited by Greg Russinger & Alex Field. Published by Regal Books, www.regalbooks.com. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]