Good Habits of the Heart


Heart-treeA couple of Sundays ago, I shared in a sermon Parker Palmer’s “Five Habits of the Heart.” These were introduced to me at our recent Pastor’s Conference at Twin Rocks. Palmer says that they “are deeply ingrained ways of seeing, being and responding to life that involve our minds, our emotions, our self-image, and our concepts of meaning and purpose in life.”  I believe keeping these five habits ingrained in our being is part of what it is going to take for us to move into this new season as a meeting and followers of Christ together.  I again offer these five habits for you to reflect on, wrestle with, and help shape our life together as Christ-followers in this place. I suggest taking them and placing them somewhere you may return to them often and where you will be reminded to live them out.

1. An understanding that we are all in this together.

Despite our illusions of individualism and national superiority, we humans are a profoundly interconnected species—entwined with one another and with all forms of life, as the global economic and ecological crises reveal in vivid and frightening detail. We must embrace the simple fact that we are dependent upon and accountable to one another, and that includes the stranger, the “alien” other.

2. An appreciation of the value of “otherness.”

“…[W]e spend most of our lives in “tribes” or lifestyle enclaves—and that thinking of the world in terms of “us” and “them” is one of the many limitations of the human mind. The good news is that “us and them” does not have to mean “us versus them.” Instead, it can remind us of the ancient tradition of hospitality to the stranger…Hospitality rightly understood is premised on the notion that the stranger has much to teach us. Of course, we will not practice deep hospitality if we do not embrace the creative possibilities inherent in our differences.

3. An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways.

Our lives are filled with contradictions—from the gap between our aspirations and our behavior, to observations and insights we cannot abide because they run counter to our convictions. If we fail to hold them creatively, these contradictions will shut us down and take us out of the action. [Rather,] the genius of the human heart lies in its capacity to use these tensions to generate insight, energy, and new life.

4. A sense of personal voice and agency.

Insight and energy give rise to new life as we speak out and act out our own version of truth, while checking and correcting it against the truths of others. … [It is] possible for us, young and old alike, to find our voices, learn how to speak them, and know the satisfaction that comes from contributing to positive change—if we have the support of a community.

5. A capacity to create community.

Without a community, it is nearly impossible to exercise the “power of one” in a manner that multiplies… The steady companionship of two or three kindred spirits can kindle the courage we need to speak and act…

From Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker Palmer

May God grant us wisdom as we make these habits part of our practice of living out the resurrected life in our neighborhoods and homes!

Grace and peace, Pastor Bob+

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